Paul Schenk (Amsterdam, 1970)
Visual artist, songwriter, animator and multi-instrumentalist.
Education: HKU University of the Arts, Utrecht (1990-1995).
My work is a combination of absurdistic storytelling and exploring border areas in animation, music composition and atmosphere, inspired by science, psychology and philosophy. It usually deals with philosophical questions about identity, reality and illusion. In addition to these topics, however, eccentric characters and outcasts feature in the foreground of most of my work, whether the central event is a technological revolution or the Indonesian War of Independence.
Through the years I have been telling stories in all kinds of disciplines, first as a comic artist and graphic novelist, later on as a commercial animator and visual artist, while in music my storytelling always has been apparent in small stories being told in song-lyrics, some sung and some spoken.
Musical creativity is not the ability to play musical instruments as learned at school, and not the ability to sing “correctly”, as learned in a vocal class, and not even the ability to dance in accordance with all the rules, and certainly not the ability to write texts with “right” meaning. All that can be logically evaluated, using invented rules and laws and put some kind of assessment – this is not creativity and not art. Creativity and art are estimated only with the heart and soul, and only interesting to me when it is unusual, original, hypnotizing and memorable.
Composing music began by age 8 when I started to compose classical music in my head. By age 10 I wrote my first song and performed it for live audience. For me, songwriting and music composition always means just listening to the sounds in my head: I continuously hear these sounds, from little shreds of music to completely finished own compositions, from simple popsongs to complicated classical orchestra’s: The music composes itself, it’s just there. I just write down the notes of the music that has developed in my head. So besides writing lyrics, I do absolutely nothing. It’s the purest form of intuïtion, an almost buddhistic approach.
Being in the popular band I Love Lucy belongs to my best years in music so far. These four years (1992-1996) turned out to be, as how Andy Warhol would call it, my “15 minutes of fame”: Doing the lead vocals, playing the contrabass and writing happy, extremely bizarre lyrics about genius cats winning prizes on TV-shows and the head of Donald Duck being served as a delicatesse, filled with the eyes of Huey, Dewey and Louie and garnished with Walt Disney salad.
In 1997 I quit recording music because of commercial activities, but in 2009 I returned to songwriting and began to record music again.
Telling stories is a passion that also started by age 8: Writing stories, poems, plays and comics. I became a comic artist because in comics I was able to combine my drawing skills with storytelling and I continued doing this for 20 years. I wrote and drew numerous long stories that were full of humor, all published in magazines and books but the strange thing is, I have never been a very big fan of comic books. Although I worshipped my Gods and inspirators Carl Barks, Marcel Gotlib and Robert Crumb, I was more inspired by art, film and literature than comics. My primary motive has always been to tell stories, not to draw pictures.
During the nineties my comic book-style became very underground and avantgarde. Rebelling against the mainstream comic world, my opinion was that comic artists were just illustrators and no story tellers; I pleaded for a more intellectual approach with graphic novels that could really compete with literature.
The last graphic novel I made was Magnum Opus, a story very much inspired by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Michelangelo Antonioni and Georges Bataille: So a writer, a filmmaker and a philosopher, but not inspired by any comic artist at all which was a very meaningful thing. After this I quit making comic stories and graphic novels.
My stories were continued in commercial activities in which my background as a comic artist were clearly visible: Making animations for large advertisement campaigns, working together with advertising agencies, and making commercial live cartoons.
In 2020 I released my animation project INFORG, my first non-commercial art project in more than 10 years.