Making art comes naturally to Edie Pijpers, a 35-year-old painter and musician from Holland whose work can best be described as “whimsical.”
“It’s just kind of what I do,” she said one recent morning over tea in the sunny Clinton Hill apartment she shares with her boyfriend, a writer. “One day, years ago, I drew a kid [holding] on a balloon and said, ‘oh, that looks nice.’ Then people responded to it.”
The visual of flying away on a balloon “represents freedom for me,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to have the lifestyle of an artist, the freedom to own my own time. I’d done music for a long time, and drawing and painting began more toward my mid-20s.”
The pattern of Edie making art and then being greeted by the powerful emotions it triggers in viewers – from nostalgia to sadness and hope to delight – repeats itself time and again, whether her work is displayed on a random sidewalk, at the Union Square Holiday Market, at the Park Slope Seventh Heaven Street Fair, at the Tompkins Square Bagel Shop, or at a formal gallery exhibit such as the one going on now at 440 Gallery in Park Slope.
It was in Nashville, Tennessee, that the woman who had until then only drawn in crayons decided to buy a canvas and paints and “see what happens.” After friends liked what they saw – portraits, faces and “naturally female figures” – Edie brought them to a local coffee house, created a website, and sent an email to her mailing list people who were already fans of her ethereal and mellow pop-synth vocals.
She sold three paintings through that effort. The first painting to sell was one of “an imagined woman, seen from behind with a glass of wine in her hand.” Edie recalled that “When those sold, I was like, ‘Whoa, I never thought of that!’”
So Edie kept painting, eventually shifting towards kid-oriented images as her two nieces, now aged five and four, began to grow up back in Holland.
“I’ve done murals in their rooms [and] now they like to make suggestions for what I should paint,” chuckled the proud aunt. “For my nieces, everything I paint, they think it’s for them. In general, kids like my work. They’re pulled in, they look, and they point.”
Currently, the wall over Edie’s desk has paintings of fruit, while the space over and on the fireplace mantle is decorated with portraits and cute phrases matched with images of bagels and coffee that are destined for an East Village bagel shop: “Order Here,” “Pick Up” and “Mistakes happen, but we always do our best.” A guitar leans against an easel, which has a blank canvas propped up, next to the set of paints on the desk.
“I work fast – not sloppy, but fast – and work a lot. I sit on each one for a day, make a cup of tea, then do it again. If it’s large, it takes longer,” said Edie. “I draw with the brush and paint as I go. I don’t have a clear idea when I start. I will be happy with the result, but sometimes it’s not what I thought it would be.”
So far, her most popular sellers are “Fiddler on the Bridge,” “Flakes,” and “Snowy Chrysler” – which depict a girl playing the fiddle while standing atop the Brooklyn Bridge, children floating through falling snow on balloons, and a balloon flight past the tip of the Chrysler Building which is peeking through a snowy cloud.
Children aren’t the only ones enamored with Edie’s creations. For around every 10 people who stop and check out her vendor table, one makes a purchase. “People say they are drawn in by the color, but they buy when they appreciate the innocence of childhood,” she observed. “It brings them back to the space of being a child, of dreaming.”
There is, however, a depth and soulfulness that is often interwoven into the honest grace and playfulness of Edie’s imagery, and that combination can also be seen in her motivation as an artist.
“The first [motivation] is simple as I want to do something I enjoy in my day,” she said. “The second is, on a deeper level, I want to do something that contributes to society, to give something to people that can put a smile on their face.”
“Once, in Union Square, there was a homeless guy staring at the art for a long time. As he left, he said, “I wanted to kill myself this morning, but after seeing your work, I feel better,” recalled Edie. “He obviously had some problems [and] the idea that [my art] could take him to a place, perhaps his childhood – that was good, good god.”
“I am touched because homeless guys have given me money [after listening to my performance] when they don’t have any themselves,” she added, noting that on a lighter note, when in Los Angeles as a musician, she was once walking on the street, without her guitar when a random guy shouted out to her, citing some of her lyrics that he had heard her sing.
“It’s nice, this whole spectrum of things,” she reflected. “Being out in the public, there’s no boundary. Galleries are nice, but the gap becomes bigger between you and your customers. Art, I think, should be something for everybody.”
Back in Holland, where Edie’s family still lives in an idyllic-looking area outside the city of Rotterdam, her artwork also manages to impact the lives of complete strangers.
“Some of my paintings have become greeting cards at my mom’s hospital,” she explained. “In the ICU in pediatrics, where kids die, they give them out… It’s so sad, but gratifying that my work can offer some relief in that.”
For Edie, being in New York has afforded her the opportunity to live off of her art, working on commission or selling existing pieces at $20 a print, $40 for a woodblock print, $50 for a painted rock, $95 for woodblock triptych, and $75 to $150 for an original painting.
She and her boyfriend have self-published two small books, one a lushly illustrated “sweet lullaby story about celebrating life” for her nieces, and the other a character-based coloring book that tells the story of “two people coming together, learning to accept each other doing things in their own way.”
“There is a lot of meaning in the story,” Edie said. “That you’ve got to take life in your own hands; whatever you do, you have to put it in the work. For artists and everyone: do it not just because it’s something grand or something’s going to happen as a result, but just because you want to make something and do something good.”