Sunday, 1 July 2012

July Artist of the Month Lorena Kloosterboer

 As July is the beginning of our holiday and travel season here in Ontario I decided to virtually travel much further afield for this months  'Artist of the Month'. So a warm welcome to acrylic artist Lorena Kloosterboer

Hello members of Bayview Watercolour Society and readers of The Waterfront!

I'm happy and honored to be part of this wonderful blog, and hope you will all enjoy my artwork and reading about my work methods. A big thank you to Ona Kingdon for inviting me to share my art and thoughts!

First a little bit about me: I’m Lorena Kloosterboer, a Dutch-Argentine artist (born in the Netherlands in 1962). I create paintings in the trompe l'oeil and photorealism styles. I feel an irresistible attraction towards Realism and its challenge to paint with great precision and tightly executed details. My main goal in painting is to capture the fascinating interactions between colors, light, shadows, textures, reflections, and unite them in visual poetry.

During my twenty-five + year career as a professional artist my work has been exhibited in galleries and art museums in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Five of my bronze statues enjoy permanent public installation in the Netherlands. In 2010 my paintings were published in Belgium and Holland in the art history book by Professor Katlijne Van der Stighelen, entitled Vrouwenstreken, Unforgettable Female Painters from the Low Countries from 1550 until today. To be formally named as one of one hundred influential Flemish and Dutch women painters continues to be a great source of pride and happiness!

I currently live and work in Antwerp, Belgium. To see more of my art please visit my website at

I’ll now continue to show you several of my paintings and describe my work methods as specifically as possible. I know many of you want to know how I achieve certain effects and I’m happy to share my process with you!

Arigató by Lorena Kloosterboer
Acrylic on Canvas, 8 x 10 inches

This petite trompe l’oeil presents a graceful cloisonné fish pendant courting two elegant bamboo chopsticks on a ceramic holder. A delicate exploration into diminutive details and contrasting textures.

For “Arigató” I used a limited palette of blues, greens, and reds, with some Raw Sienna. I always use Titanium White and Payne’s Gray in all my paintings.

After several layers of sanded gesso to smooth the textured canvas, I started with the background. I love pushing around paint with brushes and sponges. I splattered, poured, wiped, and sanded until the background worked for the composition. The backgrounds in my paintings are often the abstract art supporting, contrasting with, and reinforcing the realism in my artwork.

Once the background was perfectly flat and smooth, I could work on my composition without being hampered by bulges or lumps on the surface. I used diluted clear gesso (what a great invention by Winsor & Newton!) to cover the surface, to achieve tooth for my next layers of paint and to fixate the background. I don’t want any brush marks to show.

Elements in trompe l’oeil paintings are always depicted life-size. In this piece I focused on textures: The hand-painted bamboo chopsticks, the porcelain holder, the shiny metal and enamel of the fish pendant. I wanted each different element to clearly show its specific surface.

Once I drew the basic lines of my composition onto the canvas, I could start layering paint in very thin, transparent coats. I always work with very tiny amounts of acrylic, because it dries so quickly. And I mix it with plenty of Gloss Medium and a little bit of water to obtain a thin, smooth glaze-like consistency. I always work in layers, often up to as many as 30, to obtain a deep multi-layered look with intense color. I let the paint dry well between layers, moving on to other elements in the painting.

Once the painting was to my satisfaction, I painted the highlights in pure Titanium White, to make the reflections pop. The highlights often need several layers of pure white paint straight from the tube—they are the finishing touch and the most fun to do because they make the surfaces come to life. Then I let my painting dry for a few days, signed it, and then gave it two coats of Matte Varnish.

Japanese Blue by Lorena Kloosterboer
Acrylic on Panel, 12 x 12 inches

This diminutive still life focuses on a hodgepodge of delicately glazed Japanese dishes, which I unexpectedly came upon one day while shopping. I asked the store manager for permission to take a photograph and he kindly allowed me to do so, as long as there were no customers in the shot. I always carry a good quality compact camera in my purse. This composition fuses my love for glazed ceramics, Japanese cuisine, and the color blue. I could almost describe this painting as “A Self Portrait.”

Colors used: Titanium White, Payne’s gray, Baltic Green, Brilliant Yellow Green, Raw Sienna and a whole array of different blues. I love to buy new acrylic colors and have a vast, growing collection. I love Liquitex soft body acrylics and Winsor & Newton acrylics and mediums, but I buy other brands of mediums and paint as well. Because I prefer to work in layers of transparent glazes, I usually do not mix colors on my palette. Instead I paint in pure (i.e., straight out of the tube) color glazes, building up the nuances of values, tones, and color intensity by building up layer after layer.

