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School of Arts KASK-Koninklijk Conservatorium


 
 
 
 
CALIBRATING SENSIBILITIES
AN INTIMATE RESEARCH INTO NEW WAYS OF ACCURACY

 
Seppe De Meyere
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Masterproef voorgedragen tot het bekomen van de graad van

Master in de beeldende kunsten
 
 
Promotor:
 Anna Luyten
Promotor:
 Narcisse Tordoir
 
 
 
 
Instelling: KASK School of Arts

Academiejaar 2017-18

Derde examenperiode
Deze masterproef is gemaakt door Seppe De Meyere, student aan de Hogeschool Gent, ter voltooiing van Master in
de beeldende kunsten. De standpunten die in deze masterproef zijn verwoord, zijn louter het persoonlijke standpunt
van de individuele auteur en reflecteren niet noodzakelijkerwijs de mening, het officiële standpunt of het beleid van
de Hogeschool Gent.
1
Calibrating Sensibilities
An intimate research into new ways of accuracy

Seppe De Meyere
Master dissertation
Master Fine Arts, Painting
KASK School Of Arts
2018

Theoretical mentor: Anna Luyten

2 3
Abstract

Voyaging through mercurial inner artistic landscapes, ensuing growth,


evolving. The search for a new accuracy in pictorial language while being
in a constant state of flux; a language that lays closer to my intentions, and
subsequently closer to my true self. An in-depth inquiry as to how these ever-
changing thoughts analogously manifest themselves through my paintings
and drawings, and how they in turn affect my aesthetic point of view.

This thesis is an attempt at reflecting on those volatile concepts, taking a


multitude of written forms; ranging from thorough analysis to poems, prosaic
frames of thought to diary-like entries, from manifestos to the importance of
the modern-day artist collective. A research of, and in myself, pursuing artistic
integrity and understanding.

4 5
Table of Contents

Preface IX

Instalment I 22

Interlude I 26

Instalment II 30

Interlude II 34

Interlude III 38

Interlude IV 41

Instalment III 123

Epiloge 127

Bilbiography 128

6 7
Preface

Slowly, my work is evolving. As is my outlook on life, painting, and art in general.


Calmly, but steadily, I am trying new things, gauging new perspectives and
finding beauty in the things around me, beauty in familiarity.
Not a change in field of vision, but a mere recalibration. A shift, a refocus, closer
to myself, as to acquire a better accuracy of how I’m wired. This thesis is an
attempt at a spacious analysis of that; a reflection on the unfolding progression
I’m going through, a contemplation of how I translate my changing worldviews
to painting and drawing. As what I’m writing here is predominately based on
what I feel, it comes as no surprise that it was not an easy endeavour to pour
these vague, elastic and ever-changing thoughts into words.
Writing down what and how I feel worked best when approaching this as
abstract as these notions themselves are; taking shape in the form of poetry,
and prosaic train-of-thought writing. This not only captured the fleeting nature
of these feelings in the best and most interesting way possible, for me it was
also the most honest way of writing down this search to my inner self – more
so than applying a fixed form which in its core varies a lot from the way I work
and paint: namely a searching way.
Since the main premise of this research is based on self-reflection and
analysis, I utilised ways of writing which have been used by numerous artists
throughout art history. For centuries artists have written about and reflected
upon their own work, their mindsets, ideologies and convictions through
manifests – of which I too wrote one, and which is included later on – and
statements; but also through more intimate means of communication, such as
letters to fellow artists, diary entries and personal notes.
What I write here amalgamates in a very fluid and hybrid text – this fluidity
becomes tangible by virtue of the combination of the various ways this thesis
was written in; large parts are composed in first person, while other parts
are shaped through prose or poetry, eventually reaching to diary-like entries,
written down each day after hours of working on a piece. The daily desire
and determination to stand still and dwell upon myself and my work, yield
a versatile materialisation of the words describing these aspects. Different
atmospheres, moods and mindsets have an impact on how these factors are
reflected upon; they’re flexible and shifting, which is echoed in the writings of
this thesis, and the subsequent fluidity of it.

Now, a comparison can be made between how artists used to write and

IX
communicate, and how I, this day and age, use a predominately digital way or noted. In that light, these chats have a certain materiality, paralleling past
to communicate. A common method of exchanging thoughts was through let- letters. It’s a loosely written and frolicsome texture, one that stands in contrast
ters. Perhaps some of the most famous ones are those written by Vincent to classical academic textures. A comparison between these chats and a letter
van Gogh to his brother,1 but a vast array of artists wrote letters to family and of Van Gogh is made following the preface, illustrating the difference yet sim-
friends, other artists, collectors and curators – letters by artists like Andy War- ilarities of this modern day correspondence.
hol, Man Ray, Willem de Kooning, Claes Oldenburg and many others have
been well preserved.2 Another way artist’s writings find their way to readers This brings me to the reason why I chose to write this thesis in English. At the
is through notebooks and diaries, in which artists write down their thoughts one hand there was a will to step out of the seemingly restricted idiom of the
on their work, on life, during their artistic career. Sometimes these notes are Dutch language; for some reason I’ve always found it easier to express the
compiled and published, as for example Anselm Kiefer did with his notebooks complexity of my thoughts and feelings about art through the vast range of
from 1998 and 1999;3 others are collected and published in obscure publica- adjectives of the English language. This might be heightened by the constant
tions or collective books. For example, the fragments of Anne Truitt’s journal in talking about, discussing and pondering of my own work and that of others in
Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art.4 A further illustration of these English; due to the fact that the homes of my fellow collective members are
personal notes is that of the sketchbook notes from Jasper Johns from the dispersed throughout America, Scotland and the United Kingdom. All of them
same book: “… Impressions? Metal paper bag? Profile? Duchamp (?) Distort- being native English speakers, I am the only one who speaks another lan-
ed as a shadow. (Magnetic area) In WHAT use a light and a mirror. The mirror guage; and since I prefer to write and think about my work in English, it was a
will throw the light to some other part of the painting. …”5 small step to extend it to this thesis.
There are a few moments however where I circle back to my native Dutch ver-
Others however move towards the other side of the spectrum, writing down nacular. A few poems remain in that language, since they were originally writ-
their ideologies and principles in books with a mindset of sharing these theo- ten in Dutch and the subtleties and atmospheres were best preserved without
ries as teachings, and a successive distribution of these very writings. When translation. At the other hand, what I write here is also something I eventually
pondering this notion, a well-known example comes to mind: the colour theo- want to share with those collective counterparts. There’s a necessity to do
ries and teachings of Josef Albers.6 so, simply because they’ve become increasingly involved in my life and in the
While these concepts and methods of writing have been employed for centu- change of my perception about art and the world around me; along with their
ries, and are therefore widely accepted as a means of communication amongst heartfelt interest in what I paint, write and think. As is probably noticeable, the
artists, they stand opposed to the rapid and digital way of communication of collective I’m part of has an undisputable personal importance and plays a vi-
the 21st century – the way I, too, communicate. tal role in my artistic life. The name of this collective, which I mentioned earlier,
My primary way of conversing with other artists is through the application is the 404 – stemming from the digital spheres through which we met, winking
WhatsApp and through the social media network Instagram. These chats form to the well-known cybernated ‘error 404’, and the importance in the concept
an enormous source of inspiration and feedback, and can be interpreted per of error; both as a part of our respective visual language and the relevance of
se as contemporary letters. It’s an important daily correspondence between it in the searching and creating a body of work. For the past 9 months we’ve
me and my peers in the field of painting, often going on 24/7, since the people been talking intensely, exchanging thoughts on everything related to painting
I talk to are globally scattered over different time zones. A common conception and art, but also about ourselves. I can only emphasize the influence they
about digital chats is that they’re volatile in nature, quick, disposable. Yet the have in the development of my worldview, of my work and accompanying
chat I’m part of with five other close friends and talented artists – all part of our techniques. Each doubt was received with respect and care, each insecurity
404-collective – has very archival qualities for me; an archive of days, weeks thought about together. It’s through them that I became aware of growth and
and months consisting of reflections on work, ideas, struggles and so much evolution in a different light, a more profound and far reaching flowering. For
more. I often find myself looking back at certain passages, rereading parts me, the concept of a synergy in artmaking is an important one; a concept
where I shared pictures of unfinished works to see what the others suggested which has always been significant during the whole of art history.

1
De Leeuw, De Brieven van Vincent van Gogh.
2
Kirwin, More Than Words.
3
Kiefer, Notebooks Volume 1: 1998-1999.
4
Stiles and Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, 124.
5
Ibis., 376.
6
Albers, Interaction of Color.

X XI
Collectives have always existed; mostly as a way of resistance against pre- “It’s been a while since I’ve properly painted a head so I had to get back into
vailing institutions and predominant currents, or to try and change the former it. It’s strange that after a month of intense work and then a small week of not
popular artistic landscape and its movements, shaping it into their own ideol- painting 5-8 hours a day can make your fingers feel so inexperienced again.”
ogies and beliefs. Working together in the pursuit of a common goal.7 Immedi- The collective plays an important role in all of this. They’re essential in the
ately the Fluxus-movement comes to mind, where the original founder George preliminary reflection of thoughts and ambiguities before writing about them
Maciunas stated their intentions to be “to promote a revolutionary flood and in a communal place.
tide in art, promote living art, anti-art”,8 functioning as an alternative for aca-
demically grounded art and culture. From these points the conclusion can be made that we as a collective find
Another example of a more strongly opinionated collective is that of the Italian the act of creation paramount. What goes on behind the scenes is as impor-
Forma 1, who proclaimed themselves to be Formalists and Marxists, as to tant, perhaps even more important to the viewer and ourselves as is the final
ultimately keep the progressive elements of their society from falling into the end result. We don’t strive for a competition against certain institutions, but
error of a spent, conformist realism.9 rather a cohesive community of partisans of the arts. I believe this makes for
a stronger artistic society and collective. These thoughts, together with our
In this day and age there are still collectives being formed, mostly by people expectations of the collective, are bundled in a collection of manifestos we
who live and work in the same vicinity – yet the growing forms of online and wrote. The manifesto I wrote is, as aforementioned, part of this thesis, since
digital communication allow artists to form collectives and art hubs while living for me it functions as a cornerstone of the ventures I’m currently involved in.
in different countries or even on different continents. That is exactly how the Rich and numerous in examples, hundreds of manifestos have been drafted
404 came to life. We started talking through Instagram and realized our beliefs throughout the last decades. Manifestos frequently flow out of the establishing
and ideologies about painting and the contemporary art world resided on very of a collective, going hand in hand when delivering and spreading ideologies.
similar wavelengths. We came together not only because we genuinely are They generally describe a dissatisfaction with current affairs, and opinions
interested in each other’s work, but also because we’re progressively getting about what needs to change and how. A great number of manifestos was writ-
jaded with the ingrained dominant organs like galleries, where a clear hier- ten by gestural and geometrical abstractionists, where the Manifesto Blanco
archy exists in which the artist is the dupe. We stand for transparency, being by Lucio Fontana stands out; claiming that “change is an essential condition
open and honest about our practices and struggles; we want to diminish the of existence” and “painted canvas and standing plaster figures no longer have
borders between artist and viewer, create a sincere dialogue. any reason to exist”.10
Others lay closer to how I feel about art, and more importantly, how I write
Even though the origin of our collective came very naturally and spontaneous, about and reflect on it. George Baselitz’s Pandemonic Manifesto 1, 2nd Ver-
it still was a rather big step to go from the solitary act of painting in the studio sion from 1961 is one that resonated with me personally. However vague in its
to something like a collective, where suddenly every little detail gets shared. message, the way Baselitz deals with the concept of a manifesto is something
With the addition of social media and my analogously growing presence on that greatly inspired me in my writing. To reach its full lyrical impact one has to
platforms like Instagram, the very personal doubts quickly became strikingly read the entire manifesto. Nevertheless, I feel like I need to quote an excerpt
public doubts, shamelessly shared for all to see. My 404-companions helped from it:
me deal with that. They helped me realize that the public exposing of these
things isn’t necessarily bad, but instead creates a stronger bond between art- “Frozen nudes with skin crusts – spilled trail of blood. Bloated and depos-
ist and viewer through the humanization of the art practice. ited friendly ones. Perspective faces drawn by the moon on the rivers,
In this public expression of doubts and uncertainties I often talk about the faces on which the sewage water drips … oriental light on the pearly teeth
things I’m experiencing on a technical level; certain ‘revelations’ or disappoint- of the belles, cartilage, negative forms, shadow stains and wax drops.
ments I encountered, how time and pauses affect my process. As an example, Marching up of the epileptics, orchestrations of the bloated, warted, gru-
I’m quoting an excerpt from day 41, included later on in the thesis: el-like, and jellyfish creatures, limbs and interlaced erectile tissue.” 11

7
Tate, “Collective”. 10
Stiles and Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, 20, 47-50.
8
Tate, “Fluxus”. 11
Ibid., 235.
9
Milanoartexpo, “Gruppo Forma 1, Manifesto Artistico del 1947”.

