The Elusive Muse

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

This story started ages ago. Many Paul and Paul, mixed mediathings I have already written here, about Dali, Amanda Lear etc but now it is about that elusive 'muse', where is it ? Still on holidays so what do I do ?


I was walking with my buddy and class mate at the Royal Academy, Bert H. through the small village of Cadaques, North Spain .Late seventies.


A white open Cadillac drove past us and then stopped. The driver, a beautiful aging blond lady, introduced herself as Salvador Dali's personal chauffeur. She was rounding up people for the afternoon cocktail party at Salvador's famous house with the huge egg on the roof in Port Liggat,

a few km's from where we were.

The lady was Miss Norway 1957 and she'd pick us up the following day.

When we entered the famous house we were 'greeted' by a huge stuffed black bear, completely bejewelled and more funny then frightening.


About five nervous personal assistants were hovering about in a very effeminate way. All dressed in black and white shirt and black tie. Bossy little buggers.

We were instructed what to do and what not to do. Speak only when spoken to and to address the artist as Maestro Magnifico.


There were about 30 people and a BBC tv crew was filming and dragging cables among the guests and lights were shining every where.

The hostess of His party was no less than the famous singer Amanda Lear, a woman or a man, I'll never know.

Her song 'Follow me' ('79) was at that time a nr.1 hit.

We were given a glass of pink Champagne.



Paul Dali, colouring pencil on paperWhen I was officially introduced to the Magnificent Master I got a very soft, or limp, handshake.

He'd have been in his eighties.

I thought him unimaginably old.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would have been 30+ and already felt like I had one foot in the grave !


At the time I was making large, life size, paintings of the human body, often dead bodies. I also made them 3d out of clay and then covered with liquid plastic. Bodies at peace or asleep. Who knows ? Bodies simply forgotten to wake up.

In Holland I was called by the art critic Peter Berger, the Death painter!

Once he ended his writing about me with the sentence: But is it art? “Is het kunst?”


Now more than 35 years ago, and myself 66 years old and counting, to be eighty years old still is unimaginable. Although I'll never grow up, still playing with crayons and colour pencils.


A few great friends of mine have now died. Two at 57 years old, including my beloved mentor Dick Loef. He was waiting for me that day as I was arriving from Australia. He had collapsed, heart attack, against the fire place and was slightly burned.


So naturally I thought I'd kick the bucket around that age too.

But no, I keep waking up and I must say I wake up usually to this world happy, with a smile.

Something that can change at the drop of a hat! 'What, NO milk in the fridge..........!'


Some time ago I started to make life size cut- out bodied out of cardboard.

I'd ask Clemens, whom I have known all my life, to do an outline of me as I lay on the material on the floor..

Then cut it, spray it with white paint and hang it in the huge tree in our back yard. For the birds so to speak.


Amanda Lear was Dali's muse I once read.


But my muse, or creativity has gone on a holiday at this time of my life. Shit happens and I know she'll be back. Or is it a He. Or is it an It?I don't know, I'm not a philosopher.


I have, a little jokingly, maintained that artist go, when they die, and sleep on the ground next to the God or the Devil. I imagine I'm aloud to smoke siggies next to the Devils bed. God's floor allows only Coca-Cola. He's a big investor in the drink.

When God or the Devil get bored and want to be amused they get us to perform, do a drawing or a Sistine chapel. Or The Nightwatch.


Then send you back to the floor, the stage of life.

All the normal dead people are hopping from one cloud to another or dodging the flames as they run the gauntlet.


Seriously, when will the Muse be back ? I have too much time to think. As a citizen of this world I never was particularly interested in politics or financial dealings. I vote for the Left and sell to the Right, isn't that the way to go ?


Now, 2012, I live in Cairns, FNQ, tropical and hot and very wet. But beautiful and relaxed.


I live in a house with my great friend Clemens, whom I have known since childhood. Both our fathers were Shell men.