After applying and sanding several thin layers of gesso to obtain an ultra-smooth surface, I drew in the contours of the dishes and the wooden shelves. I usually paint the background first, in this case I painted the wood first and incorporated my signature in the wood grain on the upper shelf, making it seem like it was carved into the wood.

I then painted the entire composition of dishes (including the shadows) with diluted Payne’s Gray mixed with Gloss Medium and water to achieve an ink-like consistency. This is called a grisaille. Grisaille is a term for a painting (or underpainting) executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome shades, usually in greys or browns. The most important aspect of a grisaille is to get the values (darks and lights) perfect.

Once the grisaille underpainting was done and the composition looked like a black and white photograph in value, I glazed in the colors. I paid special attention to the appearance of the texture of the ceramic glaze, as I wanted to capture the translucency, the luxurious luster, and intense richness of the colors.

As usual, I painted the highlights last in Titanium white, taking care of the subtle nuances of the sheen of the ceramics. Once the painting was finished to my satisfaction, I let it dry for a few days and then gave it several coats of Satin Varnish.


Sequitur Cor by Lorena Kloosterboer
Acrylic on Canvas, 31 ½ x 15 ¾ inches

Two crystal decanters creating playful distortions of the background motif depicting an ancient Chinese Indigo batik design. The transparency of the glass symbolizes purity, spiritual perfection and knowledge. The title Sequitur Cor is Latin for ‘Follow your Heart.’

First I applied several layers of sanded gesso on the canvas, making the surface as smooth as possible so that the texture of the canvas did not show through anymore. I next drew in the composition, using a ruler for the straight edges of the background and the table edge. I then covered the two glass decanters with masking tape and masking fluid.

Using masking tape to create a straight edge, I first painted the lower part of the background, using Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, and Payne’s Gray. I mixed my acrylics with Gloss Medium and water laced with a few drops of Flow Improver. Because this area was rather large, I also added Acrylic Slow Drying Medium (retarder), so I could blend the paint longer before it dried.

Once the lower background was dry, I started on the upper background, which only has three flat colors. I used Prussian Blue straight from the tube and a mix of Buff Titanium and Titanium White for the Chinese batik design of the heart with tassels. For the subdued brown background I premixed Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, and Ultramarine Blue with a little bit of Dioxazine Purple in a glass jar.

When I need a custom-made color, I always mix it in an empty glass jar, so I can keep the acrylic from drying out without having to remix a new batch of paint. It is very hard to match the color of wet acrylic to dried acrylic paint, so preparing a large batch beforehand is very useful.

Next I removed the masking tape and Masking Fluid to uncover the glass objects. I drew the details of the glass composition with pencil, being as specific as possible. I used a thin layer of milky white gesso to cover the entire surface of the glass, to achieve tooth for my next layers of paint and to fix the drawing so my pencil lines wouldn’t smear.

I then started layering paint in very thin, transparent coats. I always work with very tiny amounts of acrylic, because it dries so quickly. And I mix it with plenty of Gloss Medium and some water to obtain a thin, smooth consistency, like a glaze. I always work in layers to obtain a deep multi-layered look with intense color. I let the paint dry well between layers, moving on to other elements in the painting.

For “Sequitur Cor” I used a limited palette of Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, Payne’s Gray, Burnt Umber, and Raw Umber to achieve the monochromatic look of the glass. I also used minute amounts of several primary colors mixed with Titanium White to create very soft pastel shades, to enhance the subtle reflections of the glass and give it that distinct soap-bubble appearance crystal often has.

Once the painting was to my satisfaction, I painted the highlights in pure Titanium White, to make the glass reflections pop. Then I let my painting dry for a few days, signed it, and gave it several coats of Matte Varnish.

Tibetan Gold by Lorena Kloosterboer
Acrylic on Canvas, 15.75 x 15.75 inches

This vibrant photorealistic close-up of a collection of Tibetan prayer wheels catches the eye with its dancing reflections on multicolored artifacts. This jumble of objects symbolize a wish - That humanity be able to live together in harmony despite all its differences.

I came upon a picture of these prayer wheels on a website. I usually prefer to photograph my own compositions, but in this case it was impossible for two reasons: First, I did not have plans to travel to Tibet any time soon. And second, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to improve on this beautiful photo anyway! It is very important to respect copyright, so when I see an image I would like to use in my painting, I always write the photographer to ask for permission to use it. Most people are generous in allowing the use of their photographs, and to me it feels like a collaboration between creative minds. The original photograph of the Tibetan Prayer Wheels my painting is based on is by Michael Farruggia, who gave me kind permission to use it in any way I liked (visit Michael’s website at I did crop the original image and changed some of the colors, in order to create something entirely my own.

