The process behind Femke Hiemstra's otherworldly folklore paintings October 06 2016

Dutch illustrator and pop surrealist artist Femke Hiemstra will be premiering her fantastical, grimm-esque scenes of highly detailed animal characters set against dark surreal settings. Femke creates ‘otherworldly folklore’ paintings and drawings involving characters, in animals, and Flora & Fauna transfixed between the realms of fantasy and reality. The creatures in her work embody human behaviour displaying the same glorious highs or weighted shortcomings.

Her process involves using thin layers of acrylic and water to create a painting upon paper or panels. Femke draws inspiration from many places including observing other animal behaviour and nature, the textures of japanese woodblock prints and the fantastical stories in old little Golden Books. Although partial to humour, Femke’s work also permeates darker themes involving strong emotion like battles, a hunt and the loss of a loved one.

We caught up with Femke to hear about the dark, surreal characters in her acrylic based paintings, her process and what inspires her.

You create very detailed work, of great skill. Could you speak about how you got into illustration?
I've been out of illustration since 2006/2007 since I decided to focus on making personal pieces only. Illustration was a great job to do. I loved working creatively between the bounderies of the given assignment and the short and fast deadlines gave me plenty diverse jobs.

Due to an economical hard time the illustrationwork declined at one point. I then got the opportunity to show work at an art gallery which resulted in making more and more personal work. Even though I had to start all over in a way it was creatively rewarding and challenging. For me it became hard to combine the slower pace and introspective character of art with the faster pace of illustration so I made a choice. That was some 10 years ago and I'm still enjoying the world of art.

Many of your works have grimm-esque scenes of nature - where do the ideas for your subject matter come from?
Nature and animal behavior are a great inspiration source, just like old-timey window material like characters or typography, ethnographic art, symbolism, early Renaissance work, stories, other languages, etc. Sometimes an idea just simply comes to mind in a ready-to-use form, sometimes I have to paste it together like a sculpture or let it simmer in my sketchbook until it is done.

The creatures display human like qualities - what made you want to express this through your work?
In both animal and human behavior I see parallels. Just like old time fables. They blend together into a concept or story for a painting or drawing.

I read that your paintings are made up of thin layers of acrylic paint and water - could you speak about your process when creating an artwork?
Well, that is actually all there is. I don't use medium because I don't like the (glossy) feel of it, I simply use the paint's transparent character to make a layered shape. I mix it with water into the thickness of thin yoghurt. Then I use mostly thin, real hair brushes because of their fine tips and my fingers as a blending tool.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were starting out what would it be?
Start with the background first, not that fun thing in the foreground so you have to work everything around it (which takes so much more time). Worry less. Stop drinking that instant cappuccino otherwise you'll start liking the taste.

Over the years what do you find motivates you to keep working and creating?
Creating is such a part of me, I would not know. A natural drive, I guess? I just like to tell a story in paint or pencil.

What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow?
I only keep track of a few accounts to keep my brain from overflowing with information. I follow some friends, fellow artists and tattooers, a few galleries, some people I don't know who post about nature, curiosities, etc.

Could you speak about the works you have created for your upcoming show at Outre gallery and what they represent to you?
Due to my busy schedule I was able to make three new works for Outré. I've decided to make it into a small introduction of myself, in a way. I've made a graphite on paper drawing and two paintings; one panel and one painted book cover.

Could you discuss one of the works in a bit more detail ?
One of the works is a panel called 'Défilé Hollandais'. This acrylics on panel piece depicts a group of pigeons visiting a new country (a wink to it being my first original on Australian soil, poured into a feel of a stately Golden Age group portrait). The pigeons are Dutch symbols as well. There's a wooden shoe pigeon, a flag, a sheep, a windmill, a tulip, two wetland plants, etc.


Femke Hiemstra
Opening 6pm Friday October 21 @ Outre Gallery
Free Entry and beers supplied by Feral Brewing Co.
RSVP on Facebook here

All artworks can be purchase or viewed here

Words: Nicola Mitchell