Still just a kid. But isn’t he already looking further than the camera lens? Does he already know what he’s going to be when he grows up? An engineer, research scientist, clerk, car mechanic, priest, politician, a butcher like his brother, or a teacher like his other brother? Options like pro football player or professional cyclist weren’t even around yet. So what will he become?
His expression doesn’t reveal what his future will be like but we still get the feeling that fate has something in store for him.
At the age of 11, Clemens wins a drawing competition at his primary school. The subject of his work: the crucifixion.
Christ died, but a talent for drawing was born! Yet the drawing was so perfect that was discovered that Paulien, Clemens’ older sister, had made a substantial contribution to it. (Clemens had drawn the cross, and his sister had drawn the figure of Jesus… or something to that effect.) By the time he was around 11 or 12, Clemens was selling his sketches to his oldest sister to help supplement his allowance – a real necessity. Spurred on as well by the success of Tom Smits, a world-famous cartoonist, Clemens was drawing cartoons for Dutch and German magazines at the age of 16. He didn’t even hesitate to write to Playboy magazine. Not surprisingly, it was already evident that Clemens wanted a life that included creativity and the willingness to take on challenges.
He wanted to be an artist.
But Clemens came from a large family. He simply had to start making a financial contribution to his family by paying for his room and board. Attending the academy to become an artist would have been extremely unusual in his situation – something his parents would never have dreamed of. Become a teacher like your brother Pieter…so you’ll always be assured of a job.
He failed the admission requirements to attend daytime classes at the academy! So he’d have to attend evening classes there and extend the length of his training. But was that such a bad thing? Actually no, because Clemens could start working during the day on his paid career. His first job? Messenger boy at the Rabobank. Thus – and it wasn’t how he would have planned it himself – he wound up in advertising after five years instead of in art. He worked as a graphic designer, art director, copywriter, illustrator and finally as a creative director But his destiny was still calling out to him.
At the age of forty-six, Clemens decided to become an artist.