XII XIII
Baselitz’s free and poetical way of writing influenced me, and confirmed that That is our bane. Sharing our experiences, our faults, our biases, our
I, too, could deal with text and writing about my work and convictions in such short-comings is the only way we can really connect as artists…
a rhapsodic way. I have been, at various stages of my career, in front of literal crossroads,
Nonetheless, the manifestos we wrote ourselves were mainly to see how where I’ve had to pick between producing very superficial works that
each of us thought about the collective and the means of it, to open discus- would have undoubtedly been commercially successful, and making
sion about the connotations it entails, with the notion to eventually combine paintings that subjectively meant a great deal to me but made no sense
them into a single concrete manifesto which represents us and what we stand in terms of the art market. I am happy to say that I’ve always picked the
for. They’re structured and focused on long-term goals; seeking each other latter.
through words, trying to guide our intentions. I believe that the peace of mind that we painters have, knowing that we
painted the things that seemed right, that felt right, that have purpose in
Another prominent factor in the shifts in my way of thinking is that of the pro- our lives, that are spurred by the most basic need to do, to make, to say,
found impact of contemporary painters through direct and indirect contact. is priceless.”12
There’s a number of painters whose work I’ve been following for quite some
time – a few painters who are important for me are Nicolás Uribe, Xevi Sola It’s conversations like this that make me look forward to the future of con-
Serra, Zoey Frank and Antonio López Garcia. Even though I’ve always felt at- temporary painting. Knowing there are very talented artists out there who are
tracted to their work, their paintings only really started making sense, gaining working with this attitude, working towards a better future for artists to reside
more and more importance and meaning over the past 5 months. As a result, and work in, where creativity and the work itself are once again centralized.
I started reaching out to Uribe, Serra and Frank through the vast and often
billowing waters of Instagram. So, in conclusion, deriving out of these main three issues the malleable sub-
Sadly, a great deal of artists on Instagram aren’t very talkative, or even respon- ject of this thesis took form. They form the foundations that lay at the core of
sive for that matter. Yet this doesn’t stop me from contacting them. Regularly the inward research done about my evolving and expanding work and mind-
expressing thoughts and fascination with their work, asking questions about set; about the ongoing search for a new and refocused accuracy in my pictori-
certain images, methods of working or very technical questions like how they al language. I used myself as a calibration apparatus to conduct that research,
glaze finished paintings. I contacted the Spanish painter Xevi Sola, inquiring if using the term research in the broadest meaning of the word possible.
I could ask him a few questions relating to his work and his pictorial language. The paintings done in the last few months slowly eventuated from dealing with
Upon agreeing with this I asked him about the psychological aspects of his these matters on a daily basis. They arose through the analysis and reflection
portraits and technical questions; how he builds up his paintings, what his col- of my own practices, through the intense and extremely nourishing conversa-
our palette consists of, etc. Sadly, by the time this thesis is getting published tions with the members of my collective, and the communication with contem-
he read the questions but has not yet provided me with any answers. Nicolás porary associates in the field of painting. Consorting these factors, they form
Uribe is probably one of the few I have frequent short conversations with. a strong basis for calibrating yourself as a human being, as a painter in the
Uribe has ideologies and certain convictions which lay very close to those of 21st century.
the 404-collective; the idea for instance that a community among artists and
admirers of the arts goes a much longer and acute way than the established
hierarchies common in galleries, is one we both agree on and work towards.
When prompted about this issue in an email I sent him, and asking what his
analogous trigger moments were in his artistic growth, he replied:

“I am glad that you want to fight this fight through simple honesty. There’s
a horrible saying that too many artists abide by, “fake it until you make it”.

12
Nicolás Uribe (painter, e-mail), interviewed by Seppe De Meyere, August 8, 2018.

XIV XV
XVI XVII
XVIII XIX
Comparison of the chat with three letters written by Vincent Van Gogh, accompanied by a number
of drawings and sketches for possible future paintings.

XX XXI
Instalment I

I’m experiencing equal amounts of thrill-


ing fun and stifling unfamiliarity with this
painting of a dog.
Then again, I’m getting a lot of ideas
out of this; imagery, atmosphere, paint
application.
Sure, it’s still a work in progress; con-
trast is still too high, it still needs more
textures, layers. But I want to scumble
over it, build up a bit more, just to break
some of the flat marks.

Now when I say atmosphere, right now


that’s still a very emotionally based no-
tion, a feeling I can’t fully grasp yet.

A certain grimness.

Personally impersonal.

Bright flash, dark cast shadows,


‘R. Mutt’
Like a glimpse in a life, 40x50cm
startled, Oil on canvas
caught off guard.
Flash is revealing, unkind
Intrusive.

Falling in slow motion alongside the


edges of the uncanny valley.

Light is such an important thing.


It creates, illuminates,
urges growth and life in its core.

But why that light? Why that feeling of a


sudden burst, a shard in darkness?

22 23
Why the kind of exposing, penetrating about my work.
light that is so opposite to the soft nur- The main trigger for these interests is
turing sunlight? sensory-based, taking shape in atmos-
I’m not talking about polished phere, feeling, light, ambiguity. Ambi-
flash-enhanced studio shots, I’m talk- guity bleeds into an emotional reac-
ing about the gritty, almost abhorrent tion, a set of sentiments, which forms
stuff; people caught in darkness, night, another main trigger. A visual sem-
roaming, slithering. Weird pauses in blance of these factors. A feeling of
time, detached from life, severed from pathos, an attempt to transform these
daily pretences. notions and sensibilities into palpable
Perhaps because it’s so revealing, al- visual stimuli.
most unforgiving. Those things, combined with the man-
ifestation of them – mainly being the
Perhaps it’s a reflection of myself. visual imagery – accumulates in that
Perhaps that’s a cliché. same perception which drives all these
motives in the first place. And when an-
A reflection of my perception about alysed, results in the aforementioned
sensory information, which poses a dissection, hence coming full circle.
certain individuality and focused field
of vision, and which then comes full One cannot exist without the
circle and accumulates in that same other, which exists because of the one.
perception that drives these things.

Basically, everyone has their


own sets of interests, triggered and fed
by very specific things that resonate A notion grows
within them. The fact that I keep being Steadily
drawn to a certain feeling of oddity and of potential collision
the uncanny in my work – a deviance A common ground
in imagery – is something I still don’t
feel like I fully and truly understand. Past darkness and
Yet by examining that feeling through contortion
painting, it can be perceived as a re- Weaving into light
flection upon those feelings, and in ex- Translucent,
tension, upon myself. blending into candour
Those attractions and fascinations are
in a way focused since I keep coming Compos mentis
back to them – even though the form in departing from insanity
which they’re represented is evolving. No break, however
In that sense, one can pose that those
stimuli form a possible individuality Assimilation

24 25
Interlude I Grey matter stuck in limbo
Mind ahead and
onward but
As of late, my imagery is slowly developing, growing. I somehow feel, after all cemented limbs won’t follow
these years of constantly increasing sources of inspiration, that I’m stepping Unknowingly knowing
into a realm of possible alteration. My perfectionism and fear of letting go, of Forward, forward
failing and breaking down has previously impeded a growth in my work.
Sustained ideas necrosing
For a long time, I was unable to research the painterly qualities which in- Gaze upon
trigued and inspired me, because of that fear of failure. The mere idea that I’d And grasp nor touch, yet
paint something which I would not like the looks of, or which would give me vicinage enclosing
the feeling that I can’t paint at all, was horrifying. But then I started to deform Seemingly knowing
my images, and a world of beauty in failure revealed itself. Disentangle, forward
In those first moments I tapped into a visual world which was close to me. Yet
I couldn’t comprehend the significance of that back then. Aesthetical urgency Fragile bulk exfoliates
still prevailed over the conceptual and emotional bearings that lay at my core. Iron brick stuck
years eroding,
As a result, I resorted to the old masters. An attempt to understand them inside no longer throbbing
better, but in retrospect, probably also to get the overly dramatic out of my Clarity approaching
system. Resolution, forward
It took about 2 years until I started hitting walls. Problems I faced years back
resurfaced – how do I solve large areas in an interesting way? How do I get Forward
closer to the painterly language that’s present in 3/4ths of the artists that I’m
fond of, and which I, in extension, want to achieve something similar to?
Analogously a new line of questions arose, questions about the nature of my Ensuing this subliminal barrier, I happened upon something that would radi-
work, about what it was, or is, that I want to capture. cally change my perception of painting.
Of course, these kinds of questions went through my mind a lot in the Upon something, someone, an association of people, who would become very
years before that, but now they suddenly became a pressing issue, and turned close friends. We met through the vast network of fibre wires spanning conti-
into a slight personality crisis. nents and deep-sea trenches, and fired up. After realisation and discussion,
I came to a halt. Block, brick wall, square one. we officialised ourselves and poured our encompassing cluster of mindsets
The realisation dawned upon me that I didn’t want to paint deformed old mas- into a collective – the birth of the 404.
ter interpretations indefinitely. I needed to continue building my own world, in This very collective lays at the core of my change in vision and understanding
which some aspects of those old masters may be present, but don’t prevail. of painting. Not only did they teach me what had been notions, silently brew-
ing in the back of my mind for years, they were able to dilate my confined gaze
I now stood in front of two crucial issues in my work. and reassured me and my endeavours in the directional shift of my work.
The heightening level of discontent surrounding my pictorial language – paint Analogously with this we set up a project called 100heads – painting and/or
application, brushwork, build-up, dealing with light and shadow in substanti- drawing a portrait a day, 100 days straight. An inciting pretext, but one that
ated ways. would urge each and every one of us to encounter ourselves multiple times
The pressing matter of a lack of individuality and authenticity in my imagery – throughout.
outdated tropes. With this challenge the opportunity arose to experiment, to fail, to try out new
things without consequences; consequences to the expectations I’ve set for
myself. Slowly the impact and possibilities of this project started seeping
through, dripping into the dense compacted assumptions settled in my mind.
Finally, I started roaming the vast and visceral plains of painting.

26 27
For the first time I felt a freedom in painting, a liberation I knew I needed to let As previously mentioned, the work I made before the old master interpreta-
my work change the way I wanted it to. It took me a while to let go of certain tions was based on images I didn’t yet understand the significance of. During
habits, structures, even colours. I painted a lot of things I wasn’t happy with, these portrait paintings the importance of intimacy became clear. People start-
but was able to see through that, to see future possibilities; ascertain, paint, ed sending in pictures of themselves, little snippets of their lives, snapshots;
examine, evaluate, alter, re-evaluate, conclude, reflect. and by studying these pictures a feeling of closeness emerged.
I’ve always been a fairly slow painter, taking my time – often too much. The Slowly I realised that, even though most of these people were strangers to
situation I was in forced me to change gears drastically. Painting every day, me, the meaning of the paintings I did gained a lot of strength. Much more
7-10 hours straight, fighting my patterns, restructure. It was as challenging as than an anonymous shadowy figure could produce.
it was stimulating. As a result, the painters I had been looking at for years started making more
Browsing my archives of images, it quickly became apparent that repetition sense to me. I finally understood my appeal to the conceptuality of their work,
was forming. Predominate darkness, theatricality and tragedy became abra- to their visual language. Why paint these ungraspable dramatic images when
sive aspects of the images gathered. I became aware of different qualities I could find the same sensibilities, perhaps even stronger ones, in the things
luring in images and photographs that previously got pushed to the back. This around me? Why flee to veils of darkness I thought represented myself, when
made me think about the atmospheres and feelings I wanted to establish in in fact they were just an exaggeration of only one aspect of my interests?
my paintings through the subject matter in a new light. By playing with hues, These questions, in hindsight, seem fairly obvious. Lots of people use the
light, reducing contrast, paying more attention to solving different areas in things surrounding them as a source of inspiration, but it took me a few years
a more painterly way, I noticed I could come much closer to those desired, and a strange detour to be able to figure out how exactly I could use those
murky ambiences. A paradox surfaced with this conclusion: the semblance of things closest to me in a way that felt right and interesting.
a looming presence, a feeling of discomfort and unease were stronger when By focussing on my own surroundings I’m trying to get a better understanding
I focussed on a language that lay closer to reality; even though the things I of them, and subsequently of myself. Even if that concept remains abstracted.
paint question that reality. For an image to appear more poignant, unsettling, A whole new way of filtering and editing images is taking form, my perception
eerie and even threatening, it has to be relatable – “I’ve been in a room similar of the world around me has changed, as did my approach to gathering image-
to this one”, “my grandmother has that same lamp”; perceiving, recognition. ry and the translation of it to paint.
By painting with this paradox in mind, the feeling or impression of an image
can come much closer to something that gets under your skin, something
peculiar, as opposed to a big, predominantly dark painting, heavily laden with
emotion.
In conclusion, I felt an urge to paint things closer to myself, imagery that felt
personal and had a sense of intimacy to it.
A striking similarity to this train of thought I found while reading a book about
Antonio López Garcia.

