World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 11 – Jennie Smallenbroek
‘Classic Art Atelier’ the sign states when I arrive at Jennie Smallenbroek’s studio in Maarssen. It consists of several classrooms, one very large, with paintings on the wall everywhere. There are paintings of animals, Venetian masks and portraits. Some of them are quite large.
It’s not just her workspace, but also the space where she teaches. She has more than 100 students. She teaches mornings, afternoons and evenings. ‘Last year I was completely full.’ she says.
Many of her students have come to her by word of mouth, or after a demonstration at a mall. She has also received students through the internet. ‘They come from everywhere, from Utrecht, but also from Brabant and North Holland. ‘Some have been in my class for four years’ she states.
Beginners and advanced students are mixed together in classes. ‘Students with more experience can learn a lot from people who are just starting out.’ Jennie says. The one who learns most, is me.’ Jennie constantly strives towards self-improvement. She devotes all her energy to developing herself. ‘The old masters were just like that. I am fascinated by the old masters. Even when they were masters themselves, they still copied the works of others’, she says.
There is no central theme to her work; rather she has a different theme every year. This year she has chosen animals or wildlife. Last year it was a series on girls called “The Girls” and the year before that it was Venetian masks. Next year the portrait will be the central theme. ‘When I have chosen a theme, I paint five to seven pieces. In between I paint still lives.’
Why did she choose animals? ‘I wanted to see the animals in real life. While painting them I was dreaming of a trip to Thailand. When it was finished I had booked the trip. In Thailand I washed and fed elephants on a game reserve. It consisted of rescued animals who did not have to work anymore at performing tricks or carrying tourists on their backs. The park was run by a Dutch manager.’
‘I find monkeys and lions beautiful too. What you paint influences your life.’ She hopes to be able to make another long trip, this time focusing on monkeys and lions. This summer she will be painting on the beach of one of the Wadden islands.
‘I paint from the heart but my paintings also contain a message. You have to wait and see if people find the message.‘ Jenn states. What is the message? ‘Love, peace, joy and freedom, it comes down to that. I hope that people feel something of the emotion that I put in the paintings.’
She has had many exhibitions, including the Florence Biennale in 2013. Of late she has an agent in London who will take her work to the Edinburgh Art Fair. ‘The work has to fit in a suitcase. The larger paintings I will not take with me, only the smaller ones that are 30 by 40 centimetres. Seven paintings fit a the suitcase.’
In her studio Jennie organizes Master classes as well. With Sam Drukker and Cornelis le Mair as teachers. In July Ralf Heynen will come and next year even Michael Siegel. ‘This is very educational for my students and for me. For most, painting is recreational, but some have already sold work and have the ambition to become professionals.’
How did it all begin?
‘I started painting when I was 21. Before that I used to draw. I am trained as a costume seamstress, stylist. I worked for 30 years in that field. I continued studying, homeopathy and took courses in commercial economy. Finally in 2009, I wanted to become serious about painting. Then I started teaching. I had the opportunity to teach at a Community University. The students were very enthusiastic so I decided to continue teaching.’
In 2011 the Community University went bankrupt. I eagerly started looking for a space for myself where I could also teach. That’s when I became a professional artist. Eventually I found this beautiful space at the Business Park in Maarssen. My husband had his business around the corner. We had the building refurbished with items out of the Recycle Shop. I immediataly had 150 students.’
Meditative state of mind
Jennie is self-taught. ‘Just last year I had my First Masterclass with Cornelis le Mair. If I invite master painters to my studio, I participate alongside my students. I try all the techniques. I want to be and stay ‘teachable’. I want to run through everything before passing it on to my students.’ Jennie says.
‘For me, art is art if it touches people. Art was once a craft, but has been elevated to something extraordinary, but it doesn’t have to be. Today so many people paint. By painting people reach a meditative state, it is good for body and mind. I get people referred to me by Family Doctors and Oncologists. People will quickly heal from their depressed state. It’s also fun to paint together as a group.’
‘Because my courses take a year, people get a chance to build a bond with each other. The art of painting has changed, in the sense that you have to share as an artist. I studied homeopathy. There I learned that you have to empathize, to remember how you started yourself. Not Judge. It is not the result that matters it’s the process.