Hetty A film about the painter spreading hope around the world through art

WordsJyni Ong

The enigmatic painter Hetty van Der Linden has long beguiled Amsterdam’s cultural circles with her zest for life, creativity and projects for social good. Breaking the mold for what one can do in their 70s, she tirelessly supports children through her organization Paint a Future, where painting is used as a therapeutic and empowering tool. Here, Jyni Ong explores the dynamic and punchy short film—by Ned Donohoe and Georgia Boal-Russell—that explores Hetty’s creative philosophies and intuitive processes.


When art director Georgia Boal-Russell first saw Hetty van Der Linden’s colorful paintings, her first thought was, “this doesn’t seem like the work of a 70-something Dutch woman.” Taking in the wild, heavy painterly strokes resembling voluptuous nude women riding bulls, dancing or drinking, Boal-Russell immediately understood Hetty to be a sensational visual storyteller full of impassioned energy that explodes onto the canvas.

Hetty’s story is told by Boal-Russell, a long-term friend, alongside director Ned Donohoe in a five minute eponymous film, “Hetty.” Drawing out the connections between the artist’s vibrant personality, philosophy and art, the filmmakers set out to reflect her infectious character through similarly colorful filmic techniques. Importantly, the short also shines a light on Hetty’s foundation Paint a Future, a global initiative founded in 2000 empowering disadvantaged children through painting, encouraging them to find their voice by painting their dreams.

“The most important thing to me is to support children in need,” explains Hetty. “To imagine the paintbrush as a wand with which they can make their dreams come true.” The paintings are then sold with the proceeds going to the children. “The children that I work with, they don’t get to talk about their dreams without inhibition,” she continues. “Nobody asks children in poverty what they want to be when they grow up because there is no hope of a bright future. Giving them an outlet for their ideas—and being a medium for this—is so incredibly vital to me.” 

With this in mind, “Hetty” the film celebrates the painter’s creative ethos which overlaps with pillars of Paint a Future: That art can be healing, can be a symbol of hope. It offers a close-up into Hetty’s world, a perspective which challenges the status quo for what older people are capable of. 

Often starting her paintings with a single brushstroke, Hetty lets inspiration in that moment guide her. “I may interpret this brushstroke as the shape of a leg, or a body, and then build the rest of the subject matter out based on what I’ve experienced in the days and weeks before.” In this way, she understands the paintbrush as an extension of the body. Art can be a vehicle for dreams, a philosophy she instills in her own practice as well as Paint a Future; where children’s ideas are pushed one step closer to reality, realized through paint. Art can be a way to truly express raw feelings, inviting other people—mostly strangers—to feel something in turn.