This is the first in a series of interviews we are doing with the contributing artists at ACME Speed Shop. We hope you enjoy. Interview with Ger Peters of Dutch Courage 1. How long have you been doing art? I have always loved to draw. I remember as a kid, with crayons, drawing animals on the wallpaper, much to the dismay of my mom and dad. I had a fair amount of talent and in school; I was always referred to as "the boy that draws so well". I've been doing art professionally for eight years, the first five years working a job as a technical illustrator and the last three years as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. 2. How did you first get started? From the kid's drawings, there's just a seamless progression to the art and illustration work I'm doing now. Besides being good at drawing, I was a pretty good student in school as well. As I had never really thought of making a career out of my drawing talent, I went to Business School instead of Art School. I trained to be a sales- and marketing manager. When I was in Business School, I was asked to go to work for the school paper doing layout and illustration which I did. I had a lucky break when I landed my Business School traineeship at a correspondence school where they had an in-house graphic studio, reproduction darkroom and printing shop. It was a pretty cool place to work. Pretty soon, I was doing illustration and layout work for their courses and advertising, besides conducting the marketing research that I was supposed to be doing for my graduation. They were preparing, believe it or not, a correspondence course on the Art of Juggling. I did all the illustrations for that course, you know, drawing a lot of hands holding playing cards and coins and all that. It was pretty funny. In that correspondence school graphic studio, I was first introduced to desktop publishing and computer drawing. I bought my first Macintosh computer: It only had a very small black and white screen but it was a start... 3. What was your first commercial job? I think the first time I did artwork for money was a commissioned airbrush piece that I did for a brother of a buddy of mine. The guy was an amateur scuba diver and he wanted me to paint an underwater scene of a diver fighting a shark on his scuba bottle. The artwork came out very nice; I think I spent 30 hours on it. However, in the end I managed to spoil the whole effect: I felt the airbrush art needed to be protected by a nice heavy coat of clear varnish... But I didn't have a spray gun large enough to clear-coat the piece, let alone clear-coat the whole bottle. So what I did was mask off a square around the airbrushed piece with masking tape and apply some heavy coats of clear with a paint roller... The art was well protected now alright... like it was under glass... But when I removed the masking tape, the edges of the clear coat laid on so thick that the whole deal looked like a cheap sticker instead of a one-off custom designed airbrush paint job... the guy was not happy at all. But he paid for the work anyway. Here's a picture of the piece; the photograph was taken before I messed it up with the clear coat. 4. When did you first start referring to yourself as an artist? After graduating from Business School, I got my draft notice and had to join the army for a full year. I'm not exactly the military type you know: I'm just no good at taking orders. Like every real Dutchman, I'm always questioning authority. They made me a desk clerk, sitting at an office desk all day long. That gave me a lot of spare time to do some drawing. In those days, I was into Ed Roth style monster drawings and I started to do my own versions of the black and white T-shirt designs of the weirdo's in the hot rods. My drawing didn't stay unnoticed: Eventually, I was doing T-shirt designs and tattoo designs for my army buddies, "nose art" for the trucks, as well as painting a large mural on a wall inside the bar room of the unit. After my service in the army was over, I went home and had a stream of odd jobs: Some were graphic-design related, some not at all; I worked briefly at a McDonald's restaurant, at a textile screen-printing shop, as a factory worker in an anodizing plant for aluminum and as an upholsterer at a furniture factory. I never lasted long and never really fit in any of the positions. Here in Holland, we use a specific expression when a person has this type of 'career-pattern': "Twelve Trades and Thirteen Disasters". I was unemployed and without income between jobs several times, living at my parents' house, just concentrating on my artwork. By that time, it was pretty evident that I would never be an executive/corporate guy and that I would never be a marketing manager or a sales manager or any of that, in spite of finishing that education. At that point, I wished I had gone to Art School instead. So all the while that I had been working these odd jobs, I had been creating artwork in my spare time. I had a nice little portfolio of hand drawn black and white cartoon stuff and I had done some color paintings as well. I went to a job interview looking for desktop publishing work. The job interview was at a start-up firm specializing in technical documentation. They produced documents like operating manuals and