The Interview Series: Marit Barentsen

An Interview With Marit Barentsen

When I started Daisy Yellow in 2008, I thought that it would be cool to interview artists. And so this is, I hope, the first of many artist interviews. I have 3-4 interviews lined up for the next several months. If you enjoy the interviews, please comment, ask questions of the interviewee {I'll coordinate the responses in the comments}, and let me know how I can improve the dialogs. It would be ever so lovely if you would link to this post from your blog if you think your readers would enjoy reading the interviews. All that would help a great deal. I'm working to customize the questions for each artist. 

In the age of e-books and digital publishing, Marit decided to start her own print magazine!


And this makes sense to me. I love to peruse art books and magazines. Next best to holding "the real thing" or the piece of art itself. Marit and her beloved live in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Together they run a small graphic communication and design company. Marit's son is at University studying Artificial Intelligence.

Marit is an artist and writer full of creative energy, adept at experimenting with new techniques and exploring ideas. At her blog Marit’s Paper World you can learn of Marit's journey from scrapbooking to "art journal artist" as she combines art and writing.

So here we go! 

Tammy: So you started a magazine. That’s no small endeavor! What inspired you to start your own magazine?


To be honest: frustration! I had never thought of starting a magazine myself. I did dream of writing articles for a creative magazine though, so when I got the request from a Dutch Scrapbook magazine if I would be willing to become their regular writer I was overjoyed.


However, it soon appeared to me that the articles had to be written conform a fixed ‘template’ and instead of what I call articles it was descriptions to go with the shown scrapbooking lay outs. After a few months of writing, my head burst with ideas for additional articles (for example about art journaling) but they were not interested in that at all. In Europe, there is not one magazine that I know of that writes about a wider field of creating. The magazines stick to one topic (scrapbooking mostly). I looked at some of the US magazines, but the ones that I could lay my hands on (which isn’t always easy by the way, as they are not sold in the stores over here) did not bring the diversity that I had in mind either.

I kept on complaining about what creative magazines lacked (substantive articles, background information, interviews with artists). One day, when my son heard me grumble for the umpteenth time, he said: “Why don’t you do it yourself then?” It struck me right there. He was, of course, right. Why not? After all, my beloved and I run a business in graphical communication for years and we have all the knowledge and experience to be able to make and publish a magazine. We talked about it and my beloved got excited right away. We collected all the ideas I had about the content, made a plan, divided tasks, built a website, put up a call for writers (the ‘team’) and started.

Issue #1 of FEATURING Magazine is available for purchase, and here's where you can submit art work to the magazine for consideration for a future issue!

Tammy: What were 3 surprising things you had to accomplish in order to start a magazine?


Hmm... because of our business (including technical skills and knowledge of design, experience with printing offices and so on) and the plan we made, I cannot think of one surprise that we bumped on to implementation-wise.

What DID surprise me though was, how difficult it is to explain to people who haven’t actually seen the magazine that FEATURING is a real, professional magazine, printed on thick and semi-glossy paper. My beloved and I publish it under our company umbrella. It is not a ‘personal zine’ filled with my own art or hobby. Of course I love working on the magazine as art and writing are my passions, but it is work nevertheless.


Also, most people seemed to think the FEATURING team is a ‘design team’ – like most magazines have. That is not the case here. The FEATURING team consists of, what we call, contributing editors. They bring in ideas, interview artists and write articles on all kinds of topics. Their main task is to write, not to design. For me that was obvious and it had not occured to me that this was not clear to everyone when we launched the magazine.

Oh wait, there is one surprising thing that I had to accomplish: due to my team – who are predominantly young members who told me the magazine couldn’t do without – I set up twitter and facebook accounts for FEATURING. I never even looked at twitter before so I also made a personal account just to practice ‘tweeting.’ It is something I thought I’d never do but I actually start to like twitter these days.

Tammy: What projects do you have in the works?


