Meet Gerdien van Halteren a.k.a This Is – Gary, who is an upcoming visual artist based in Amsterdam. Gerdien explores topics such as sexuality and femininity and turns them into playful illustrations. We sat down to talk about her journey and inspirations.
Hi Gerdien! Tell me a bit about yourself.
Hey! My name is Gerdien van Halteren and I’m 23 years old. I grew up in Spakenburg, a small town near Amersfoort, but I have been living in Amsterdam for the last couple of years. I went to study Fashion & Branding at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and have since then been working as a freelance visual artist under the pseudonym this is – Gary.
When did you decide to become a visual artist?
I have always wanted to become an illustrator when I was younger. My mother still tells me stories about how I would always ask her about drawings in books. I applied to an art academy, but was rejected due to my lack of experience. I had to put my dream aside for a while. I was young and insecure during my studies at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, so I never really brought my illustrations to the forefront when it came to my school assignments. After I graduated, I was able to focus on illustrating again.
What was your first commissioned project like?
At some point, I got invited to do an exhibition at the Bloemenbar in Amsterdam. I dedicated myself entirely to the project and resumed my passion. Seeing my prints hang on those vast walls made me think; ‘This is what I want to do and I am going to do it!’ This was half a year ago and I have been going by the alias this is – Gary ever since.
Was this also the first time you sold something?
Yes it was! It was to someone who worked at the Bloemenbar and fell in love with my prints. It felt amazing! Hearing from someone that wants to hang your work in their home is one of the biggest compliments.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Women are my biggest source of inspiration. Women in films and art, but also from my personal experiences. My illustrations are always close to me and are often based on my life. However, I always swap the male characters for females, because I like them better aesthetically.
What are your plans for the future, let’s say in 5 years?
In the next 5 years I hope to grow as an artist. I hope to develop technically and explore my personal style. What is most important to me is that I will stay true to myself and to what I love doing. For example, I could see a capsule collection with my prints on garments. This way I can combine my interests in fashion and drawing. Oh, and I’d love to design and draw tattoos myself, but that is a story for another time!
Is the business you different from the personal you?
No, not really. Business me used to be a bit more censored, but I have recently decided against that. If I want to create authentic work, then I have to stay true to myself. Now the business me is just like the real me; bold, and provocative.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I surround myself with my friends and family. I drink wine, eat gross take-outs, have fun, go out. I also enjoy my own company at museums or just wandering around the city. Taking time to be alone is as important as being with my loved ones; it allows me to get inspired.