Wilson Man Voices Van Gogh Documentary

Paul Strikwerda will provide the artist's voice in documentary airing on NBC-10 Saturday.

Chances are you've never met Paul Strikwerda. 

But depending on where you've traveled, or what audiobooks you've listened to, you might have heard his voice.

Working from a small studio at his home in Wilson, Strikwerda has carved out a career as a voiceover artist. This weekend, he'll be featured in an NBC-10 documentary about the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh.

"Van Gogh Up Close," which airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m., is timed to coincide with an exhibit of the same name at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The exhibit, which runs until May 6, "is the first exhibition to explore the reasons and means by which this impassioned artist made such unusual changes to his painting style in the final years of his life," the museum writes on its website. 

The film is narrated by actress Glenn Close; Strikwerda, who is Dutch, will provide the voice of Van Gogh, reading the artist's letters.

'A dream a lot of boys have'

Strikwerda's whole career has been based around his voice. He began doing news radio in Holland -- he recalled doing a story about some of Van Gogh's lost paintings -- before becoming a voiceover artist.

"I was kind of sick of the sadness," he said. His job seemed to be an oil slick one day, a war the next. He came to the United States in 1999, and began his new career.

"To me, it was a dream that a lot of boys have," Strikwerda said. "I've always done voices. I've always imitated other people's voices."

Being able to do a variety of voices is key to his career, Strikwerda said. Sitting in his studio, he played a series of ads he'd narrated. One was for a zoo, where he used a "David Attenborough" accent. Another was for a California insurance company, which required him to adopt a pirate voice.

"If you can do only one thing, only one voice, then you are an out of work voice over actor," Strikwerda said.

His studio is a small room in the basement, with a microphone, a computer, and some sound-proofing.

"What I do has changed a lot," he said. "Even 10 years ago, if you got a project like this, you'd go to New York or Philadelphia, to a studio." There'd be engineers, a director, other actors, "a whole entourage."

Now, it's Strikwerda, his wife -- the , whom we profiled last month -- their daughter and their cats. When he's not recording, he's blogging about his work, trying to promote what he does.

"I don't think my voice is anything special," he said. "I don't sound like Laurence Olivier or Morgan Freeman. It's all about how you sell it."


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