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Artist in the Spotlight

Artist in the Spotlight


Isabelle Scheltjens has given classical pointillism an original and contemporary twist. She developed a new way of portrait making, in which thousands of pieces of glass in specific patterns optically form an image. Pointillists used small, distinct dots of pure colour on their canvases, placed in close proximity so that they would blur into new colours. Isabelle applies a similar technique, using layers of coloured glass instead of paint. She immersed herself in the understanding of colour and creates her portraits with maniacal intensity – featuring intricate detail, lighting and shadows. The colourful pieces of glass are like the dots of paint used by the pointillists: forming an abstract image up close, yet a dramatic and precise portrait from a distance.


Up close we see an abstract image, seemingly unfinished – a captivating combination of bright colours. However, when viewed at a distance, our eyes fuse the individual pieces of glass into one solid portrait. The time-consuming and laborious technique is the antithesis to the frantic pace of life in a ‘disposable’ society.


Isabelle achieves striking optical effects with her technique: she captures the dance of light and colour in a way a photograph transforms it into a black & white, or sometimes a colourful, portrait – the fascinating result of a process which relies on the perceptive ability of the viewer’s eye and mind.


Everything looks better from a distance than up close. Isabelle’s portraits require the viewer’s participation, as they change depending on the viewing position. Her art gives shape to the disparity between what something appears to be and what something actually is. The fragility of glass represents the transience of beauty.


Mosaic art requires a talent for seeing the bigger picture, even more so when the mosaics are almost photorealistic. From afar, Isabelle’s artwork depicts the model naturalistically. Up close, the image is an abstract composition of thousands of individual squares. Using tiny pieces of glass, she creates portraits with intricate details and amazing depth. The mastery of this technique requires dedication, ample skill, a deep understanding of colour and lots of patience. The result is an exquisite art form which will last for generations.


Although Isabelle’s modern-day pointillism requires technical craftsmanship, technique is merely a means to an end. The seemingly random forms and colours on the surface of the canvas come together to form a distinct, expressive, tactile image – pointillism reinvented and re-contextualised.


Assembling a portrait one piece at a time, while considering the work as a whole, is incredibly hard. It goes way beyond cutting a piece and getting it in the right position. Isabelle uses this challenging and time-consuming art medium to express a subject’s features, personality and mood with vibrant colours in unexpected patterns. The result is a portrait which brings a sense of wonder to the viewer, making him want to reach out and touch it.


Faces are the first things we notice in people. We respond to faces because they reveal an individual’s personality: trustworthy or deceitful, attractive or unappealing, welcoming or reserved, … It is no wonder faces have always been central to art. Irrespective of whether they are being depicted recognisably or abstractly, we always clearly recognise them because they manifest a specific composition: a forehead, two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Isabelle is fascinated with faces and their capacity to arouse our perceptions. 


Isabelle Scheltjens’ working method is truly remarkable, a modern twist on traditional stained-glass portraits. As a self-taught artist who started her career in 2014, she is on her way to big things and is becoming an internationally recognised artist, who is exhibiting worldwide.