Britt Kleiberg (1980) and I virtually sit down for our Meet the Artist interview. Britt from her kitchen table in Harderwijk (Netherlands), while I am coming in from my antique sailboat, floating on the San Francisco Bay. Although nothing beats the pre-Covid physical get-together in an artist’s studio, I am grateful for still being able to meet new talented artists, like Britt.
“A world without animals would be pretty blah.”
Contemporary Dutch artist, Britt Kleiberg (1980) is inspired by animals from all over the world. “Animal portraits” is what she calls her paintings, and she gives them each their own distinct character. These “characters” can be the fruit of her imagination or based on an existing animal with a story to tell. Like “Knut”, the little Polar Bear who was raised by zookeepers at the Berlin Zoo after being rejected by his mom. Or “Sky Dancer”, inspired by disappearing natural habitats.
Positivity, Colors, and Freedom to Roam
The use of color is an important part of Britt’s artistic vocabulary: “Colors make people happy, and I’d like to bring joy and positivity to the world.” Her palette could represent an animal’s natural environment, the hunt, or an emotion; depending on what she wants to communicate. And however more subdued, the background is part of this.
Kleiberg uses oddly little shapes of color to “fill” her animals. “These represent imaginary continents”, she explains, “And can represent the areas where the animal belongs, or where it wants to be. In my artistic world, everything is possible. My animals can roam freely.”
Everybody needs a Friend
While painting, a little imaginary creature often appears to the artist. When it does, it becomes part of the story Britt tells with that work. “Everybody needs a friend. Not necessarily many, but that one special friend is important. This little friend is not in every painting, but when I feel the animal needs a little comfort and joy, I add it. Sometimes clearly visible, sometimes on the side, or the back even.”
A painting is built up from several layers. She starts with yellow brush strokes, like a rough drawing. Erasing parts she cannot use as contours of her animal appear. During this part of the process, her new work comes to life and the journey with the animal begins.
Britt has created a list of animals she desires to paint. Like the Bull of Wall Street or the wolf, as it regains its habitat in the Netherlands. When she is alone in her studio, with a white canvas on her easel, the inspiration for new work comes to her. As she progresses, ideas and processes may change. It is important this process remains fluid, allowing her to take a painting where it needs to go.
Naming the animal portrait
Britt very deliberately names her animal portraits, and the name is always closely related to the hidden message behind the work. A name typically arises along the way and is often a symbiosis of the subject of inspiration for the artwork, the little friend appearing beside the main character, the music she carefully chooses while painting, and/or the symbolic reflection of her message. However important the journey with this particular animal is, the message behind the work is merely for the artist herself. She’d like to leave it to the viewers’ interpretation, but happy to share when a collector is interested.
Britt Kleiberg finished a degree in Graphical Design and Styling before she found her calling in contemporary art. Born into a family with a healthy interest in the arts, she was exposed to art early on and started painting when she was 10 years old. She loved going to museums and is grateful for the early education she received. It has provided her the background for her current journey as a contemporary artist.
“If I can paint every day, I have reached my goal in life. I have a beautiful studio space; quiet with lots of space and natural light and I am there as often as I can. Happy as a clam!”
Interested to learn more about Britt Kleiberg?
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