Hi Raymond, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I was born in Groningen, totally up in the north of the Netherlands. My childhood was filled with tree climbing, secret spy clubs, ninja training and drawing. Luckily I grew up in a very green area, which allowed me to do all of this mostly outside. Nowadays I live in Amsterdam with my goldfish Laurent Poisson. I climb trees a bit less, but I still draw and paint a lot.
You work in a range of different media, how do you think they differ in terms of the feel of the work, and the effect that different mediums have on your pieces?
When I work on my small meticulous drawings, I become excessively concerned with details, completely fitting the control freak that I am. Graphite and thin mechanical pencils usually provoke this in me. But if for example I work in oil on a bigger scale, I start out very rough and more easily embrace unforeseen accidents. This way there is a more playful process in the execution and usually details are only added to underline fortunate surprises.
What are your favourite materials to use specifically? Is there anything you particularly enjoy about working in graphite as opposed to other media?
I enjoy graphite as I experience it to be very controllable. Also, working from white to dark feels very logical. But I more and more like to work in paint too. I started working in oil a while ago, which was a big punch in the face of my confidence, but it also gave access to a new world of possibilities. The long dry time of oil pushed me into the direction of acrylics. I miss the rich colours very much, but acrylic has its own charm too.
Tell us a bit about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
I just start, I never really sketch out a drawing or painting. But I do use a sketchbook for ideas and notes. So although I have many interests and themes that I work around, I work very intuitively. I would happily embrace any comparison to how a kid would be drawing or painting, with childlike imagination not yet pushed into its limits by experience. To work with a well though out plan just kills the joy of executing it.
What is your favourite subject-matter and why?
I get the most honest fun out of depicting faces and playing with facial recognition. And I also like to play with the human urge to recognize life in inanimate objects. Like how people recognize faces in facades of houses or animals in clouds.
In my portraits I replace facial features with geometric shapes, which makes the viewer recognize a certain emotional charge in these otherwise impersonal shapes. It’s interesting that all we need are two parallel dots and a line underneath to make us identify it as a face. It somehow points out how self-centred we are, but also reveals a beautiful imagination that is part of us all.
You mention on your site that you aim to create a child-like sense of wonder in your audience. Why do you feel that this is important? What do you do to maintain this sense of newness and surprise about the world in yourself, so that you can inspire the same feelings in your audience?
I think this wonderment fuels imagination, and imagination is the fuel for all personal progress. To answer the second part, I like to travel and meet new people.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
This was for sure building Fyrst, my first sculpture. I made it in magical Paris during a residency at La Gaîté Lyrique for a Pictoplasma exhibition. During my three-week stay I visited many second hand shops and small flea markets to find materials for realizing my idea. After a week of collecting reusable objects from all over Paris, I started building my installation in the wood shop located in the basement of the venue. For example I used an old violin-case, some antique pieces of textile and a wooden toy train. The whole process was great fun, and I met the sweetest people helping me out. It was a huge challenge to get it done in time of the opening, but I made it. It got a great response and the statue has almost been travelling more than I have lately.
Do you have any early memories of drawing?
I mostly drew flying cars, dinosaurs and transformers when I was young. And fighter jets too. I really was convinced one day I would witness cars flying… This even made me want to be a car designer when I was about nine years old.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes I do, I carry it everywhere with me. But I don’t draw in it as much as I should. It mostly functions as a notebook for ideas, shapes and random visual awesomeness I encounter. Also, every now and then I scribble down some very pretentious words I very much relate to at that moment, and feel very ashamed of when someone else accidentally glances in my sketchbook some days later.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I tend to work pretty small, I would thoughtlessly settle for something like 12x14cm and enjoy working on that scale. But lately I am starting to work bigger and in different materials. For example, I started on a huge 180x180cm portrait in oil a while ago. It scares me as it stares me in the face all day long in my studio. But I am slowly making process.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I will start painting more. I will never stop drawing with graphite as I enjoy it so much. But paint just has so many possibilities; I would love to explore them even more. Also, as I am working on an exhibition for the end of this year, I will work on a series of paintings/drawings. Something I normally stay far away from.
Where can we see your work next? And where else can we get hold of more of your work?
I have just been travelling a lot and am looking forward to spending some time in Amsterdam to make some new work. So no more exhibitions planned this year. But there is always the opportunity to shop online at http://raymondlemstra.bigcartel.com/
…or just contact my gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other request about my work.
Raymond’s work appears in Tiny Pencil, the Forest Issue: Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts!