Paul Veenvliet is a biologist and wildlife artist, who loves to use art as a medium to tell about nature. His clear style is especially suited for field guides, interpretive signs, and education brochures. For Paul, it is important that even simple drawings accurately represent animals and plants, so each dot and every line has to be at the right place. Paul is an enthusiastic worker who welcomes new commissions.
For as long as I remember, I am drawing the animals and plants which I see around me. When I look back at my childhood drawings, I notice how little the themes and even my style have changed. Right from the start, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to show and how the final drawings should look. Take, for instance, the drawing on the right. I drew this when I was about 8 years old. It shows nature at night, with, clearly recognizable, a flying stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), a sleeping peacock butterfly with wings folded upwards so that only the blackish underside is visible (Aglais io), a flying eyed hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus), an unidentifiable moth and an actively crawling snail.
Much of my development as a wildlife artist was gradual, through many hours of daily practice. Just sometimes, in between, I made some major “jumps”, for instance by experimenting with a different technique. One of these was when I started to use photographs as a reference. This began when my parents took me to a photographer’s shop at age 12 or 13. They figured that I should explain myself what I expected from a simple camera, which they intended as a birthday gift. Imagine the shopkeeper’s surprise when a schoolboy states that his very first camera should come with a tripod and macro-lenses to photograph insects! From then on, I carry a photo camera wherever I go, because the best photo references are often pictures which I take myself.
Several years, I started to experiment with black-and-white “stippled” illustrations, a technique which I had seen on some illustrations by the Dutch artist Bas Teunis. It was with this combination of my own photo’s as a reference and the “stippling” technique that I made large series of drawings of the amphibians, reptiles, and freshwater fish of Western- and Central Europe. Eventually, these drawings became the basis for several identification guides, which are still used both in the Netherlands and in Slovenia.
The next large step was when I switched from pen-and-ink to digital art, made with the help of an illustrating tablet. I often still rely on my own photographs, and use the experience with “stippling”. But, suddenly, colours became an option for me. I was never much at ease with paint, and the felt pens from my youth have an unequal, “blotchy” outcome. Now, with the help of programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I could use exact colours with a “clean” uniform outcome. This characterises much of my current artwork.