The Dutch are quite well known for their levelheadedness and their no-nonsense approach when it comes to business. In their communication, they might sometimes a bit too direct, but they mean well. This trait particularly applies to fellow countrymen from the Eastern part of the Netherlands. They often look at residents from the West as a bit ostentatious and showy. Two very different worlds in one very tiny country.
Mind the gap!
Some people manage to bridge the gap. While maintaining his relaxed ‘Eastern’ demeanor Frank Bouwmeester of ‘Huid en Staal’ (‘Skin and steel’) lets his art do all the talking. Born in Hengelo, he has fans all over the country and a growing reputation internationally. His work is striking and has a clear signature, no matter what the surface he has to work on.
Still, when talking to Frank and listening to the music of his favorite bands it becomes clear we are dealing with a true dreamer too. As a child, he would build motorbikes from LEGO pieces, inspired by the vintage bikes he would see riding through the village he grew up in. Once he borrowed a moped from a pal to go visit his mum in hospital, the artist was bitten by the biking virus.
The art of riding
One of the advantages of living in the East of the country is the abundance of free space to ride around and experiment with illegal tuning without a cop on every street corner. Moving from illegally riding mopeds Frank moved to a Honda CB 550 with a sidecar. Realizing this requires specific riding skills, a near-death experience prompted him to dismount the third wheel within a week.
His next bike project was a BMW. While he was a student at the art academy Frank was convinced he could rebuild the German into something he considered less of a sore to his eyes. Over the years this machine became sort of a two-wheeled ‘Transformer’, its styles ranging from Chopper to caféracer and anything in between.
In spite of all this treatment, the Beemer survived Frank’s surgeries and they still live happily on the road for nearly 27 years now. Until recently even again including a sidecar period. Currently Frank is working on a Harley Davidson, which he is modifying to fit his taste. Funny thing is that when he was younger, the painter had an equal dislike for both BMW and Harley.
Created in music
It’s always interesting to ask for people’s taste in music. When this issue was raised, Frank responded by mentioning both ‘Black Diamond Heavies’ and ‘Wooden Shjips’. Although these two bands are in a slightly different spectrum of the musical universe, the music of each of them possesses a similar kind of basic rawness. It is a description which equally fits Frank’s work.
He is not a fan of ‘machine-made perfection’ as he describes it. ‘I’d rather go for authenticity, where you can really see it is handmade, including the tiny imperfections which should be part of the work”. See the pictures on this page or check out his work on his website and on Instagram and you will understand where comes from and where he stands.
Frank had not really thought of combining his professional training as an artist and his love for motorbikes until he worked on a drawing which was supposed to end up tattooed on a client’s forearm. When this customer had second thoughts a friend suggested Frank to paint the picture on the tank of his motorbike. That’s when the ball really started rolling.
The painter decided the best way forward was to meet up with his audience in person, rather than to rely solely on the digital world. Festivals and shows are the most logical places to display his art and skills and he finds it an important way to get in touch with potential customers.
However, both word of mouth and social media channels have proven to be as effective to for Frank in encountering new clients. Frank loves clients sharing ideas and suggestions on a design they have in mind for their machines or clothing. But to get the best of his creativity, just give him the outlines and let the magic happen.
Asked about his ‘unlimited art dream’ Frank responds he would love to ride around Europe on his bike and paint bikes all over the place on invitation by a bonanza of clients! Whilst on the subject of dreams, we prodded a bit further and wanted to find out if there is anyone famous he would like to create something special for. Although he might not be universally be recognized, Frank says the lead singer of the ‘Wooden Shjips’ is an inspiration to him.
“Eric ‘Ripley’ Johnson has a gift for seamlessly translating feelings into music” Frank explains. “I would love to create something utterly psychedelic with a hallucinating effect. Unfortunately, I have no idea if the guys even ride a bike, but a jacket would do fine too” Frank laughs.
Sources of inspiration
While answering our follow up question on icons, the Easterner in Frank surfaces again. Neither Marlon Brando nor James Dean is seen as iconic by our artist. Even worse, he finds them both “exasperating”! OK, let’s give ‘The Fonz’ or Steve McQueen a try then. His instantaneous reply is “McQueen obviously! He was an authentic biker!”
Frank has some intriguing sources of inspiration. When we spoke about this he mentioned old ‘Eastern bloc’ poster art and architecture as prime examples. Reason; they have very clear lines and shapes. Also, the images deliver a strong sense of the atmosphere of the period in which they were produced. Moving further towards the Mediterranean, our friend also appreciates the work of Sergio Toppi, an Italian cartoonist who’s ‘70s work includes “big, fat an lazy lines” as Frank describes it.
When concluding the interview, Frank comes with an interesting closing statement: “Perfection is boring” he says. “I find it sad when people prefer machine-made stuff, just because it is flawless. They miss the essence and the beauty of truly handmade art, with all the little imperfections that are sometimes the personal signature of an artist. I pledge for an ode to the paint brush and all the little strokes, lines and spots left behind by it. BAM!”