spare parts catalogues for the machine building industry... so I'm showing them my portfolio filled with monster art and car cartoons... play a tiny bit of bluff poker about my computer skills maybe... and guess what; They hire me for the full-time position of technical illustrator... I would be doing the drawing in Adobe Illustrator... oh oh... gulp... I had no technical drawing experience whatsoever, no Adobe Illustrator experience and really didn't have a clue what I was getting myself into... In a very short period of time, I had to teach myself the basics of technical isometric projection drawing and catch up on my computer skills. But everything came together fine and it worked out alright for me. I really liked the job and I ended up working there for five years before their main client decided to farm out the illustration work to India where labor is a lot cheaper. Sadly, they had to let me go... With my new-found computer skills from that job, I had built a little home-page for myself to showcase my artwork and paintings; I wrote a little biography for that home-page and I think that is the first time that I actually referred to myself as an artist. 5. What was the first piece of work you sold and do you know where it is today? I never was into the gallery circuit where original art is marketed but I do get a lot of invitations to participate in shows now, mostly kustom kulture art shows. Since most all my work is created digitally now, I usually don't have much original art on display. Instead of original work, I usually have some very high quality art prints on canvas on display of my digital stuff. It is not my primary objective to sell these canvas-prints but rather to promote my illustration work in general with a view to generating some leads for future commissions. 6. Is art your primary business or is there anything else that you do for living? We have two little kids now, a boy and a girl; Koen and Vera. Since my wife Claudy is very professional and has always held good, steady jobs, we decided that I would become a stay-at-home dad after I got fired from my technical illustration job. That is when I founded my freelance studio "Dutch Courage Graffix". I work on my artwork when the house is quiet. The artwork is all I do besides the housekeeping... thank goodness for my professional wife or we would all be starving hahaha... I hope to expand my illustration and design business further and work it full-time after both kids are older and are off to school during daytime. 7. Are there any special works that you would like to share with our audience or perhaps some new ones that have not been published elsewhere? Eh, yeah, as a matter of fact I do; I have a couple of bad-ass new hot rod T-shirt pieces that I finished recently: One is a design for ladies shirts and the other a wild "punk rock" piece... I'm kinda on the look-out for a buyer... thought maybe you guys might be interested hahaha... Anyway, I took the liberty of adding the ACME lettering to present them here... 8. What's your media of choice? I used to work in traditional media like enamels, India ink and oil- and acrylic paint. I also had a friend of mine weld me a screen-printing press and I printed some T-shirts of my own designs. I used my airbrush to color in the black line-art on the shirts. Today, most of my work is commissioned artwork for clients and rendered with help of the computer. Ninety-five percent of my work is done in Adobe Illustrator. Other applications that I use are Photoshop and recently Painter. Being the freak perfectionist that I am, Illustrator is the ultimate tool for me: You get the precision of vector graphics combined with multiple Undo's... 9. What are some other tools/supplies/mediums that you primarily use for your work? I use a light table to trace my sketches and stuff; I still like to do my sketches by hand. My computer is an old Apple iMac with a pressure sensitive graphic tablet from Wacom for drawing. I also use a scanner/printer and that's pretty much it these days. 10. What, besides your art, brings you creative fulfillment? Gee, dunno really; it's pretty much the artwork 24-7. But I have a hot rod project sitting in the garage waiting for some creative input; it's a 1930 Ford Model A coupe but that project is sort of on hold for now; waiting for time and money and a sense of urgency... 11. What are your motivations for creating? The creative urge is an 'intrinsic' thing; it has always been a part of me. I think I'm a bit of an alchemist in a way; you know, trying to make gold out of lead... or an animated soul out of mud... I'm always thinking about my projects and working; it's what I am about... There is indeed a metaphysical aspect to creating: When you're all by yourself and undisturbed, working, sometimes on rare occasions, you arrive at a state where it is no longer your conscious you that is performing and working... the work just 'happens' all by itself. You're in this "flow" so to speak, where you find yourself transcending space and time. You are at peace with yourself and the world and feel connected to the universe... I guess only those who have experienced it will know what I'm talking about; many will probably write this off as a load of utter BS... I'm fine with that. Other artists that I have talked to and who know it have referred to this state as "The Zone" or "The Fix". 