Once I had his permission, I began by applying and sanding several layers of gesso to obtain a smooth surface that hardly shows the texture of the canvas. I drew the detailed lines of the composition onto the canvas and gave it a milky wash of diluted white gesso to fix the pencil marks. I then painted the entire composition (including the shadows) in a grisaille with diluted Payne’s Gray mixed with Gloss Medium and water to achieve an ink-like consistency. Once the grisaille underpainting was done and my painting looked like a black and white photograph, I moved on to add color.

I glazed in layers of vivid colors in very thin, transparent coats, so that the grisaille still showed through in all its details and values. In “Tibetan Gold” I used many different colors and hues in a very wide spectrum, manipulating the values by adding Titanium White and Payne’s Gray. Once I finished “Tibetan Gold” I let my painting dry for a few days, signed it, and gave it two coats of Matte Varnish.

This concludes my descriptions of my work methods in these four paintings. Following are some scattered personal thoughts on my creative process.

I try to be unrestrained when I prepare backgrounds, which often start as abstract textures. However, I don’t intend to ever swerve away from detailed realism, using abstraction as an element that supports the minutiae in realism.

As a support I use canvas, linen, wood, or Masonite depending on composition and mood. Smoothness is essential for minute details to be painted without the texture of the support distracting the eye, so I always add three or more additional layers of sanded gesso, even when I use factory-prepared surfaces.

I prefer to paint guided by several photographic versions of a composition. Even with a still life composition set up in my studio, I tend to turn to my photos. Most of the time I set up my own compositions and photograph them myself. However, if I want to use a photograph from another source, I make sure I get written permission to use it. My advice is to always respect copyright, even if the photographer is not a professional, and to always credit your source. Until now I’ve always received positive responses to me asking for reference material.

I often spend weeks, sometimes months, on a conceptual idea (usually several at once): Doing research, gathering artifacts (I have a huge collection of glass objects and knickknacks), making thumbnail sketches, and taking photographs, before finally having a composition I feel excited about. I also make written lists of ideas to work out later. Many ideas die during this process. Once I start painting, I try to hold on to my excitement for the composition. Alas, sometimes my enthusiasm fades when the painting doesn’t flow or the topic disappoints me, and then I have to decide in the middle of the painting process whether to continue or abandon a painting. I regularly opt for abandoning it altogether—it’s very hard and painful to do, but I think it’s probably worse to finish a painting I’m not happy with. Of course I recycle the canvas or board by rolling over it with a thick layer of gesso.

After I tackle the background, I often begin by painting a grisaille, which I glaze in numerous layers of translucent color. I hardly mix my colors on the palette; instead they get built up in layers directly on the surface of the painting. When I cannot enhance any aspect of a painting anymore, I consider it finished. The signature is the conclusion. After I sign a painting, I never go back to it. It’s a personal rule of mine to avoid redoing or revisiting a finished painting. It’s my way of moving on. If I didn’t follow my own rule, I’d be repainting all of my work forever!

Payne’s Grey, Titanium White and Unbleached Titanium are the three colors I consistently use in every painting. Besides those, rather than following one particular color theory, my intuition dictates how I build up the layers of glazes, using any number of available acrylic colors. I love buying new colors and I love buying new brushes. I can’t resist walking out of an art supply store without buying something! I also feel an irresistible urge to buy new products and try them out, so I spend a lot of time (and money) visiting art supply websites to see what’s new on the market.

Over the years I have tried all types of palettes available. My search for the perfect palette is linked to formerly using oil paints and the traditional wood palette. Moving from unhurried oils to fast drying acrylics meant going through an extensive period of trial and error to find what’s right for me. Today my palette is adjusted to my current method of layering glazes. I only need a few drops of fluid acrylic, or a dab of tubed acrylic per session, and a tiny space to dilute the paint with water and medium. At present I use (please don’t laugh!) plastic lids of yogurt pots. The ring around the outside edge is perfect to hold a few drops of water and medium I need, while the middle section is flat for blending. The palette is easily cleaned with plain water, so I use these lids until they crack. It also gives me a good feeling that I somehow recycle plastic packing materials. The plastic lid palette works great for me, but I realize that it won’t make me look very arty, so count me out for any pictures taken without the authoritative wooden palette in hand!

