Posting this for my dad.
My name is Gabriel Gressie (1959) and I live in a small rural town in the North of the Netherlands, called Stadskanaal. I’ve been married to my wife Gerda since 1980 and together we have 6 sons.
Ever since I was a small child I knew I wanted to be an artist. I have been painting ever since I can remember. I envision a painting in my head and thus begins the challenge to find the right objects and get them on the panel as realistic as possible. The technique is absolutely paramount to me, although I’m never truly satisfied – to this day I’m still trying to improve my methods.
Making a painting takes quite some time, which is also part of the reason I never got to make a very large project; until December 2014. I received a commission from a wealthy client and collector of antique toys to paint a gigantic work, 2 x 2 meter, and with it a deadline until April 2017. I got the chance to work carelessly on such a project for 2 years which felt like a dream come true. All my life I’ve been waiting for such an opportunity. I spent the next few days on cloud number 9 until practical problems brought me back to Earth. My former ‘studio’ was literally part of our bedroom, I had my easel and my equipment nicely tucked into a corner where I did my work. A panel of such sheer size simply wouldn’t work! We had to convert our guesthouse into my new studio, where my son was living at the time. It was the only place the panel would fit. Soon the initial drawing would commence which would prove to be quite the challenge. I had never worked on such a monumental scale before – a self-made easel to even bear the weight of the panel had to be made. To reach the top of the panel I had to drag the outdoor patio table and place my chair on it. All the while working with brushes containing just a few hairs. There were days I spent 4 hours with my head almost pressed against the ceiling just working on a couple of square cms.
I had received a lot of source material from my client of his private collection to incorporate into the painting, it did take a whole lot of time to get the initial layer of just the drawing done. I enjoyed every second of it, seeing how the piece took shape day after day, idea after idea. Truly a magical time for me.
Until July 19th, 2015. Around midnight I started feeling very uncomfortable with a tight knot in my chest. I actually drove myself to the hospital because driving relaxes me but once there they told me my blood pressure was through the roof and I was slowly suffocating in the accumulation of fluid in my lungs. I have had hypertension for quite awhile before it but it had reached critical level. After a night in IC, induced in artificial sleep, the investigations began. Heart failure was immediately found. This took me over a month to feel even slightly better and optimistic to resume work.
Medicine did their work and I needed to relax again with a minuscule brush in my hand. Back to the studio again it was, I had time and courage to start the coloring phase. This is the most exciting phase of course. The whole painting starts to come alive, just as I felt after the hospital. It rejuvenates, it invigorates! Again the troubles reaching every bit of the panel. Sometimes standing up on the garden patio, sometimes sitting on a chair on it, sometimes removing the table and standing up, sometimes on my knees.
There are many issues I wouldn’t think I’d face. For example, I was used to polish my painting between every layer so as to smoothen out the layers so I could paint minute details on the top layer. I normally do the polishing with ground pumice and a piece of felt underneath a trickling faucet. This, of course, was now impossible. I figured I let gravity do its trick and let my son drop droplets of water run down the top while I polished. It takes some serious improvisation with such a huge panel. In summer 2016, after a great holiday in the south of France, I started experiencing heavy back pain. At first I blamed it on the unnatural positions I had to take while painting this work, on a chair being on a table and even then in awkward positions. Just to be sure I went to the hospital and immediately I was hospitalized. I found out I had diabetes and kidney failure. I’ve spent a week in the hospital and had to learn to use insulin.
Thank goodness I recovered fairly soon and within a few weeks I had no longer need for insulin. I’m on a low carb diet now, eating a whole lot of fresh produce and reducing salt to a minimum because of the blood pressure. My kidneys are stable and I feel fine. This whole ordeal took a lot of time and I still have panic attacks now and then.
The last few months I worked 14 hours a day to finish this piece and I can happily say I did it. On March 12th, 2017, at 9pm I put the final stroke on the greatest work I’ve ever done.
More info: gabrielgressie.nl
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