The Royal Academy of Fine Arts

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Mondriaan composition 10Gray tree by Piet Mondriaan

I think I went to the best art school in the world, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, in The Hague, Holland. Certainly one of the oldest. Mentioned in the 16th C but officially opened its doors in 1682, to 'create' a difference between amateur and real artists. I went there when I was 16/17 years old.



Two famous Mondriaan painting. He had, I imagine more fun doing his trees in Holland. On the right Composition 10 painted in New York


It had several departments, The fine arts, the graphic and typographical design, the interior decoration design and industrial design.

The fine arts had the bearded and arty clothed boys and girls, the graphic and typographical department had the expensive and snooty dressed crowd, the interior architectural designs had the snooty girls and gay guys and the industrial department had the boring men dressed in suits.

Anyway, that is what we thought.

I went to the only one worth my while: The Graphic and typographical mob.

In the first year one wasn't to even talk about art. Truly, that was frowned upon!


We had to learn the basics. Colour theory (Newton,red-blue-yellow=green-orange-purple- work that out!), calligraphy ( writing with pen and ink in Gothic style whole bloody Bibles ), working with paper ( bookbinding and making cardboard boxes,gluing them with coloured paper or paint etc ).

My tree in honour of Piet Mondriaan

And of course everybody spoke the Queens Dutch, talked socialist and acted the aristocrat.

No working classes in our working classes for sure!

But till this day I enjoy looking at colours and subconsciously feel how they are created by sun and reflections through prisms, see lettering and know if it is a Bodoni or Garamont , Helvetica or Times Roman. Serif or sans serif.


We, I, were also art snobs! Amateurs were accepted as pensioners, house wives, invalids or people with nothing else to do. Or loonies in need of therapy! And Queen Wilhelmina, mother of Juliana, mother of Beatrix.


Shocking, come to think of it.


This is a large tree I painted three years ago.160x160cm. You can see the Mondriaan influence a mile of. Thank you Piet, you poor depressed Calvinist man living in mad New York! I wish I were with you then. The tree I got by pouring paint from top to bottom 'till the roots took grip.


Now I truly believe anybody who likes doing anything with his or her hands is half way to a Heaven of Pleasure.

Kids are the totally innocent little artists. Untouched by bigotry or cultural history they make things that are so close to the truth it's not funny. Some times heart braking!

Body print on canvas covered with plastic

So when I'm doing a painting on canvas with acrylic paints I always think of the design and whatever I want to show. I'm aware the onlooker must not be bored. Use a colour for shock affects etc etc . This sounds as if it could dampen the creativity or kill inspiration. It doesn't.

No way, not with me. I love poring paint from top to bottom on a canvas to see what will happen. Even if I am directing its flow. Its direction. Slap it with my hand or walk over it. I call that 'getting acquainted with the unmade'.

Love it when the dogs walk over the canvas although it does leave paint marks on the floor. Obviously I work allot on flat horizontal surfaces.




This is a body print. Rubbed paint on my body and clothes and went down on the paper. Hell to clean the body and the clothes were for the dustbin. But I sold many, especially to gender benders. ___________________________________________________________________________________________

I'm trying to do a self portrait again but cannot concentrate on it. Bloody computer and, my best excuse, my studio is outside and it's raining. OR TOO HOT. Now it is winter in sunny Queensland and cold, 25 degrees!

Thought of jumping of a high tower on a canvas and me dripping with paint. That would surely be a very interesting self portrait but I'd never see it myself. I might be a little bit crazy but far too selfish for that kind of nonsense.


Anyway, back to school. Back to the Royal Academy, in Dutch : De Koninklijke Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten.

The director of the academy was at the time a Mr.Beljon. So complicated and introverted he could barely speak. He made huge sculptures nobody understood.
Head of the Graphic department was a Jan van Keulen. Strange man who dressed like a dandy, total Bauhaus man, total Socialist and total snob. Drove a Jaguar and fell in love with my girlfriend, and later wife, Helena and the bugger tried to fail me at the finals. However, the other teachers knew of my plight so over valued my work so I passed with a 7 out of 10.

Calligraphy teacher was a Piet van Tright who overvalued me, photography a Mr. de Vries who overvalued me and nude drawing was Ootje Oxenaar, the man who redesigned the Dutch money with a semi caricature-al look as he thought money was funny. He also happened to be Helena's cousin. Small world. It may have helped.

Because of the Bauhaus influence and Mondriaan we were taught in primary colours and straight lines. No fancy stuff. At the time London was going crazy with The Beatles and The Rolling Stoned and designs made under the influence of Hashish, so I was told to believe......

I don't know, probably too stoned to comprehend.

After the Academy I was one of the few lucky ones who got a dream job for a Public Relations company, G.J.van Hulzen. He, Mr. van Hulzen, told me to set up a design studio and so it all happened. I had no opposition because I was the only designer. Van Hulzen did say: If I don't like what you do or make mistakes you are fired.

We had interesting clients like an airport (Rotterdam) and Lockheed, again something to do with air. And a few other ones like Krasnapolski, a huge hotel in Amsterdam. And Albert Heyn, the best supermarket chain.

I had to do their monthly magazines. In fact I did several p.r. 'magazines'.


But I wasn't a graphic designer at heart.

Nor much of a husband and father so left Holland for Australia to paint.

I had married Helena, the prettiest girl in the class and we had a daughter, Renate Arends, now a successful opera singer ( )

Self portrait dillema number 4...

But then, in Sydney, I got a job as art director of a then popular magazine called POL Magazine. Now it is 1970. Vietnam etc. No A-bomb, Americans etc etc. Longer hair and more drugs. Of course not me, never, I stuck to beer 'till it nearly killed me.

Clemens, with whom I share my life now and know since he was 5 years old in Java, Borneo, Iran, Holland and Australia, did a few great photo's for us. One I'll never forget of Gerry, his now departed wife, naked with a huge 8 month pregnant tummy lying flat on her back!

We had to airbrush the pubic hair out as POL was printed in Hong Kong and it could have not gotten through the then hysterical customs and laws of Australia concerning nudity. The baby was born and now is my God son Mark Vermeulen, just turned 40.I'm still just 28+, but no beer..........

Get back to the story, the history of this planet!


But I wanted to paint! So left POL and hopped on a boat and spent a year painting in The Azores. Then went back to Holland. I have written all about this, I know. But as in printing a book, repetition is good for memory!


Back now to the Academy. Very difficult to separate my personal life and that amazing institute. They were without a shadow of doubt the happiest period of my life, education and making friends wize.


So who were the artists we were allowed to like? Of course Piet Mondriaan, Klee, Chagall and just on the edge Pablo Picasso. A whole bunch of British and other artist like Henry Moore, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Marcel Duchamps and Barbara Hepworth...I cannot remember any more at the moment. Certainly NOT Rembrandt or Vermeer, God bless 'm. In Holland the top designers were Total Design people. Piet Zwart and Dick Elffers etc.


Now my favourite artist is Paul Bakker and I'm sticking with him because we still have to do a selfportrait of us!

Self portrait, the final solution; emabarrassment!

Above is a drawing/painting composition I did and call it:'Battle with my self portrait'. It took me only an hour but I had fun. I even put in a bit of bloody meat and a can of beer. Just the things that created me to be what I am now. For good or bad. I don't eat meat but don't have that wayward thinking if I did, I'm killing animals. We feed the dogs killed meat of tiny lambs pulled off their mothers nipples when drinking their first milk. Here to the right: Me feeling a little shy because I'm such a show-off! Or not?


And I don't drink beer because it pulls me of my life's nipples sucking air!

Self portrait painted in Terena in approximately 1978