"For me, the portrait is a theatrical play with eyes, nose, mouth, and the light as principal actors. Comedy or drama, equally interesting. I feel that in essence, every portrait is a self-portrait too, I don't want to please nor do I aim at merely creating a realistic representation. I like to capture the moment and preferably paint more than one portrait of a subject, nobody is just one person."
This quote by the creator of this season's Painted Skull graphic, Hans van der Leeuw sums up how he approaches every brushstroke of his oil-paint portraits, emphasising on interaction rather than interpretation. While he usually portrays living beings, the graphic he created for Patta depicts someone who has moved on to the afterlife. The Patta Painted Skull graphic is featured on two styles this season, a T-Shirt and Hooded Sweater, worn here by Hans' son, David, and shot by his daughter-in-law, Sarah. Read on to get to know more about Hans.
I have strong roots in conceptual painting but now I simply paint people, more importantly I paint what binds us together as human beings.
What messages are you trying to convey to your audience through your art?
My portrait painting is driven by the need to understand and to communicate the ‘human stuff’, the things we all know in our hearts. We basically haven’t changed all that much, and deep inside we’re not fashionable, most people find that out later in life if they do at all. The Art World is driven by an insatiable appetite for the New, the Latest, the Revolutionary, the Shocking. Portrait painting basically is all about ‘us’, maybe not the most exciting thing but hopefully recognisable, timeless and true.
How did your relationship with art begin?
I’ve always drawn and painted, not because it’s a career but because it’s life.
Please explain your creative process as it pertains to this skull painting.
Many people ask me to do process videos, my usual answer is that I don’t have a process. I have to reinvent the wheel almost every time I start something new.
How then did this collaboration come to be?
Painting and drawing skulls is basic practice and fun to do, even more fun if you try to give the skull personality, you can’t dress the skull in an expensive Italian suit but you can give it glasses or of course a cap, since I’ve always felt a connection to Patta through my son David it was a logical choice.
Can you tell us a little about your son and your relationship?
I’m very proud of him and love him always.
He is a DJ/producer, do you feel you had any hand in his career path? How so?
Haha, in a literal sense, yes. They started in his bedroom, I forced them to take themselves more seriously and told them to get out and find a studio space... they found one in Luigi’s basement.
Do you see many similarities between his generation and yours?
Absolutely, but I realize that it might be because we’re in the same little corner of the world, outside of that I don’t know shit.
What is the hardest part of being an artist? What is the most rewarding?
Modern art offers critics a chance to write long articles on hidden meaning and relevance while portrait painting doesn’t. As a result it is often not taken seriously by the more interesting galleries. There’s a shift happening that I’m happy with, social media is creating opportunities for creatives of all sorts to bypass the traditional markets. The most rewarding for me is to make something worthwhile, the next best is when someone agrees enough to want to buy it.
Are you currently in isolation? What are your main takeaways from it?
For a painter like me isolation is not that different, being alone in my studio is my favourite thing.
Has it influenced your creativity in any way?
I’m currently working on a small series of “isolation selfies”, portraits based on pics sent to me by people that follow me on Instagram - instagram.com/hansvanderleeuw - the accompanying stories have given me an extra sense of realness, it’s about people, not just about faces, good to be reminded every once in a while.
What was it like participating in a photoshoot while self-isolating?
No problem, we share the same studio apartment anyway.