12. How do you know when a piece you're working on is done? Yeah, it's that old dilemma: "a painting never gets finished, just abandoned". I guess you just keep adding strokes until you see no more improvement. With digital artwork it's just the same really; I just keep adding stuff until I start deleting everything that I'm adding. The level of detailing depends on the purpose the piece has to serve of course. Actually, I spend a huge amount of time perfecting stuff; making minor "improvements" no one will ever notice. But that's just me... 13. What are some of your artistic goals for the future? The challenge for me is find more of a healthy balance between traditional media work and digital work. It sometimes bothers me that, at the end of the day, you hardly have anything to show for all the hard work and the countless hours you have spent in front of the monitor. All there is is some digital file in some virtual reality... Maybe I should dust off my old oil-paintbrushes or try my hand at pin striping... not sure yet. As far as artistic goals go: I just want to keep improving my skill level and maybe add another drawing style or technique to my repertoire: I like looking at old magazine ads and illustrations as a source of inspiration and to study the style and technique of vintage graphic design and illustration. I'm sure some of it will eventually find its way into my own work. In general, I'm just striving to produce stuff that has some kind of 'wow-factor' to it, no matter if the work is in traditional media or digital. 14. What other artists or movements influence your work? When I was a kid, I was very much into cowboys and Indians. I remember a library-book that I borrowed over and over again; I loved it for the illustrations, a lot of them reproductions of paintings by famous western artists Charles Russell and Frederick Remington. When the custom-van craze hit Holland, I was heavily into the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo: Their paintings were often copied on custom painted vans by airbrush artists. Later, I found out about car builder/innovator/artist Ed "Big Daddy" Roth from the American custom van and hot rod magazines that I read. I guess I got a bit 'under the influence' of Roth's alter ego Rat Fink. I ordered some Roth 'how-to' books on airbrushing and pin striping and some Rat Fink paraphernalia from Mooneyes. Then, late one night, as I was zapping television channels, I dropped right into the middle of this show where a Dutch TV-journalist was doing an interview with some artist from Los Angeles who also drove a hot rod. I only saw a glimpse of that television show and I didn't catch the name of that artist, but what I had seen about this guy and his art intrigued the hell out of me. As I found out later, this artist, of course, was the founding father of Lowbrow Art: the infamous Robert Williams. The oil paintings by Williams just blew me away. Later still, I wasn't just looking at car-magazines but also at comics, tattoo and biker magazines, skateboarding and surf magazines and experimental graphic design magazines. Many titles that I used to buy back then have long perished: Sin, Hypno, Beach Culture, Bikini, Raygun and ART! Alternatives for example. Later, I subscribed to Williams' lowbrow-art mag Juxtapoz Magazine which is still in circulation. It were these magazines that really introduced me to what was going on from a cultural perspective in the US, most notably on the West Coast with it's unique mix of Psychedelic, Hippie, Surf, Custom-car, Hot-rod, Tattoo, Chicano, and Rock 'n Roll/Rockabilly subcultures. Some other heroes besides Ed Roth and Robert Williams; the usual suspects: Ed Newton, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Kenneth "Von Dutch" Howard and The Pizz, among others. Lately, I've been looking a lot at the work of our very own Dutch underground artist of international fame: Peter Pontiac. These artists all have had a huge influence on my work. Today, I look at the art of many kustom kulture artists; from pinstripers to photographers and from sign painters to graphic designers. I spend many hours looking at other people's work, just absorbing it. The Friday Art Shows on the H.A.M.B. message board where artists from around the globe show off their creations, have been a very important opportunity for me in getting to know other artists and their work as well as in getting international recognition for my own work. 15. When you start a new design, no matter whether it is for work or your own personal portfolio, what are the first things you do? A new project usually starts with an idea or mental picture that is strong enough to get me into gear and grab a pencil and a piece of paper... If it's commissioned work, the client usually provides a description, sometimes with accompaniment of photographs or examples. If I have to, I scout for reference material about the subject in either books or magazines or on the internet. After that, I start some sketches and try to 'capture' the original idea into a visual representation without losing too much spontaneity in the process... The first sketches are very quick and small, just thumbnails really. Sometimes, it is hard to get it just right right off the bat; it may take several sketch sessions to come up with just the right 'snapshot'. After I have come up with a thumbnail sketch that I think will work, I scan it, enlarge it and print it in order to trace it on a new piece of paper on my light box while refining and adding detail. I may repeat this process until I have a drawing that is detailed enough to use as a template and/or to show to the client as a rough draft in the case of a commissioned piece. 