Recently, during a particularly boring meeting at work, I allowed my eyes to wander around the room and they settled on what was, I assumed, a pencil drawing. I hadn't noticed it before, usually I am in a state of total panic when holding meetings, convinced that I haven't prepared properly, or even prepared for the wrong meeting, but now I couldn't take my eyes off it. After the suits had left the room I stayed behind to have a closer look. The picture showed a small group of people, looking up in wonder at an enormous whale who appeared to be leaping into the air. I was completely captivated and found the image so alive that felt I could almost hear the roar of the ocean, the cries of the seagulls flapping around the whale - it was completely exhilarating. The picture was called 'Avontuurlijke Dagen' (Adventurous days) and I was able to make out the artists name and that it had been printed in 1992. I also noticed that the picture was one of a print of 20. Encouraged by a friend I set about trying to find the artist, thinking that maybe I could locate one of the other 19 copies. It took a while given that I had misread the name but eventually I worked out that it was Ronald Tolman and was able to find his website. Straight away I sent off an email, telling him how much I loved the picture and asking if he knew the whereabouts of one of the prints. Happily he responded with the exciting news that he had found the last one, number 20 of 20. Some triumphant fist pumps, a happy dance (obviously on my part) and a few emails later we had an appointment for me to go and have a look.
So yesterday I set off early from Amsterdam to Nijmegen and after a short bus ride found myself strolling down a gorgeous country road lined with pear trees and fields with grazing ponies. Just as I was beginning to think that google maps had got something very wrong I spotted in the distance a large sculpture outside a beautiful farmhouse building, Ronald Tolman's house and studio. Once inside and having met a very nice Mrs Tolman and a friendly retriever, I was shown into the studio to meet the artist himself. Over the next hour or so I had the pleasure of being shown Ronald's (I will call him Ronald rather than Mr Tolman and just have to hope he doesn't mind) beautiful garden, dotted around with his stunning sculptures and was also able to wander around his studio pointing at things and being told what they were, how they were made etc. Ronald told me that he is best known for his sculpture and etchings but is about to release a book and have an exhibition of his painting work, the opening party of which he very kindly invited me to. He also created a children's book with his daughter, Marije Tolman called 'De Boomhut' (The treehouse) which was a worldwide hit, and has been translated into many languages, including Japanese. In fact he even has a whole fan club in Japan - and now of course the one in Amsterdam (me). Ronald was even kind enough to give me a set of pictures from the book. Looking around the studio I was really taken with the many small sculpted figures that lined every window sill. Many of them with large hands, quite comical looking and in some cases even a bit sinister but every one I found appealing.
When I felt I'd talked and asked more than my fair share I left the artist and the studio in peace and walked back down the lane and my picture tucked under my arm and a grin a mile wide. 'What a lucky person I am', I thought to myself as I walked quickly past a slightly psychotic looking sheep, taking care not to make eye contact. Not only have I now got a beautiful picture to hang on my wall, but I've actually met the person who created it and he even let me ask stupid questions, like "er, what is an etching actually?". A truly splendid day.
My only useful piece of advice is to make sure that you go to Nijmegen, only to see the toilets on the station. They must be seen to be believed. Just trust me.