First in Indonesia as toddlers, then in Iran as teenagers and in Holland as youngh adults.

Clemens married very young to the lovely and beautiful Gerry. I was the Best Man at their wedding and became the Godfather of their first born son Mark. After that they had twin boys, Casper and Rick, now both, ofcourse both, 38.


I got married some time later to the amazing Helena A. We have a daughter, the now opera singer Renate Arends.(check her out on Google)


But going back a few years to when I first arrived in Holland at age 9, hardly speaking Dutch and the Dutch I did speak was with an Indonesian accent, Indisch. Dutch kids scared the living day light out of me !


When I was old enough to go to High school I went to the same school my older brother Norman went to. The Johan de Wit Lyceum. Norman had just done his final exams and got his diploma Cum Laude. The teachers were delighted to have another Bakker.


I lasted one year and averaged maybe a 5 out of 10 except for art. My hero/teacher was the then famous painter Jan van Heel.

Once he looked at a painting I did for his class that day and he said: Paul, 10 is for God, 9 is for me and 8 for my best student. But I give you a 9, you draw better than me at your age.


Wow, I floated through that awful school for quiet some time on that compliment but was told to leave as my marks were embarrassingly low.

Algebra, geometry, French, Dutch and even English was abracadabra for me. Still is, accept Dutch and English. We in our house speak both languages, even to our dogs, the most lovely creatures on Earth. Angelo, after Michael and Vinci, after Da.


At 16 I went to the Royal Academy, the oldest art school in Europe. Older than Bologna !!!

For me all the other student were old, 20-ish accept for Jos T. He was also 16.Or was it 17? Tida tao. Jos and I are still in contact via this crazy Internet.


After the academy I married Helena, who was my class mate, But even with a child, I was too restless, too un-adultish. I went back to Australia again and was lucky. Got a great job as art director for a popular magazine Pol Magazine, owned by Gareth Powell. I had all the freedom in the world. Gareth told me I could do what I wanted to do but if it was bad he'd sack me. Great !


But the unrest was still there so hopped on a boat and went via the Panama, Suez was closed due to war, to the Azores, the island of Santa Maria. Beautiful old large house with no running water or electricity. Ever end of a day I had to polish the funnels of about 12 kerosene lamps. And piss in a pot that was emptied by my sweet old maid Rita.. Nr.2 was an outside job.

But after a year I was again restless, story of my life actually, and went via Paris to The Hague again. Then back to Oz, back to Holland and now back in Australia in Cairns.

I think, I hope, the restlessness has retired..........


But Australia is indeed the 'Lucky country”, imagine living in Syria, Uganda or, for that matter, the USA.


Ok, but now back to work. I cannot put this writing on my blog without a NEW painting.

But first a self portrait to get the juices running, to lure my Muse back. Like a pianist practising his notes to keep the fingers in shape.


Self portraits have nothing to do with creativity. Obviously self analysing, working with the tools of your trade and also it demands self honesty and self criticism.

Then when it is finished I either chuck it or hang it for some time in my bedroom.


But I have a follow up idea to get that bloody Muse back.


I'll do a painting especially to accompany this writing.. I'll try and paint it , whatever it will look like, with maximum arrogance. After all if the artist doesn't love his or her own work, go back to the factory, office or lab. They should stop. Or call it a hobby.


People often ask me: Who's your favourite artist ?Very difficult. So I choose Degas. Super safe, no ?

Then Jan van Heel, than me. Or visa versa. Yes, objectivity is nowhere to be found.


Like saying: What's your favourite colour ? Officially mine is blue, unofficially purple.

Although I use a hell of a lot of red I think it a bully of a colour. Whereas green..........


Whatever you think or like; if you see red the eye sees green, blue=orange, yellow=purple.

Ask Newton or Goethe. The theory of colour and the Farben Lehre.


Anyway, enough showing off and will try and start on this master piece and hope it doesn't kill me.....