For our series Inside the Sketchbook we have the unique opportunity to take a look inside of Amsterdam artist Femke Hiemstra’s sketchbooks. Hiemstra was featured in Hi-Fructose Volume 8. Her paintings are a mixed representation of humorous, emotionally charged characters, with the darker concerns of humanity. She has the unique ability to make a flower look sinister, a snowman seem suicidal, or a moon look nervous. Her work is stunning, both conceptually and aesthetically, and each painting pulls us inside to witness her characters act out their unique dramas within a beautifully rendered environment.
She paints with acrylic on select found objects that she collects such as vintage books that she discovers at antique stores or while traveling abroad. She finds endless inspiration in the world around her. I asked Femke to tell us a little about her sketchbooks and her imaginative process. – Jane Kenoyer
Have you always kept a sketchbook?
At art school I started to use a sketchbook. I have a bit of a Swiss cheese brain so with the sketchbook I could keep the sketches of all classes together and the chances of forgetting something were reduced. I kept the sketchbook tradition in honour and I can’t imagine creating without it.
I work in a letter sized oblong sketchbook. I’ve tried working in smaller ones that are easier to take along but I always end up grabbing the larger book. It simply feels good to hold, I can work in it when I put in my lap and I tuck in copies or letters when I need to bring some with me.
Why is it important for you to keep a sketchbook?
My sketches are of great importance to me since they hold the first translations to paper of what goes on in my mind. Sometimes a few raw lines can be the exact outline of my thoughts. They are also an important reference. When inspiration only gives me part of what could be a great image, I scribble it down in my book and keep it for possible later use.
Do you often sketch out ideas before working them into finished pieces?
I always sketch out my ideas. Nothing too detailed or elaborate though, I like to leave some parts open so I can spontaneously add stuff in the final stage. My painting and drawing technique is already very detailed and I’d like to keep some room for adjustments and ‘go with the flow’.
My sketches are fairly small; thumbnail-sized. I build them up out of a few lines, no gradients, just a five minute sketch. In this way I can quickly redraw and idea. It also keeps the proportions correct since I have the tendency to draw skewed on a large scale.
What are some good sketchbook tips and habits that you can share with our readers?
When I look at the creative colleagues around me everybody has their own way of dealing with ideas and sketches. Most of them use some sort of sketch or notebook, others use single copy papers or the back of used envelopes. Whatever suits one’s fancy. For me, a sketchbook is the most reliable reference. You can archive your ideas, semi-ideas, inspirational images and texts (and – very important – their sources) in one place.
The material you sketch with is not that important, I think. At art school I was fond of a brush marker which resulted in heavy black sketches with lot’s of stains. Now I prefer soft 3B pencils because I like the feel on the paper but it get’s equally messy. Ah, well.