‘Art is Freedom. I Make Art.’ Exclusive Interview with Willem Vos | Part 1

© Willem Vos

Willem Vos is an enterprising new artist from the Netherlands. After selling his international company, he threw himself completely into making art and selling his works. Mainly because of Willem’s choice to live a different life he has become an inspiration for people that want to successfully change course as well. His artworks are powerful and quite large, they are full of color, energy, and meaning. Clearly Willem has an impressive talent and high potential, which is why The World Art News is pleased to share Part 1 of his First Exclusive Interview with our global audience.

“Uninhibited and undeterred by the rules of the art world”

Can you tell our readers something about yourself and the environment in which you grew up? 

I am Willem Vos, 49 years old, living in Dwingeloo, a small wooded town in the northern part of the Netherlands. Voted the greenest village in Europe in 2012. I grew up and spent my youth in this beautiful tourist area. The village lies in between no less than three national nature parks and that diverse green nature, in all its seasons, is obviously a very inspiring environment for an artist.

Golden Love ©Willem Vos 
‘A Robin helps you to grow, to change. Encourages living from the heart’

Size 100 cm x 160 cm / 39,37 inch x 62,99 inch

Were you an artistic child?  

As a child I was always drawing and loved to be creative. I went to craft school to learn metal and woodworking. As a young boy, I had dreams of becoming an advertising painter or an illustrator. When I was young, advertisements on trucks, among other things, were painted by hand, and, as a little boy, I found that fascinating. I could sit and look at that for hours. That was what I wanted to do when I grew up. 

Due to various circumstances at the time, I never pursued those dreams but ended up in the business world. And although my heart was never quite there, I enjoyed it and through hard work I was able to make this a great success. 

What inspired you to become an artist?  

After being active in international business for almost 25 years, I decided that it was enough. I sold my shares in the company and said goodbye to the hectic life I was living up to that point.   

“I changed course completely and chose freedom”

I changed course completely and chose freedom. By literally and figuratively distancing myself from all the hustle and bustle of my previous life, I came to very beautiful new insights. My inspiration to become an artist is the dream I had as a little boy.

Being able to pursue that dream now, after 40 years, with all the life lessons and experiences of all those intervening years, gives me an enormous sense of freedom. 

For that reason my motto is: “Art is Freedom. I Make Art.”

I see my future brighter than ever!

I Can See Clearly Now ©Willem Vos
Size 140 cm x 100 cm / 55,12 inch x 39,37 inch

How would you describe your art style and how long did it take you to master it?  

I am an autodidact, I taught myself everything. Maybe that’s why I developed my own style fairly quickly. Uninhibited and undeterred by the written and unwritten rules of the art world. 

I find it unfortunate to pigeonhole my style, because it immediately takes away the freedom to create freely. As an artist I am then immediately put in one art corner or direction and my work gets a certain stamp. But when I do try, I end up with (currently) abstraction interwoven with figuration. 

My current style certainly does not imply that I cannot change! 

No. I can constantly change.

Art is Freedom, so it is also the freedom to change!

I think it is very important for an artist to change. That can be small subtle changes, but also big changes in style and material. I have always been taught that to stand still is to go backwards, in the world we live in and for me in art. The fun for me is precisely in trying out new things, challenging myself and pushing the limits. A learning process doesn’t stop, so why should your art style stand still? 

“To stand still is to go backwards”

What materials do you use and how long on average does it take you to create an artwork?  

Right now I mainly use acrylic paint on a high quality canvas. At the moment I work mainly in ‘mixed media’. For this I use spatulas, brushes, scrapers, sponges and other (homemade) tools.

©Willem Vos
Mixed medium on canvas

Each artwork I create has its own process. It is something I have to go through before the artwork is actually finished. With my own work, this almost naturally begins in my head with an idea. During my sleep, or for example during a walk in nature. I often see the end result completely before me. The background of the work is therefore comes quickly and intuitively on the canvas. I experience the following phase as a kind of struggle. But always comes that moment, a clear inspiration, when I see how to proceed.  I say must, because that’s how it feels, a clear manual for the rest of the painting. And from that moment I get into a kind of flow where things go fast and fluid, and the artwork is finished in a certain amount of time. That too, the art of being able and daring to stop in time, again comes down to feeling. Daring to trust; this is how it is and then putting the brush down. 