“No longer was I unaware of the daily struggle, the extreme, obsessive
concentration inherent in the creative act of painting, which forces the
perceptive and conceptual mechanisms of one’s mind to be in a con-
stant state of alert: an acute dissection of everything around us. I began
to understand that emotion could be found in light, in objects, in walls,
in faces or in flowers. That is to say, the whole world could reside in that
which is most proximate.”

- María López Moreno13

13
Agnew and Agnew, Antonio López, 30.

28 29
Instalment II It became inherent to our times, built-
in. It gives in two ways.
Giving chances, a vast audience,
Scope enlarges, broad spectrum of hands-on influence,
digital spheres veined with prospect. changes in perception.
Instagram in back of mind. Giving insecurities, fear of falling short.
Having to raise the bar, again and
Fastness, haste impediment – an urge again, for what?
for online activity.
Insignificance; self-attached impor-
It changes the way I work, or rather, tance.
the cadence of creation. The passing
of time stimulates a feeling of tension,
restlessness – counting days since the An idea
last post. Light not scattered; collected
It’s unhealthy, changing your focus bundled and packed, tight focus, blast
from development and growth in Nerve tissue fractured and gathered
something you’re working on to a mere inward,
digital presence. exfoliates out
Seeking approval in unknown masses.
An idea: paint, light/ malleable and
A double-edged sword in nature nourishing,
but not sharp on both sides. delicate
A different kind of approval, hardens – harsh fixated
reaching out to artists, to a larg- Gathers in a focal point
er crowd red dot through wavelength particles
Big contemporary artists can be An image develops, concretizes
humanized, reached out to. A fluid concept like mercury

Increased exposure to images, paint- Movement becomes abstract


ings Strobe, this sudden caught off guard
Getting a glimpse of artists them-
selves, their lives, what’s brewing in Chisel into personal space,
collective studios. Paintings and draw- abrupt interruption of self and other
ings get analysed, shared up close; a Disturbance in the ether of a psyche,
view behind their curtains. and in that way, depict a psychological
Asking for opinions, even though scene.
known artists rarely answer. But it’s
about the possibility, the opportunity.

Why the need for social media?

30 31
An unrelenting flashlight, saturating
scenery – wet, drenched in glare
Separate possibilities, cut, space,
compose
eerie structures in spatial alcoves

Painting an image of myself, cramped


in forty centimeters
Vexed face of disquietude
Surroundings in which I basically exist
together with their indisputable dilem-
mas and strife
A biased place – resting, recuperating;
strenuous work
Space of quiet reflection
Turmoil
Synchronous actuality
codependent

Abrupt light shatters; a focal diffusion


that bathes, submerges

A soft reverberation

‘Self Portrait with Yellow Watering Can’


40x40cm
Oil on canvas

32 33
Interlude II Malachieten halo
Hangt zwaar gebeiteld
Delicaat beschermt het
Zwart gevleugeld kronkelende vervorming
de tragedie
Stil verstomd Antieken voorbij,
in spraakzaamheid ooglijke permutatie
Vlerkt krampachtig toont zich apathisch
wiekt voorzichtig
Vluchtig in haar tijdloosheid Wanproduct der ontplooiing
Maar schoon daarin
Glooiend tijdsgewricht
- Concludeert in visuele entropie.

Gevoel van verslagenheid -


van opgegeven onmacht, misère
Ontnuchterende desillusie –
maar nederige acceptatie Beladen mimiek
Vertekende realiteit in wezenlijkheid Achronisch gebarenspel –
reëel. een constante
Fluctueert onomstotelijk,
Indringend bescheiden en inaugureel geaard
Zachtzinnig oordelend
Stroomt het, Omhulsel, matrix
verzakt in amorfe schoonheid
Zwaarte dragend
Een monumentale tristesse Contemporaine ratio
in een langzame transpositie

34 35
Zacht omzwachteld
groen fluweel
Transplanteert het, opgesteven
Vlees verzakt en
tornt, dan scheurt
Uiteengereten
transmuteert

Melancholische morose
Integriteit – artificieel
Barokke echo
irreversibel,
galmt in archaïsch residu.

‘Dafalgan’
40x40cm
Oil on canvas

36 37
Interlude III many different ways. Even if particular chances present themselves for indi-
viduals within the group, there’s always the core to come back to, to rely on,
404 MANIFESTO to start from, to tap into, to fall back on. A lot we’d do would be stimulated
through the collective which functions as a foundation – a vividly functioning
To write a manifesto is a big thing. Throughout the art history a lot of impor- artistic nucleus from which we can branch out for particular individual projects/
tance has been attached to collective manifestos - since they are a bookmark opportunities.
in not only the lives of individual artists, but also mark a period in time where
things had to change, where change was needed, where a group of individuals Now this aforementioned basic idea for me implies a need, an urge to put a
felt drawn together and therefore urged to write down their thoughts, visions, mark on the current artistic landscape; to change it, and to push that change
ideologies concerning art, with the hopes and intentions of (radical) change. through other artists to the viewers. Thus creating an interactive and trans-
This is something I feel is happening right now in this very moment as well. parent community in which openness, honesty, respect and artistic prowess
For as long as I remember being aware and conscious about art, I have had a is placed central.
general dissociative feeling towards modern and contemporary art practices. I think this is a very important stance to take in today’s art world where a lot is
For some reason I felt out of place, everything was too random. It felt like a currently decided by some big shots, where the artist is forced in a submissive
chaotic amalgamation of every thought an artist ever had, thrown together in position in terms of creating work and bringing it outside of the studio to show.
a big soup of borderless frenzy. One could get away with anything, and to me The artistic endeavours we go through shouldn’t be taken advantage of, we
that idea didn’t do specific practices any favours. shouldn’t be subjected to the harsh and dishonest system a lot of museums
I have always had strong preferences towards figurative art, and painting in and gallery owners embody.
particular. There’s just something about the collective attempt to try and inter-
pret life and everything around yourself; to try and translate all these things I want transparency, to shrink the gap between the artist and the viewer, to
combined with personal sensibilities, emotions, psychological attachments be able to be honest about the ups and downs about painting. Not everything
and perspectives in a way that reflects those specific combinations of dispo- happens flawlessly overnight, we struggle more often than things go smoothly.
sitions. So not only would I like the 404 to be a pillar in the landscape of contemporary
To manipulate pigments and oils in such a way that they give voice and life to painting and art that yields a change in direction, approach and mindset of the
those exact dispositions is something incredible to me. A material so simple, art world, at the same time I want it to review the stance of the artist in this all.
so basal, yet capable of expressing the complex arrays of human emotion and Sure, the people higher up than the artist can have a crushing weight, yet the
sensibility, taking the shape of those very things around us – fuck me that’s artist still is placed on a pedestal and is regarded as invincible.
swell! We are not.
I don’t want us to appear vulnerable and weak, but I want us to be sincere and
Transmittable signals brought together a group of people, myself included, unambiguous about what it means to be an artist, what it means to dedicate
who seemed to tremble on the same wavelengths. A group of people who saw our lives to the creating of paintings and therefore art.
enormous potential in encouraging, pushing, helping, loving each other as a
person and as an artist. These things – which are among many things the 404 is about for me – I keep
Sprouting from a careful distanced approach we quickly started to get to know in high regard.
each other on the inside and outside, growing from simple admirers of each I feel the 404, we, the lot of us, are capable of doing this. Of leaving an ever-
other’s work into intimate and close friends. lasting mark on the art world.
And so, with the earlier mentioned focus on and interest in figuration, the 404 I want to build on this, nurture it, eventually come together and bundle all our
was born. Sweet baby jesus in the seven heavens have mercy! collective thoughts, ideas and ideologies into one stream of thought. To pro-
I never actively looked to join and/or start a collective. What excites me is that ject these things through a multifocal lens into a school. Whether this school
this just very organically happened, that we suddenly just found ourselves in would be physical or intellectual, I don’t know. But I do think it’s just a matter of
a situation that basically is the definition of a collective. time before we put all our ideas together (printing books, setting up projects,
We’re all different ages, have different occupations apart from painting, but for recording podcasts, doing interviews, …) which will result in something way
me it’s rather clear what I see in this. bigger than we could’ve ever imagined.
For me the 404 has a future, and one on multiple levels at that.
I feel like this artistic organ is a plausible and very interesting gateway towards -
future careers. The basic idea we have here can be extrapolated on in so

38 39
We are the 404. This collective was formed to embody a central platform Interlude IV
for our shared ideas and collaborative experiences: a collective nerve centre
where we push one another toward enhancing, even exceeding our craft.
Through this channel, we want to share our experiences with you and every- What follows is a collection of reflections written over a period of approximate-
one else in our community. From our major successes to our failures, we ly 8 months. They are written in connection with the aforementioned 100heads
want to be blunt and honestly open up about the artistic, emotional as well as challenge, where a portrait was to be painted or drawn every day for 100 days
personal challenges we face. long.
Making art, whether it’s painting, drawing, or any combination of media can be The entire project took me 8 months to complete, instead of the predicted 3,5
a lonely venture - we felt it important, if not necessary, to create a place where months. This is, which will become apparent in the following descriptions, be-
interaction is encouraged, everyone is welcome, and ideas thrive and evolve. cause along the way I started noticing changes in my work, in how I perceived
This is only the beginning. We as a group intend to introduce a variety of pro- my work. This revelation of sorts made me slow down and focus on those
jects further down the line, ranging from community involvement to organizing changes, in order to be able to fully focus on them since I felt like the project
physical events internationally. was slowly merging with my other, personal work.
I became intrigued, and decided to take my time with the rest of the portraits;
going from small studies to larger and more extensive paintings. This chal-
lenge turned out to be a profound platform where I got the freedom to let
loose, experiment, try, fail, but also reboot and try again.
The captions are written in a different font than the one used in the rest of
this thesis. It’s the font used by Instagram, where these diary entries origi-
nate from. The idea behind this decision is to accentuate the different forms
of writing used during the overarching development of this dissertation. It’s a
different texture in writing, a divergent sensibility behind the thought process
when writing it.

Now, considering that my thesis is focused on the artistic chrysalis I am going


through, it seemed appropriate to include this lengthy and intense part of my
life.
Every caption and description entails a spontaneous and consecutive reflec-
tion, written just minutes after completing each portrait.
These short descriptions aren’t always as objective, since they were written
down in the often emotional aftermath of the creation. Optimism, contentment,
passiveness, irritation, frustration; all vital parts in the act of painting and draw-
ing. Yet these reflections proved to be important in my understanding of how I
see my work, and more importantly, the direction I want to take it in.