Some things that I’m working on now or are on my mind for later this year are:

At the moment, I have a blog event going, Quirky Dutch Summer that started in June and will continue until August 14th. Every Tuesday, I publish a so-called ‘inspirational post’ on my blog. It is not really a workshop – as my workshops handle topics more extensively – but I write about something creative – like a technique - show examples and sometimes there’s a small tutorial. I also invited some amazing artists who write guest posts. Everyone can play along, create something with the given inspiration and share their work in the Flickr group.

After the Summer, I plan to re-run and teach some of my online workshops again. I have plans for writing a new workshop, probably handling all kinds of handmade journals and bookbinding, but that will have to wait as the work for the next issue of FEATURING goes first.

I started drawing the EDM challenges that I found through you ;) and I hope to continue to practice my drawing skills and make at least two to three drawings every week.

And then there’s my big ‘top 2000 blog party’ in the last week of December! I know, that sounds far away but I get excited when I even think of it! It is the most creative and energetic week of the year for me. It will be the fourth year that I host it and the event gets bigger and bigger every year – last year even the Dutch television came to film me!

Tammy: Your mother is a poet and an author of children’s books. How did this influence your growth as an artist?


From my mom, I inherited my passion for words and the trait to look at the world with different eyes. To imagine ‘that other world’ that may possible lay behind ours – a world where fairies fly, mermaids wash ashore and dragons exist. As a child, I found it fascinating that the stories my mom read to me came out of someone (hers, another writer’s) head and that the fantasy of the writer, the worlds he build in his head, could be passed on through written words – heck, I STILL find that fascinating!


My dad, on the other hand, is more of an analytic and visual type. He is a great amateur photographer. When I was a teenager, we made quite some ‘photography trips’ on the peninsula where I grew up. He taught me not only to look but really ‘see’ what you’re looking at, contrast, golden ratio and choosing subjects/details to photograph. He would have been a great teacher. I look quite a lot like him (both in character as in appearance.)

The combination of the above – Mom: fantasy, imagination and love for words. Dad: analytic skills, curious for techniques and eager to pass on knowledge – almost automatically lead me to become a teacher in art. I still love to teach and pass on my passion and knowledge to others! The art I made while studying at the art school (1984-1989) often showed a combination of images and words and looking back on it, I was in fact art journaling without knowing that this word existed.

After art school, I went on studying on a more theoretical level (science of children- and adult education.) I did not do much with arts in those years but picked up being creative when I started scrapbooking around 2002. It was only until I discovered ‘art journaling’ that my art took a big flight... I re-discovered the combination of words and images in a way that truly combines all the ‘mom and dad’ sides I have in me and it feels like I’ve finally come home.

Tammy: What habits do you use to spark your creativity?


Over the years, I have discovered that it is with art as it is with writing: don’t wait ‘till inspiration hits you. Create something everyday. Keep the flow going. It doesn’t matter what you do, just create. Keep those fingers busy and the more you create, the more ideas and inspiration will come to you – it never ends and only grows bigger.

I do have some ‘tricks’ though, to fall back on when I am not in that ‘flow’ or feel rusty after a period without my art (that happens for example when I spend days writing for the magazine or housekeeping.)

  • I keep a small notebook where I jot down ideas, quotes, haiku, song lyrics etc. Flipping though my notebook sparks my creativity.
  • I flip through my stack of magazines – all kind of images or words can make the wheel start turning.
  • I try not to push myself too hard. When I become grumpy because ‘I want to create but don’t know where to start’, I leave it alone and do something else. For example, go for a walk. Most times, I come back home with a clear head and lots of ideas.

Oh, and one thing I know that a lot of people do to spark their creativity but does not work for me... 
I DO NOT surf the internet, galleries or blogs to find inspiration. Like everybody else, I do find inspiration on the internet – but mostly when I’m not looking for it. If I go online for the purpose of finding inspiration, I will most likely not find any and end up moody with even less energy than before. I am better off by creating one ugly drawing that I throw away afterward – at least then I made the first step to start the wheel turning again and that is a satisfying feeling. Looking at someone else’s art does not do that for me at times when I feel ‘empty.’

