Since the Corona virus lockdown the Dutch but in Belgium residing artist/painter Hans Knol ten Bensel started with his so-called ‘Corona project’: making every day a pen drawing of flowers and/or young women wearing them. You can admire his work on social media and of course forthcoming exhibitions. We are already looking forward to the one at Niqui Gallery in Kapellen at the end of this year.
Besides this social media/virtual initiative, which has grown into an impressive portfolio over the last few months, Hans Knol ten Bensel has also built up over the years a portfolio in oils, pastel and watercolor. Enough reasons to meet the inspiring artist and have this interview.
What gave you the idea to make this large collection daily drawings, and take this challenge of continuing this project as long as the Corona pandemic is amongst us?
Hans Knol ten Bensel: “I took the idea of using social media for my art, as showing one’s work in galleries and exhibitions became impossible in the lockdown. Instagram has become the platform for many artists and galleries. I also wanted to bring a message of beauty and hope, showing what nature can give us in stunning and rejoicing elegance: flowers. With my drawings, I also want to show people the wonderfulness of our planet, and bring the message that we should take care of it. It forces me also as an artist to practice the art of (ink) drawing daily, to trigger and enhance my creativity and also to approach the essence of drawing and art. The drawings are deliberately kept simple, done with drive and zest, to capture the soul and essential qualities of the given subject. It is drawn (mostly) from imagination, but sometimes also from reality, as I focus on plants and flowers growing in a specific region/place in this wonderful world.”
Can you explain this a bit?
Hans Knol ten Bensel: “Indeed, since I started drawing flowers and plants I use my imagination quite often, but even when drawing purely from imagination gives you a wonderful freedom and enhances your creativity ever more, it is also very interesting to focus on the vegetation and flowers we found in all the corners of our beautiful world, and this is also an inexhaustible source of inspiration. I recently focused for example on the flowers found in New York State, and in French Normandy.”
What is for you essential in the creation of pictorial art? What is the path you follow?
Hans Knol ten Bensel : “The first thing to do is to draw line(s) and contours. To master the art of drawing is essential to me. I continue to be my own (strict) master and teacher. I draw daily, and this Corona project is a welcome platform. If you start drawing, remember to do it often. Try gesture drawing. This means to work faster than you would normally do. Draw loosely and light. Let your hand guide your imagination. And vice versa. Let the drawing flow. Have lines and rhythm in your drawings. Later then come building blocks, cubes, brought in the proper proportions. And much more. Personally, I find line drawings always wonderful and exquisite, and I will use it for many subjects, from portraits to cars, buildings, flowers, you name it.”
How about colors?
Hans Knol ten Bensel : “I also found it essential to master the art of creating the right colors and nuances you want, and then to establish your very own color palette. When I started as an artist, one of my very first things I did besides learning to draw was to try out all the possible color mixes combining the primary and secondary oil colors, and this led to a whole catalogue of hundreds of colors, which I still carefully keep as reference sheets, when I am making a painting. I did the same for watercolors and pastels.”
What media do you use?
Hans Knol ten Bensel : “At the moment, besides ink, gouache and paper, I like pastels. They are (almost) pure pigments, and can enhance vigorously made lines and drawings, with bold color accents. On the other hand, you can use them also to build layer upon layer, making very subtle color mixes and nuances, to achieve color mixtures with a very high degree of refinement. I like also the directness and speed of acrylics, especially when I create large canvases. Then there are luckily always the retarders and gesso’s to make the paints more malleable, or slower drying and/or thicker to make stunning impasto’s. I would say, try out all these different media when making your way forward as a pictorial artist.”
With my drawings, I also want to show people the wonderfulness of our planet, and bring the message that we should take care of it.Hans Knol ten Bensel
“Oils are of course the ideal tool to make a painting, they are marvelously slow and can be erased/changed almost endlessly during the creative process. They can be thinned with oil mediums to make them wonderfully transparent and allow the “glacis” technique, as the French call it, which means simply painting layer over layer. The transparency of the different paint layers leads to a unique result.”
Can you tell a bit more about your present art work, besides your Corona project?
Hans Knol ten Bensel : “Indeed, the Corona series is continued for now, and is planned to go on as long as the Corona pandemic is amongst us. In pastel, I have worked over the last months on a series of tree drawings, adopting in the background of these tree silhouettes the color band harmonies and juxtapositions pioneered by American moderns like Rothko. The subtle contrast of these colors has always fascinated me, the vibrancy they create on the paper or canvas is unique. As pastels are essentially pure pigments in powder form, this medium is very suitable to express these colorful variations in the paintings I made. Besides the tree theme, I also endeavored into seascapes or so-called “marines”. A few pastel paintings depict the hues and colors of dune vegetation in a Nordic coastal setting within the unique light conditions and distant horizons so typical of our low countries. Accompanying this work are several pencil studies of the coast lines, beaches and their vegetation. In oil and acrylics, I will soon be embarking on a same series of large format Nordic seascapes, again celebrating their wonderful hues and quality of their light. I hope many of your readers will enjoy my artwork.”