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Interview with Nard Kwast

Interview with Nard Kwast

According to a popular TV programme during the recent Year of Rembrandt, he was one of the most talented amateur painters in the Netherlands. In the meantime, Nard Kwast has successfully made painting in the style of old masters his profession. Nard now works with Cobra, Royal Talens' water mixable oil colours.

Master painter Nard Kwast on the beauty of Cobra water mixable oil paint

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The passion for drawing and painting was already there from an early age, says Nard (47). "At school, I was often too busy drawing to pay attention. My drawings and cartoons appeared on the front page of the school newspaper. Later, I illustrated leaflets and made greetings cards and illustrations. Around the time I reached my twenties, I discovered the Old Masters of the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Their work had such an impact on me that I only wanted one thing: to paint in the same way, using the same traditional techniques. In the 1990s, I went to the Free Drawing Academy, but it focused too heavily on modern art for my liking."

Painting in the style of Old Masters

Around the time he turned 23, Nard took private lessons in 17th-century painting techniques. Nard: “I supplemented these lessons with a lot of self-study and analysis of paintings. I am particularly intrigued by the way in which Old Masters went about their work, the whole technique. You can really develop yourself by studying a painting right down to the smallest details. I started to reproduce lots of famous masterpieces meticulously. I see a reproduction as a study. How are things done, how do you create a certain effect? You develop techniques and new skills very quickly. By the way, I still devour books on painting and make my own paint.”

Second in well-known TV programme

Until recently, Nard had a job as a civil servant but he has categorically said goodbye to that. "It was now or never," says Nard. "If you looked at my life like a book, it would be much less exciting if I'd continued my office life." The decision to become a full-time painter began with Nard taking part in a popular TV programme in the Year of Rembrandt (2019), during which the best amateur painters in the Netherlands competed against each other. Nard: "My successful participation opened lots of doors for me. I was nervous about working in front of the TV cameras at first, but I got used to it. And coming second boosted my self-confidence. I became more and more convinced that I wanted to take up painting as a career."

Nard Kwast on Cobra

If anyone understands techniques and materials, it is Nard. He has also grown enthusiastic about Cobra water mixable oil paint. Nard: "I already knew that such a thing existed but during a workshop at the Royal Talens Experience Centre I was introduced to the qualities of Cobra for the first time. I had to get used to the combination of oil paint and water. But to be honest, I don't really notice any difference to traditional oil paint. The striking richness of colour was also a pleasant surprise. The paint has a very fine texture, not too thick, just right. I've also heard positive reactions to Cobra from others. The participants in my workshop like to work with it."

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No solvents

The new generation of Cobra is a type of paint that produces the brilliant results you can only achieve with oil paint, but without chemical solvents like white spirit. "A very nice idea," says Nard. "You spend a lot of time in the studio, of course. In summer, you can open the windows but that's not very practical in winter. And if you work with groups of people using a lot of paint, it's nice that you don't have to use and breathe in large quantities of solvents. That means I don't have to worry about people getting health problems from solvents."

"Everyone can paint"

Nard is increasingly developing a personal touch to his painting style. He also takes on commissions, based on his love for the Old Masters. Amazing Rembrandt reproductions can be admired and purchased in Nard's Apeldoorn studio. Nard has a message for anyone who wants to master traditional painting techniques: "I believe that everyone can paint. If you think you might like it, just try it. Lots of things didn't work for me at first, especially when I'd only been painting for a short time. Painting is a matter of trying, of doing. Dedication is very important, in order to improve. I am happy to pass on that dedication to others.”