Midnight Circus

Little One is having another dream! This time, she is a circus performer flying in the air. As a trapeze artist perhaps? Accompanying her in the stunt is a red kaiju balancing on a tight rope with Doggy on his back! All this takes place late in the evening when it’s pitch black. Quite a kawaii but far-out abstract theme to paint about, isn’t it? I got inspired by a painting from another Dutch artist called Jan Nieuwenhuys and thought his piece “Slaapwandelende Haan” (Sleepwalking Rooster) was pretty cool and would be perfect for incorporating my characters including Little One.

Who is Jan Nieuwenhuys?

To be honest I had no idea who Jan Nieuwenhuys (pronounced yaan new’-en-haus) was until the art class. Our tutor in my Tuesday afternoon lessons handed me a book featuring various abstract painters of the 20th century. As I flicked through it, this interesting piece popped up. “Slaapwandelende Haan” turned out to be the work of Jan Nieuwenhuys, a modern abstract painter from the 1940’s who was once a member of the CoBrA Movement. Formed in 1948 by young pioneering artists in Europe, this “revolutionary” movement aimed at making a statement of creative freedom and expression following the aftermath of the oppressive wartime era. CoBrA is the acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. As such, the works of Jan himself was, according to Wikipedia, described as

“…influenced by dreams, children’s drawings, the artistic expressions of mentally handicapped people and primitive art. Animals such as birds and cats play a leading role in most of his works, along with fantastic creatures and beings that are made up of a combination of human, animal and mechanical elements. A lot of the creatures balance on a rope or wear boats as a hat.

And here is was I am talking about:

My Version

For this piece, I used a medium-sized canvas board and experimented with gouache provided by the class. This gouache though is not the sort I use at home. Whilst I use Holbein’s Acryla at home, Ecola Poster Color has a different texture and consistency which was quite interesting; Ecola is more goey and runny and while it first appears glossy when applied, it hardens matte. The board was first covered with black paint for the background. Whilst I waited for the paint to dry, I made my sketch on a scrap piece of paper. The rooster was replaced by a kaiju monster. The dog remained a dog, but in my own form. Then the beige collage piece became Little One which would be painted directly. Once the paint was dry, the image was “transferred” on the board using white chalk.

The Painting

Now is the time to paint it all in! The range of colors for the Ecola gouache bottles were quite limited as illustrated below. Nevertheless I managed with what I had as I was able to mix and combine colors. The only color that was missing, though, was red as it was not available with the suppliers and we were waiting for it to be delivered. Not to worry, we “cheated” a bit and went for red acrylic paint instead! As the painting was not complex in terms of color scheme, I was not too fussed with the limited range. In fact, it game me a chance to be more resourceful!

Completing the Painting

I then continued on with painting. This gouache paint was quite pleasant to use, and I love the chalky matte finish of it. However, you need to layer it on a few times to achieve an even opaqueness whilst making sure you let the layer below dry first. It does, though, dry quite quickly. Another thing is that I felt the gouache is great for larger areas but if you want to work on smaller areas or draw lines, it may be difficult even with a thin brush. As such, I used an acrylic marker like Molotow for the stars, Little One’s hair and eyes and the Doggy. And here we are now!

Always a pleasure experimenting with new mediums. I also enjoy being inspired by other artists’ work and adapting it to my style and interpretation. In this case, Jan Nieuwenhuys painted about a sleepwalking rooster which may have been in his dreams, who knows. He may have wanted to express caution whilst sleepwalking with his dog and hence the tightrope, with the rooster representing having to wake up in the early morning. A sign of alarm and hence warning perhaps? I on the other hand, interpreted the tightrope (typical in his work as it turns out) merely as a fantasy circus involving a kaiju monster with the adventurous Doggy and Little One as a trapeze artist to signify bravery. Am I being seen as doing something daring? Taking a plunge at something? Maybe. Amazing how we create based on our conscience!

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