I miss the blending capacity that oils offer, but haven’t found a slow-dry medium that satisfies me yet. I continue searching for a retarder that allows feathering soft edges in the traditional oil-paint manner, covering extensive areas. When I blend soft edges I just want the paint to NOT dry while I’m fiddling with it. I have tried many brands, so far the Acryl Retarder by Schmincke works best for me.

Tools I use: Natural sponges, tooth brushes, pump atomizers, and broad synthetic flats for backgrounds. I also use broad synthetic flats for varnishing. Combination sable and synthetic brushes (always with short handles) are my favorites—I buy on a whim so I have brushes in many brands and price ranges. I take care of my brushes really well and wash them meticulously after each painting session. For miniscule details I use the Winsor & Newton sable/synthetic mix brushes Sceptre Gold II—my preferred size is 000. I use one or two triple zero brushes per painting, after which they get discarded. I recently won a set of Richeson short-handle brushes, they are fabulous! I just hate it when I spend good money on a new brush and find that it loses hairs on a wet painted surface. That’s my biggest pet peeve in regards to painting!

Mistakes: I use wet Q-tips to wipe away little booboos—I use a roller with black gesso for large booboos!

I’ve mentioned varnishing in Matte or Satin (Semi-Gloss) before. As a rule I use Matte varnish, which works especially well for trompe l’oeil because this style is meant to “fool the eye” (even if it’s for just a split second). Matte varnish takes away all the atmospheric reflections and makes the trompe l’oeil more realistic. I seldom use Satin varnish, but did, for example, use it on “Japanese Blue” because it gives the flat, ultra-smooth, stroke-free surface of that particular painting a rich, exquisite sheen which goes well with that particular piece. I never use High Gloss varnish—this is a personal choice, I just don’t like my paintings to pick up reflections from their surroundings.

How I came to paint in acrylics: Since I was a child I’ve worked in a variety of mediums, including soft pastels, colored pencils, inks and watercolors, but before the millennium I considered myself predominantly a realist oil painter. After going through several life altering events, I fell into a prolonged period of painter’s block. I felt incredibly frustrated—days, weeks, months would go by without that creative spark. I embarked on a desperate quest to break this miserable spell. I don’t think those around me truly realized the extent of emotional pain I suffered. After unsuccessfully trying to force myself to change styles, it suddenly occurred to me that I should try a new medium instead. Acrylics attracted me because they dry fast, they clean up easily with water, and permit similar effects to oils and watercolors. Slowly my creativity returned. Since I use acrylics I’ve never looked back!

Thank you again for inviting me to be a guest artist on this wonderful blog—I hope you enjoyed my writing. I look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions you may have. Happy painting! 

Lorena Kloosterboer


Shirley Scoble said...

Welcome Lorena,
What stunningly beautiful work. Thank you for sharing your methods in such a clear manner.
I love painting glass in watercolour,so find your work of
special interest. The metal I see
in your gallery is also of interest, I find metal a chllenge
that fascinates me.

Becky Bening said...

What a great article Lorena. It's wonderful to read the process of your work. Your work is absolutely beautiful! It's amazing to me the results you achieve with watercolor. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to share your tips and tricks with us. Your work is truly inspirational, and I too have always shared a fondness for images of stacked bowls and other items, finding beauty in what others perceive as mundane moments. Thanks again, Petra

Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you Shirley, Becky & Petra for your kind comments!

Anonymous said...

What an informative article Lorena. I especially like your "Sequitor Cor". The play of light on the glass is awesome. It would be interesting to watch you working. I wonder if you ever visit Toronto?

Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you Patricia!

I've been to Canada once, visiting a collector for a statue commission in Montreal (long time ago). I hope to visit Canada again in the future! :-)

Lorena said...

Thank you for sharing some techniques, Lorena! It's a mini-workshop for me :) unable as I am to attend workshops at this time. Your work stands out among the photo-realists that I have known for its sensitivity and meaning. It is much more than a "scene reproduced" in detail. It has heart and soul - the best of the artist. And so it should be when one wears the title, "artist." Bravo!

Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you so much Lorena for your kind words & your support! :-)

Anonymous said...

Stunning work Lorena! You say you take a while to get the compisition you want... do you have a message a mind or are you rather looking graphically at colour. light and shade and shape?


Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thanks Kate, for your kind words & your interesting question!

When I'm putting together a composition, I mainly look at the shapes & beauty of my objects & how they play with each other & the background. A good composition has to sing to me, make me fall in love with it. During this process I am in tune to what I feel, what kind of emotions & thoughts the objects provoke in me (as if the objects tell me a story). Those translate into the symbolic meaning I give my paintings & always lead to the title.

