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Who is Gerda Mentens

Gerda Mentens graduated in 1980 as a Secondary School Teacher of Plastic Arts at Sint-Maria Instituut [Saint Mary’s Institute] in Antwerp. During my training, I was taught by several teachers, artists who each taught us, the students, their trade in their own way. This training focused more on the journey than on the destination as such.

We were taught a wide variety of subjects by teachers who were specialists in their field. They included observation, chromatics, modelling, composition, knowledge of materials, history of art etc. Of course, we also learnt how to deal with various techniques, substrates,… too much to mention. When I was in my first year, we had 35 hours/week of class. As I am recounting this now, after all those years, it seems like only yesterday : so much information, so much to put to use!

In the two following years, we learnt particularly how to convey our subject. Of course, professional skill was still key. Then the quest began. I kept teaching, conveying my subject, until I was fortunate enough to end up as a teacher at my training school, in the art education division. It was fascinating to learn, across the various fields of my professional knowledge, how young people approach this subject, discuss what to do.. what not to do. One must not forget that everything is constantly evolving. While I was there, I learnt that techniques, all techniques, evolve.

That is why I have always stayed true to the motto “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. So I set out on a quest, and met a lot of skilled people on the way. Even if I had to travel half-way across the globe, so to speak, I did not mind. People with new or different views looked with different eyes; they were “trained” differently; they were open to innovation and debated about what was possible, rather than what was not possible… truly fascinating.

Training that followed:
  • Specialization degree in advertising techniques, silkscreen printing and history of art
  • China Academy of Fine Arts, Study of Chinese Painting
  • Aquarelle practical training both domestically and abroad

Aquarel

Eventually, and partly due to my training, I opted for aquarelle painting. A subject in itself. Throughout my quest I discovered that aquarelle painting is the cradle of the art of painting. But before you start painting, there are a few other things to take into account...

Sketchbooks

The bible for every artist, it is a source of information. I have my sketchbook with me on every holiday; I study what I like, sit down and take the time to examine the shape and colour. Once I get home, this information is useful to get me started in my studio, during the aquarelle classes and aquarelle workshops.

Composition

How to get started on a white sheet, positive and negative shapes, defining formats, setting focus, which colours and shapes to use where? Of course, as a painter, before anything else, you must be able to assess tones. That is the whole story of light/middle shade/dark.

Drawing

I often get asked the question if one must know how to draw in order to paint aquarelles… to which I reply with the question: just what does that mean, “knowing how to draw”?

Analytical drawing

This is an examination process which includes perspective, among other things. For this, you can follow a few rules: the laws of perspective. If you “train” for this, you will certainly master it after some time. You must take the time to learn, to repeat, to look, and you must measure and assess proportions, over and over …

Intuitive drawing

Is what you see and not what you think you see, eye-hand coordination. An example: you know that there can be a lot of things on a table, but you see this differently as a painter, so if you believe what you see, the drawing will look quite different.

The question remains: “Must I know how to draw?”, to which I continue to reply with the question: just what does that mean, "knowing how to draw"? Everyone masters the latter drawing method, I'm sure...

I still believe that training is very important, and by this I mean practising this trade on a daily basis, if only in your surroundings, seeing in an examining manner, and not looking. I find it important to look at the masters who showed us how to do it; I have a great admiration for the works of RUBENS, RIK WOUTERS, KATE KOLWITZ, RODIN, TURNER.

As a painter, you develop a handwriting of your own, your lines show how you handle your tools. No two persons have the same handwriting; neither do two painters or artists. It is unique, and quite a relief.


Palette

BLOCKX

A palette of 14 colours. Cool and warm colors, which give a healthy balance to all possible colors. Reds, yellows, bleus and burnt sienna. I have a certificate on this palette. I don’t mix colors on the palette, only green. I mix the colors on my brush or on the paper, to get light, middle tones and darks. I start with the focus and then other values.

The drawing: is in one go to support the watercolor. Then I go into greys.

The paper : Bockingford 535gr

My method

Drawing style

I like to mix the intuitive style with the analytical one; to use the knowledge of the analytical style and to convert it into the intuitive style. There are times when one style has the upper-hand, and times when the other does – it is closely connected with the subject.

Aquarelle

I use essentially a colour pallet of 10 colours. 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 blues, one cold and warm one of every type. 4 different colours, of a yellow, red, or blue “family” and always burnt sienna, a must on every colour pallet. So this pallet can be adjusted to fit any aquarelle, that’s the freedom I want to keep. My pallet also gets cleaned after every aquarelle, as much as possible anyway.

Substratum

Dependent on the theme and the technique. Handmade paper or paper manufactured by machine.

Brushes

Natural hairs and synthetic hairs, half-synthetic half-natural. Flat and round.

Media

Means to dilute and thicken the aquarelle paint, and to secure the paper.

Themes

My favourite subjects are street scenes, pubs, church interiors, people in street scenes and landscapes.
 

My style

Weave brushes in a casual fashion, the flair of movement, colour and contrasts. Well thought-out compositions approached, from the inside out, in an analytical and intuitive manner. Unfinished aquarelles give the viewer the opportunity to add something; my works must trigger an interaction between the painter and the viewer. This makes for an area of tension in the work.

Personally, I prefer painting in an informal environment. My subjects currently are buildings, street scenes and landscapes. Constructing from scratch is a challenge. The direct contact with the environment gives me a lot of inspiration; I have to see the movement and be able to observe it, breathe in the atmosphere, experience the space, have the game of sketching turn into brushstrokes.

It is interesting to see people pass by who observe you as a painter. I don't mind them having a chat with me, asking questions and engaging in a discussion. One thing I certainly cannot give up is using my sketches as inspiration. The advantage is that you forget details and, consequently, make more abstract works.

Dum Pingo Vivo

“As long as I paint, I live…”

An aquarelle group based in Balen. The name is derived from Latin. At our meetings, people who wish to paint aquarelles take lessons. Everyone sits together, both beginners and advanced students. Everyone can learn from one another, share ideas, … Depending on the theme, there are in-depth discussions about technique, structure of the colour pallet, composition, brush use etc.

I could write a book about every section… Maybe I will, one day, when I’m ready. Maybe it’s because I am not a reader myself, but a seer: I want to see things happening, like so many other painters. The process of creating things is important to me; I learnt that in my fantastic training and from the artists I met along the way, professionals and amateurs alike. ”No can do” or “not allowed” are not in my dictionary.

I will be the first to try it out.
Maybe it’s just my generation….
It remains fascinating and challenging…