Introducing Sjoerd van Schagen, Amsterdam Collagist
DA: So you hail from Amsterdam! I've visited the Netherlands regularly since 2015. A good portion of that time has been spent chillin’ like a local by day and night. Other than going to parties and clubbing, I haven’t had the opportunity to immerse myself in the arts & cultural scene. Can you tell us a little about the city and what it has to offer? Is there a community of collage artists?
SVS: I have been living in Amsterdam for half a year. I was not born there. Unfortunately, I haven't discovered too much of the art and culture scene yet because we were in lockdown all this time. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful city to live in. I walk a lot along the canals between work. I think communities are abundant here, but I just haven't joined them yet.
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Waiting for You, 2020 / Kissability, 2020 / Cognitive Dissonance, 2020
DA: I see that you are a graphic artist by trade. Your portfolio is quite a contrast to your surreal collages. What’s it like producing commercial work for your clients vs creating your own personal art?
SVS: My graphic work is indeed completely different. It's very clean, digital and I work a lot with typography. That's why I really enjoy working as a collage artist. If you work digitally, you are somewhat limited. Funnily enough, my collage work also started when I started having problems with my back. I was looking for a new hobby so as not to sit in front of my computer all the time and create without too much thinking. Other than that, I think it's fantastic. Working on commissions gives me some structure, but when I make collages I let everything go for a while.
DA: Every artist's dream is to make a living off their art. Would you give up your day job if you had the chance or do you prefer to mix it up with a variety of hustles?
SVS: Good question. I am also a bit addicted to my work as a graphic designer. I think it is cool to help (starting) entrepreneurs to get the most out of their business. I don't think I'm made for a certain kind of work, even if it's being a collage artist all day long.
DA: Tell me about your upbringing. Did you have an artistic background growing up?
SVS: I am the son of a gardener. My father grows potatoes and cabbages. In my further environment, little artistically happens. Further deepening and love for art came at a later age when I went to art school. I never did anything with collage during my graphic design study. I started doing this last year as a distraction.
Sjoerd in his Studio & Process Shot
DA: What has influenced your journey as an artist? Would you share an experience or memory that has shaped your aesthetic?
SVS: Funnily enough, I feel less of an artist than I would like. I think it’s because I do so many different things. These days I sell frames to hang your vinyl in, I'm a graphic designer, I work in a coffee shop and I make collages in between. I have to say that I first came into contact with collage through Ashkan Honarvar. I even dedicated a school project to him. He makes beautiful, complex and somewhat uncomfortable works and has also lived in the Netherlands for a long time.
DA: So, you are a musician, as well. I saw some pics of you playing the drums. What role does music play in your life? Do you see any correlations between playing music and creating collages?
SVS: Music is everything. It determines the atmosphere in which I live and is a nice addition to everything I do. I also see some similarities. For me in both cases it is thinking about nothing and giving yourself a break and putting your mind to zero.
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Top Panel - Hungry for More, 2020 / Lazy Place, 2020 / Pompette, 2020
Bottom Panel - Shalala, 2020 / Time to Pretend, 2020
DA: I’m looking forward to traveling again. I really need to replenish my dwindling image supply! Do you have a favorite source material and where do you find it in the Netherlands?
SVS: I have several sources. I often visit second-hand shops in Amsterdam and my acquaintances also know that I work a lot with collage, so now and then I get old books from them.
DA: On that note, what’s your workspace like and how do you organize your materials? Is your space as chaotic as mine or are you an organized creator? I have been in many Amsterdam flats and on the whole they are quite limited on space!
SVS: I’ve got not much space here. My room is 11 square meters. It is often a big mess when I’m creating my collages. Every now and then I go to my parents where I have much more space. They live on a beautiful farm in a quiet area. When I can, I travel there to make nice collages.
DA: I initially reached out to you for a spotlight feature but decided to do an interview instead after spending more time with your work. I love your collages! They are so quirky and weird. Can you tell us about your technique and creative process?
