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October 29, 2017

Henk Schiffmacher’s colour class

Art & Cult

He’s the most famous tattoo artist of Holland and lives right around the corner from Volkshotel. Next to the fact that he’s our friendly and frequent visiting neighbour, Henk knows a lot about art, history and colours. We’ve asked him to share some of his knowledge on colours in this special colour class. Ready? Let’s begin.

To start off, I love colours. Especially a certain type of colour. Dark greens, okers, rust, umbers, sienna, mauve. Wow, mauve. That’s one of my favourites. I love things that are wearing out, that are rusting, eroding.

In the old days colour was pure business. A lot of colours weren’t easy to create, because the chemical recipe didn’t existed yet. Certain natural materials had to be imported, so they could be used to create the desired colour. People paid a lot of money to have a specific colour at their disposal. The church for instance, or painters.

You know, in Europe we kind of lost our colourfulness. With the Protestant reformation, everything went boring and harsh. With a lot of black and grey and as little frivolity as possible. When you look at other countries that are Catholic, Buddhist or Hindu for instance, colours are still very present. For that reason, Mexico is one of my favourite countries. Because of the abundant Indian and Catholic use of colour.



White is black until you turn the lights on. White is virginal, clean and unsoiled. Newton discovered that white consists out of all colours combined. So white isn’t an actual colour. Personally, if I see anything white I think: “Ok, let’s get to work!”



Red is the colour of blood. For example, the Indonesian flag consists of white and red. White meaning bone and red meaning blood. Red also stands for the people and communism. And love. In Vietnam and China brides wear red wedding dresses instead of white ones. Scarlet red was once made out of scale insects. The same ones that gives the flamingo its pink colour.



In American history yellow ribbons were used when soldiers died during the war. Like the song ‘Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree’. Yellow is also the colour of god, fear and Catholicism.



Well, blue is a very special colour. Early images of Christ and Maria, were always blue. These paintings were made in a period where only lapis lazuli was available and no chemical blue existed yet. Lapis lazuli is an Egyptian gemstone. It was crushed and made into a powder, which served as the base of the paint. You can understand, it was a very expensive colour. Even more valuable than gold! At one point a king organised a contest to find a cheaper blue. After that, ultramarine was invented. Mostly known now as the blue of French painter Yves Klein.



Orange is known worldwide as the most willing colour there is. It’s a sacred colour. You’ll see it everywhere in Buddhism, but also in the Catholic church.



There are many beautiful greens. Like Paris green or arsenicum green. Early on it was made with real arsenicum and used in wallpapers. If it got wet, it was actually poisonous! Green is also known for its many shades. Johnny Cash wrote a song about it, named ’40 shades of green’. There are so many greens. You can’t find that in any other colour.



I don’t like purple one bit. Purple is the colour of menopause. As a tattoo colour it’s a very annoying colour as well. It just doesn’t stay pretty. It takes over the colour of the skin and turns brownish after a while.



Black is beautiful. There are many shades of black. Brownish, blueish, indigo black. All gorgeous! Black satisfies me. Especially as a tattoo artist. It means you’re done. It’s the end.

Any questions?
You might spot Henk at our lobby bar. If not, you can pay him a visit at his tattoo shop. Located a 10 minute walk away from Volkshotel.

Schiffmacher & Veldhoen Tattooing
Ceintuurbaan 416
1074 EA Amsterdam
Find it on Volkshotel’s Amsterdam Oost map.

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