Netherlands native applies colorful imagination to painting

SUBMITTED PHOTO - An untitled work by artist Rinse Jan de Koning.The Wilsonville Public Library’s January Artist of the Month, Rinse Jan de Koning, is something of a Renaissance man.

He lives in a one-room home in western Wilsonville that he built himself, and carves wood and paints in a loft above his kitchen — a kitchen that sees ample use, although de Koning has been retired for years from a career as a chef. He is an avid reader and attempts to read a book every day.

Painting was one of de Koning’s first passions, however. De Koning was born in 1941 and picked up his first brush at age 12. His subjects were primarily cityscapes, buildings and canals. By 15 de Koning’s work was assembled into a show in his native Netherlands, and he’d won an award identifying him as the country’s most promising young artist.

Nevertheless, de Koning says that he always considered his art to be a hobby, and he never had professional aspirations. The business side of working as an artist has always been especially unpleasant for him, he says, and he dislikes selling his work.

“It’s like giving your children away or something,” de Koning says. He prefers instead to keep finished pieces nearby, allowing him to revisit the work he has completed for inspiration or to see how he accomplished something in particular.

de Koning chose to pursue a different sort of business, attending a school in The Hague where he studied hotel and restaurant management. The school’s schedule was grueling, with classes running from early in the morning until late at night, six days per week, and de Koning found himself forced to give up painting.

In 1965, de Koning emigrated to the United States, a decision based on a desire to pursue a certain kind of Americanism.

“I had one picture in my mind that was always riding horseback in the California mountains,” says de Koning.

As it happened, de Koning did have the opportunity to ride horses in the California mountains. The experience lived up to his expectations, he says.

However, the California climate began to wear on de Koning after nearly three decades working for — and eventually owning — restaurants in San Diego. He bought a ranch in Colorado and spent a number of years running it as a guest house before moving to Oregon in 2002.

It was around that time that de Koning’s parents, both in their 90s, began to struggle with health problems. In 2003 de Koning packed his bags for an extended stay in the Netherlands to help take care of them.

While there, de Koning began to paint in earnest. He had painted on and off over the years since his youth, but never studiously. Painting proved an attractive way to pass the time.

“Taking care of old people is OK, but you’ve got to do something with your mind sooner or later,” de Koning says. “Otherwise you go nuts.”

Artist friends in The Hague inspired de Koning to consider taking up painting as well. He began to learn from them and study the styles they used.

Today, de Koning’s work focuses on subject matter similar to that which had preoccupied him as a teenager. He paints many landscapes and cityscapes, along with homes. Few of de Koning’s works are based on real places; they emerge as de Koning works, giving them a dreamy, impressionistic appearance.

de Koning has also gotten better over the years at integrating different styles and techniques, he says. The challenge of doing so helps to keep his work absorbing.

Color is also a matter of fascination for de Koning. “Sometimes I think of myself more as a colorist than a painter,” he says.

A persistent challenge is to determine when a piece is truly finished. “I think I’m finished (with a piece), but then I hang it right where I can see it many times in a day, and if in a month or two months something begins to bother me, then I go and change it,” he says.

If there is a benefit to selling his work, then, it is in the conclusion a sale puts on one of de Koning’s works.

“When it’s sold — then you know it’s done,” he says. “You can’t go back a month later, and say, ‘Hey, can I come in and change this?’”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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