Artist in Focus: Nineke Havinga
Hi Nineke, why did you become an artist?
The interesting thing is that as a child and young adult I never had any interest in art. I was however interested in nature, people and buildings and remember that I did feel the urge to re-produce the feelings, shapes and colours of the world around me. It never occurred to me however to grab a brush and start painting! Unconsciously I probably didn’t believe I would be able to do that.
So my career path was conventional, I started off as a translator for a few years, then studied psychology, but never worked in that field.
I think it was really the English countryside that first inspired me to start painting. After we moved here from Holland, I joined a painting class. Lots of those paintings reflected the beautiful scenery in the south of Devon where we first lived. I am still inspired by the sea and the sailing boats, although we now live in the Cotswolds.
For 20 years I only painted in groups with a tutor and attended art classes at the local college. For years I also concentrated on Life Drawing, which is still visible in some of my current paintings.
Then, when my daughter moved out, I decided to change her room into a studio. I started to experiment with acrylics and all sorts of texture mediums, I was painting still lives, but also enjoyed making abstracts. I suddenly felt that this was what I really enjoyed and would like to do as a profession.
How much planning do you do before you start on your work?
My paintings are unplanned, but I do have a subject or idea to start with. These are based on photos, experiences or daydreams whilst observing the world around me. I also have studied the works of a lot of artists, their techniques, use of colour, composition etc. I learned a lot from that, and I still do, but I also have developed a specific type of technique (mostly impasto) and style, a combination of expressionism and abstract art. I feel that my paintings are very personal and individual.
I always let myself guide by intuition and inspiration. Painting is for me a process, a chain of paint strokes to which I react, creating texture, colours and layers, which evolve into an image.
Whilst painting I am in a different world, hundred percent focused. This can go on for hours and I only stop when I have created something I can connect to and enjoy looking at.
And afterwards the process slows down: day after day I keep on going back to the painting and change things, before I make it available for sale.
Is there a medium you wish you could master?
I love to paint with acrylic paint. It is versatile, it dries quickly, so I can add layers and keep on working on my painting. I only need water to clean the brushes, not alcohol. I also love all the ‘acrylic paint mediums’, such as texture gels. Acrylic inks are also lovely to work with (dripping effects or to create more ‘intense’ areas).
But oil paint can be beautiful as well, I will always admire for example amongst many the oil paintings of Turner or Frans Hals. During my art classes I have used oil paint and really enjoyed it. Oil paint however needs a different technique. You can’t just correct an existing layer, you need to wait till it has dried, which is quite long. And because I am quite a ‘spontaneous’ and quick painter, this is not suitable for me. What I don’t like are the fumes of the alcohol, which you need to clean the brushes with, so I have never persevered with this medium.
What question about your work do you get most often?
The interesting thing is, that I don’t get many questions about my work. I think because most people can’t imagine or visualise what the painting process involves, which is actually good. That way the paintings I create are more interesting for them and people are just fascinated and surprised by what they see, the end product.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
“Follow your intuition, paint from your heart and be bold and spontaneous’. Stay always true to yourself.”
Do you prefer a routine or do you work more at random?
I never follow a routine, every day is different. I do paint for several hours in a row though, once I start with a canvas, because the acrylic paint dries quickly in the containers. I do plan the week ahead and choose which days I want to paint in principle, especially now I have more commissions for large paintings lately.
Is there any preconception about art and artists you particularly dislike?
Maybe the view that art is over-rated, considering the huge amounts of money which is spent in the art market. But I still think that art is a wonderful way of expressing life and that’s probably the reason that the art industry is so successful and profitable.
After moving from Holland, Nineke settled in England falling in love with the countryside. Since then she has been working on her career, setting up a studio in her home. Using acrylics, she creates vivid abstracts and impressions of the people and nature around her.