This month, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk brings his vibrant and energetic work to Williamsburg’s Moiety Gallery—the Dutch artist’s first solo exhibition in the US. In addition to his signature drawings and paintings, Nieuwendijk will exhibit new experiments in method and materials, including rugs, screen prints, painted mirrors, and sculptural canvases. Here, Nieuwendijk speaks with Gratuitous Type about his processes, influences, and why plants make ideal models.

‘What would Michael Jackson do if he was an illustrator, instead of the King of Pop? What would James Bond do if he was an illustrator, not a secret agent?’

What interests you most right now?

Now it’s mostly primary colors and working with pencils. I never liked colored pencils because the colors looked so light, and the lines more fragile than markers, but recently I discovered the pencil again. I guess I’m still using it as a marker, filling solid shapes, but more and more I’m playing with overlapping and shades of colors and layers. I experience a far more intense relationship with the pencil—using a knife to create the point, dealing with the shavings and the eraser. And the more you sharpen your pencil the smaller it gets—my blue is two centimeters now. I guess you can tell my favorite colors by one look at the box.

As an artist, I think it’s healthy to try different things; change your way of working, look at other artists, try to think as them. When I was younger, I tried to think, ‘What would Michael Jackson do if he was an illustrator, instead of the King of Pop? What would James Bond do if he was an illustrator, not a secret agent?’ The moment you think like this, you imagine what’s necessary to reach your public. Maybe it even helps you see how to become well-known.


And what conclusions did you come to? How does MJ draw?

Michael Jackson would probably be drawing every day, all day, and drawing really softly, saving his hands for the real thing. He would probably draw a lot for his fans, and in cola commercials, dressed up like an artist. He might have golden tools and draw on silk. What I learned from this is that you have to focus on what you do. Look for opportunities and take good care of clients. Think before you do and make sure you stay focused.

You often draw still lifes, particularly of plants. What attracts you to this subject?

The still life has always been important to the artist because that was the way to show off your skills: practice with colors, the way copper and gold reflect light, the softness in the palette of some exotic shell, the light absorbed by an apple or the details in an orange skin. I like that every shape can be a vase, and every shape can be a plant. You almost can’t draw them wrong. I enjoy drawing freehand, playing with the leaves, balancing the flower—it’s good practice. Plus a plant is a very cheap model. They don’t complain of sitting still too long, and don’t need wine and food or ask for too much money. And they never refuse to undress all the way.

David Hockney is a big influence for you. Can you speak more about this? 

Compared to my other heroes, I like that he’s alive, talking about art today. He talks and makes jokes as a human being. I like knowing he’s having breakfast somewhere. For me that is the difference between him and Picasso, Matisse, Magritte, Mondriaan, Zwart, Haring, Warhol, and Liechtenstein. And, in the end, he’s made me look at painting differently—dealing with space; color; time; size; materials; printers, scanners, or other digital mediums; depicting reality, and thinking about guiding your audience through a drawing. He even makes me look at the world differently. I think one can learn an amazing amount from Hockney. Secret Knowledge is a must-read.

Are there other books you find yourself returning to?

"David Hockney" by David Hockney, "A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney," and the diary of Keith Haring are always in my suitcase when I travel. They opened my eyes and are still opening them. And of course, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and 007’s Goldeneye. I use books the same way I use the Internet—look around until I see stuff that I like, then read about it. My head filters it automatically during naptime. The good stuff is remembered and the rest probably leaves through my bodily fluids in the morning.


WET! by Jordy van den Nieuwendijk runs from Nov 8-Dec 9 at Moiety Gallery (166 N. 12th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn).


This interview has been edited and condensed, originally appearing in Gratuitous Type