Marjolein Bastin and Hallmark have been partners for more than 25 years. Her watercolor paintings have appeared on cards, ornaments, gifts, home decor—pretty much everything we make. We had a chance to chat with her about her work, what painting means to her, and—of course—her deep, lasting relationship with nature. She is even more charming than we imagined (seriously, we did not stop smiling the whole day) and her wisdom about being a working artist should be a master class. Here’s some of what Marjolein Bastin shared with us.
Who would I like to excite?
I made a mistake when I came to America for the first time. I loved a little opossum. I thought it was such a beautiful animal, with those glove hands and fingers, and its fur was so soft, and his little black eyes…and he played dead. I could pet him and he didn’t walk away. I loved it!
So I made a painting of a beautiful opossum. Nobody will find it on a card because that’s not what people want. But for me it was necessary to paint it because [sighs deeply] I was so excited about it, I fell in love.
I know when most of my work should go on products. But I don’t feel commercial—not at all—because I don’t think “product.” I think, “Who would I like to excite about what I am excited about?”
The language a painting speaks should be universal. It should be like a flower: He wants to attract bees, bumblebees, insects. What is he doing? He is giving them food. He’s beautiful—he’s giving them color. He gives them the things they need to stay alive.
In a way, I see a painting like that. You should attract the people you want to reach with it. So give them what they, deep in themselves, might like. I think most of the time it’s sharing the same emotion.
I don’t like perfect people.
I love the world changing around me. I love modern art. But not as deep as I love nature. So I’m true to nature. That’s my lover, and I will not leave him or her! It can’t be more beautiful than nature is giving to us…so why should I make a little bird “birdier” than he is in reality? He is far more beautiful as he is. So I try to follow nature as well as I can.
There’s also a little trace of personality in there. When I see a flower petal with a hole in it, I know there’s a history behind it. I just saw a white peony, but there are a few leaves with a red border. And that shouldn’t be, probably, but I love that abnormality like I love it in people. I don’t like perfect people. I like the blotches here and there. That’s who we are. And that’s who nature is. So I like to highlight things you only see when you look a little bit closer.
This is me.
I think it’s all one big world. I don’t see a borderline between human beings—and even the opossum—and a butterfly. We all are part of the big creation. We all love light. We want to love each other. We want to grow, we want to bloom, and when we die—which is also natural—we would like to leave something behind.
For me, that is my paintings and my love for nature. It’s a huge urge—a wonderful necessity—for me to create. To have my brush in hand, to have my ideas on paper, it’s me. There’s not a borderline between my work and me.
Every day there are new things to learn. And for the rest…I’m not sure about my quality as a painter, but I’m sure that this is what I want to do. That this is me, and that’s what I want to do for all my life. That’s the only thing I’m sure.
There’s so much more, y’all! We’ll be back to continue our conversation later this fall. In the meantime, check out Nature’s Sketchbook, Marjolein Bastin’s collaboration with Hallmark.