40 41
Day 1: Nico Day 4: ‘Trauma’
Super stoked to join Denis Dalesio, Milo Had a bad day today so I completely
Hartnoll, Michael Wolf and Mark Wrob- botched this drawing. Good thing is I
lewski in their challenge to draw 100 know what to avoid next time.
heads in 100 days! Pencil on paper
I’ve been neglecting my drawing way
too much so this’ll be a nice opportunity
to get back on it. -
Drawing of Nico Rondelez.
Conté and pencil on paper
Ca. 4 hours Day 5: ‘Narcosis’
This drawing started out with pencils
but soon I came to the understanding
- that this image did no lend itself to pen-
cils at all, so in a wave of despair I threw
some gouaches over it.
Day 2: ‘Lobotomy’ Since I’m pretty rusty with gouache I
Charcoal on paper tried to paint the image quick and loose
Leaning towards some obscure iconog- as to not overwork it and to keep a cer-
raphy to base my portraits on - a real tain spontaneity.
surprise! Ca. 5 hours
Some exciting things are in the making
with the rest of the guys so stay tuned!
Ca. 5 hours -

- Day 6: ‘Post-Graft’
WWI soldier after he got one of the first
skin grafts ever performed.
Day 3: ‘Surgery’ Tried to change my way of working
A baby having eye surgery, probably. with charcoal and keep the drawing
Didn’t have the right colours and I had more loose and free in light of what
to scratch with what I had, so the result my 404-colleagues are doing with their
lacks the right atmosphere and desired drawings.
tonalities I was aiming for. Charcoal and gouache on paper
Ca. 4 hours Ca. 6 hours

42 43
Day 7: ‘Injury’
Missed my oils too much so I gave in
and decided to paint a little portrait.
I’m not used anymore to paint a full head
in just a couple of hours so I’m inclined
to call it a study, here you go!
Exciting things be happening soon with
the rest of the crew!
Ca. 6 hours

Day 8: ‘Shift’
This painting started out as something
completely different but I just couldn’t
seem to get it right.
Once I was able to disconnect en
masse and get the fixed imagery out of
my mind I could finally let loose, experi-
ment and start to paint freely.
4 Thanks to my wonderful babes for
their 0 input and insane work to keep
me going! 4

Day 9: ‘Kindred’
Started very late today, hence the late
post. I had fun painting this one, tried to Day 10: ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’
keep my brushstrokes very loose and Head of a criminal who just died on the
build the face up like that. A completely operating table.
different way of painting which I’m ac- Had a lot of work on this one to get all of
customed to. the shapes, nuances and colours right -
Also joining us in the 100 heads chal- the nose is still jacked up and a little too
lenge are three amazing artists, stoked flat, I might tinker a little more on it the
to see you all participating! following days!
Ca. 6 hours Very excited to see this project reaching
further and persuading so many people
to join in!
24x30cm - ca. 7 hours
Oil on canvas

44 45
Day 11: ‘Bloodbath’ Day 14: ‘Genome’
Leaving the oil portraits for a while since Had a very late start today so again
I’ve run out of small canvasses and I posting rather late, but it’s still today so
desperately need to continue work on it counts! Had a lot of fun again paint-
my bigger paintings. ing this one, it’s a challenge to get that
I really need to step up my gouache stubble colour in the skin but layer after
game so I’m going to focus on those layer it slowly emerged. Focussed on
the next couple of days. This is a very my brushstrokes and colour today, try-
dodgy start. ing to sculpt the flesh and bringing in-
Gouache on grounded paper teresting contrasts between warm and
cold tones.
Oil on canvas
- Ca. 6,5 hours

Day 12: ‘Salamander’ -


Had a little head-to-head today with my
babe Milo Hartnoll. Worked from the
same reference image and interpreted Day 15: ‘Bones Crack’
it in the best way we knew how to. More Since yellow scares me to paint with I
of a natural glitch, submerged watery wanted to confront it and make it a val-
heads. I had to rush so I kinda messed it ued member of my palette. This paint-
up resulting in dead, dull colours. Better ing started out with the idea of an easy
day tomorrow. portrait, and so it appeared in the first
Oil on canvas - ca. 6 hours layers. Yet it came back around and
seriously bit me in the ass, the yellows
and greens combined with the warm
- skin tones emerging from the darkness
were damn hard to balance. At least it’s
a start!
Day 13: — Also: mark January 22nd in your agen-
Started a painting today but everything da’s, exciting stuff is happening!
that could go wrong, went wrong. Oil on canvas
Scraped it down 2 times, started over, Ca. 6 hours
and then again, until I just decided to
bang out a quick watercolour.
It’s done in about a small 30min - which
the quality reflects - so tomorrow I’ll try
to nourish the painting need in a more
satisfying way.
Today was literally 404.

46 47
Day 16: ‘Doc’ Day 17: ‘Haemorrhage’
I had to rush this one like crazy cause I Ent́e̷̕ŕ͟͝ t̢h̡e̷ ҉̢v͢͝o͘͟͢i̵̸͜d͡, ̢n̴͟éw ̢́̕a̡g̕e ̵̢ȩ̴m̷͠͡bǫ͡d͝i̴͟m̶͠e͞͏ńt̨̧
didn’t have a lot of time today. It’s also ͠-̴̵̧ ̨̛͡m҉a͏͘͝t̶͟rix ҉un͡r͘͢͜a̕v̶̀è̛ļ̴͜i̛͏̵n͏g͘҉ ̡͝2̷͡2n̢͟d͢͝ ó͟͞f ̴j̸̛̀a̷nu̶͜a̴͠rỳ̸
one of those images that looks great
but just doesn’t translate in a similar in- Enter the void, new age embodiment –
teresting way to the canvas. Might alter matrix unravelling 22nd of January
the background in a later stage, feels
like there’s something missing. You win
some you lose some.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 2,5 hours
22nd —— 22nd —— 22nd —— 22nd
Get hyped!

Day 17: ‘Haemorrhage’


Opposite page —>

Day 18: ‘Prey’


Finished this painting while live stream-
ing with Denis yesterday in celebration
of the official launch of our 404 page.
I didn’t post it afterwards because it
was already too late, but here you go!
Thanks to everyone who joined in and
withstood our artistic and personal ram-
blings!
Painting of today should be posted to-
night.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 5,5 hours

‘Haemorrhage’
23x30cm
Oil on canvasboard

48 49
Day 19: ‘Loko-Miroir’ Day 21: ‘Fetish’
Messy and slow one today, still some So since I hit that 20 mark yesterday, I
rough areas I would’ve done differently thought it would be a good time to focus
but oh well, I’m rather satisfied with the on all the things I’ve learned the past 20
general feel and atmosphere. days -through my 404 fam and by paint-
Oil on canvas ing so vigorously every day for the last
Ca. 9 hours 20 days - and put them into practice.
I’m planning on doing a couple of rough
paintings and experiments, trying to ex-
- amine new ways of building up my im-
ages and how to solve certain problems
- which in turn will help me deal with my
Day 20: ‘Dominus Infernus Hobiscum’ larger paintings.
This painting kicked my ass, repeated- Oil on canvas - 2,5 hours
ly, for hours. I couldn’t for the life of me
get the colours right. I’m used to make
paintings with a lot of darks and contrast -
so this was a big challenge to say at the
least.
Luckily through the help of my lovely Day 22: ‘Threat’
404 babes I kept pushing and altering I wanted to get a better knowledge
and smearing that paint around until this about light, how it wraps around a face,
image arose. I would’ve done a lot of how the values shift through the differ-
things differently, but I’ve gained a lot of ent tonalities etc. So a monochrome
insight on how to tackle future paintings. seemed to be a good way to practice
Oil on canvas these things.
Ca. 10 hours Slowly getting the hang of building up
my paintings like this and I have to say I
like it quite a bit. This may seem like an
obvious way to build up but for some
reason I’ve never really painted like this,
always got away by doing what I was
used to do. Included some progress
shots for those who are interested.
ALSO: please slide me a DM if you want
to swap faces or references for future
heads!
Oil on canvas, approx. 3 hours

50 51
Day 23: ‘Ne10’ Day 24: ‘Acid’
Although probably quite some of you Very quick and rudimentary study today
may not necessarily like this painting, it from a reference brought to me by my
was a very important one for me to do. bespectacled babe Milo Hartnoll I feel
What started out as a reinterpretation of like I’m somehow completely relearn-
yesterday’s painting, ended up in a pro- ing how to paint. Things I’m used to do
cess that undermined my very core of and comfortable with are now pushed
established values on which my entire to the background and other, actually
practice is built. more important things I’m not used to
at all are pushed to the foreground. I’m
I’ve always had a fear of destroying way out of my comfort zone and it’s as
paintings in the act, of losing certain intriguing as it is frightening.
parts that I like while working. And to-
day, with the help of Milo Hartnoll I tried Still I’m going to continue this for the
to overcome those fears and moulded next couple of days so hold on to your
this painting through an array of stag- collective hat and prepare yourselves
es, some of which I liked, and ended for some weird things.
up destroying it. The final stage (sec- Oil on canvas
ond image) may not even be close to Ca. 45 minutes
what I wanted to achieve, but through
this painting I’ve gained a better under-
standing of light, how it plays through
the shadows of a face, how to better un-
derstand a build-up of a face and how
certain problems can be solved.

This is quite the rant, I’m aware of that,


but I felt it necessary to reflect on this
in order to better understand it, and
perhaps some of you are interested
in the regenerating process I’m going
through.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 7 hours

52 53
Day 26: ‘Hoarse’
So I came across this reference which
immediately struck me like it was a
painting from Nicolas Uribe.

Milo and Denis did their rendition of it


and suggested I did the same, even
though I didn’t know how to tackle it.
The result is not the one I was after,
there are still certain parts and emotions
that elude me, that I wasn’t able to cap-
ture quite right; but then again I’m only
just learning how to paint in a more sen-
sitive way in which the paint takes the
lead and is way more malleable.
If anything, this was a very good exer-
cise since I was faced with a lot of prob-
lems that I would always avoid; painting
full frontal portraits, even lighting, low
contrast - this portrait forced me to try
and resolve them, to work not around
the issue but work towards it.

Nicolas man if you’re reading this, I hope


I don’t dishonour your amazing work by
putting your name under this painting.
Day 25: ‘Dallas’ Oil on canvas
Trying to push that paint around bet-
ter, build up and sculpt the flesh. Like I
said yesterday it really does feel like I’m
learning how to paint all over again. It
makes so much more sense but it’s con-
fronting; I’ve painted very methodically
all these years and now I’m finally learn-
ing to paint more intuitively, to move the
paint around and let it interact with the
image that’s hiding in there somewhere.
It’s a beautiful feeling, but damn hard to
pursue and catch. Yet when you man-
age to capture a feature or a likeness it
feels more rewarding, truer to itself than Opposite page
by just painting in an outlined way.
‘Dallas’
The person here depicted literally has 14x22cm
no face since it burned off by a high Oil on canvas,
voltage wire, so it was a challenge to try mounted on board
and get those subtle shifts in there.
Oil on canvas - ca. 4 hours
54 55
Day 27: -
Little cheat day today. I started some-
thing new, but the longer I looked at
yesterday’s painting, the more I started
to hate it. I’d been sitting so close to it for
so long it seemed to be looking good,
but once I uploaded the picture I felt I
missed the mark of capturing this man
his features so much that I just couldn’t
let it go. I can make paintings which
aren’t my favourites but who work on
certain levels, but with this one I knew
that I could get much more out of it.
So I reworked it until it felt like I’d gotten
closer to the subject’s sensibilities and
facial particularities.
Oil on canvas - ca. 12 hours

Day 28: ‘Citrus X Sinensis’


Had a crazy busy day today and bare-
ly had any time to paint something. So
here it is, a tiny blurry blood orange
man. I started out with a tiny weird blob- ‘Brummie’
24x30cm
by head but it didn’t work at all, so in a Oil on canvasboard
final act of desperation I just dragged a
big brush over it. Day 29: ‘Brummie’
I noticed that I’m still far away from those Tried to combine the two ways of build-
spontaneous loose marks that shape ing op an image I’ve been experiment-
a face already in the initial couple of ing with over the past few days. I started
brushstrokes, which only means I have with a rough drawing, blocked in the
to keep pushing, keep practicing. It’s a darks and mid tones and started the
daunting task but at the same time also blobbing in those mid tones and the
fills me with the thrill of possible future lights, pushing and pulling that paint
outcomes. Need to step up my game around until it wrapped around the sub-
so tomorrow it’s back to a good 5-7 fo- ject’s skull. I wanted to stay rather loose,
cussed hours. so you can still see a lot of quick and
Oil on canvas - ca. 2 hours spontaneous marks in combination with
those slower, more decisive marks.
Also kept my palette very limited, only 6
colours went in this face, with a touch of
terre vert and English red for the nose
and chin.
Oil on canvasboard - ca. 6 hours
56 57
Day 30: ‘Gypsy’ Day 31: ‘Beta’
One month into the 100heads chal- Worked on this one during the lives-
lenge! Which called for a little celebra- tream with the amazing Hillary Butter-
tory distortion and warp, of course. worth earlier this evening.
This painting had lots of ups and downs,
I like natural deformity caused by e.g. a lot of problems that had to be solved
water, opaque surfaces or mirrors. This - nevertheless they were interesting
face is being reflected on the polished problems to tackle. The face had very
hood of a car, an image I never could’ve subdued tonalities which made it hard
altered as convincingly as this myself. to let it emerge to the foreground, so
Some of you may have seen this work after the first bad layers I lightened the
in progress yesterday during the live values and blurred the background
stream with my babe Milo Hartnoll. which strengthened the feeling of the
head being lit from the back.
Again my palette was reduced for this Those decisions seemed to work so I
painting. In a lot of earlier work I had to could reintroduce the blueish greys in
deal with a lot of darks and contrasts, the face without it being pushed back
which I solved by mixing a combination too much.
of certain colours to get those really Oil on canvasboard - 8 hours
deep, black darks. This got to a point
where I felt it to be too much, and I’ve
found that just using pure raw umber
(sometimes mixed with a little terre vert
or cobalt blue) can create beautiful
darks without the contrast being way
too high.

