Studio Visit

Jan ter Weele and his paintings

Local Color

Studio Visit

In his two-room Portland studio, oil painter Jan ter Weele translates lucid memories into richly layered scenes. 

Photographs by Erin Little 

I’m in my studio from 10 until 3, five days a week. When I was younger, I worked longer hours, but at 83, I can’t do that anymore. People don’t realize that painting is very physically taxing. When I started painting in the late ’70s, I always worked outside and it taught me a lot about the colors and shapes in the landscape. Now that information is in my memory and I can draw on it. [Similarly], when I do figures, I don’t need a model. I have sketches from life drawing classes and I’m not interested in painting the figure realistically. I want to paint figures that are expressive and I’m interested in the way they fill the space around them — I can imagine electric waves radiating from them into space. I get nervous about tidy paintings. To me, they feel frozen. I’m working on a painting now that I thought was finished, but I kept looking at it and it wasn’t right; it didn’t have any energy. So I painted over it with yellow ocher, a great, essential color. Then you can go back in, scratch down through, and wonderful things begin to happen. You can get a lot of energy that way. You have to be willing to do that, to destroy a painting and start over, at least I do.

Jan ter Weele’s work can be seen in Maine, the Painted State, at Portland’s Greenhut Galleries, April 4–27, and at the George Marshall Store Gallery in York.

Jan ter Weele's storage racks

TOP Visitors to ter Weele’s studio can view selected works in a showroom and sift through storage racks in his workspace across the hall. BOTTOM He hates cleaning brushes, so he buys cheap ones and tosses them at the end of the day.

Jan ter Weele's paint brushes