Born in the Netherlands, Berends has had a life of travel and currently lives on the Caribbean island of Curaçao where she works from her home studio. She has been recognized by The Portrait Society of America as one of today's leading artists, and her paintings have been exhibited in well-known museums and galleries in Canada, The Netherlands, and the UK, including as part of the prestigious BP Portrait award.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
My name is Bianca Berends. I am a fine art and portrait painter. As a child I enjoyed painting and drawing but I don’t remember begin obsessed about it. When I applied to several Art Academies in The Netherlands where I am from, I wanted to study to become a graphic designer. I was accepted at all of them and chose to go to the Academy in Maastricht. It was quite a classical education. I didn’t chose the graphic design department after all, I enjoyed studying painting techniques more and followed classed like anatomy, portrait drawing, drawing from life, oil painting and watercolor techniques. I loved it all. I wasn’t an A student but worked hard. I will never forget a quote by one of my teachers: being an artist requires 1% talent and 99% blood, sweat and tears so be prepared to work hard!
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
I was born in The Netherlands but until the age of 11, I lived abroad with my parents and two sisters. That experience really had a large impact on the rest of my life. I’ve traveled a lot with my husband, whom I met when we were 16. Every summer break we would pack our backpack and go to a different continent for a few months. For a few years we lived in Peru and Surinam and are currently living on Curacao, a Caribbean Island. I think my background contributed to my interest in other people and cultures and has always expressed itself in my artwork one way or another. For example in my current series Beach Life, I use a lot of postcards and portray children from different cultures and background.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The current series I’m working on is called Beach Life. It is a theme that was 10/15 years in the making during a time I painted mostly commissioned portraits. Everything I created in those years that wasn’t a commission fits under this umbrella. For this series I create contemporary colorful paintings featuring children. It is a series I started about 2,5 years ago. My goal was not to think about the end result but give the creative process central stage. I started out just painting abstract shapes, I used glass plates to print the paint on paper, scrapped with carton over the paint, used the back of brushes to create textures, pushed wrapping plastic over the paint, created textures through the plastic, used textured rolling pins to create designs etc. I noticed that once I started something, a new idea would pop into my head and when I gave that idea a try it would again lead to something new. It was very interesting to experience that just by working and experimenting with paint and all kinds of materials new ideas would keep on coming. Eventually figurative elements came into play, but they surfaced only as part of this organic creative process.
Looking back I think at this point in my career it has been one of the best decisions to start this painting process, to start from scratch, without expectations, without preconceived ideas and just see where it would take me. With all the technical experience that I have, the ease with which I can draw and paint, it has given me the opportunity to really explore materials, experiment, try new things. It has taken my paintings to a new level.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I think the most feedback I get from viewers and customers is that my artwork makes them think back to their own childhood, that my work evokes emotions that are connected to memories they have of being a child. The central theme here being that they feel the innocence of children when they see my artwork. Some people experienced this as a child and my paintings bring back happy memories,. A lot of viewers see their own children and their lives not yet burdened with the weight of responsibility, often my artwork makes people smile and reflect.
When do you know that an artwork is finished?
That takes some time. My paintings stay in my studio for quite some time before they are available to be sold. I need to be able to go back and work on them during several months. If after that time I haven’t worked on them, I know they are done. Sometimes I stop working on them on purpose because I know I have a tendency to perfect an image when I know the imperfections are what makes it interesting to look at. As an artist you have to be your own critic. If you can’t critique your own artwork you will never be able to develop as an artist. But is is a fine line, because if you are overly critical and never happy with what you create, it will suck you into a downward spiral and you create the same problem. You also have to accept that not everybody likes your art. I learned early on that once a painting was done, it really didn’t matter what other people thought of it, that the most important thing was that I was happy with the result. This requires a lot of confidence, something you really need to develop as an artist.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
Of course for every artist his/her first solo exhibit is a big deal in a career, the same goes for me as well, but I think that being accepted into the BP Portrait Award exhibit with a portrait of mine and that one of my paintings received a certificate of excellence from the Portrait Society of America are two highlights up until now.
How long does it take to produce one work?
It differs every time. Sometimes it takes a few days or a week and other paintings take more than a year to finish.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
First and foremost keep on painting and continuing with this series. Just this year I’ve started my own online store, selling limited edition art prints of my paintings. I’m also in the process of writing a book about my creative process, maybe to inspire other artists to experiment and give more people a chance to take a look in an artist’s kitchen and see that what it takes to create a series of paintings. Furthermore I’m working on a limited edition high quality beach bag featuring my art. It is a really interesting process which involves working with other creatives, something I really enjoy. I’m also in the process of finding a gallery in the US or the Netherlands that is interested in exhibiting my paintings, my solo exhibit (in 2014) here on Curacao sold out quite quickly so it would be great to expand my audience this way.
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I’m in the process of finding a gallery in the US or the Netherlands that is interested in exhibiting my paintings. My solo exhibit here on Curacao sold out quite quickly so it would be great to expand my audience this way. I’m part of this years first edition of the magazine Inside Artist which is distributed among gallery’s worldwide, I expect it will help me connect with a serious gallery. As an award-winning artist I will also again participate in the popular auction which is held every year at the American Portrait Society Conference in April.
Where do you see your art going in five years?
I’ll still be living on Curacao, enjoying this beautiful island and hopefully painting every day, which is what I love to do most. I will have a successful online business selling limited edition art prints of artwork worldwide. I will have published my book and hopefully a second one as well. And I will be collaboration with a reputable gallery selling my original paintings.