The contrast in this one may seem


rather high but that’s mostly because
the midtones are pretty high in value
in comparison. The warm umber darks
in the yesterday’s portrait are more ap-
parent since the lights are pretty limited.
Just some thoughts for those who are
interested.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 6 hours

Opposite page

‘Beta’
24x30cm
Oil on canvasboard

58 59
Day 32: ‘Nether’ Day 33: ‘Trisomy 21’
Used a reference from the lovely Hillary I was quite displeased with yesterday’s
Butterworth today. - A little explanation: painting in terms of general aesthetic
During the painting of this portrait I outcome. However, I do know it’s not
stepped way out of my comfort zone. about that, it’s about the process, about
This painting may not have the same not only the painterly but also the per-
drama and sense of tragedy like my sonal growth. This challenge has be-
usual paintings and may therefore not come way more than just paint/draw 100
appeal to everyone who follows me, but nice heads, it’s become more of a per-
I’m trying to take a step back in order sonal challenge in which I try to actively
to really try the things I’ve only slightly change my painting patterns, learn new
touched in my last few paintings. I want/ things and actually apply them, whatev-
need to properly focus on my use of col- er the outcome.
our, how shadow and light react in rela-
tion to each other, how values shift and I used a reference Milo sent some time
strengthen or diminish certain facial fea- ago in our 404 group chat and even
tures etc - also the application of paint though it wasn’t an easy ref, it felt much
is something that I want to focus on and more liberating to paint than my usu-
for me runs interwoven with colour. al paintings. It felt as if the things I’ve
learned from yesterday’s painting and
Now when I’m using these unusual an- the subjects from the last few ones cul-
gles, tilts and shifts or extreme circum- minated more in this portrait. Painting
stances in which a face exists, I’m not this made me realize I might not be as
only blocking myself from primarily fo- hopeless as I sometimes think during
cussing on those things, I’m also making this challenge.
it like 5 times as hard for me to study Oil on canvas
and better understand them. Ca. 7 hours

That’s why I painted this portrait. In


terms of imagery it’s way simpler than
my usual references, but more difficult
for me cus I’m not used to this. There’s
no room to hide. So I tried to paint as
loosely as possible, tried not to compli-
cate things.
And although the result looks a lot differ-
ent, I’ve learned a great deal by painting
this - also thanks to my wonderful friend
Milo Hartnoll
If you’ve read all of this, thank you.
Oil on canvas - 7 hours

60 61
Day 34: ‘Agent Orange’
Quick blobby baby today since I didn’t
have a lot of time.
The colours were a bitch to get right
because the baby is being preserved
in formaldehyde for at least 2 decades.
I don’t have a lot to say about this por-
trait, it’s more of a quick study of muted
colours.
This head is part of a still born Siamese
twin. Their horrid deformations are a
result of the mother’s exposure to the
chemicals of Agent Orange which was
widely used during the Vietnam War un-
der the US herbicidal warfare program.
Oil on canvas - ca. 2,5 hours

Day 35: ‘Roach’


Really needed to take a small step back
into my comfort zone and do something
I knew I could pull off, to have a notion
again that I can actually paint something
properly. A lot of things I’ve learned
went in this portrait though; colours,
marks, build up etc.
The next couple of days I’m going to
take a brief hiatus from the 100 heads
project. My lovely fellow 404 member
Milo Hartnoll and myself are exhibiting
alongside each other in Italy this march
and we really need to get some paint-
ing done for that show.
I’m still going to 100 so no worries! In
‘Roach’
those couple of days, I’ll do whatever I 24x30cm
can to keep up with the challenge. Very Oil on canvasboard
excited!
Oil on canvasboard - ca 8 hours

62 63
Day 36: ‘Rayburn’ Day 37: ‘Hoax’
The amazing Dallas Rayburn drew my In between the work I’m painting for the
crooked head in an intense face swap show at Tales of Art Gallery I thought I’d
so I glitched the ref and painted his. paint a quick little head. This was how-
While working on paintings for the show ever probably one of the most difficult
in Tales of Art Gallery in Italy I found paintings I did during this challenge. For
some time to paint this, which auto- a while now I felt like I needed to deal
matically is head number 36 in the 100 with those heavy shadows and con-
heads project - it also ties in with Dallas’ trasts, I want to paint what’s hidden in
own project in which he draws the same chiaroscuro. So I guess this is my first
picture 100 times. decent attempt at that, even though it’s
Two of my 404 babes, Denis and Milo, a fairly quick painting.
also painted and drew him so be sure
to check those out! I had to work with a huge amount of
new knowledge crammed in my head
Since I’m not good at full frontal blown by my lovely 404’ers, search for those
out faces this was a challenge for me, lights in the shadows, deal with reflect-
but an interesting one at that. I’m slowly ed light properly, and with the fact that
trying to challenge myself and paint im- the shadows were basically a light mid
ages I normally wouldn’t choose, in or- tone. So lots to break my head over but
der to learn how to actually paint these it’s a start!
things instead of hiding behind them. Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas Ca. 9 hours
Ca. 2 days

64 65
Day 38: ‘Inbred’ Day 40: ‘Partus Mortuus’
Very quick small blobby head to warm Yesterday was the official 1 month anni-
up for the painting me, Milo Hartnoll, versary of 404 going live, and also the
German Tellez and Paolo Psiko are birthday of my beautiful demigod Denis
gonna make for the exhibition in Italy at Dalesio
Tales of Art Gallery. Each of us are go- We had a 7+ hour google hangout with
ing to interpret the original painting and the crew yesterday talking and painting,
glitch it in our own way, very excited! and I felt compelled to go back to my
sketchbook.
This portrait was just some fucking
around – I was drawn to the weird angle So I painted this gouache spread of
but it started to work against me rather stillborn foetuses being preserved in
quickly, so I just rolled with it, loosened formaldehyde. For some reason, likely
my wrists and went back to brisk, un- because I was only half paying attention
bound marks. to the painting and was engaged in the
Oil on canvas conversations, the gouache didn’t feel
Ca. 2,5 hours like it was fighting me the entire time.
Be sure to go take a look at the
@404taken page for a beautiful update
- post and a selection of heads!
Gouache on paper
Ca. 3 hours
Day 39: ‘Darkroom’
Note to self: more shadow doesn’t
equal a quicker or easier painting. The
more shadow you have, the more you
gotta make those strongly lit parts work
in order for the entire image not to fall
apart.

I’ve been half-assing the last couple of


portraits because I’m busy painting for
the show. So the next couple of days I’ll
refrain myself from doing these quick
small heads which end up taking a lot
more time than anticipated.
I hated this one right up until the end,
and I’m still not even sure if it works or
whether or not I like it.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 5 hours

66 67
Day 41: ‘Julian’ ‘Benediction’
Worked on this in the first part of a great 24x30cm
stream with my babe Denis Dalesio. Oil on canvas
It’s been a while since I’ve properly .
painted a head so I had to get back into This is one of the paintings that’s gon-
it. It’s strange that after a month of in- na be exhibited alongside a couple of
tense work and then a small week of not portraits and a still life during the glitch
painting 5-8 hours a day can make your show in Tales of Art Gallery in Italy this
fingers feel so inexperienced again. week.

Anyway there are some really good It basically is a glorified study of a sub-
portraits being made recently, and I’ve tly glitched hand making a well-known
started swapping faces and refs with gesture. It appears frequently through-
other great artists. Today I painted the out art history and felt more powerful to
beautiful painter Julian Tejera. me when isolated.

It balances on the edge of being over- I think I slightly overworked it, and it’s
worked, had to rework some areas impossible to take a decent picture of.
a couple of times because I couldn’t I should be able to squeeze in one
seem to capture them, but I’m quite more head before leaving for Italy this
pleased with some other things. Hope friday where I will finally be united with
you like it too man. my babe Milo Hartnoll!
Also sorry for the crazy glare! Ca. 2 weeks
Oil on canvas
Ca. 7 hours

68 69
Day 42: ‘Aetatis Suae’
Detail of a larger painting done specif-
ically for the exhibition ‘Postdigital’ in
Imola, Italy this weekend.
The face is only about 1/4th of the paint-
ing but I thought it could count as one of
the 100 portraits. It is after all a portrait
amirite!
Really not used anymore to these in-
tenser glitches, they feel rigid. Never-
theless some interesting things hap-
pened which gave me some ideas for
future work!
Pictures of the full painting and the set-
up of the exhibition will come this week-
end! Looking forward to hanging my
work alongside the amazing Milo Hart-
noll, German Tellez and Paolo Psiko!
Oil on canvas - ca. 1 week

Day 43: ‘Prepuce’


Quick blobby painting of the blob mas-
ter and my babe Milo erupting from his
fisher’s coat.
I had a really good time painting this,
honestly been a long time since paint-
ing went so smooth and subconscious.
I already addressed in one of my posts
that I avoided painting with yellow for a
long time because I think it’s difficult to
make it work properly. So I felt like this
was the perfect opportunity to go full
chroma and just smear it on mercilessly.
This is the last portrait before I leave for
Italy, might make some quick drawings
or sketches there if I find the time, we’ll ‘Prepuce’
see! 24x30cm
Oil on canvasboard
Oil on canvasboard - ca. 4 hours

70 71
‘Aetatis Suae’ - full painting environment through more objectified
50x60 cm imagery. I should think more about this
Oil on canvas so I can actually write something decent
. and coherent about this. Thanks again
The final full painting that’s traveling everyone who came by on the opening,
with me to Italy tomorrow, together with Marco for making it possible and Milo,
some other glitched images. They’re German and Paolo for joining me!
going to be displayed in the group Anyone who’s interested in purchasing
show ‘Postdigital’ in Tales of Art Gallery. can contact Tales of Art Gallery for fur-
My brain is tingling with the anticipation ther inquiries.
to hang my paintings next to my 404
butterfly Milo Hartnoll and the work of
crazy painters German Tellez and Paolo -
Psiko.

