Groene Hart kunstwedstrijd 2015 (a regional art contest)

I created this painting for a contest called “Groene Hart kunstwedstrijd”, a regional art contest. The Green Heart is a region of relatively thin populated land and a lot of nature and farmland boxed in by several of the major cities in my country. A lot of past and present-day artists have used this region as inspiration for their work. 

This contest is held every other year and is based on a theme. The theme of 2015 was “sympathize with the Green Heart”. This theme was inspired by the never ending struggle between the expanding cities and modernisation on one hand and trying to conserve the quiet nature of the Green Heart on the other hand. 

I have never worked with a theme before. Sure I sometimes pick certain restriction for my work like limiting my choice of colour to a specific group when creating the background. Instead of using any colour I want but this is very different than working with an actual theme. 

 I struggled for a long time trying to figure out how to not abandon my art style while at the same time working with a theme. By trial and error, I eventually decided to use the shape of the region on a geographical map as a base for my work and see what creatures erupted from my subconscious when doodling on this shape. I started playing around with the idea of making the map shape in the middle and surrounding it by monsters. 

This would represent the ever-growing city trying to invade. Another element to link this work to the theme was to make the creatures all inside the map. Those creatures are now kind of forming an eco-system inside the borders of the map shape. This creates a contrast between them and the outside world. In the picture below some of my brainstorm doodles.


Next, I made the shape of the canvas from a large piece of wood. On the sides, I created big sort of ghost-like creatures that are looking down on the creatures in the middle. Interesting enough some people interpreted these shape as being based on an otter. This animal was in the news since it was extinct in the area for a long time and only recently came back.

After applying a couple layers of a white base coat it was time to paint the background. I used my trusty process of just doing what felt right. The only limitation was that there needed to be a distinction between the area in the middle where I would draw the map shape and the big monsters on the side. 

I created the map shape and creatures in the middle with my acrylic markers. The map shape did not need to be 100% accurate but it still needed to be close enough for people to see the resemblance. The creatures in the map where created based on intuition. 

Overall it was an interesting experience. I felt like I wanted to quit a couple times not seeing how the work related to the theme. This being a contest I felt a certain pressure I normally don’t experience when painting. This definitely added a new dimension to the artistic process. It was a good challenge and challenges are a great way to keep developing yourself.

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