Herman is an artist, sculptor and metal fabricator originally from Belgium. He now lives and creates in the U.S.
When did you first start as an artist?
When I was pretty young. I was born in Belgium and at my sister’s urging I went on to study at the Flemish Art Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. The school’s focus was mostly painting back in the 60’s. The other mediums they taught were plaster and clay, which didn’t excite me.
Did you go to art school or have you taken art classes?
As I said, I was at the Flemish Art School for 4 or 5 years. In the late 60’s, I traveled around Europe for 8 years. After that, I met my wife and we got married in Scotland. She is American and wanted to come back so we eventually moved to the US in 1974. When I came here, I went to work for Saunders of Saunders farm. That’s where I learned metal work and got involved in making sculptures. This was during the late 70s and early 80s. In the mid 80s, I started my own company, which makes artwork, sculptures, and furniture. The business today is called Metconix and is now in Beacon. It doubles as a metal studio for me while I do most of my painting at home.
Who or what inspired you?
In terms of metal — different art foundries. I liked seeing what happens in the foundry. Through this process, I got better at metal work — not the casting process – but the fabrication process. Our business today is strictly fabrication. In 1999, I started Collaborative Concepts as an indoor gallery in Beacon (until it got too expensive). At Saunders 100-acre farm, we do a major outdoor sculpture show every year (this is our 8th).
What medium do you work in and why?
I work in everything – oil, acrylic and metal. Between oil and acrylic, I prefer oil, although sometimes I mix the two.
What is your creation process like?
For me, the process itself is the enjoyment. I usually start off with a vague goal but during the process this changes. The process is more important than the end product. I never set out to make a product. I start over if I don’t like the end. I switch back and forth between metal work and painting. If I don’t enjoy what I am working on, I move away from it.
With metal it is more disciplined and I do have a goal in mind, which may change during the process but less drastically. In metal, the parameters are harder to move and it is a much slower process. I don’t want to be stuck in a routine and I never want art to be chore. I may start a painting and put it aside. Some paintings take years to finish. In metal, I make a new piece every year for the Saunders farm show. The style of piece is based on where it is installed, the need to survive the weather and the livestock.
How do you describe your style?
Mostly I would say, it’s representational, up to a point. When I paint, nothing is abstract while my sculptures may be abstract. By adding a third dimension, I can do abstract but most of my work is representational art.
Do you find it difficult to title your pieces?
Yeah, I find it difficult. I also find it difficult to find places to show them, and market them. I am not interested in selling my work. I paint and make art for myself but I’ve run out of room and need to sell more art to make room. I prefer to give it away. Currently, I have a show upstairs at Ramiro’s. It was placed through the Look Gallery and I also show work through the BAU gallery in Beacon.
What’s your favorite piece?
Well, I have an early sculpture that is a figurative bust of my wife. I have other favorite pieces that are long since sold. Most of my good paintings I sold and I miss them.
Where are your favorite places to see art?
I like the Guggenheim, all of Italy, the Louvre, but mostly, I like normal settings for art. For example in England and Scotland, several hundred artists installed art around the country. It was the inspiration for sculpture on the farm when I saw the farm of Henri Moore in Wales with live sheep wandering among the sculptures. I enjoyed the works of David Smith shown in and around the Storm King Art Center, giving the art an impromptu feel.
Who are your favorite artists (current and historic)?
Some of them are artists you don’t know. Among traditionally recognized artists, my favorites include Rubens, of course, from the same town in Belgium, and Rodin as a sculptor. I also really like the work of Clement Meadmore, who died about five years ago — very clean and modern.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I am starting on the piece for the Saunders farm show on Labor Day and another for a show in October in Cortlandt Manor. Sculpture is always a slow process. I am also working on a show for Look Gallery. That show will be mostly paintings. I am working on a new kind of painting with three layers separated by plexi-glass. This gives it a three-dimensional appearance and a sense of movement.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
I think everything is a challenge: starting a painting with a goal that is never reached – the ability to take accidental color and go with it. I am sometimes commissioned to do portraits, and people then have an expectation so you are stuck having to make what the public wants — that can be a challenge. So it is good that I don’t have to use my art as income. It is a shame that more artists don’t sell more work and get paid more so they can produce more.
What has been the impact of the Putnam Arts Council on you?
I am very thrilled with the Council. I was a member way back when, but then got very involved in another part of the County. The last several years, they have offered me a lot of attention. They installed an outdoor sculpture of mine. Art on the Lake has chosen a sculpture as well. The Council has always supported the Saunders farm show. It has been a very important outlet to help make people aware of my work as an artist. I thank the Art Council for that.