Once the composition is set up, I photograph it. That's when I play with light & shadows, taking lots of different shots (I have several lamps that I move while taking pictures to get exciting highlights & contrasts). Digital photography gives me the freedom to click-click-click away without thinking of costs (like when we had to develop rolls).

When I finally start painting, I can play with colors, change them, enhance them, exaggerate them. When I paint, I use my reference pictures as a guide, but during that process a lot of changes occur & a lot of choices are made (not only of details I add, but also of those that I leave out). This is what keeps painting photorealism exciting for me—it’s not just copying, but trying to enhance the image & make it entirely my own. Frequently my finished paintings look quite different from my reference photos.

Rebecca said...

Thank you Lorena for so much great information! I'm awestruck at the realism and detail in your paintings, and yet you still make them "look" like paintings, rather than just replicas of a photograph. I am curious though, what inspired you to first start exploring the world of art? Did you have an important figure (be it teacher, parent, friend etc.) that got you into art or did you just discover it by yourself?

Rebecca said...

Thank you Lorena for so much great information! I'm awestruck at the realism and detail in your paintings, and yet you still make them "look" like paintings, rather than just replicas of a photograph. I am curious though, what inspired you to first start exploring the world of art? Did you have an important figure (be it teacher, parent, friend etc.) that got you into art or did you just discover it by yourself?

Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thanks Rebecca for your kind comment & interest!

I was fortunate to grow up in the Netherlands & visit many of the great museums in Europe as a child, so as far back as I can remember there has been art in my life. The family story goes that, when I was two years old, the first time I grabbed a pencil I held it correctly & started drawing. Since then, I’ve never stopped. If I ran out of paper I would draw on my hand & arm (in fact, there are school photos where my entire left arm is covered in drawings & doodles). At school I was often reprimanded for drawing in the margins of school books & exercise books. Drawing, painting & all sorts of crafts were my forte; I’ve always loved working with my hands. And while all my school grades were mediocre, those that I received for arts & crafts classes were always top grades. That stimulated me enormously because every child will automatically pursue the thing that they feel they are good at!

At age twelve (1974) I saw my first photorealism exhibition (Kijken Naar de Werkelijkheid) at the Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It made an enormous & long-lasting impression on me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but seeing the great masters of American photorealism (Richard Estes & Chuck Close, among others) in person greatly influenced my artistic ambitions & painting style. At the time I could only gape at those incredible paintings in awe, never thinking or even dare hope I would ever be able to come anywhere close to achieving such skill. While I don’t presume to compare myself with any of the great masters (living or dead), today I feel that I’m starting to come full circle. My main ambition has always been to become the best painter I have inside me! I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer…

Another influence was my mother, who painted at home. I used to sit behind her quietly, watching the process for hours. At age 16 I received my first oil painting set & painted my first portrait. A realtor who came to our house gave me my first commission, so I sold my first painting at a very early age. The strange thing is, it didn’t even occur to me that I could become a professional artist until much later. The person who most influenced my artistic path was my then-boyfriend Yayo (an architect) who suggested & enabled my entry into classical art school when I was 19. From the first class I took I knew I wanted to become a professional artist & I’ve never looked back since. Even though our ways parted, we are friends & we’ve always kept in touch. I credit Yayo as being the most important person for stimulating entry into the arts & I’m forever grateful to him.

Arq. Yayo Merlo said...

¡Cuánto me alefra la brillante evolución que ha tenido tu trabajo durante todos estos años!
De alguna manera me siento orgulloso de haber colaborado con el primer empujoncito para que tus obras se hayan hecho realidad. Lo mío fué un granito de arena, el resultado es fruto de tu esfuerzo y tu talento.

Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you for your sweet comments & your enduring friendship, Yayo.

For Waterfront blog readers who don’t speak Spanish, I’ll translate the above comment by Yayo Merlo:

“I am so pleased to see the brilliant growth your work has had over the years! Somehow I feel proud to have provided the first little push so that your works of art have become a reality. My contribution was a little grain of sand, the result is the fruit of your effort and your talent.”

Anonymous said...

I've been on holiday and have only just read this. Thank you so much for giving us such a detailed description for each painting. It was a joy to read.


Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you Marianne for your kind words & interest! Big smiles!

Ona Kingdon said...

Thank you so much Lorena for being our artist of the month. Its been a joy to get to know you and your art a little more and I know our members have really appreciated the opportunity too.


Lorena Kloosterboer said...

Thank you so much, Ona, for inviting me on your blog & allowing me to connect to all your readers. And a big thank you to all the readers, I really enjoyed the interaction & interesting questions!

Happy painting!!!