This painting is the result of a project Day 44: ‘Tom’


where the four of us reinterpreted a ba- Late post, slowly easing back into the
roque painting that’s hanging in Imola heads with a loose portrait study of the
called ‘Portrait of a Twenty Five year old amazing painter Tom van de Wouwer.
Gentleman’ by Bartolomeo Cesi. The painting got a bit out of hand, like-
The show’s up for little over a month so ness was lost and I just went with the
if you find yourself in or near Bologna in portrait as an autonomous painting. I
that period take a train down to Imola liked some things that happened and
and go visit our paintings! decided to focus on those.
Part of the setup from the Postdigital Tom, sorry I botched your beautiful
expo in Imola, Italy - 3 of 7 paintings. likeness, I will for sure paint you again,
Most of the paintings I make deal with properly that is!
the human figure, yet for some reason I Oil on canvas
felt urged to paint these three paintings. Ca. 3 hours
While setting up the show we noticed
that when these three come together
they convey a sense of the old Flemish
painters, a quality that really struck me.
It took me approx. 5 months and a trip to
Italy for me to realise that.
By dealing with a lot of old masters I
unconsciously processed lots of back-
grounds, flowers, peripheral informa-
tion, which eventually manifested itself
in these paintings. This triptych projects
my sense of a vexed and dysfunctional

72 73
Day 45: ‘Denis the Menace’ Day 46: ‘Alba’
Fairly quick portrait of one of the most Portrait of Alba Miocev in her most nat-
beautiful people I know, my goddess ural state.
and über babe Denis Dalesio. I nagged about pictures with certain
Scratched some lines in there because lights but in the end I stuck with this very
he’s keen on them and is experimenting spontaneous and candid photo which
with it in his own work, so it felt like they had horrible lighting but felt like it repre-
would make an interesting addition in sented her best.
his portrait. Love you hon. Painting this made me realise a few im-
Apologies for the insane glare, it’s hard portant things in what I’m looking for in
to photograph these wet alla prima a painting. Some areas might seem a bit
paintings under fluorescent lights. overworked but some things started to
Oil on canvas click in this painting.
Ca. 6 hours Oil on canvas - ca. 8 hours

Opposite page

‘Alba’
24x30cm
Oil on canvas

74 75
Day 47: ‘Michael’
Quick wee blobber of me dear Scottish
mate Michael Monaghan innit!
Went through some bad stages with
this one, yet the way I approached this
painting was very liberating and inter-
esting. I just started very blobby from
the start, and just moulded the face.
Built op paint, react to it, scrape away,
destroy, add, reassess.
Things happened here I’d like to keep
building on and experimenting with, cus
it feels like I’m learning and doing things
which I’ve been searching for for quite
a while.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 4 hours

Day 48: ‘Patrick’


Portrait of my dear Milwaukee friend
Patrick Stromme who’s either in agony
or ecstasy – whichever you like!
Really enjoyed painting those clear
glasses. Kinda wanna have a second
and better shot at them. I’m slowly start-
ing to feel freer with the paint, yet simul-
taneously be more in control over it.
Since I’ve reduced my palette to about
12 to 14 colours - which for the Zorn us-
ers out there may seem like way too
much - I’m slowly but steadily under-
standing my colours better, learning
‘Patrick’
how to stretch them to reach different
24x30cm
atmospheres, temperatures and pre- Oil on canvas
dominant colour-schemes in certain im-
ages.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 6 hours

76 77
Day 49: ‘Caroline’ Day 50 + 51: ‘Cheese Puffs’
Very quick painting of the colour queen My god I’m halfway through!
Caroline Ji during her stream with Milo. It feels like I’ve been painting and draw-
Had a lot of issues with this one; very ing heads forever!
obscured light in ref, skin tones look su- I’m getting antsy to continue my larger
per dirty when photographed, this that. work, but at the same time I’m eager to
Might clean it up a bit later but decided see what other new things will come my
to leave it here for now. way through this challenge.
I couldn’t really push the paint in the
ways I wanted but nevertheless learned It was a long time since I made a draw-
some things while doing it. ing, and since the initial idea of this chal-
Caro girl I’m gonna grace your face with lenge was to make drawings I figured
a much better painting for sure! I’d make a proper one.
Oil on canvas Did a spread of the beautiful human
Ca. 4 hours being Milo Hartnoll who I’m incredibly
honoured for to be able to call my close
In other exciting news, for those of you friend. He means the world to me and
who haven’t seen/heard/read it yet our I already learned so damn much from
first podcast is online! Link is in my bio him - in painting but also in life itself. I
as well as the bio on the 404 page! * love you man.
Graphite and gouache in moleskine
Ca. 7 hours

Day 52: ‘Hillary’


Started a painting of Detroit’s finest,
Hillary Butterworth today on stream with
the amazing Michael Monaghan but had
time to kill before that, so decided to do
a little warm up drawing of her in the
meantime.
I’m slowly starting to get out of drawing
what I really like, which is approaching
*Note: This is an ongoing project where it in a painterly way combined with line-
a changing selection of the collective work.
members record long talks in which we The painting of Hillary will be finished
tackle a number of subjects. The link to and posted tomorrow!
the pilot episode is in the bibliography. Graphite and gouache in moleskine

78 79
Day 53: ‘Hillary Again’ Day 54: ‘Valentin’
Worked on this portrait in yesterday’s Quick and dirty little portrait of the in-
livestream with the Scottish hunk Mi- credible painter Valentin Fischer.
chael Monaghan. Had an off day, scraped down large
Added and changed a few things after parts of this painting about 4 times.
the stream ended and decided to leave There are some elements which I really
it there. like, but I couldn’t push the paint around
I feel like I’m slowly starting to push my in the right way to capture the general
paint in ways that’s getting a little clos- atmosphere I was after.
er to what I’m trying to achieve - which
in itself is a very instinctive and an intu- I felt the potential and had certain no-
it thing, and therefore hard to put into tions in my head but my hands couldn’t
words. follow. Sorry I wasn’t able to capture
your beauty Valentin.
Sometimes however, which is happen- Oil on canvas
ing more and more in the recent por- Ca. 4 hours
traits, I touch something I really like.
Even though it’s just a couple of marks,
or two colours which I intuitively put next
to each other and surprisingly seem to
work.
It’s these little things that cause a lot
of encouragement to keep pushing, to
keep trying.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 7 hours

Also @404taken has reached over 3k


followers! So I wanna thank everyone
who’s been taking an interest in us, our
work, the community and everything
else we’re setting up. Lots of love to all
of you.

80 81
Day 56: ‘Beacon’
Been a couple of days since I painted
so thought I’d ease myself back into it
with a blobby little portrait.

I felt really attracted to this image and


had a feeling I could do some interest-
ing things with it. Nevertheless it put up
quite a fight, but I think I got back on top
a little.
Some very intriguing things happened
while putting the paint down, which
sparked my long love for a few old
English painters like Walter Sickert and
Harold Gilman, so I decided to go with it
and blob the paint on.
Oil on canvas - ca. 4 hours

57/100
Quick little painting today.
I’m slowly noticing my brushstrokes are
Day 55: ‘Blue Ruin’
starting to get more analogue with my
I’m not my normal self the past time, and
thoughts and deeper intentions, and ac-
probably still won’t be for the next cou-
tually translating interestingly to canvas.
ple of weeks, so I apologise for being
It’s still something that’s going to change
so haphazard with my posts.
a lot, but I’m doing things of which I wan-
na keep certain elements, to push and
Since everyone was so excited about
explore them further.
my drawings I decided to draw some
more, but this time trying out some
On a side note, I started this challenge
new things. The focus wasn’t as much
by intuitively giving each portrait a title,
on end result, I was curious to see if a
deeming them higher than the studies
possible relationship existed between a
and experiments they are.
selection of images that triggered me,
It was starting to feel a bit forced and
and if that could manifest itself through
perhaps even contemptuous, so I’m
composing them into one drawing.
gonna let go of that.
I still don’t know.
Oil on canvas - ca. 3 hours
Graphite in moleskine - 6 hours

82 83
58/100 59/100
Did this fairly quick digital study be- Started this painting of the crazy Mosta-
cause I feel like I’m at an impasse in my fa Darwish yesterday on the livestream
work. with Milo Hartnoll.
I don’t particularly like this, but it was an We had some technical difficulties (bad
interesting exercise to do. internet connection from both our parts)
and when that was sorted out some
I’ve always been too tight, too strict with existential painting-related difficulties
my painting. During this challenge I ex- – questioning the decisions we kept
perimented with letting go of that with making. But we both managed to pull
mixed results - which is perfectly nor- through.
mal. Yet I feel like it’s (finally) restricting Because of the technical issues though
me too much, and there’s a need to let we missed a lot of your questions, so
go, in order for my work to be able to sorry for that. If any questions remain
grow. unanswered don’t hesitate to slide into
our DM’s! Also a big thanks to everyone
There’s a sensibility in the last few por- who sent their pictures, I didn’t expect
traits that I want to cultivate. such a response! Obviously I could only
paint one yesterday but there are some
So dodgy, perhaps even shitty paintings very interesting ones which I just have
may follow, but hang in there with me! to paint. So keep ‘em coming!
Ca. 7 hours

84 85
60/100
Painted my girl Nico Rondelez.
Some interesting things happened in
this painting.
I threw overboard almost everything I
know about building up a painting and
decided to spend a couple of days on
this one.

It went through a few stages with this


one - started out how I would intuitive-
ly begin a painting, which bothered me
very quickly already.
So I blobbed in the face again, changed
the background, changed the face
again, let go of the reference until inter-
esting things started to happen.
I was really trying to push the paint
around, searching the colour relations,
finding the shapes in that.

There’s honestly too much thought pro-


cess behind this one, too much to put
in here.
What I know is that I tapped into things
I feel like I need to keep exploring in
order to paint like I want to paint. It’s a
slow process, and I’m incredibly lucky I
have the amazing friends from the 404
to help me in this fucking weird and dif-
ficult search.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 5 days

‘Nico’
24x30cm
Oil on canvas

86 87
61/100 63/100
Quick little blobby study of my dumpling Two thirds of the #100heads challenge
Nico. complete!
Tried to stay as loose as possible, but Brawny picture of England’s grime babe
over-rendered the glasses and eyes a S. Vela
bit so took them down, built them up Thanks for the refs Choof!
again etc until it looked a bit messy. He sent me this picture as response on
Oil on canvas my question to you all for pics of your
Ca. 3 hours beautiful faces to be painted. However
it’s turning into a sort of face swap be-
tween me, him, Denis and Milo who all
- are painting or have painted each other!
On a technical note, I scraped down
this painting a few times, and in the end
62/100 kinda steered away from likeness. The
First portrait of the pictures you all sent. atmosphere the angle and lighting give
. off became interesting and more impor-
Thank you so much Spenser Bower for tant to me.
sending me this picture of you with that I’ve also fallen in love with alizarin and
luscious light! It was incredibly fun to Winsor yellow. Ahh!
paint this one. Oil on canvasboard - ca. 7 hours

Starting to feel more liberated and loos-


ened when I paint. It can stab you in the
back before you know it but other times
you can ride it all the way to the blobby
end.
Thank you all for sending your faces,
I’m loving the things I receive way more
than I thought! Y’all have some intrigu-
ing pictures!
Please don’t hesitate to send me more,
keep ‘em coming! Still got 38 portraits
to do.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 5 hours

Opposite page

‘Choof’
30x30cm
Oil on canvasboard

88 89
64/100 66/100
Thanks to Ruthie Cañada for the ob- Got this lovely ref sent to me by Con-
scure ref! stanza Veppo, thanks again!

Didn’t have much time to paint today So I miscounted and this painting
and I wanted to do something with this only marks the 2/3 completion of the
particular imagine I received (among #100heads challenge. I’m yearning to
many others, thanks again to everyone paint something else, but no way back!
who sent one! Don’t stop!) so I figured Interesting things are happening, even
the best way to translate it was through though it’s becoming increasingly more
drawing. challenging to stay focused.
I don’t know why I place certain things
together in a drawing. They’re mostly I absolutely loved the red, orange-yel-
just very intuitive things and ideas on lowy light in this picture and without re-
which I then try to build in order to cre- ally realising went super high chroma.
ate an interesting composition. It’s one of the first times in years that I’ve
In this case I felt intrigued by the lines in pulled open the colour registries so far
the background of the picture; I wanted and I damn love it.
to extrapolate on that by putting certain Oil on canvas
graphic and mechanical marks in there. Ca. 6 hours
Graphite in moleskine - 2 hours

-
-

67/100
65/100 Thanks to Abby Aultman for the funky
Thanks to my blade babe Jan Delbae- blown out ref!
re for the funky ref! Last thing you did
before going to bed, last thing I look at Didn’t have a lot of time today so blurt-
before going to bed! ed out a quick blobby one - about 2,5
Finished this painting while livestream- hours.
ing with CT’s finest, Denis Dalesio. I love working with these blown out
There were some technical issues so I flashbulb references, it creates a lot of
went on solo. Thanks to everyone who possibilities concerning chroma, satu-
kept watching and was able to endure ration and shadow play. Slowly learning
my incoherent rants. more about what I can and want to do
Also thanks to Tom for giving me some with an abundance of light, rather than
last minute advice on the shadows. The cloaking everything in dark shadows.
next cad orange eyebrows are for you! Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas - ca. 5 hours

90 91
68/100
Big thanks to my love Wouter Haelman
for the ref of him looking disturbed in
Düsseldorf.

Started out with large flat shapes, block-


ing in the light and midtone, since they
were the dominant parts of the face.
Once the crude facial structures were
laid down, I increasingly added more
tones to slowly build up the skin.
The background was way too flat and
dull so decided to repaint it while focus-
sing on the brushstrokes to get a better
feeling of the metal structure behind
him.

After these things were done it was the


smaller brushes time to shine and to
start blobbing vigorously.
This isn’t how I would normally go about
with a blobby painting, but the refer-
ence lent itself to this approach, so I
rolled with it.

