Portraits, elephants and boat crashes

13th August 2003, Comments 0 comments

Having returned to the Netherlands as a trailing spouse, art historian Jim Collier struck out on his own as a portrait artist.


Artist Jim Collier says his unique background as an art historian steeped in the Dutch school of painting drew him back to the Netherlands in 1990.

"This was my second time around as I lived in The Hague and Friesland as an exchange student," Jim explains.

Having obtained a PhD from the University of Michigan in art history, Jim worked as a university professor before deciding to take a break in 1987. He joined his wife in New York and opted to improve his skills at the National Academy of Design.

But his teenage memories of the Netherlands remained vivid and years later, Jim's home away from home in a grand old mansion (herenhuis) on one of Amsterdam’s city centre canals (grachten) became the base for his career as an artist.

Born in 1943, Jim arrived in Amsterdam as a trailing male spouse to his career wife who had been transferred by the ABN-Amro bank from the Big Apple.

The US expat now works as an artist, describing himself as a self-taught painter and his work reflects a subjective view based on empirical observation. "I consider myself to be a realist artist," he says.

He doesn’t do pure landscapes, although he has a fair share of cityscapes or pieces of sculptures and parts of famous buildings, such as the leaning tower of Pisa. One might even find a floating elephant here and there. Examples of Jim's artwork can be found on his website www.jimcollier.nl.


"I find landscapes boring and that is why I live in a city. Maybe it is because as a kid I was forced to go camping and fishing and be outdoors all the time since I came from Washington State," he says.

"I’ll do sailing ships and cities, yet portraits and nudes are my best challenge."

He is quick to add that repetition — such as painting fingers — "gets his goat" because he believes painting all ten of them is monotonous.

But surprisingly, in his large, yet packed northern-lit studio, the people featured in his works on display are all replete with 10 digits.

"I like using the computer to manipulate angles, coloration or backgrounds. It is a hobby," Jim says unapologetically and states flatly: "Artists use whatever tools they have". He’ll make 100 pictures of a person if he’s been commissioned to do a portrait. He then blows up the composite image on a computer print out and do a rendition of a rendition.

These days Jim is fixed on weird subjects such as racing boat crashes. He painted a series of non-photographic images and some people in Louisiana received word (and sight via his website) and ordered eight paintings. He now expresses a desire to do whales and whalers.

His love of foreign lands and adventure fits snugly into his concept of new subject matter, giving him and Carole Anne (his wife and business manager) good excuses to regularly travel.

When asked whether his works sell well with the Dutch, Jim says the Netherlands "is not a good sales place as most of my work is sold outside the country. The Dutch like abstract art and don’t like spending money".

But he is pleased he doesn't have to depend on selling art to live. He works exclusively on a commission basis and clients come to him by word of mouth.

Despite their thrifty ways, Jim finds living among the Dutch to be quite convenient and amiable because everyone speaks English. He enjoys the proximity to everywhere else in Europe and for the moment, he would rather be in Europe than the US.

For more information, contact Jim on 020 625 6108 or visit www.jimcollier.nl

8 July 2003

Subject: Expat profiles

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