“From that moment I get into a kind of flow where things go fast”

With my own work this is easier than with commissioned work. Whereas with my own work I mainly rely on intuition, with commissioned work I want to satisfy not only my own wishes but also those of my clients. Then I tend to go on longer, too long. I overcome this by imposing a certain time limit on myself for this, so that the price for commissioned work is also in proportion to the number of hours involved, call it my business cost. My experience in the business world has allowed me to be successful in this process.  

On average, I spend about 3 to 4 weeks on a job. This depends on the size, commission, or idea. There are also unfinished works of art that get put aside and I pick them back up later to complete.

Your paintings are quite large, why did you choose this format? 

I find that my paintings are better expressed when they are large. I really enjoy working with large formats, especially when painting. With my art I would like to enter my viewers and convey to them an emotion or a certain feeling. I also hope that each time the viewer looks at one of my works, he or she sees different things, shapes, colors, and structures in the artwork. 

Also, large canvas generally makes an impression, and if something is painted on it that makes an impression, then it suddenly turns from an ‘ordinary’ painting into a painting with impact. And that is what I want to achieve. In my eyes, with my style, large just makes more impact. 

©Willem Vos
Mixed medium on canvas

How do you decide what size an artwork will be and what is the typical size of your paintings?  

Every time I create a new piece of art, I decide at that moment how big it should be.

I have an idea in my head and in my mind a certain size that would fit it. For my own work, a minimum size is generally 140 cm by 100 cm. Commissioned work is different, then the size is decided together with the client. 

Was it difficult to become a full-time artist and what risks, challenges or setbacks did you face in your art career? 

“There is a difference between having a dream and actually executing it”

Of course the early days, right after the big change, were “exciting”. There is a difference between having a dream and actually executing it. Yet I found that that tension is mostly in your own head. ‘The risk that no one will buy my paintings and I will soon have a house full of my own artwork. Will people like my work? I had no contacts in the art world. How do I fly that, they see me coming.’ Yes, those thoughts make it “exciting”, but the people I love were 100 percent behind my choice and so I let go and started painting and creating paintings from that feeling. Step by step, because I really gave myself time to learn, discover and build.

I told some good business contacts that I was painting and they got excited. From them I received the first commission for a work, and my real artistic career has began!

This painting called “Biko” was a turning point for me, a confirmation that I was doing well.

Biko © Willem Vos
Commissioned work
Size 120 cm x 100 cm / 47,24 inch x 39,37 inch

I am still very grateful for that commission. 

The delivery was exciting! For the first time I experienced different emotions when seeing a work of art.  In clients and in myself. That was, is and always will be an amazing feeling. For me a sign that I am absorbed in my paintings, I get an emotional attachment to the artwork. The depth and satisfaction I was looking for and missed for years in the business world.

By word of mouth and through business relationships, I was able to paint commissions for two years. That gave peace of mind. After those two years I got the urge to start making my own artworks and to tell the world through a painting what I feel and think. How I look at the world.  

Indeed, this was perhaps the hardest thing of all, taking that final step and giving strangers a little peek into your soul. Vulnerable. The greater the satisfaction when it turned out that both the works of art and the story behind them were well received and understood.

“The hardest thing of all … giving strangers a little peek into your soul”

The first works of art were sold, the ball started rolling. I received heartwarming reactions to my canvases, not only from my own network, which I had built up in the meantime, but also through art curators and social media, and that was the moment I dared to say out loud and with conviction: I am an artist.

Were there any important events during your art career that influenced your artistic development?   

Actually, life itself influenced my artistic development. All the good and bad experiences. The disappointments, pain, the death of loved ones and the loss that comes with it. The bitter taste of betrayal. Intense friendships, profound conversations, love, sex, feelings of connection, my fears and letting go of people. What is happening in the world right now.  All the feelings and emotions I store and sometimes experience more violently than ever. I don’t run away from them anymore – I put them on canvas.

All this helps not only my development as an artist but also as a human being.

Trust the Chance ©Willem Vos
‘good will come your way, be patient’
Size 120 cm x 140 cm / 47,24 inch x 55,11 inch

PART 2 of our Exclusive Interview with Willem Vos

Instagram: @willemvos_kunstenaar

LinkedIn: Willem Vos

The World Art News (WAN) is not liable for the content of this publication. All statements and views expressed herein are only an opinion. Act at your own risk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. © The World Art News

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