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An amazing artistic talent in Koh Samui

Daniel Mooij is an incredibly talented Dutch artist who arrived in Koh Samui twelve years ago.

Daniel discovered his talent for drawing when he was only five years old. He started out what has become a lifelong love affair with art by drawing and today fills his days with portrait painting, for clients and his own pleasure.

Daniel 1There is no doubt that Daniels artistic flair was inherited. His mother is a very talented artist. In her younger days she hoped to find a place in a university to study fashion, as her talent for art lay in that genre, but sadly she was not given the opportunity to pursue her dream that was soon forgotten when she fell in love, started a family and her art took a back seat.

Strangely history repeated itself; Daniel also wanted to go to art school but like his mother was not given the opportunity.  His parents worried that artists struggled to make money and encouraged him to go to university and study business. He took their advice and embarked on a university course but his heart was not really in it and after three years he quit. For the next eight years Daniel worked as a nurse and took care of people in homes for the elderly and in hospitals.

At age 25 he decided to put some of the skills he acquired when he studied business to use and opened a café and restaurant with his then partner in Haarlem Holland. After ten years his relationship ended and the business was sold. However this gave him the opportunity to something that he had always wanted to do, dedicate his time to his passion, art. No longer having to worry about what his partner wanted him to do, or his parents, and with the proceeds of the sale of the business in his pocket he decided to come to Thailand to get away from all of the hustle and bustle of modern life and put himself in a place where he could find the time and inspiration to draw and paint. Daniel’s passion for art gave him a great grounding to become a very good amateur artist but he had ambition and wanted to learn more techniques and develop his skills to become a professional artist and Thailand was the place for him to do that.

Daniel 3However, Daniel has another talent that he discovered when he was 17 years old and found himself walking around a market, very similar to the walking street markets we have here. On that fateful day he came across an old lady who was entertaining the crowd and making herself some money by cutting out silhouettes of people in the market. Daniel watched her with fascination and when the day drew to a close he asked her if he could try it. She willing gave him a pair of scissors and some paper and after studying her face for only a very short time created a her silhouette perfectly in less than a minute. The lady was amazed and told Daniel that in all of her 23 years doing silhouettes she had never seen anything quite like him. For Daniel it was as if a key had turned in a door and the talent from within was unleashed.

Daniel took himself off to a museum in Holland that specialized in Silhouette art and so impressed were they with his work, and so rare was his talent, they offered him a job, but being only seventeen and the museum being hours away from home he declined, however he did enjoy success cutting silhouettes out on the market.

The word silhouette comes from the name Etienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister who in 1759 was forced by France’s credit crisis to impose severe economic demands on the French people, particularly the wealthy. Because of his austere economies his name became synonymous with anything done or made cheaply. It is also worth noting that historically, due to the tax imposed on art, silhouettes’ became very popular as the tax imposed on them was far less that other art forms. These days Daniel is one of only fifty silhouette artists left in the world.

Daniel 4On one of the days he worked in the market a rather shabby man approached Daniel and asked him to do his silhouette, Daniel checked the man could afford to pay the few guilders he was charging and created the perfect silhouette. The man then asked him to cut the other half of his profile but this would require Daniel to use his left hand and he was used to cutting with his right, however he agreed to give it a go and produced an almost exact copy of the first one. The shabby man asked Daniel to go for a coffee with him and he agreed, while in the café the shabby man who was an art dealer asked Daniel if he would be prepared to cut Silhouettes from 18th century newspapers so the many could pass them off as originals, an interesting offer but Daniel turned him down, not at all interested in making fake art pieces to be sold for a fortune.

Jumping back to Holland Daniel’s other passion, painting, started out with his early pictures of bowls of fruit and landscapes. When he arrived in Samui he decided that he wanted to move onto portraits, but after a chilling out for a few months his money started to run out and the time had come for him to seek out some employment to fund his life on the island. He found an art gallery in Chaweng and asked them if he could work there. At the time they were already employing artist to paint portraits and landscapes and asked him if there was anything else he could do. So he showed his prospective employer an example of his Silhouette art and the guy was blown away as he had never seen it before. Daniel was hired and for the next two years he concentrated once again on his silhouette art. After two years the gallery was forced to close and once again Daniel was on the job market. He found employment with Helmut, in a gallery that today is the popular Aussie Bondi Bar in Chaweng. Although once again it was his silhouette art that landed him the job, while he worked at the gallery he met a man that would change his life. June, at that time, was the best portrait painter in Koh Samui and he asked Daniel if he could give him some lessons. June is a very talented artist who has created pieces for the Thai Monarchy. Daniel agreed to take some lessons from June but in a very short space of time June found that there was nothing more he could really teach Daniel and he told him to just keep practicing, which he did.

Daniel 5Unlike many artists in Thailand who just draw around projected images of faces to create the perfect picture Daniel just paints, but not in the most traditional way of painting layers that require days of drying time in between. When Daniel creates a portrait he uses a technique called ala prima painting. This terms means wet and wet and refers to the fact that the layers are added very quickly and in as little as a five hours the portrait is there. Daniel then allows his work to dry for three days before going over it with paint two more times. The amount of layers required to create the perfect painting vary on each picture he creates. With practice his talent has grown and the portraits he is producing now have depth and almost look 3d compared to the flatter images he was producing back in 2006. Many residents and visitors to the island have had their portrait done by Daniel. His preferred method is to meet with his client and take a few dozen pictures to work from. This is not because Daniel does not enjoy life painting, but because most of his clients do not really have time to sit for their portraits, especially if they are on holiday.

Today Daniel is a professional artist with a great deal of experience under his belt. Not only does he paint portraits, he himself nDaniel 2ow teaches art to anybody that has some artistic talent they would like to improve on. On Friday’s he can be found at the Bophut Fishermans Village walking street market cutting out the profiles of anybody who passes by and instantly falls in love with his talent for paper and scissors, and he only asks you to pay what you think the finished product is worth.

Daniels work can be found at the Gay Point Bar in Chaweng that is near to the popular Solo bar and also in the Music and Art Gallery in Maenam. His modern art is on display in the reception at Secret Garden in Bangrak. He has a website that is currently under maintenance but you can see more examples of his work on his Facebook page by clicking HERE

Daniel is a very spiritual man and when he is not painting he enjoys Osho meditation. He also enjoys going to the Secret Garden in Bangrak and enjoying some wholesome food at his friend Sonja’s restaurant in Maenam.

To find out more about Daniel, to book a portrait or a silhouette for you or as a gift for a friend, or to sign up for some art classes give him a call on 0831079904

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