Jean Paul Beumer was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize this year with his work fig. 50b Curious. At a monumental scale of over one metre in height, the coloured pencil is a meticulous botanical study of a grass, which evokes the classic simplicity of traditional botanical book illustration. Here, Jean Paul explains his process of selecting subject matter, his love of detail and what drives his work.
Above image: fig. 48b Oblivion, 2017, Jean Paul Beumer, Colour pencil on canvas, 122 x 162 cm | 48 x 63.8 in.
Clare: Can you tell us about your artistic background/education?
Jean Paul: Although creativity and art was not encouraged at home when I was a child, I did have an interest in it from an early age. One of my aunts was a professional artist and her husband too, they most definitely inspired me to pursue a creative career. I enrolled into the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague (The Netherlands) and got my degree in graphic design exactly 25 years ago.
Clare: Where does a drawing begin for you? Can you take us through your process?
Jean Paul: It all starts with a desire to create something monumentally gorgeous. Perhaps not the most exalted reason, but it’s the truth. Then again, gorgeousness is a very relative and personal term. All this is a starting point at which I find myself every time. I am kinda harsh on myself – too harsh, my partner says. But it’s a crucial step in the process. And the most interesting I think. What the hell is happening in an artists’ brain? I can’t describe the process, I’m trying to live the process, be very aware of it.
Clare: The size of your works is quite unusual in the tradition of botanical painting. Can you tell us about your experience working with such detailed subject matter on a large surface? What do you use as an easel?
Jean Paul: The bigger the better. Greatness gives way to enormous detailing. The more detail, the better. That is to say, at the same time, the less strokes to make the detail, the better as well. I had a neighbour who was quite handy with metal. I commissioned an extra large metal easel with him, one I can sit at without the drawing panel resting on the floor.
Clare: Do you use oil or wax based coloured pencils? What other materials or tools do you use to create texture?
Jean Paul: Wax based. I would love to try oil based some time. I don’t use any other materials or tools.
Clare: Can you tell us about the titles of your works? Are they titled in order of their creation?
Jean Paul: The numbers in the titles refer to my age at the time the drawing was made. It all started when I was 48. It would seem logical to number the drawing, starting with 1. But that was boring. As I was aiming for a reference to old botanical books, I used the number as some sort of gimmick by adding the prefix “fig.”. The titles themselves are extremely personal. I usually have a list of possible titles. I look for contradictions and similarities within the artwork, experience the way it makes me feel and then decide.
Clare: Do you have a regular drawing practice? If so, what materials do you use and how often do you draw?
Jean Paul: I usually find a subject without really searching for one. It’s often more serendipitous than premeditation, I just come across it. As for materials, I use regular pencil to draw the shape, after that only coloured pencils. When working on a drawing the time spent on it varies from day to day but in the end it can amount up to 60+ hours. I’m getting faster at drawing but at the same time I’m getting even more detailed which is more time-consuming.
Clare: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Jean Paul: My eyes. It starts with seeing (a subject), followed by looking (at details). But also my studio. It needs to be literally “my space”, everything in its right place.
Clare: How has the lockdown of the last few months affected your practice?
Jean Paul: The lockdown has affected me tremendously. I haven’t been able to make art at all because all creative energy is being used to survive.
Clare: What are your art influences? Who are your favourite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Jean Paul: I can’t say there are any particular historical artists I admire, I love them all. Except for Andy Warhol’s art and all his copy-cats, that tripe just makes me want to vomit. I do applaud all contemporary artists for making the current art horizon so damn magnificent to gaze at.
Clare: What makes a good day in the studio for you?
Jean Paul: It’s hard to pinpoint, it’s a combination of factors that need to be just right. I can easily skip a day of drawing because I cant find the right socks to wear. On the other hand, having done a small piece of quality drawing can make me very happy.
Clare: Can you tell us where we can see more of your work online or in the flesh?
Jean Paul: For now, I have nothing coming up. I don’t even draw. I did sell all my drawings but am currently too uninspired to create anything new.