I quite like how the hat turned out but


it was impossible to photograph without
the crazy glare, so I added a very weird
angled shot in which the brushstrokes
and tonalities of the hat are more visi-
ble.
69/100
Oh and also, the 100heads project offi- Thank you Sophie for this crazy red
cially reached over 10k heads, so a big blasted reference
thanks to everyone who did/is doing/ Fairly quick one today because I have
started the challenge! Love you all! 404 a lot of preparation for my small solo
is one proud momma. show in Almacen this weekend. Please
feel free to come take a look!
Oil on canvas Basically only used alizarin, Winsor yel-
Ca. 7 hours low, raw umber, cad red and a tiny bit
of flake white for this one. It was a very
Opposite page weird reddish pink which was hard to
mix, but I boosted that alizarin crimson
‘Sophie’
18x24cm to the max.
Oil on canvasboard Oil on canvas - ca. 4 hours

92 93
70/100
Thank you Joram for the lovely atmos-
pheric references, soon I’ll paint one of
the others as well!

Made this quick drawing yesterday


while waiting for the people to arrive at
the opening of my small solo show in
Ostend.
I’ll be there tonight and tomorrow as
well! There will be live vinyl sets and I’ll
be live painting!
COME ON BY! - 18:00-22:00
Graphite in moleskine - 1,5 hours

71/100
Big thanks to Max for this very nice ref!
.
Finally got back to painting after my
small solo show this weekend, and boy
did I feel it. Luckily I had this super inter-
esting reference to paint from!
A lot of things happened in this paint-
ing, but I tried to keep it together with
the recently gained knowledge from my
gorgeous 404 friends and some really
interesting shop talk with Tom van de
Wouwer.

I’m just now tapping into the vast ae-


ther of colour, temperatures, their ev-
er-changing relativity, light, and it’s
damn intimidating yet also very intrigu-
ing. Be prepared for some rough paint-
ings soon, still 29 to go which is a lot of
‘Max’
room to mess things up!
18x24cm
Oil on canvas - ca. 8 hours Oil on canvasboard

94 95
72/100 73/100
Thanks Eva Teetaert for this reference Big blue thanks to Gaëlle Mistiaen and
with such crazy lighting and colours! her insanely blue bathroom light fixture.

This turned out to be a damn hard ref This painting fought me quite a bit be-
to work from. The colours were so in- cause the shadows were so obscured
tense and went from pure ultramarine to yet very high in chroma, which made
bright yellow. I lost the likeness a bit but for weird shapes in the mouth and right
once I embraced that fact I really had eye.
some fun with just putting marks and The lightest part was nearly a pure
shaping the face. bright turquoise but since I don’t have
that and mixing it only gave me very dull
I tried to form as much as possible with and low chroma turquoises I went wild
little information, putting down just a few with the ultramarine.
marks for the mouth and basically just
some light and darks in and around the It was my first time painting on an am-
eyes. persand panel, which was very interest-
ing actually. I gessoed it beforehand so
It for sure was a challenge to work the paint would have more surface to
with these colours, nevertheless it was stick to and to break on. Once I blocked
a very good exercise in temperature - in the large shapes I started having fun
how the purple/pink shadow goes from with smaller brushes and blobbed and
a cool to a warm purple, with hints of red scraped around until some interesting
to the shard of light hitting the face. things started happening.
Oil on canvas
Ca. 9 hours I could barely photograph this portrait
because the glare was so intense, plus
a lot of the detail in the brushstrokes
and scratches are lost, but yeah.
Oil on panel
Ca. 6 hours

96 97
74/100
An Claes, thank you for the ref!

After a failed and scraped down paint-


ing I found little time during this busy
weekend so I did this pretty quick draw-
ing of An. She’s also participating in
the #100heads challenge so be sure to
peep her work!
Graphite in moleskine - 2 hours

75/100
Thank you so much for this lovely refer-
ence Ida Hundertmark!

The light in this pic casted some strange


shadows and I slowly got a little away
from the ref in terms of rendering and
representation.
I liked this wonk so I went with it and
continued building up the painting - it’s
what us gals in the 404 sometimes re-
fer to as ‘a good wonk’, where you play
with deformation a bit to enhance the
poignancy of an image without it be-
coming grotesque.

I’m also slowly falling in love with paint-


ing on panel, like how buttery you can
apply paint, let it slide, push it around,
mmhhh. Going to paint some more on it
the next few days till I run out!
Oil on panel
Ca. 7 hours
‘Ida’
18x24cm
Oil on panel

98 99
76/100
Thank you Clara-Lane Lens for the gor-
geous ref! So many interesting things
happening in there.

This one got away from me a little. I


started nit-picking and fixing little things
in the rendering, something I’m very
weary of. I lost some interesting parts
and a certain freshness in the paint ap-
plication, but then again some other in-
teresting things happened.
Likeness got lost a bit but nevertheless
learned a great deal with this portrait.

It’s the third time painting on panel and


I’m still figuring out how to get out of it
what I want. I prepped this panel with a
coat of clear gesso so I’d have a little
more friction and a slightly rougher sur-
face to paint on.
So far I liked it better to paint on a base
coat of oil paint as I did with the previ-
ous painting.

Clara is a painter herself so there was


a bit more pressure haha. She makes
some intriguing work herself so be sure
to check her out!
Oil on panel
Ca. 8 hours

‘Clara-Lane’
18x24cm
Oil on panel

100 101
77/100 78/100
It’s 404 o’clock! Thanks again to Joram for his lovely
refs!
Started this as a very quick sketch but
got carried away with it. Started adding This portrait went through a few phases.
more depth and shapes, to then realise Colours didn’t work, issues with hues
the page wasn’t balanced at all. and light in the shadows, scraping, re-
So I added the clock and the writing, building.
some more information in the portrait et I tried to draw more with the paint, letting
voila. brushstrokes build up the image. This is
Back to painting now! something I’ve been searching for a few
years now; that balance between flat
Graphite in moleskine - 5 hours fields or colour and brushstrokes.
A balance that’s very difficult to find,
and which I’m ever so slowly learning to
handle.
Now, as some of you may or may not
have noticed, the consistency by which
I’ve been posting has been rather ir-
regular lately. This is because I’m tap-
ping into things that cannot be solved
or thoroughly researched in just one
quick sitting. I reached a point where
the things I paint are not for the sake
of just banging them out anymore, but
rather have become an extension of my
personal work. So it’s only fair to myself
I treat them as such, and that I actual-
ly use this opportunity to try and let my
work grow. This challenge has had its
benefits for sure in terms of experimen-
tation, expanding my paint vocabulary,
getting closer to what and how I want
to paint.
I’m going to continue this challenge,
up until the 100th portrait smeared with
blood, sweat and tears. However, I’m
going to start taking my time with these
portraits, so hang in there beautiful peo-
ple!
Oil on panel - ca. 9 hours

102 103
79/100 80+81/100
Quick loose drawing of Abby Aultman. Thanks to one of my dearest friends
Wouter for this weird, funky picture!
For the last week or so I’ve been work-
ing on and off on a larger double por- Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve
trait of a friend of mine. been working on this painting for about
It’s been a while since I’ve had to take 2 weeks now; putting it aside for a few
proportionate decisions about a paint- days to paint other portraits, then work-
ing, since most of these portraits were ing on it for a day or 2, until I managed
pretty straightforward. So I’m taking my to finish it.
time with it. Trying things out, failing, re- Most portraits for the challenge are fair-
building. Should be done soon! ly small, with this one I went a couple
In the meantime, I try to make some sizes up to 40x40cm.
smaller drawings, like this one.
Graphite - gouache in moleskine There’s a lot going on in this painting,
2 hours lots of information, shapes, temperature
shifts, and some of the brightest colours
We’ve been a little slow down at 404 I’ve used to date.
but we’re picking up again soon! I’ve had to tackle quite a few things in
this painting. I’m slowly - make that pret-
ty rapidly - falling in love with flashbulb
photography and the atmospheres it
creates. Being overly lit doesn’t equal
an easy interpretation of the reference,
not at all. The colours take on weird
tones, shadows become almost illogical
and shapes are shifting.
The background got scraped and re-
painted about 5 times, searching at first
for an interesting rendering of the infor-
mation in the ref, to then shift towards
an urge to abstract it and handle it more
painterly.
This painting incorporates quite a few
things I want my personal work to em-
body, to grow towards. Painting it got
me excited, and even though I strug-
gled with translating a lot of the visual
data, it triggered a lot of intriguing ideas
for future work.
Image:
See page 29
Oil on canvas - 1,5 weeks

104 105
82/100 85/100
Quick portrait of an old friend. Thanks Nate DeRidder, your ref kicked
I like odd lighting, what can I say? my ass big time.
Late post tonight, it’s been an eventful
This one’s not really a selfie since I evening. Went through a lot of stages
took this picture myself a few years ago with this one, which in my temper I for-
when Rein and I were sharing a house. got to photograph. Started out super
I’ve had it lingering around forever in flat, dull, then went too high contrast, got
my reference material maps and came lost in rendering, completely botched it.
across it the other day; so obviously I What you see now is the result of me
had to paint it. Most of these referenc- giving in to my frustrations, scraping
es are old, strange, obscured and funny most of the paint away and slapping
photographs saved from various sourc- on some new paint in a frenzied haze.
es like movies, series, books and the It’s the most interesting thing that hap-
internet. “Is there an image of a ladle in pened with this portrait and took about
there as well?” There is not. However 20 minutes. Hooray for hard work.
there are numerous images of cats and Oil on canvas - 7 hours
people falling.
Oil on panel
Ca. 4,5 hours -

- 86/100
Working out some ideas - which I now
know don’t work.
83+84/100 I’m not counting the cluster of obscured
Thanks to Marieke Druiven for the ref of people as heads, even though they’re
her and her friend. the most interesting thing happening in
the entire drawing. They’re originally a
I don’t really know what’s happening bunch of very blurry scientists, but I like
here. All I know is that I wanted to draw them more as the aliens they turned out
the arms and go from there. to be I’m currently working on a larger
Faces got erased, rebuilt, graphite painting; the last few portraits gave me
smeared open, erased, drawn linear, some interesting ideas worth pursuing,
etc until I had enough of it. so my apologies for posting so irreg-
This drawing gave me an urge to draw ularly. Like I said before already I’ve
limbs though, too bad they’re not in the reached a critical point where I need
immediate vicinity of a head. to work certain things out. They tie in
Graphite in moleskine with the challenge but I just can’t pro-
Ca. 3 hours duce portraits anymore for the sake of
it. Hang in there with me!

106 107
87/100 88/100 - ‘R.Mutt’
Thanks Caroline for the lovely ref!
Attempting to apply the things I’ve
Slowly learning how to manipulate the learnt during this challenge on larger,
paint how I want it to be, brush marks more extensive paintings.
are settling, getting a slight grip on sug- I feel as if I’ve stumbled upon a direction
gestion and less-is-more in terms of ren- my work is moving towards - a direction
dering information. which combines my past work and what
Also starting to feel more and more I’ve been doing for the last 5 months,
comfortable with panel, so much so that accumulating in enthralling imagery.
I’ve started prepping my canvasses to This imagery is what I’m currently ana-
mimic the smooth surfaces. lysing through these paintings. So far
Oil on panel - ca. 8 hours it’s as fascinating as it is frighteningly
unknown.
Oil on canvas - ca. 3 days
40x50cm

Image:
See page 15

Opposite page

‘Caroline’
18x24cm
Oil on panel

108 109
89/100
Quick self-portrait - creeping in my stu-
dio
Busy with larger and more extensive
paintings, I should paint a few little por-
traits in the meantime though.
Graphite in moleskine
2 hours

90/100
I don’t know why I’m suddenly so drawn
to greyhounds, especially because I’m
a dauntless cat lover by heart.

It’s pretty coincidental that I came


across the images used for this draw-
ing and the recent painting of a dog, but
they made me notice a profound beauty
in greyhounds. Paintings of animals are
a dangerous thing because they can ‘Boy’
become crazy tacky in the blink of an Graphite in Moleskine
eye. That’s why I avoided painting and sketchbook
drawing animals for a long time. Yet it’s
like these dogs lend themselves better
to being translated to paper or canvas.
Or maybe the shift in my imagery has
changed the way I look at certain things,
sharpened my interest in different
things. Anyway I’m just rambling.
Graphite in moleskine
Ca. 6 hours

110 111
91/100
Quick portrait of my girl Nico.
Don’t really know what I’m doing lately
so just gotta keep working right!
Camera had some troubles with captur-
ing the dull purples and bright yellows
so I’m sorry for the bad picture.
Oil on panel
Ca. 6 hours

92/100
When you are in doubt
draw cats creeping through the house
and write a haiku

Also, a seal
Graphite in moleskine
5 hours

‘Nightcrawlers’
Graphite in Moleskine
sketchbook

112 113
‘Self Portrait with Yellow Watering Can’
40x40cm
Oil on canvas

My imagery is slowly evolving, growing.


