The works of Maarten Oortwijn are an eclectic mix of drawing and photography, something often developing in singular directions and belonging to collage territory. Oortwijn’s mobile production is a significant part of his portfolio, but he is one of these people who are still more than eager to declare everlasting love for analog painting and photography. Even if these media are currently considered “dead” by many artists and photographers and in spite of the many difficulties aficionados encounter frequently — in retrieving films and specialty items, for example — analog is enjoying a renewed popularity among members of small but dedicated communities. Curiously enough, some of the most proficient mobile artists are also fervent analog enthusiasts.
Speaking of traditional media, Oortwijn remembers how his artistic endeavors date back to his early childhood, when he discovered one of his greatest loves: the classic ballpoint pen. “According to my parents I started to draw at the age of two when they gave me a Bic pen (still one of my favorite tools). Soon I began to draw everything I saw around me and on everything around me, when my parents weren’t fast enough with providing new paper,” he recalls, “Gradually I learned other techniques, like painting and etching, until at 25 I was painting murals of two hundred square meters. Nowadays I’m restricting myself to more modest sizes while earning a living as software engineer.”
Photo taking is yet another of Oortwijn’s interests. “I’ve got a Rolleiflex and an old battered but still working Nikkormat, but I’ve to admit I’m not using them that much at the moment,” he confesses, “Most of my time I spend on drawing and painting: I love the physical experience of painting and drawing, the feel and smell of the materials, and the bigger sizes.”
Oortwijn explains that he didn’t really go through a gradual digital transition before iPhoneography entered his life. This is not completely unusual for a number of artists who found themselves pretty much at ease with the latest mobile devices, without previously adopting other digital media. “In summer 2011 I started using an iPhone. By coincidence actually, I was browsing Flickr for pictures taken with a Rolleiflex after dusting off my own,” he remembers and continues, “While searching on square format I found a lot of beautiful pictures made with Hipstamatic and other iPhone apps. At that moment I also had to replace my old cell phone, so I chose an iPhone.” The process leading to his current style however was not immediate. “I started with taking straight Hipstamatic shots, but soon I began experimenting with other apps as well. Almost eleven months later I bundled a selection of the results in an iPhoneography book.”
As reflected by his art, Maarten’s arsenal contains apps covering a variety of uses for a multiplicity of needs: drawing and painting, collaging, photo editing, and adding special effects. “At the moment I’m using Paper53, Snapseed, Diptic, Image Blender, Photoshop Express, Etchings and Kaleidacam the most,” he says, “Paper53, discovered recently, is great for sketching, no special effects, no layers; you’re totally on you own. Image Blender I use for merging pictures. Diptic and Kaleidacam are great for creating patterns, and with Diptic you can also pump up the size of your image. Snapseed is an all-round image processing app with a very useful set of tools. Of Photoshop Express I mainly use the color invert and colorize options.” He leaves his very first app for last. “Hipstamatic I’m using most of the time for black and white photography, always with Claunch 72 Monochrome film and John S lens, sometimes in combination with a macro lens of Photojojo,” he says.
Oortwijn considers his art the result of an interaction with inspirational sources that change every time, a personal exploration on new ideas with no preconceived approach. “I’m working very intuitive. I rarely start with a fixed plan, and when I do I never stick to it (those times I did, the result was boring),” he admits, “New ideas always pop up while working on a picture, taking me in other directions. Inspiration is leading: sometimes it comes from seeing work of other people, or from music, street scenes, films,” and he adds, “Only with straight Hipstamatic photos I go on dedicated photo ‘safari’ now and then.” For this very reason, Oortwijn knows subjects and messages in his images are never clear-cut nor can they be summed up in a single sentence. “It’s hard for me to translate into words. It’s like making music, I just begin,” he says, “All kinds of impressions, experiences, images, colors I suck up like a sponge everyday seem to pour into my work. With black and white Hipstamatic photos I often like to show the beauty in simple everyday objects, like light falling through a glass of water.” Even without detailed explanations, ideas eventually find their way and this is the artist’s greatest satisfaction. “The reward comes when you see other people are moved by your work.”
Naturally, not all people are as receptive as artists would like, and this is especially true for “new” arts. “I still meet a lot of people who don’t know you can make art with your mobile or who think it’s inferior to the ‘real’ arts,” Maarten acknowledges, “At the same time mobile art is becoming more mainstream, and more and more people appreciate it.” And with appreciation comes involvement; communities are thus the way to go for beginners who need to experiment a lot before finding their personal style. “What I like about mobile art is it’s a growing community of people sharing their experiences,” Maarten asserts, “For inspiration look at all those great pictures on Flickr. There are also a lot of tutorials websites like The App Whisperer or iPhoneography Central. There is no fixed recipe, but you can learn a lot from the experiences of others. Try to find your own voice, you own style. Technique can be learned but finding your own voice can be hard, look at what really moves you.” Ultimately however, as Maarten puts it, achievement does not depend solely on the influence others may have on your vision, but on your own efforts. “Take risks, don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. Failure can lead to fantastic new ideas.”
All images courtesy of Maarten Oortwijn.