Today, I am celebrating 20 years of painting. 20 years ago I attended my first watercolor painting workshop at an adult education center in the Siegerland (Germany). At that time I painted my first four pictures – in ONE day! And the rest is history, as they say.
The four watercolors shown above were my first four paintings that I painted 20 years ago today. Hard to believe it’s been that long. I had no idea then what would come of it.
Good things come to those who wait
I had been planning this for a long time. Several years before I had heard for the first time that there is such a thing as painting courses for adults. I really wanted to do that! But because of my job abroad and all the traveling, it was not possible for a long time.
All the time I had this small watercolor paint box that I had inherited from my grandfather. A real museum piece. In 1998 it was finally put to good use. The paints contained in it had long since dried out or stuck to the lid. No wonder, since my grandfather had died in 1980. But I found matching cups in the art shop. Unfortunately, I cleaned the paint box too thoroughly at that time and some of the paint came off. 🙁
With this paint box and some other utensils, I set off. And this although I was still on sick leave. But I didn’t want to miss the workshop. I’ve waited too long for this kind of opportunity! Although I was still physically weak, I made it through the weekend ok. The result of these two days was eight watercolors that surprised me. Of course, this motivated me to continue painting afterward.
Watercolor as my preferred medium
For a long time, watercolor was my favorite medium. I noticed that especially when I painted again after a long break. I always picked up the watercolors first. For purely practical reasons, watercolors were also my first choice when I was traveling.
Meanwhile, there are of course many other painting media that I use often. More about that another time.
What are your favorite media – either for painting if you are an artist yourself, or for viewing art if you are an art lover? Does it have to do with which painting media you got started?
At the end of last year, the painting “Rooted” had found a new home. This week, I finally had the opportunity to see it in its new context and frame. By this I mean not only the spatial frame but also the picture frame. The owners happened to have this beautiful old frame that matched the picture and now it shines in new splendour in a place of honor in their reading and video room.
Rooted – fitting for Good Friday
The picture “Rooted” is very fitting for today. Today is Good Friday and we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross at Golgotha. His sacrifice on the cross enables us to receive forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with the Almighty God. Jesus’ willingness to be treated as a felon is described in the Philippians’ letter:
6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names. (Phil 2:6-9 NLT)
Out of love for us, Jesus went the not at all easy way into death and into the distance from God. He himself compared this in advance with a grain of wheat:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. (Jn 12:24 NLT)
Jesus died to bear fruit. We are this fruit. Those who follow Jesus and live rooted in Him are thus part of this fruit and contribute to Jesus’ joy.
Rooted – A Reason for Joy
The anticipation of these effects helped him to endure when he was confronted with suffering, contempt, shame and injustice.
Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebr 12:2 NLT)
Finally, a last quotation from Isaiah, where Jesus’ death was predicted in a prophetic word:
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. (Is 53:4-6 NLT)
Jesus’ sufferings and death on the cross, sad and terrible as they are, eventually became a source of joy and peace for him and for us. He died so we could have peace with God. In this sense, I wish you all, HAPPY EASTER!
Soar Climb high Enjoy the freedom and endless vastness.
Open the wings Float in the blue sky Carried by the wind as your friend.
Unfold yourself wide Once again flourish Rejoice in life that’s given to you.
Let yourself be carried On the wings of the eagle During your next stage on the way to the goal.
The evening is approaching The strength is waning But the eternal Father lovingly carries you home.
The poem was written on the occasion of the retirement and 70th birthday of a dear friend, inspired by Willow Tree‘s figure “Soar”. The picture was made later.
Both the figure and the picture symbolize for me a release for something new. The original reason was the knowledge that even at the age of 70, my friend will not simply fall into a state of inactivity, but will now use the time for a new, last period of flourishing of the God-given gifts and possibilities. But this is not only true for my friend or others on the verge of retirement. There is potential in all of us and we are challenged to unfold the possibilities that lie within us, just like a butterfly that has just hatched out of its cocoon and is unfolding its wings. Gradually the full size of its wings becomes visible.
The bird in the picture and in the figurine is encouraged to fly away by raising the hands. Sometimes we need such “midwives”. They remind me of some bird species that push their hesitant offspring out of the nest or unobtrusively deprive them of their direct support when flying. The fledglings have to overcome their hesitation and flap their own wings. And so we too must fly ourselves or we will be sucked into the comfort of the status quo.
Therefor, you too – Soar – to new adventures – and open your wings wide!
The boat sways on high sea
I stand uncertainly on my legs
powerless against the powers
I stare at the shape in the fog
and a gentle voice in me calls:
Come! Trust me!