I don’t wanna paint deformed and dra-
matic old master interpretations indefi-
nitely.
One thing the 100heads challenge - in
particular the selfies I painted - made
clear is that I want, perhaps even need,
a certain intimacy in my work. A person-
al poignancy.
I want to reflect on my surroundings
more, as to better understand them, and
subsequently better understand myself.
Even if that concept remains abstracted.

Given the fact that this is just the start of


a hazy and exploratory period, some of
you may not like where I’m going, which
is fine. What I’m doing right now, I feel is
important. Necessary, as they’re possi-
ble foundations for years of work.
Also this makes 93/100, nearly there!
Ca. 6 days

‘Self Portrait with Yellow Watering Can’


Detail
40x40cm
Oil on canvas

Full image:
See page 24

114 115
94/100
Graphite on Steinbach paper
40x29,7cm

It’s been a few years since I’ve drawn on


something larger than my a5 moleskine.
The recent drawings my two babes
Denis Dalesio and Hillary Butterworth
did really made me curious to draw on a
larger scale again.

My sketchbook is still sacred, but I’m


probably going to draw on this size
more often in the near future. Gotta get
some decent paper though because
this Steinbach is gross. I need that thick
smooth paper so I can pack in those
darks with my 9B graphite stick.
Ca. 2 days

95/100
Little drawing of my Dudzeelse muse
Wouter.
20-something high life in kitty paradise
Graphite in moleskine - 7 hours

116 117
96/100
Quick study of a skull from life. A lot of
things aren’t working and need chang-
ing, but quite pleased with some parts.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve
painted from life so I’ll use that as an ex-
cuse for the inaccuracy. Also sorry for
being so absent in my posting, had a
very busy week.

A few of the recent paintings I’ve done


are being exhibited during the Gentse
Feesten in the NEST-building, and I had
the absolute pleasure of having Patrick
Stromme and his wife Michelle over at
my house for a few days. It was surreal
having them sit in my garden, coming all
the way from Milwaukee in the US of A.
Oil on panel
Ca. 6 hours

97/100
‘Russian Sleepover’

I’ve had this picture in my archives for


over 7 years and decided to draw part
of it. No idea what’s happening here but
I’m really into the downright weird and
unsettling atmosphere. Sadly it was al-
most impossible to take decent pictures
because of the dense graphite.
Graphite in moleskine - 2 days

118 119
98/100 99/100
Tiere der Hölle - Ertrunken über Nacht So close, so incredibly close. I can feel
Slowly getting back into my studio and the end, taste it!
painting. The last week or two I’ve been
rendered close to motionless by this I haven’t been that productive in the stu-
heatwave. One of the few things I can dio lately since I’m finishing up my mas-
do in a darkened house is drawing, ter thesis. For anyone interested, the
hence the growing amount of drawings entire dissertation deals with self-reflec-
lately. tion; an elaborate analysis of the ways
I’m working on three paintings right now my views on my own work, painting, art
but I’m writing intensely on my disser- and life in general are changing.
tation which has to be handed in soon. An important part of that shift happened
So I’ll be posting a bit less the next few through this challenge, through my
weeks. beautiful friends in the 404, through all
of you who are reading this.
In just three weeks something very ex- Hang in there with me, number 100 is
citing is happening - the August project coming up!
- keep your eyes peeled! Portrait of a dad napping with his daugh-
Graphite in moleskine - 3 hours ter
Graphite in moleskine - 2 days

120 121
100/100 Instalment III
‘Calibrating Sensibilities’
60x60cm “Les formes s’effaçaient et n’étaient plus qu’un rêve,
Oil on canvas Une ébauche lente à venir,
Sur la toile oubliée, et que l’artiste achève
My god I made it. After 9 months of Seulement par le souvenir.”
blood, sweat and tears I painted over
100 portraits. I honestly don’t know what - Charles Baudelaire14
to feel right now. Relief? Pining? Per-
haps an intense gratification for all the The 404-collective is meeting up for the first time in real life this August, right
things I’ve learned along the way. here in the city center of Ghent. Me and my fellow collective members were
I couldn’t have done it without my dear- invited to join forces in a paint residency where a small documentary will be
est of companions over at the 404 HQ, made about us. We’ll be filmed from dusk till dawn while we’re eating, painting,
and especially not without all of you; the smoking, drinking, exchanging ideas, talking about art and life. The residency
ones reading this, the ones support- includes all 6 of the founding members: myself, Milo Hartnoll, Denis Dalesio,
ing me through all of this! 
Thank you Hillary Butterworth, Patrick Stromme and Michael Monaghan.
all for bearing with me, for coping with Milo is a sensitive yet brilliant and intelligent painter, Denis is an amazing
my thoughts, concerns and doubts on a painter with a great sense of humour, Hillary is a shy yet incredibly talented
near daily basis. artist who has changed my perception on drawing radically, Patrick is an un-
believably energetic and passionate artist and person, and Michael is very
The images I’m painting now are get- down to earth, but still has a very fine sense of humour and interesting insights
ting closer to what I truly want to paint. in painting. All forming a big and important part of my life, they have taught me
Over the past three quarters of a year more than I could possibly fathom.
I’ve made striders bigger than I ever There’s so much similarities and differences between all of us, but in the right
did, and for the first time I feel confident places for the whole to create a positive, stimulating and interesting dynamic,
about the possibilities that lay ahead. which shows to the people around us as well.
There will be changes, there will be fu- Ever since becoming an official collective and getting our thoughts and work
ture doubts, but that’s part of it; part of out in the world, people have been catching on. Collectives generate follow-
the simultaneous beauty and hardship ers, likeminded people who find inspiration or solace in what we’re doing – in
of painting. just a few months our digital following has grown to over five thousand follow-
Ca. 4 weeks ers.

Bless you, and goodnight. The diary entries I wrote down during the days of painting and drawing these
100 portraits form an arch through the multitude of changes I went through in
the past 9 months. The narrative changes not only visually but also conceptu-
ally throughout the entries. In the first part the focus is laying more heavily on
the break from darkness, how light and the intricate ways it wraps around ob-
jects and people become a more important factor in my work (as a reference
see day 80+81 where I talk about the development of light and colour in that
specific painting). This gradually shifts towards a more technical oriented way
of reflecting on paintings, which exists analogously with the growing concern
and attention to the technical aspect of my work. I’ve become more intrigued

14
Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal, “Une Charogne”, 90.

122 123
and attentive towards different ways to build up an image, to shape surround- This entire thesis is an attempt at a structured translation of these new sen-
ings, how to handle the medium of paint. Near the end of the entries the sibilities, of how they came into existence, how they tie together with the ex-
nature of the inscriptions become more reflective and contemplative – it’s in panding and flourishing of my artistic self, and the subsequent calibrating of
these last few months that my work is tapping into atmospheres and concepts that artistic self – an intimate research into new ways of accuracy.
I’ve been searching for a long time.
In the last 30 days it became apparent that the things I want to paint were no
longer possible to accomplish in single sittings; wanting and needing more
time to make more extensive paintings, to be able to properly research themes
and imagery that intrigued me started being paramount. Most paintings were
done in roughly 2 to 9 hours and in one or multiple sittings spread throughout
the day. The approximations of time spent on each painting are estimates, this
due to the fact that while painting I often lose track of time. Now in these last
paintings, the decision to take more time for a painting was one that I started
to take more frequently.
One of the triggers that yielded this gradual change was that people who fol-
low me on Instagram started sending me reference pictures of themselves. I
had painted my collective members and a few befriended painters before this,
but suddenly people I never even heard of sent me their mugshots, often in
the surroundings of their own homes, giving me a peek into the possible lives
these strangers lived. It was a sort of tinder of references in the end, swiping
through the pictures until an image came along that intrigued me and which I
subsequently needed to paint. Nonetheless, it made for an interesting vigour
and change in imagery.

It was a vague period altogether, since what I was experiencing – being those
changes in point of view – combined with all the new things I was painting
made for a very murky overall sensibility. The 100 heads project, which start-
ed out as a break from my substantial work, started flowing together with that
actual substantial work, slowly becoming an amalgamation of everything I’m
working towards for the past few years.
My entire artistic practice began to shift, and I understood a recalibration was
in order. This wasn’t a single decisive moment, but a growing lingering thought
all through these months. With the transformation and conversion of my prac-
tice, this calibration started happening autonomously; it was needed in order
to maintain what I was doing, and to gain a new accuracy in what I wanted to
depict. Once I noticed this and reflected upon the notion of a recalibration I
could consciously consider and shape it.

A new accuracy was necessary in order to let my evolving sensibilities con-


cerning my imagery come into their own. These recent and intriguing senti-
ments were rumbling through the bone arena that is my skull and needed to
find their way to the canvas.

124 125
Epilogue

During the course of the previous months I delved into these various ways
of research and inquiry, used them in order to seek an accuracy in words.
Words of how I’m evolving as a painter, as an artist, as a person. Looking for
contemporary forms of correspondence and transmission of feelings, notions
and fluctuating ideas, I wrote them down in ways best translating the abstruse
nature of these feelings and ideas.
While writing and doing research, I happened upon a term which I would later
find having an interestingly close correlation to the sensibilities I’m moving
through: yūgen.
The word yūgen stems from the isles of Japan, where it functions as an im-
portant concept within the vast gamut of traditional aesthetics. Having multiple
meanings – depending on the context the word is used in – the one that struck
me most is that of a profound, mysterious sense of beauty of the universe, and
in extent, the sad and gloomy beauty of human suffering.
The origins of the word however find their roots in ancient Chinese philosoph-
ical texts, where yūgen was synonymous with dim, deep, mysterious.
These are terms that lay very close to the atmospheres I’m attracted to, and
subsequently am starting to explore in my work.
A sense of strangeness, gloomy interiors, eerie atmospheres of figures bathing
in darkened or brightly lit rooms – the curious beauty within that. I’m beginning
to find these emotions in more subtly layered imagery, a pictorial language in
which suggestiveness and psychological aspects find their way outward.
The work I made in the last three-quarters of a year didn’t come to life with this
concept in mind. Nevertheless it can be a working title as a means to keep
searching, to base further work on, to keep gradually evolving.

I’d like to thank my mentor, Anna Luyten, for her key insights in shaping this
thesis, my fellow 404-collective members Denis Dalesio, Milo Hartnoll, Hillary
Butterworth, Michael Monaghan and Patrick Stromme for supporting and in-
spiring me throughout this journey, my parents, Nico Rondelez for her love
and support, Giovanni Bigler for all his technical expertise and design insights,
Nicolás Uribe for being the amazing painter he is, and everyone else who
encouraged me. Thank you.

126 127
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- “404CAST.” 404 Podcast. Soundcloud. Ongoing project. https://sound-


cloud.com/michael-monaghan-201221395/404cast-pilot.

130 131
Appendix

In this digital file the other 72 paintings and drawings made during the 100
head project will be included. In the printed version only the selection through-
out the text will be part of this thesis.

Day 1 Day 2

Day 4

Day 3

132 133
Day 5 Day 6
Day 9 Day 11

Day 12

Day 8

Day 7
Day 13

134 135
Day 14 Day 15 Day 19 Day 20

Day 18
Day 16 Day 21 Day 22

136 137
Day 23
Day 30

Day 28
Day 24

Day 32 Day 33
Day 26
Day 27

138 139
Day 40

Day 34 Day 36
Day 39

Day 42

Day 41
Day 37 Day 38

140 141
Day 50 + 51

Day 42
Day 49

Day 44

Day 53

Day 52

Day 45 Day 47

142 143
Day 54
Day 59 Day 61
Day 56

Day 58

Day 64

Day 62
Day 57

144 145
Day 70

Day 65 Day 66 Day 72

Day 68

Day 67 Day 73 Day 74

146 147
Day 77

Day 83 + 84
Day 78 Day 85

Day 86

Day 79 Day 82 Day 89

148 149
Day 91 Day 94

Day 96

150 151
152