An Interview with Henk-Jan Bakker

Hi. My name is Henk-Jan Bakker. I’m a freelance artist from the Netherlands. Is freelance the right term? Maybe I should drop that. I’m an artist. Period. Thanks for having me for this interview.

AR: What sort of art do you do?

HB: Frankly? All of them. If I come across something new I have to try it. Small caveat, I don’t play a musical instrument well enough, I can’t dance or do stage art. Otherwise I pretty much do everything from painting, drawing and print to sculpture, paper maché, mold making to computerart, animation DTP and design. Not all at once mind you. I periodically change my focus. I just started sculpting in VR. Trippy and exhausting but great fun to do. A 3d printer is waiting to make this stuff into tangible objects. Not sure how that works yet.

AR: What medium(s) do you work in?

 HB: Like I said. All of them. But painting is my primary. This I do in acrylics and digitally. And murals.

AR: You believe painting on a computer is like ‘real’ painting?

HB: Yes…. or no really. I mean it takes some of the same skills but it has a whole slew of other interesting options this digital world. But the hands on approach of actual paint does have a bigger pull. I do however make stuff in the computer to prepare for an actual painting.

AR: What does your work aim to say?

HB: Depends on the painting. My earlier work had some very dark themes. They were about pain. Physical pain and spiritual pain. Not horror but….. Jesus on a cross. Sitting pensive on the cross beam. This particular painting hit some people pretty hard.

Nowadays I’m more into portraiture. I try to convey the character of the people I paint.

AR: Who are your biggest influences?

HB: Tricky question. I’m going to name a few but the biggest influence is Bob Ross. Just today I visited his first solo exposition ever. It was in the Netherlands of all places. But it is not his skill or work I admire the most. It’s his message and the best one that got me painting. Everybody can do it.

Other influences are more painting as a skill related and inspiring works these artists made. Henk Helmantel, a mystic still life painter. Amazing stuff. Carel Willink, a magical realist  who was parsecs ahead of his time. Dali, Because he’s weird. I love weird so I also like H.R. Gigher. Most famous for designing the monster from the movie Alien. Yeah that guy. And the classics like Rembrandt and the Ninja Turtles; Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raffaello. Gotto love the Italian masters.

AR: Do you use a computer to do art with?

HB: Yes. Both in a design and preparatory function as in actual painting on a tablet. I use Krita a lot to make my art.

AR: What drives you to create art?

HB: In art school I had to write a thesis. I wrote the line:

”If I don’t paint I go crazy. If I do paint I also go crazy but then I’m an artist and people expect me to go banana’s.”

AR: Are there specific subjects or themes you return to regularly in your art?

HB: You might say the human condition is a recurring theme. But also dark humor, light versus darkness pop up regularly. The magical thing that is life. And a lot of technical stuff like material expression and various mixed media experiments.

AR: How do you define success as an artist?

HB: You don’t. There is no success. There is only the process. That is my official answer number one. Second one is that it is pretty satisfying  if someone is happy with the product you made for them. And third…. You can make money doing art? That is rad AF! Being financially independent would be a practical measure of success. Al the other stuff is marketing.

AR: What three words describe you?

HB: As an artist or as a human being?

AR: Lets try both.

HB: “Mensch”. Father and Husband. And on the artist side: Driven, patient, student.

AR: What is your biggest strength? And what is your biggest weakness?

HB: I think my strength and my weakness come from the same source.  I know this is a standard answer in job interviews so bear with me. I tend to be a perfectionist. Well maybe perfectionist is the wrong word. I try loads of new things that I need to develop my skill to get to a satisfactory result. This takes time and countless reiterations. It makes for nice results but my ‘hourly rate’ can drop beneath third world minimal wage. This means more often my art is sold under cost price. Oh! Yes. My weakness! I’m a bad businessman.

AR: Why is art important?

HB: The most precious concept in the universe is art. Art is life. Art expands conciousness.. Art is vital to the human condition.

AR: Hmm. A Frank Herbert reference?

HB: Yes. It is.  I so hope that new movie doesn’t suck.

AR: Thank you for participating

HB: Thanks for having me. It was fun doing this.


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