16. I know its probably hard to pick, but do you have a favorite out of the work that youve done? A favorite piece...? It is always your next piece that you promise yourself will be the ultimate masterpiece... I don't have a favorite work really; I work in several different styles, depending on what is required for a particular job; I give it my very best shot each and every time and I try to make every single piece of artwork 'count'. But of course, there will always be pieces that you get a bit frustrated with after a while. I sometimes rework older work to improve things and bring the piece up to par. 17. What kind of projects are you working on of your own right now? I have a couple more ideas for hot rod T-shirt art that I'd like to get cracking on but I'm too swamped with client work right now. But then, of course, there's always the website that needs to be updated... and then there's the house that needs a new coat of paint... and the hot rod project that has been on hold for far too long... 18. What advice would you give for artists who are just starting out? I would recommend anyone who aspires to be an artist to very closely study the work of other artists. Especially pay close attention to the artists who rank at the top in what they do. Then be determined to be at least as good as they are - eventually. Get to work and hopefully, a personal and unique style of your own will start to emerge. Use the internet to showcase your work. Join online social groups and message boards. Work hard and put in that little extra effort in each piece you do. If you have to, get a side job to at least have a steady source of income to pay the rent, especially if you have mouths to feed... Art supplies and computer equipment or whatever else you might need to produce the work often aren't exactly cheap either... Don't be at all surprised if suddenly you find that the old cliché of the 'starving artist' applies to you... 19. And lastly, a fun question! All artists have their quirks. Name one of yours. Gee quirks... I dunno... But let me tell you about a practical joke me and a buddy pulled over a decade ago: I was still living at my parents house back then: we lived in a tiny town in a rural part of Holland. The townspeople, for the most part, being pretty narrow-minded, God-fearing and law-abiding citizens... well, you get the idea, right? Anyway, I became curious about marihuana but I didn't know where to get it, other than grow it myself. So I went to the city and got myself 10 hemp seeds in a back-alley grow shop. They were the real deal and cost their weight in gold: Top notch Dutch "Nederwiet" (Nether-Weed) cannabis seeds. My parents had a large garden where they would grow fruit and vegetables; I put the seeds in the earth, not expecting much really... But lo and behold, the 10 tiny seeds quickly became seedlings and started growing like crazy; within no time, there was a giant bush of enormous marihuana plants in the back of our garden. My dad was not amused but since the plants were not visible from the road, he left them alone. I didn't know the first thing about growing weed... later someone pointed out to me that the male plants need to be removed from the seedlings to prevent the female plants from getting fertilized and running into seed later on. And sure enough, that's what had happened: The giant plants had run into seed and were useless. So that was the end of that experiment and I kind of lost interest... My dad was an avid fisher and hemp seeds can be used as fishing lure. So when my dad cleared the plants, he harvested the seeds with the intention of using them for fishing bait. He collected almost a bucket full of seeds, dried them and put them away. The next year, I had a buddy over at my house one night and we were talking when we came up with the prank: The idea was to take the marihuana seeds that my dad had saved and 'Dust the Town'... So that's what we did: We waited till after dark and started walking down town, our pockets chock-full of marihuana seeds. We dropped a little handful in every bare spot of earth that we could find: We 'dusted' the church yard, the municipal flower beds, private gardens, the park, stray flowerpots; everything until we ran out of seeds. Perhaps you can imagine the bewilderment of the townsfolk a few months later when marihuana plants had popped up all over town... People wondered what the heck had happened and if the town had been taken over by some kind of drug-cartel... And thus I and my buddy instigated the "Big Municipal Weed Eradication" of 1996: They're still talking about that... P.S. By the way; I'm not into drugs or anything; I don't smoke and hardly even drink any alcohol. ACME Speed Shop's interview with Ger Peters 11/2009.