Pierre Sentjens is an artist and painter living in Brussels, Belgium. X-RAY MAG caught up with him to find out the secrets behind his luminous paintings of the sea.
X-RAY MAG: What made you go into art and become an artist, and where did you receive your education and training in art?
PS: I owe my first encounter with art and the sea to my grandfather, who was a decorator as well as a sailor and a fisherman. I was five when he started taking me regularly to the seashore, on the breakwaters, to watch the North Sea, and he taught me a lot of things about tides, currents and safety. Often I sat on his lap to draw ships and the flora and fauna.
Later, I studied art at the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels. After graduating in 1970, I began to teach plastic arts in secondary schools. Today, I lead watercolour workshops in one of the leading Belgian Art shops. I have also bought and restored a sailboat to escape everyday life and enjoy the swell and spray.
Art has always been my first interest, and therefore, I made it a career. I started with oil painting, but I soon preferred the natural side of water. That’s why I chose watercolour as well as acrylic paint as my media.
X-RAY MAG: Where do you find your inspiration and materials?
PS: From time to time, I happen to gather “relics”, kinds of collections of driftwood and forgotten tools, polished and worn away by the sea. These “relics” are a kind of link between environment, man and the flora and fauna, as they all share the same destiny of life and death.
Sometimes, to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps, I decorate tables or walls, preferably with marine life elements.
X-RAY MAG: Is there an artist, movement or idea that inspires your work?
PS: I’m often considered an unclassifiable artist. I would say that, together with photography and Land-Art, nature, more than anything else, influences my work, especially in its most spectacular phenomena, such as storms, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes … I’m said to swing from heat to cold, from entrancing calm to roaring storms.
X-RAY MAG: Why did you choose the subject matter you paint?
PS: I’ve always had a special relationship with water. Wherever I travel, I’m attracted to the sea, to rivers, lakes or lochs, especially in areas where man is unobtrusive or where bad weather puts off tourists.
X-RAY MAG: What is your artistic statement or philosophy?
PS: My whole life is based on artistic creation. As I marvel at nature and I’m deeply interested in its conservation, I’d like to aim at the younger generation, at those children who will live in a future where our world may have lost its most valuable assets. Here are my two mottos:
1. Only your own footsteps are harmless.
2. When you retrace your steps, the world will have changed.
X-RAY MAG: Tell us your thoughts about the sea and the underwater world.
PS: I love and respect the sea. I’ve been fascinated by the sea since I was a child. All the seas I crossed appealed to me—the winds of the Orcads in the North of Scotland, the emerald waters of the Caribbeans, the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, the unfathomable Atlantic, the volcanic shores of the Canaries where water and fire fight so beautifully, or simply the loneliness of the long misty beaches of the North Sea. I have sailed, swum and fished. I have liked seamen all over the world and shared their meals, supplied by the sea, with delight.
I hope my art can contribute to ocean conservation, as all my paintings express the same message, namely “Wondering is the first step towards respect”.
X-RAY MAG: Are you a scuba diver?
PS: I’m not very good at diving, but I’m used to scuba diving. With a mask and a pair of flippers, anyone can discover a part of the underwater beauties. I’ve been deeply moved by the corals of Bocas del Toro in Panama or the Cunas Indians on San Blas Islands. I’ve fallen in love with the Canarian volcanic cliffs, particularly those of Punta Restinga on Hierro, one of the favourite spots of accomplished divers.
X-RAY MAG: Where would you like to dive next and what would you like to see underwater?
PS: My dream would be to meet wild whales (before the Japanese fleet exterminates them!)
X-RAY MAG: What is your next project, or projects?
PS:: I’ve written and illustrated two books, and my next project is to have them published. The first one is about the sea and is intended for holiday-makers. It contains all they should know about natural phenomena, nature conservation, safety, jobs of the past, wildlife, fishing and also some of the most famous recipes of sea fish, shells and seafood from the North Sea and the Atlantic. The second book is a collection of quotations and texts by well-known people who have devoted their lives to the conservation and the glorification of every biotope on our planet. This book also reminds us of the wisdom of all these ethnic groups who were able to live in perfect harmony with nature.
X-RAY MAG: Tell us about your classes and workshops.
PS: I share my passions through my works and art classes. Through watercolour, I make people dream of far away places. I teach how to observe and to appreciate in order to understand and respect people and their environment.
X-RAY MAG: How can people take part in your classes and workshops?
PS: To take part in an art class or a workshop or to arrange an exhibition of my work, people can contact me on my website www.pierresentjens.be ■
"I hope my art can contribute to ocean conservation, as all my paintings express the same message, namely, 'Wondering is the first step towards respect.'"
— Pierre Sentjens