Pascal Janssen‘s talent for creating faces makes it hard to believe he’s just 21 years old. The Belgian artist paints, draws and collages features with so much emotion in them, each face nearly breathes with life.
He mostly draws portraits of his friends, occasionally including a favorite musician. He captures those moments of revelation and self-doubt as each new set of eyebrows and chins depict them, emphasizing each subtlety to reveal a depiction truer than a photograph.
“My artwork is mostly based on the mind of the human being, how it’s perception on the world and itself is,” he writes.
Drugs and their affects also played a role in the formation of his work. Pascal seems fascinated by the changes drugs cause within the body, and how those changes manifest themselves in expressions.
Pascal was nice enough to answer my questions about his work, and how his fixation on the face began:
How has living in Belgium helped shape your art? What do you like most about Hasselt?
Even though art in Europe is more active in Berlin, Belgium is also a nice place for an artist. You have a lot of art schools around the country. My parents sent me to art classes since I was in kindergarden, it was once a week and just for fun.
I quit those art classes when I went to high school in Hasselt where I did visual arts. I really loved it there and had a great time, the people there were a lot more open minded than they were in middle school. I really hated middle school, some teachers even mocked me for planning to go to art school.
But I couldn’t care less, I always wanted to be an artist. And for now I’m studying at an art college, just next to my high school. I’ve always loved Hasselt. It’s not the most interesting place in Belgium like Gent, Antwerp or Brussels. But I do feel safe there, it feels like home. I currently live at Rekem, close to the border of the Netherlands where Maastricht is located. Maastricht is also a nice place for an artist, I had my first exhibition there with 7 other artists in September 2013 and planning to have my first solo exhibition there in April 2014.
When did you first start creating portraits? Can you remember the first person you ever painted?
I don’t really remember, I probably had some assignments to paint or drew a portrait for school, but didn’t care about it cause I mostly just made what I felt like making. When I was in elementary school I drew a lot of cartoons but when I went to high school I mostly painted abstract paintings and when I was around 17 I really noticed I just love painting portraits.
And that was when I created “Ignorance is Bliss.” It’s a portrait of some stoner, to this day I still don’t know who this guy is but I thought it was kinda hilarious to paint him because my teachers back then hated anything that had something to do with drugs. Most of my work back then had references to drugs and sometimes it still does, because I still think it has some interesting factors like hallucinations, psychoses, addiction, depersonalisation, etc. I think making portraits is something I’ll always will love doing, but I’m always open to paint new things or use new techniques. I like to experiment a lot.
What do you love about reinterpreting the human face over and over again?
I never thought about that really, for me it’s more than just a face. It’s like I’m painting a complete person as he or she is, or just how I feel about them. I like painting my favorite musicians. Mostly musicians who make lyrics which reflect the thoughts and feelings in my life, like King Krule, I love the melancholy in his music. But I mostly love to paint my friends, like I said it’s more then just a face.
How long does it usually take to create each of your works, and what methods do you use to create them?
I mostly work in a fast tempo, it takes normally about an hour or 2, depending on size of course. And if I start working on a piece, I don’t stop untill it’s finished or else I just start all over again. I learned to paint this fast because I work a lot with watercolor. With that kind of paint you have to work fast and you cannot really correct mistakes.
My technique with watercolor also had an effect on my technique with painting in oil. I use a lot of terpentine on my oil paintings just like I use a lot of water on my watercolor paintings. I also don’t use white oil paint, instead I use gesso, a thick paint you actually use for preparation of your canvas. I never really liked working traditionally I guess.
What’s one of your favorite quotes about art and how do you see it applying to your own work?
The quotes of Vincent van Gogh are my favorites, they might sound cheesy but I love them: ” If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Criticism has always motivated me even if it came from within me. I’m not trying to be a better artist then somebody else, I’m just try to be better than myself.
“I feel that there is nothing more artistic than to love.” As the romantic person I am, love has always motivated me to paint.
“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars make me dream.” I’m also a very agnostic person who will question about anything, but I do have an endless fascination for the universe.