Inside the Studio

Sophie Walraven creates bright, happy works inspired by the everyday

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

The start of my life was filled with too many rough experiences for a little kid. I developed strange ways to survive: I pretended to be just fine, I acted unbreakable and smiled. Although I’m not bothered by my past anymore, these ways became a part of me and ooze through in my work. I’m a clown but also deeply hate injustice and everything that’s fake and dishonest.

That is exactly what my work is about, I show the happy side, I chase true joy and energy and at the same time vulnerability and honesty. It is very double. But art is easily unmasked when it is not sincere. My work is about reality and the fragile bright side.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

At art academy, my graduation exhibition was very contemporary and all about concept, it contained film, installations and a street art animation. I learnt how to observe and think about my work, and how to develop my style and find my voice. I was taught how to deeply study concept and image. Some years after art school, I switched from spatial work to paper and canvas. No more film and installations but still a lot of street art. It was easy to find my own language on canvas and because no teachers had taught me how to paint or draw, I was completely free in my new medium. I’m in it for the freedom.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

I’ve always had a specific personal way of drawing. And my line grows along the way. It becomes more direct, more secure. For me it’s fun to see my handwriting evolve. That is another main reason why I do this, I love to watch it grow, to see where it’s going. It’s addictive.

It won’t surprise me if in the end, one day, my work will be abstract. It goes there sometimes, but I’m not ready for it yet, though it is fun to experiment with. Also very important is that even though I make my living with art, that does not and has never in any way influenced my work. I find it majorly important that my work is made free of the thought of anything to do with money.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

I paint because I’m curious. It starts with the question ‘What if…?’ What if I draw this. What if I paint that with only two colors, what if I stop halfway, what if. I paint a lot from real life straight on the canvas, sometimes I sketch first and use that for the painting. I never use a projector, the lines have to be dynamic and personal. It happens sometimes that the sketch is better than the painting. My sketches and line drawings are a league of their own, I’ve opened a drawings-only account for them:

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

David Hockney is great for his work and his ways. He is playful and unstoppable even at his age. He really has fun at it. He took very unpopular carrier moves and has never let the public decide what to make. No pretentious blabla. So authentic.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

Music helps me silence my demons. I listen to music that has humor in both lyrics and the music itself, like Talking Heads and Ween or the Dutch Jeugd van Tegenwoordig. And I like sexy funk, and angry raps like Eminem’s “Cleanin’ out my closet”. I dance a lot in my studio, in between and during work.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Take your work seriously. Not yourself, but your work.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?

I would be out there planting trees. I would build forests.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.