TUA: Where and how did you grow up; did this affect your ability to connect to and enter the art world?
Paulien: ’I grew up in Deurne, just 10 minutes outside of Antwerp. My parents had a butcher shop downstairs. My brothers and I had to entertain ourselves whenever my parents were hard at work. From an early age, I had strange hobbies like making potions of all different colors. I stacked them up in my bedroom and made a book that I soaked in coffee to give it a vintage look and filled it with instructions and drawings on how to use them and what they are for. When my mother saw me paint a pregnant woman with a see-through belly, instead of a princess, at the age of 7 she realized I had a talent that she needed to support. So on Saturday afternoons, I went to a kind of "craft club". My birthday and Christmas presents always were painting and drawing materials.
I was always impressed by my grandmother who made beautiful portraits of me when I visited her. I've always wanted to become just as good as Grandma. She was definitely an inspiration for me.
TUA: Did you do art school; which direction?
Paulien: I went to middle school in Oost-malle. It was super strict. I had to wear a uniform and could only study art at an ASO level. I had to focus on mathematics and languages more than on my art subjects. In primary school, I had already been diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysorthography, and ADD. I was never a good student and had to retake several subjects.
Once one of my teachers told my mom that I better find a rich guy so I could paint and cook and be the housewife while he brings home the money for the family.
Eventually, I ended up at SISA in Antwerp. A school where I could study all kinds of arts. Over there, a new world opened up for me. I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted and be whoever I wanted to be. I could finally flourish creatively.
The teachers seemed more like friends and treated me as a fellow adult, rather than a child. Unfortunately, I chose to follow the wrong career path by focusing on graphic art. After all, this would provide more job security in the future. After my 7th year of specialization in graphic design, I was admitted to the academy of Antwerp. Again I made the same mistake and focused on graphic design because I didn’t want to depend on "that rich guy". I didn't last very long and quit halfway through that first year. I wasn't motivated at all and I didn’t want to disappoint my parents any longer. I then started working in restaurants; became completely over-stimulated and lost my self-confidence and stopped making anything at all. When I look back, I think it is such a shame that I let myself be influenced by the words of that one teacher. I wanted to prove her wrong but did it the wrong way.
As children, we are so sensitive to criticism and get insecure very quickly, and this is not good for creative souls. I strongly feel that my creativity was undervalued and not supported enough. Yet, it is so important.
TUA: At this point, could you live off only your art?
Paulien: Currently, I can not make a living off my art alone. That would be great, but that's not my focus for now - I don't want to experience too much pressure, as I don't want to start making my works with the aim of selling. That's not who I am.
For a long time, I also had the feeling that I had to 'catch up' and that I was not yet where I wanted to be - because I felt insecure in, and ignorant of the art world, and like I needed to make up for the lost time. Since I work in Restaurants, I now have a lot of time to focus on my art and to develop further. I am also currently taking painting classes in the evenings.
I have a fantastic teacher who supports and stimulates me enormously to grow and create in complete freedom. Once it becomes possible again, I would love to put on an exhibition of my work in a fun and cheerful atmosphere. Nothing too serious. I want people to feel comfortable without all that blasé stuff! Because in the past, this has stopped me from going to exhibitions myself...'
TUA: Is there a project or artwork you have in mind but fear you will never execute because life is to short or money to little?
Paulien: I am working on a big project to finally get out of the daily grind I've been in for years. Going back to my old life is no longer an option. But it's too soon to tell you guys about it.
How mysterious, Paulien! Follow her on Instagram @polienc to stay updated about her progress!