Headline: Van Wijk Graphics

Subhead: Former professor kicks off full-time art career


Used with permission from the Sioux Center News.



Staff writer

         “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

         The one-line quote posted on a balcony’s edge is one of several lining the walls

      in Jake Van Wyk’s rural Ireton art studio.

         “I keep little statements all over, a little for inspiration and motivation because I

      essentially work here on my own,” Van Wyk said. “I start at 5 in the morning and

      typically don’t stop running until about 8-8:30 [p.m.]”

         Such dedication to planning, production and setting up his art studio the past 16

      months led to a recent open house on his 10-acre farm as a way to publicly kick off

      Van Wyk’s career as a full-time working artist.

         Van Wyk, 64, launched into his full-time artist career under the name “Van Wijk

      Graphics” after retiring from teaching art at Dordt College for 23 years. He helped

      start the graphic design emphasis in the art program after managing a print shop in

      North Carolina for about a decade.

         “I’m an admitted workaholic,” Van Wyk said. “Some may say I don’t have a life

      because I work but others may say I have a life because I work. I have a lot of

      projects, a lot of goals. I love discovering new possibilities. I love to take risks and

      let the work in progress speak and establish a dialog. I think good art transcends

      itself, and I love being a part of that process.”

         Prior to working in the print shop, Van Wyk had quit teaching to start a business

      producing art.

         “I went out on my own like I’m doing now but back then I knew nothing about

      how to run a business or marketing,” Van Wyk said. “I did it all wrong and sort of

      failed, which led me to the printing business.”

         His real love, however, is fine art studio instruction and production, especially

      ceramics, printmaking and drawing.

         “Dordt gave me many opportunities to advance my skills in teaching a wide

      range of studio techniques, including extensive research in art theory, design, art

      history and art appreciation,” he said.

         Van Wyk completed several large art commissions for Dordt, including the large

      figure outside the classroom building called “The Gift” in 1995, the plate assembly

      in a case he designed in the B.J. Haan Auditorium for the Rev. John Hulst’s

      retirement in 1996, and he completed a large tile work in 2014 for the new science

      building expansion in collaboration with David Versluis of Dordt’s art department.

      Versluis designed an enlarged grid system based on markings from one of Van

      Wyk’s clay vessels and Van Wyk made and fired the 300-plus tiles for the project

      based on Colossians 1.

         “I rarely stayed anywhere for more than five or six years, but I stayed at Dordt

      for 23 years because it was always interesting,” he said. “But I realized that while I

      had still my wits about me, my skills and I think my work is strong, I wanted to see

      how far I could go as a full-time artist.”

         His art production covers a range of complicated technical work including

      printmaking, which involves transferring images to plates and stones and chemically

      processing them with acids and grounds and then printing the images on fine

      papers using a press to create etchings and lithographs.

         Another specialty is making ceramic vessels and sculpture, which is also very

      technical because it requires critical construction, drying and finishing with

      homemade chemical glazes in extremely high temperatures in a kiln. Van Wyk has

      two kilns at the studio, both rebuilt structures that have been adapted to wood

      firing or propane gas with natural gas burners.

         Van Wyk also prefers to use a manual camera and develop his own negatives.

         “There are chemically safer ways to do everything that I do, like no turpentine

      and acid-free ways, but I have found that the quality is not as good,” he said.

         “Using old school art techniques may seem like doing things the hard

     way, but it just seems to be important to preserve the past to be

     more authentic for me.”


         He has recently completed 400 teacups for conferences sponsored by Mission

      India and communion and baptism clay vessels for Trinity Christian Reformed

      Church in Rock Valley.

         Van Wyk also travels with a notebook, which he fills with gesture drawings.

         “It is the act of sketching a scene quickly that doesn’t focus on the details but

      rather trying to capture the essence of the scene,” he said.

         Trees and landscapes fill many of Van Wyk’s pages — an interest that stems

      from growing up on a dairy farm in Washington.

         “Growing up on the farm you’re immersed in the land,” he said. “Nature is all

      around; it’s just a visceral experience with the land. You’re immersed in the land,

      the soil, its makeup. That was the first motivation I had to do art.”

         He didn’t realize how much the love of the land was ingrained in him until he

      attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., for his undergraduate degree.

         “Calvin was an urban setting and too far to go home on the weekend,” Van Wyk

      said. “I wanted to be as far away from home as possible, but it didn’t take long to

      realize that the farm makeup was part of me and my love for landscape came

      through in most of my work. In fact, what I enjoy most about moving to Iowa was

      the big sky.”

         He’s created several prints that involve the sky/land compression to express

      that beauty and complexity of Iowa’s landscape.

         “A lot of people work with landscape, but I take you back to that saying, ‘Good

      artists borrow, great artists steal,’” he said. “That’s really my favorite because it

      means you can own it. As an artist, you learn to take a technique and adapt it to

      your own style and make it your own. I’m excited to be doing this full time, and I

      hope this is just the beginning of sharing my work with the area, and beyond.”