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Harpsichord days, a really unique project

February 14, 2012

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All photos by Rende Zoutewelle

Well, it is an all-consuming project. I do have a life….I think. But I basically wake up and go to sleep thinking about which flowers fit where, color balance, leaf size contrasts etc.

Rende’s photos have captured some of  the atmosphere of the étalage (aka shop or oil painting studio) where I’m working on the instrument. It is a small space – not even enough to walk completely around the case. A new instrument like this needs to be kept at an even temperature and humidity to prevent drying out, so it is on the chilly side – about 15 degrees centigrade. I wrap up well before I go to ‘work’.

Despite that inconvenience, I do like having it all concentrated down here, the previous ones took over my entire attic studio. That meant I really couldn’t do anything else.

Johan said that with the sound board being painted, the instrument is starting to come alive.

As soon as it was brought here, I felt it already had a soul from the amazing amount of love and care that the builder, Matthias, had put into it, and from all the thought that had gone into it even before the case was built. Now that I’m adding my part, there is such a strong visual emphasis, it is hard to remember that

the real soul of this instrument lies in the sound it will make.

Anyway, it is a really cool project to be involved in. I have to slow down to paint each plant and animal portrait as if it were the only one. And one by one they are forming a whole painted songboard.

woodpecker attacks songboard

Definitely connected to the long tradition of songboard painting, and yet also belonging to the 21st century in the choices we’ve made, both visually and in content.  For example, Johan had requests for various flowers and other elements to be included which are personal symbols connected to his own life. For a few people, beside the aesthetic quality, there will be added layers of meaning to the things painted on the instrument.

When it goes back to Germany at the end of the month, Matthias will make the keyboards (there are two) and attach the strings. And then it will be able to sing.

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5 Responses to “Harpsichord days, a really unique project”

  1. decorartuk Says:

    First of all what I noticed as a photographer – very beautiful photos. They portray a calm studio atmosphere where someone is concentrating hard on getting everything right. I especially like your brushes and the jar with the lable “aquarel” – a very nice touch.

    I like your bird and the flowers – that tulip is just perfect. I also hope that some time soon you will post a video where a musician will be making this instrument sing.

  2. sandi Says:

    Sarah, I am so glad I came to visit here at this time, after so long. I know you have been “working” on this instrument for awhile, even before the brush hit the wood (so to speak!). I am SO happy to see the progress. Thanks for sharing with us. Sometimes we, as viewers, forget the tools involved and you have given tribute to brushes and jars and paint so well. Wanted to say too, my daughter has been telling me of a woodpecker that looks just like this one (I did go see him!) in a dead tree near her home. There are three kinds of them and this is one particular hungry fellow!

    • szoutewelle Says:

      hi sandi, thanks for stopping by again. ‘The brush hit the wood’, love it! Rende is the photographer here, who in his quiet way picked up the energy invested in the materials. I could and will write a whole post about how important they are to me. Anyway, Rende is really good at sidestepping the obvious and going in for the essence.

      I don’t know the English (Dutch is ‘bonte specht’) for that kind of woodpecker, but they are quite gorgeous. How cool to see one in real life.

  3. sandi (AWGrad) Says:

    oh! and I wanted to say at th end of my comment, YES! agree with decorartuk!!! please, if possible, a video of the musician playing this instrument would be perfect 😉


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