SVS: That's sweet, thank you! I think that because of my graphic background I have a good eye for composition. I usually start with an image that I find interesting. Then I mainly match the images on color and contrast. I often make my collages from the same book because I can't stand it when the color and paper type differ from each other. I'm constantly looking for something mysterious in my works, as long as it isn't there I keep going.
DA: Is there an overarching message you want to convey to your viewers through the imagery you use? What are your thoughts on the Surrealist tenet of Automatism , which refers to the process of creating art without consciousness, basically accessing material from the subconscious mind as part of the creative process?
SVS: I have the idea that I haven't made enough work yet to draw an overarching message from it. This also makes it interesting. It is also nice to let people formulate their own message. I absolutely believe in creating from your subconscious. I believe I work that way too. First freewheel and then adjust with your head where needed.
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Top Panel - Little Liar, 2020 / Quarantine, 2020 / Head Wound, 2020
Bottom Panel - Always Alright, 2021 / Five, 2021
DA: Most of your collages seem to be analogue. Do you dabble in the digital, as well?
SVS: Everything is analog indeed. Working digitally does not appeal to me. I like the finds you make in new books and working from your subconscious;) When you consciously search for images or elements, you are thinking too much about what it should be.
DA: I appreciate how you mix up your Instagram feed with both colorful and monochrome works. This is a staple question of mine but do you ever get the urge to archive some of your works to achieve a more curated look?
SVS: Haha I always have that urge. I also think my feed is very chaotic. But I have to post my work directly when I have made it. When I wait longer than 10 minutes, I often don't like it anymore.
When You Die, 2020
DA: I was looking through your collage portfolio online. How do you choose the work that you want included in your shop? Does it have to meet particular criteria to make the cut?
SVS: I fill my webshop with work that appeals to me the most or that has been positively received via Instagram. It is indeed important that it still functions well on, for example, postcards. I don't want to cut off too much of the image. Not every work is suitable if I stick to the DIN-formats.
DA: Instagram has been such a game changer for me. The platform has allowed me to be a part of a global community of artists and discover other talented collagists, like yourself. What are your thoughts about social media? In your opinion, how has the platform elevated and/or hindered collage and the artists working in the medium?
SVS: I experience about the same. On the one hand it slows me down in my development as an artist. Because I look up to other artists, I start to doubt whether I will ever reach that level. In addition, I have the idea that the audience is drowning in content—just like music. Because there is so much and it is all so accessible, you will appreciate the pieces less. On the other hand, as you also indicate, I notice that you do come into contact with people who share the same interests and stimulate and motivate you in doing so.
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The Weight of Love, 2020 / Untitled, 2021 / Too Much to Ask, 2021
DA: Pandemic question! I’m curious to hear your take on the restrictions in Amsterdam. From what I have heard most people haven’t followed the rules regarding masks, etc. and have pretty much been doing whatever they want! The country has got to be pretty close to herd immunity by now, or is that even a thing?
SVS: I do indeed have the feeling that we are almost there as a country. For example, it is not required by the government and media. You also notice that there is a big gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, which I think is a shame. All in all, we have nothing to complain about in the Netherlands.
DA: How have you fared during this time? What has been the most significant challenge for you? What was your biggest accomplishment?
SVS: I have to say that besides going out and going to festivals, little has changed. Even before the pandemic, I calculated enough time and space for autonomous art. My biggest victory has to be finding the right balance between money, leisure, love and creativity, which as far as I have experienced is very difficult for an artist.
Celebrating Life, 2020
DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to this year and beyond?
SVS: At the moment I am still creating a lot to develop my own style and believe in the work I make. Besides that I started yesterday selling my collages as NFTs, a world in which I would like to develop further. For now people can expect more experimental work and lots of work with NFTs;)
Check out Sjoerd's tune recommendation "Love's a Stranger" by Warhaus. Enjoy!
Instagram | @collage.sjoerdvanschagen
Website | Sjoerd van Schagen
NFTs | ondergebit