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Philadelphia Collab

Online March 22.

Every year, graphic designer Ruud van Eijk spends his free time working on at least one art project of his own, a self-initiated project without any clients or deadlines. Every year it has to be a creative collaboration. Ruud: “This year I’ve chosen for a collaboration with a larger group. My neighbor, who works at Philadelphia, introduced me to this group of 19 children and adults with a mental disability. Within this special group, a lot of creative talent is blooming. I’ve come to see them as true artists and that’s why I also call them “artists”. For this project I thought it would be interesting to blend the unique styles of these artists into one work of art. By nature, this group is really pure and sincere, so collaborating with them was an amazing experience. It’s not an everday collaboration and at first I didn’t quite know what the final result would be.

“To prevent my art project from starting too broadly, I first decided to define a theme. While walking my dog down the streets of Amsterdam, I decided to grab a coffee. There, I stumbled across the flyer of the Rijksstudio Award. Since my collaborative project had already been set in motion, I thought this would be a perfect fit. Connecting my collaborative project to an art piece from the Rijksmuseum, how interesting!” The result of this project has been inspired by the painting “Jakob’s dream” from the Rijksmuseum. (Jacob Bos, after Rafaël, 1530-1580). “During a journey, Jakob falls asleep against a stone. He dreams about a staircase, reaching up high into the heavens, used by angels to ascend and descend.”

“Dreams can be abstract or very clear,” says Ruud, “but dreams can also be described and visualized. This perspective matched perfectly with the collaborative project, and that’s what you will see in the final result. We connected the dreams, wishes and memories of the artists and the sleeping Jakob from the print. (A part of Jacob Bos’s print is literally shown in one of our panels.) Hence, our theme is entitled: dreams, wishes and memories.” The group made a so-called triptych, a painting consisting of 3 separate panels of 1meter wide and 1,5meter high each. On the first (left) panel, the writings of the participating artists are shown. They all wrote down their dreams assisted by Ruud. The second and third panels were digitally assembled by Ruud. The second (middle) panel combines the painting of “Jakob’s dream” with the writings and drawings of the artists. The third (right) panel shows the visual translations (drawings) of the artists mentioned on the first panel. All participating artists visualized their dreams, shown in three stages on this triptych.

“We now live in a digital era, where we no longer see handwritings as often as we used to. Apart from the drawing skills of the collaborating artists, I was also very interested in their personal handwritings. A few of the artists couldn’t write, so instead they chose their favorite typeface so I could still include their texts on the print,” Ruud adds. “For example, take Sharif, one of the participating artists. Sharif is a 21-year-old boy. In a one-to-one conversation, Sharif told me he sometimes dreamed he was a merman and used his tail to swim under water. In big, graceful letters he wrote this down on the first panel. The drawing (for the third panel) was a beautiful self-portrait depicting him as merman. Every artist of this project has his or her own story and makes his or her own contribution.”

“My priority was to focus on a fun and inspiring time with the artists during the process, while still delivering a beautiful result. In my opinion, all the work of this group of artists should be taken very seriously. Participating in something as the Rijksstudio Award is a great way to help showcase them. Last November, Het Parool wrote an article on our project. We were pleasantly surprised by the exposure we have enjoyd since it had added something invaluable to the overall experience of the participants: recognition. A great memory that ties in with the theme of this project. One day, we hope to exhibit our results.”

“Profits of this project will be donated to charity; Laudy Plus and the Zij aan Zij Ateliers (the Amsterdam based workspaces for the artists in this project). Donating to these organizations will show the artists (1) what impact their art can have, (2) that it’s worth the money and (3) that it’s being used for a gift or an unforgettable day out. This group can be proud of their contribution. In my opinion, the project is already successful once they feel proud. And if money can be made in the process, well, that’s a welcome luxury,” Ruud van Eijk observes.

I'm Ruud van Eijk. A graphic designer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I create graphics, identities, art & other designs for clients and myself. I also run a small fashion brand called 'LazyWack'. In this virtual space you can see some of the client work and a number of personal projects I have worked on over the past few years.