Tammy:  How long have you been chronicling your weekly life? Do you build your pages all at once or add as the week progresses? What role does your weekly Chronicle play in your life?



I have been keeping (just writing) dairies since I was 10 years old, but the daily writing somehow stopped when I gave birth to my son (1992.) I wrote every now and then but not on a regular base anymore, and when I started creating the writing stopped completely. After a few years I began to miss 'documenting my life' but I could not find a proper way that worked for me until I discovered Judy Wise. The way she combined art with her daily stories spoke to me right away and I started my own 'Chronicles' (as I call them) in early 2010. I began with a weekly 'spread' and that seems to work the best for me as I still make weekly spreads instead of daily pages.

My way of working on the spreads changed over the years. I started with making the spread on Monday (creating the background and add the first images and text) and added some more every day. Eventually, that didn't work for me. The spreads looked disjoined by the end of the week. Also, unexpected events could happen during the week and when it did, there was no room left on the pages to write about it because of what I added already. Another 'problem' I bumped on to was that the 'feel' of a week could change when the days went by. For instance, I would start with creating a bright, green or yellow background on a sunny Monday and then it would rain from Tuesday 'til Sunday... things like that changed my mood and by the end of the week the spread had the wrong 'feel'.


Through these experiences I now have a 'routine' that works for me. I have a piece of scrap paper laying in the book on which I jott down 'the day' every evening. What I experienced and/or felt. At the end of the week (Saturday or Sunday) I start with making the background as I can look back on 'the mood of the past week' then. I sometimes add some images also. The spread really gets finished when I write the final text - that gets done on Sunday afternoon or even Monday (depending on my plans for Sunday - after all, that day needs to get documented on the page too!)

My 'Chronicles' play a big role in my life ánd in my art. I learned an awful lot just by keeping 'the Chronicles'. For instance, I felt odd when I didn't have my weekly spread done by Monday but sometimes I was so occupied with other work that I just didn't have time to work on a spread. When that happened the first time, I figured I don't want my weekly spread to be 'a must' - so I let loose and only wrote one sentence on an already existing background saying 'OK, deal with it, I don't do chronicles this week'. I gave myself permission to let go so to speak, and that helped me to let loose in my other art too! I also try out techniques or colour schemes on these pages. The one thing I still struggle with in my Chronicles is the 'private' versus 'public' part. I do blur parts of the text sometimes when it gets very personal but I noticed I don't like to get too personal on these pages as I know that they will be shown on the internet. I haven't find a good modus on this topic yet. 


Tammy: Draw a little pie + divide it into your creative endeavors, with bigger sections showing where you spend more time.


Some additional explanation:

Teaching: the part shown here is the time it costs when I teach one of my already existing workshops. Writing a new workshop takes a lot more time – that time is taken from the ‘me time’ part then.

I spend quite some time blogging – also because English is not my native language. My writing standard for Dutch texts is high and I want my English texts to be equally good and without mistakes (which is annoying, ‘cause I am sure I still make spelling mistakes.)

Social media includes visiting my online blog friends, surfing galleries, tweets, visit online forums.

I put drawing here because I want to spend at least a few hours each week on that. It falls in the ‘me time’ category of course, but naming it specifically will be a good reminder to myself...

Featuring magazine – overlap – me time: there are weeks that I have to spend most of my time on the magazine ( view submissions, visit blogs of potential ‘featuring artists’, write articles, editing, emailing, prepare interviews, deliberate with the team etc.) – mostly at the ‘start and end’ of a new issue and there are times that are somewhat quiet (in between) where I have more time for my own art. Hence the ‘overlap’.

It's a wrap! 

Marit blogs at Marit's Paper World and tweets here.

FEATURING Magazine is available for purchase.

All artwork and photography in this post are copyright Marit Barensten and utilized with permission.

Explore The Interview Series! 

① Marit Barentsen, mixed media artist.

②: Mixed media artist Natasha White.

③ Podcaster and fiber artist Amy Cowen.

④ Mixed media artist Diana Trout.