“No life worthy of the name consists of anything more than the continual series of struggles to develop one’s character through the medium of whatever one has chosen as a career.”



The Inspiration

I remember it like it was yesterday, it was a sunny Sunday morning on April 11th 2010. I was on my way home walking to the central station when I walked past the Rijksmuseum. Knowing that I was going to move to Paris that same year, I decided to finally visit the museum. Something I hadn’t done my entire 20 plus years of living in the Netherlands.

Still to this day I can recall the exact painting and the exact moment when the inspiration hit me. It was Stilleven met bloemen, by Hans Bollongier, 1639. There was something about the curvature of the tulips that got me enthralled and opened up my eyes to the hidden worlds inside the still life flower paintings. It was as though the inspiration was already in me the whole time, waiting for the right moment to present itself and blossom in my mind's eye. From that point on everything had changed.

In each and every bouquet of flowers there was a hidden world waiting to be discovered. Instantly I was drunk with possibility and excitement; with my head being flooded with ideas. Ideas of how I can bring these worlds into being and share them with the rest of the world.

Suddenly my vocation became clear to me, at that point on I knew I destined to spend a large part of my life bring these hidden worlds into the public’s eye. This is what has brought me here today.

Upon exiting the museum I decided to spend a whopping 11 Euros on a gift book - Bloemen Flowers - featuring some of the still life paintings from the museum. I still consider this to be the best investment I’ve made in my life!

The Process

Each image begins it’s life with an inspiration. Since I bought the Bloemen Flowers gift book back in 2010 all my inspirations have originated from this book alone. In order for a painting to inspire me it needs to have a certain level of detail with which I can work.  

Once I’ve selected the painting, I cover it with ordinary tracing paper - I never damage the original piece of art. I then begin to tease out the hidden patterns in the painting using blank ink marker pens - my favorite, and perhaps my second best purchase in my life, is the Copic Multiliner SP Black Ink Marker, 0.03 Tip, made in Japan. This process, depending on the detail, can take anywhere between one to three months to complete.

When I feel that the artwork is ready and I have no more detail to extract from the original painting, I move on to digitizing the image using Adobe Illustrator. I prefer to work digitally because it allows me to make very detailed refinements to the final artwork and it provides the greatest amount of flexibility when it comes to printing. This is the longest and perhaps the least exciting part of the work, taking anywhere between two to six months to complete. My minimum quota each day is to spend 25 minutes working, usually done before setting off to my normal daily job at the office.

Once the vector file is ready it’s finally time to print the artwork - the most exciting part of the work. My favorite paper to print on is Hahnemühle German Etching for it’s smooth fine texture which gives a crisp finish to the artwork.

The Dream

Until now all my images have been quite small: mostly focusing on one of two flowers at a time, or just a part of an entire painting. This is, of course, due to the fact that until now I’ve only been working out of the same Bloemen Flowers book.

My ambition is to one day do entire bouquets of flowers. This is why i’m incredibly grateful that the Rijksstudio has made its extensive catalogue of paintings available free online.

Having this goal creates both a lot of excitement and anxiety for me. A single flower or a single page out of the book usually takes me somewhere between two to three months to complete (the only exception to this was Johannes Schiotling 1772, because of it’s detail it took more than 6 months to complete). At this rate it might take me years before I get to finish my first entire bouquet, and I plan on doing a lot of bouquets!

My dream is to one day exhibit my work at the Rijksmuseum, alongside the paintings which had first inspired my work.


2017 International Rijksstudio Award Submission from Roman Stepanenko on Vimeo.