I see people sat behind a computer or in an office all day, and I immediately want to reject that type of work.
Amsterdam-based decorative painter Thijs Kruithof is a man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Thijs uses his background in graphic design to create bold, stunning and unconventional patterns on the walls of homes and buildings across his city, transforming them into urban artworks that are able to live alongside the people that surround them. As part of our Work on Canvas project we're meeting working artisans to learn more about their processes, inspirations and creativity. We caught up with Thijs to find out more about his craft and learn about his journey.
Hi Thijs. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your craft?
I started painting when I was in school and after that I moved on to graphic design, and now I combine the two in my work. The work is quite varied – sometimes I’ll be working outside and sometimes I’ll be on the computer making a design, but mostly I’m the guy who paints the designs on the walls, especially for a lot of restaurants and bars. I also paint houses and it really makes me feel relaxed.
If I had just one of those two disciplines, just painting or just designing, it wouldn’t be enough for me, so it’s really nice to have the variety. I can have simple jobs where I just paint walls and I can have challenging jobs where I have to really thing about how I’m going to do it.
Every time I take on a new job it’s different – I get to meet new people and see different parts of Amsterdam. It makes me feel like I’m free.
What attracted you to painting and how did you get started?
As well as painting and graphic design, I got inspired by the tattoo magazines I got from my dad when I was young. I just started to draw them on paper and already knew back then that I wasn't suited to a desk job! I really like doing hands-on craft work. I see people sat behind a computer or in an office all day, and I immediately want to reject that type of work.
Every time I take on a new job for me it’s different – I get to meet new people and see different parts of Amsterdam. For example right now I’m cycling from one side of the city to the other for work. It makes me feel like I’m free. I can have my own schedule and do whatever I want to do. I don’t have any complaints about what I’m doing at all.
Your designs are pretty innovative - can you tell us a little about your creative process?
When I have a customer they usually come to me with subjects to think about or mood boards, so they have a pretty good idea of what they want. From there I can go and figure out what to do. I have a twin brother who is a graphic designer, so sometimes when I’m busy I’ll ask him if he can make a design, and together we can work out what works best. It’s not always difficult all the time. A lot of people just want really simple stuff, like their logo or a cut-out, so for me it’s pretty easy. Also a lot of people don’t have a big budget, so I’m not completely free to do what I want because I have to think about their limitations.
How do you think adding different colours and designs affects your urban environment?
My designs are always linked to the atmosphere that the client wants to give. A lot of places are always changing; they’ll want different colours or they’ll want to do different things for different seasons. For example in spring or summer people might want brighter colours.
If I look at the jeans I’m amazed how much they’ve changed, it looks really creative.
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
For me, painting is always rewarding. When a place is being built or designed, the painter gets to come in at the end and add the finishing touches that make a place look interesting. It’s rewarding because you see it change so quickly – no matter where I paint it’s great to see how a place is finally going to look, and eventually when everything is painted it always looks nice. It’s also really nice that people see my work and see that it’s done well and then ask me to do more projects off the back of that, without me having to go out and look for work.
I really like when a client is open to trying different ideas and different colours, because it makes the whole process really exciting. If it doesn’t work out I don’t mind going back and changing it, but at least they tried!
For me, painting is always rewarding.
Can you share some of the experiences you had during your journey with your Denham jeans?
When I first got the jeans I had to cut them because they were a bit too long, and now they’re a bit too short! When I work I usually like to wear dungarees because they’re really comfortable, but it was nice to wear the jeans because they’re really strong. When I’m painting I’m always wiping my hands clean on my jeans, so now they’re covered in plaster, paint and dust. It looks really nice though – if I look at the jeans I’m amazed how much they’ve changed, it looks really creative. I don’t usually wear a pair of jeans for working in for six months because after around two months the paint makes them go hard and they’re full of dust, so I’m definitely ready for some new jeans!