I’m Mandy van Goeije, a Dutch artist/teacher-with-a-mission. I teach art and journaling classes in which I encourage students to try and find story beyond the obvious. I love story. It’s the thing the human world is made of. It’s our WHY and HOW behind everything. It’s the mortar between the bricks of our existence. And…it’s also the mirror through which we see ourselves reflected in each other. So what’s interesting in art to me, is the story artists tell in their work.
I went to Art School for one year until I decided that I didn’t need to be formed and educated anymore. I knew what I wanted and I learned the skills by taking lessons from artists I knew and admired. You see, in Art School it was all about making Art with a capital ‘A’. It was all about conceptual thinking and the materialization of ideas. I was SO into that. Until I got back my first few assignments with no higher score than a ‘C’. The comments said: “Too illustrative!” I was so proud! I had managed to bring across the notion that I had handed in an illustration of a story. Great, right? Well, it was to me. But my teachers looked at my work slightly disdainfully. Illustration was a dirty word in Art School. Or in the Art School I went to, at least. My teachers reasoned that it was nonsensical to materialize a story that had already come into existence. Art in their view was only worthy of the name ‘Art’ if the story it was materialized organically through the development of the concept. Ehrm, okay….if WHAT?
Oh my gosh, my planet was further removed from theirs than I had expected. I tried to do as I was told for another half year, growing ever more proud of my illustrations and illustrative installations and then I packed my bag halfway through a school day and left. It was the day one of my fellow students had picked up a few discarded windows + frames he’d seen on a dump. He had dragged them into the classroom, attached the first four in a square on the floor and the second set of four on top of those, thus creating a tower. When he was done, we all had a sandwich together and we asked him about the meaning of his contraption. He almost spat out his sandwich when he burst into laughter. There WAS no meaning. He’d simply not done his homework and tried to save his royal behind by doing something outrageous on a whim. Guess what the teachers comments were later that afternoon? His tower was insightful, symbolic, powerful and THE best work EVER done in this Art School. The guy stood next to his tower with a smirk from ear to ear. He and we knew better. That moment blew the trust I had in my teachers and so I left to make the kind of art that I loved. I went to illustrate.
Art School was right about one thing, though. Art is about more than pretty pictures. Art reflects signs of the times and breathes the soul of the maker. It’s a reflection of what society is like and it underlines the challenges society faces at the time the piece was created. In other words, Art, or art without a capital ‘A’, for that matter, needs a story.
The Little Big World and me
The Little Big World is a free interactive challenge in which I invite you to tell your nature story and to weave that into art and life in a creative fashion in any way you like. Whether it’s the art of living, the art of caring or the art on your paper or canvas. When you discover your story about nature, you can start turning it into whatever form of art and thus inspire the world around you.To help you start up, I’ve come up with a 10-day challenge. For ten days I’m challenging you to share pieces of YOUR nature story and I’m also sharing mine. And I invite you to share anything you make in this challenge in our facebook group and on Instagram. Because secretly I want to help save the world and keep this a fantastic place for future generations. We as individuals may not be powerful enough to do it on our own, but I believe that if we join hands and spread the love, we can actually do a lot. So, will you join me in the group?