Into her studio: Liselot Veenendaal, painter

Liselot Veenendaal is a pure-bred painter who recently graduated from art school HKU in Utrecht. I saw her work at Cloud Gallery in Amsterdam last year and got intrigued by her power- and colourful images. Currently she lives and works in a residential house-studio in Blaricum.

How did you get here?
When I graduated from Art College last year, I won the Dooyewaard Stipendium Award, which provided me with a monthly grant and this studio/house here in Blaricum for one year. (The Dooyewaard Foundation aims to acquire and maintain studios and adjacent living quarters in order to preserve and extend Blaricum’s original character as a village of artists. Read more here.)

Have you ever considered a different direction than painting?
At art school painting was the most difficult discipline for me. I didn’t understand it and felt stupid. This difficulty was the reason why I wanted to do it: I had to find solutions. You learn so much about yourself, that’s the beauty of painting! But it also means struggles. You can always look at a painting and identify the doubts you had during its creation.

Which material do you use?
I paint with acrylics. They are my favourite. The only drawback is you can’t erase it when you make a mistake or miss the natural endpoint. If you put layer and layer on top of each other, you end up with a big shield of plastic. It is such an exciting challenge: it feels like you just have one attempt to get it right and it has to be good. Oil paint on the other hand makes me cranky; it takes ages to dry, I don’t have the patience required. Once it’s finally dry I’m already three paintings ahead in my mind. But I definitely want to master oil painting in the future!

Do you make sketches beforehand?
I don’t use pencils on the canvas. I work directly with the brush. Sometimes I use a projector to transfer the sketch to canvas. But in general I don’t want to be limited too much by a sketch.

How do you define your format?
It’s intuition. Some paintings just need to be big, others have to be small, otherwise, there is too much air around it. Or the elements get too big and too overwhelming. I like the process of building and prepping my own canvasses. That also makes it easy to adjust the size of an image if required. I usually make many different formats at the same time, in order to have a little stock in the studio. I sometimes buy the stretchers from Marktplaats and as canvas, I use unbleached cotton from the market.

What is your theme?
My starting point often is language or words. For example, there is this Dutch saying that recently occurred to me: “If you’re not doing much today, you might as well mow the grass”. This is what I am trying to paint right now. Imagine that the grass is very long, and I paint it as if it is short. It’s a bit complicated because I don’t want to paint it in two steps; first long and then short. You need to be able to see directly what is happening in the image.
For a while now I have been working on a series of paintings with axes in it. It kind of started out with “Axe Africa”. Can you believe that this product actually exists?! It’s a deodorant for men. Or even more bizarre: “Axe Apollo”! What has a space shuttle to do with an axe? Or an axe with the Greek god Apollo? These total non-sense combinations of two words triggered me to also combine things in my paintings that have nothing to do with each other. I use words that have that same x-sound as “ax”, for example, “kayak(s)” or “mask”, “Mexico” or “luxaflex” and see if I manage to paint them together. It’s like a personal challenge.
The title usually gives a little hint about the subject of the painting, but I try not to give away too much. It’s something for viewers to discover by themselves. X-sounding words also give me some sort of guideline to the subject matter whilst at the same time being very free. I’d like to see that range grow further in the future. There are plenty of x-words that I want to paint but don’t know yet in which way. It needs to come from somewhere, some silly story or something like that.

Your palette seems limited to certain colours that you use a lot. Are those your favourites?
It’s not about my favourite colours. It’s all about the synergy of what happens on the canvas. That needs to be just right. The colours I use evoke certain associations in me. And in order to create this association for myself, things need to have exactly the right colour.
In my paintings, the grass for example needs to be extremely green. I put a lot of effort into mixing my colours because often, the tone is just not right straight from the tube. I need to add a little bit of yellow or blue to it. You almost can’t recognize it. If you were to put my pictures next to each other, you would see the tones vary slightly. Funny that people tend to think my green comes straight from the tube. Even though I aim to try out other colours, I always end up with a similar selection of colours. It seems as if I just can’t manage to work with some tones.

How do you know when a painting is finished?
Often I don’t! A painting can already be good and I still think it can be better and continue painting. Before I notice it’s already too late. I have to take the canvas off and start again. Like this I end up painting one motive or form again and again, searching for the right way or angle. At the same time, I tell myself: Here you go again, Liselot! It didn’t work the past 5 times, why are you doing this again?! But that’s exactly what I love about painting: I totally recognise myself in the process. And I want to master certain elements of it. Like the 100 x 100 format. It’s the most difficult size of all. But I want to be able to do it. I just have to stop at the right moment. If I manage I’m super happy. In my studio, there is this wall of paintings that says: do not touch, stay away with your good ideas!

What motivates you?
I can get really lost in doing nothing, Therefore I like a little pressure, but not too much. Just so that I feel that I have to spend my time wisely. I found myself a part-time job in a lingerie warehouse for 3 days a week. The fact that I have fewer days in the studio means that as soon as I come home I can’t wait to start painting. A deadline like an exhibition gets me totally freaked out and I end up making one to-do-list after another, not doing much else. For now, I like it easy-going, not too much pressure, no exhibition.

What is your daily routine when you are in your studio?
I jump out of bed, directly into my painting gear, go downstairs into my studio and just paint. I forget about breakfast or coffee… I prefer to paint with an apple in my hand instead of losing time and preparing a proper meal for myself.

Where do you take your energy?
I just like painting so much! That blissful moment of making something, I just love the process, no matter if I succeed; the feeling that I am free to do anything, to create my own weird world, my own bubble, where I can escape from the rest. Just my paint and me! Giving shape to something that I apparently have been looking for without even knowing it. I am constantly amazed/surprised how everything comes together and forms one universe.

Is your art female?
Does it matter? It’s just paint. (Laughs) I think you can tell from my colours: they are bright, not blurred.

Your favourite (female) artists?
I’m a complete fan of Dana Schutz.
Recently saw the work of Sanne Rous at Tegenboschvanvreden – WOW!!
Katharine BernhardtLaura OwensRose Wylie!
Kati Heck: her paintings are already amazing but I like her installations even more.
The accuracy of Helen Verhoeven.

Do you sell your art?
No, not yet. Selling is not my drive. Is it relevant at all? One of my pieces is hanging at gallery Pouloeuff right now. If it sells, I would really want to know where it goes and arrange to come and visit it every week. It must be really hard to give away a picture; it’s part of your own synergy. I enjoy so much that I am still having all my paintings around me. They belong together and they form one world that I want to show. I want to expand this world until I’ve made it the way it needs to be for me.

What’s next?
I found myself a small studio space in Utrecht where I will lock myself up and expand my imaginary world.


You can read more about Liselot and her work here.
Follow her on Instagram.
Photography + Text: Julia Kaiser
Editor: Maricella Zijlstra