The first thing I remember about Volker Licht was how much I liked his name. As his last name may suggest — in Dutch, it directly translates to “light” — he had a certain light about him. His first name felt like a word of ignition to me, like sparking a light. However, I didn’t see him as a “Volker” when I looked at him. I first saw him as a nameless weird chatterbox.
When I was getting to know him, Volker was working on a project with my partner, Arjan, so I would see him twice a week. He would walk into our workspace and chat and chat and chat. My process would be disrupted every time he entered the office, which was irritating at first, but over time, I grew fond of him. Volkie, as an artist himself, became fascinated by the comics I was drawing, and would always come over to talk with me about it when he visited. Back then, I wasn’t thinking about becoming an artist; my heart was set on comics, but Volkie taught me that the two were not mutually exclusive. To me, he was everything an artist should be: he had the portfolios, the degrees, the exhibitions, the studio, the passion, and drive. Volkie respected my work in a way few other people have. He never gave me suggestions or advice on what to create; he continually pushed me to think conceptually and dig into who I was as an artist. To get the feeling that I was part of the artistic world from someone as incredible as Volkie was powerful.
Much of Volkie’s art was controversial, erotic, and bold. He seldom revealed his tricks of the trade, but by watching him develop his pieces, I learned and evolved. Hiro Kami, another alter ego of mine that focuses on creating digital manga and comics, was heavily influenced by his presence. “Influence,” in fact, would be a weak word; without Volkie, Hiro, and many of my other alter egos, would feel incomplete. He became a guiding light, a teacher to me.
Every time I would present my original work at an exhibition, I could almost expect him to be at the opening. I counted on being able to turn to him to gauge his reaction. He would sincerely tell me how much I’ve grown and how much progress he had seen in me. I loved watching him progress as well. Seeing the diversity in Volkie’s work showed me that I don’t need to choose one artistic style to follow. I should create whatever I want to and see every bit of art I create as more like a part of me. Even after his terminal cancer diagnosis, I was unable to process the feeling that he would not always be in the back corner of the gallery.
Part of the reason why I created so many pieces in such a short timespan was to hear Volkie’s opinions on them while I still could. I also wanted to use that time as an opportunity to thank Volkie for being my Licht, even if he didn’t realize it.
I will never have the chance to tell him in person how much he meant to me, but my depiction of Volkie as his female alter ego, “Lee,” is my way of saying “thank you.” I have created it for my own personal gallery to make sure my teacher is always by my side. Volkie constantly gave, and will continue to give, me the courage to try new things. This piece, Spark, is a tribute to Volkie’s very being, because he initiated the creation of the artist that I am today. He lit my path so I could continue to walk on it. With this painting by my side, I know that I will never walk alone.
Thank you. I will never forget you.