Salvaged and Stunning



Most portrait artists work in paint, but Diederick Kraaijeveld uses discarded wood to create photo-realistic images—and amazingly does so without the help of computers. The Dutch artist will be one of the speakers at this year’s PINC Sarasota event on Dec. 10. SRQ asked him questions about his craft.

Has technology impacted your ability to make realistic works out of wood?  It may be surprising to some people that know my pieces, but I use almost no technology in creating them. It is all just hard work and pure craftsmanship. I use an array of different quite old fashioned techniques, that I 'invented' myself. I decided to keep all my techniques to myself. It is the result, the piece of art, that tells the story. Since my pieces are quite photo-realistic, a lot of people have the idea I use computer graphics. Even though I do not tell about my techniques, I nowadays do tell people I do not use computer graphics. I do use a jigsaw-machine (so not a hand-held tool) but that is the most flashy piece in my workshop. In looking for wood, I only use gloves to sort through the piles. It is a very hands-on job that I have. And I love it.

Is there a deeper message you hope to communicate in your images through the use of discarded wood?  It is really amazing what one can find (if one has the eye for it) in piles of stuff that people throw away. I see every pile of rubbish, every building container as a treasure trove. It is not just I re-use materials to save the environment. As an historian by education, I really like the idea of using things that had a 'life' before. Sometimes I find pieces of wood that have many many different layers of paint, like a tree trunk has year rings. One can almost feel, smell the history of those pieces. I love the patin of those sometimes century old pieces of floorboard, as much as I love the odd colors of a seventies kitchen-cupboard-door. Every piece of wood tell a story, even though I do not know all these stories. There is no message other than the hope that people will look at 'rubbish' and 'old wood' in a different way after seeing my artwork. Maybe not be be more 'environmentally aware', but more to see the beauty in those pieces of wood. When I create portraits I try to use wood that had a meaning in the life of that person. I know that has a lot of impact.

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