Paris, 2015. With a glass of red wine in my hand I find myself in a café, hiding from a terrorist attack. At that moment I knew life was too short to waste any more time. I promised myself to follow my heart… Once I got out of there alive.
Read my entire story below my artist bio
Anouschka van Wettum (1993) is an artist working and living in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Since 2020 she has been a self-taught artist focusing on soft pastel and ink drawings.
“ART DOESN’T PAY THE BILLS”
From the moment I could hold a pencil, I wanted to become an artist. Unfortunately, I was a good student and was taught early on that “art doesn’t pay the bills”. Art academy wasn’t for me. It’s difficult for parents with a creative child: great drawing skills don’t make for a successful artist and you want the best in life for your child. Joy and safety. So I knew what to do: I started to learn how to pay my bills.
However, just paying bills wasn’t enough for me. I was incredibly curious and wanted to see the world, live poetry, and meet artists. I was in awe of aspiring writers, illustrators, singer-songwriters and others. Especially Professional Artists. I backed crowdfundings of beginning artists and loved being a volunteer at events in service of those who loved their Big Artistic Dream.
I studied, in hindsight very aptly, Art et Langages: a prestigious Masters in which philosophy, art, psychology, translation and literature were mixed. Not creating art and thought, but thinking and talking about it. We connected everything: from Freud’s dreams to the archaeological origins of how we view women today. In my spare time I met artists, poets and musicians in small cafés. I was discovering my home, bought a huge fake fur coat and started to emerge as an individual. I was the ‘wine lady’ at Shakespeare & Company and adored every passing writer there, the ones living their dreams. At the writing desk on the first floor of that world famous bookshop I drew landscapes and visions and pondered if maybe, just maybe, one day I would be a writer. Drawing was just a hobby anyway…
The 13th of November, 2015. I met up with a singer-songwriter and would meet her friend, the art connoisseur. I suggested a large café at the end of my street, but she preferred a smaller one in an alley. That night my street, Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, would become world news and I wouldn’t return to my bed.
The large café I mentioned, La Bonne Bière, became the target of a terrorist attack.
A NEW REALITY
Suddenly I was locked away in a new world, in a café filled with total strangers. I knew none of the people present longer than 24 hours. I remember feeling the need to escape the stuffed hiding place for a moment, leaving the back room quietly, and peeking through the curtains to see what was going on outside. It was deafeningly quiet. Then I saw the ME’s march past. A sword cut through reality.
The safety I take for granted day after day, is built daily by the people around me. The people that comfort the desperate, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. The people who, despite everything, – and especially when the illusion of safety suddenly admits the cold wind of reality – still know how to see and recognise beauty.
As I stood in that café, hiding in the back room, I read from a local poetry paper someone handed me that day. It was poetry that softened my heart. There was no way I could grasp what was going on around me. I found some meaning thanks to the words of those young poets I would never meet, but who stood by me that night.
THE URGE TO CREATE
From that moment on I realised that throughout the years I relied on what others deemed safe for me. How to dress, how to behave, where to go and not to go. What I studied and what profession would suit me. I had become sensitive to status and stopped listening to my heart. Even though it called out clearly.
I wanted to create something worth looking at. Beautiful images. Dreams to borrow when your own seem nowhere to be found.
In the end the sun rose again and a new day dawned. There was a renewed collective responsibility to make sure that something like last night would never happen again. Early on people started building a new illusion of security and heroes got up early to go to the hairdresser’s and walk their dog, despite the bullet holes in the walls.
Days became weeks and eventually I moved back to the Netherlands.
FROM THE WINGS TO THE STUDIO
It didn’t take long for me to heed the call of my heart: I worked relentlessly on my art, started sharing my Big Artist Dreams and before I knew it I was registered at the Chamber of Commerce and landed my first ten customers in the first two months. The reviews are glowing: my customers are impressed, are almost unwilling to gift their commissioned artworks and contact me for yet another piece.
Meanwhile, over 130 customers later, I can say I finally moved out of the wings of the play that is my life and have become part of club of people building this world everyday with their dreams. My contribution is to show the beauty of this world when it becomes difficult to see, and to share my dreams for you to borrow when you need a tangible token of possibilities.
Especially when the news is worrying and so many horrible images haunt your wakeful nights, my art is an ode to what is still beautiful and worth fighting for. That is what I see in my commissions, too. Artworks to remember moments of promise, connection and the future. A tangible reminder of reasons to wake up, of futures full of promise, and of pursuing what is truly important to you.
TIME FOR SOMETHING LIGHTER! IF YOU KNOW ME WELL, YOU KNOW THAT I…
- LOVE animals, especially my cat Verdi who has some difficulty receiving love, and my Swiss shepherd Bëor who finds it difficult when he’s not allowed to show love
- Have a weakness for the weird and morbid; I love dark fairytales, obscure manuscripts, and animals with odd feaures (think of the mudskipper and the mata mata)
- Want to attend everything like the social butterfly I am, until my inner hermit takes over. It’s a cycle I still don’t quite understand
- Would love to live in France if they had Dutch bureaucracy
What was a moment you’ll never forget that changed your life? How do you look back on that? Feel free to contact me, I would love to hear about it!