I inhale deeply
I want to dare the leap
and let go of the edge of the boat
I step on the water…
I forgive my brothers and sisters who wrong me
I pray for those, who hurt me
and I don’t lash out at them
I step on the water
and the water carries me
the water carries me
for a loooooong time!
I had painted the picture that meshes with the poem “Steps of Faith in the Storm” more than one year before that. Originally, for me it referred to the steps of faith that I take by trusting God and following his guidance.
I wrote the poem, when I discovered a new dimension of steps of faith – when I am unfairly treated and harassed, to not insist on my right, defend myself or strike back, but let go and trust that God is above it all and can turn things around for good.
That is what happened in the specific situation, during which I suffered a lot and felt helpless at the mercy of some higher powers. In the end, God turned the situation around and changed it into blessings.
After two years and many courses our art study at the Leonardo Kunstakademie Salzburg is coming to an end. We are celebrating this with a graduation exhibition this weekend. During the opening ceremony we will also receive our certificates.
Besides our examination paintings (which you can see on the invitation below), we will also display several selected paintings which Prof. Baier chose among all the paintings we produced during these two years.
My colleagues and graduation colleagues of the study course XVIII are the following:
The opening ceremony and presentation of certificates will take place on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 6 pm in Schloss Mattsee, Austria (5163 Mattsee, Schlossberg 1, Diabellisaal). The exhibition is open for the public until Sunday, November 15, 2015, from 9 am to 4 pm.
What goes into the making and selling of one painting?
Recently, I did another painting of a new series “Austrian Lakeviews”.
For the last three weeks I was near one of the most beautiful lakes in Austria – the Weißensee in Carinthia. So, I wanted to paint it ever since I arrived in the area. But it took me a week to find the time to visit the lake and take some photos.
When I was finished with one of them, I realized that I had done it in only two hours. I did have to correct some aspects on the following days. That was not surprising because it is a fairly small format since I’m not at home and the table in my hotel room was fairly small. So I’m glad that I chose to bring only my 16 x 12 inch paper with me.
Later that day I started reflecting on how much time goes into the pre- and post- processing of one painting.
Here are the areas that come to mind immediately.
Buying supplies – even though I do most of that online, it can take quite some time, eg, comparing prices and special promotions. Or finding the right color, because unfortunately different brands have different names for the same color. Or even the same brand; e.g. Schmincke Akademiecryl and Primacryl don’t use the same names. Sometimes there is no way around it and I have to drive to the store myself. Such as recently I wanted a specific painting knife and could not see the right one online. As a result I decided to stop at one store in Salzburg on my way to Carinthia.
Searching the right image – that means either talking the photos myself such as in the case of the Weißensee, or find the right image online. Google image is great but it does not tell me easily whether an image is copyright protected or not. Flickr has the advanced search option for creative commons images. Unfortunate this option does not seem to exist in the mobile version for iPads. 🙁 Another great resource is the website called Paint My Photo. Once you’re a member you can paint any photo posted there. Or, as a last resort I sometimes request permission from a photographer. For example, I’m very inspired by the photos of an Italian photographer on Flickr, Andrea Pucci. I recently asked for his permission and was thrilled to receive it.
Choosing an image – deciding which image is the right one for today can take time too. I might have decided on am image yesterday but today I find it not inspiring at all.
Laying out the supplies – this can be done in a sec if you have a permanent place. Changing from one medium to another takes time if you have only one table.
The actual painting process – might take only two hours like the one mentioned above, but that’s the absolute minimum. Often when I look at it again the next day(s), there are things that need adjusting. This can take several days or longer. Of course – larger formats and more complex topics require more time.
Photographing the painting – once I’m satisfied with the result, I take photos from the painting. Sometime that needs waiting for the right time of day or special arrangements for the proper lightning.
Processing of photos – these photos are then transferred to the laptop and processed with Lightroom. This process could be a separate blog post. I usually take several photos from the same painting. I do the lens adjustment and cropping of each photo and then decide which one I want to keep. Then comes the naming, tagging and other metadata, before I export them for different types of online usage.
Online presence – that’s another big subject that requires a separate post. There are countless options with different advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time, I post them on my website, my Facebook artist page, Twitter, and my Fine Art America page. BUT – posting them online is usually not enough to make a sale. Don’t believe the myth of passive income while you sleep. Passive income happens only after you have invested countless hours of post and self-promoting.
Advertising and marketing are the biggest chunk of time. Leslie Saeta mentioned in an interview that it takes 50 % of her time.
This includes the planning and preparation of exhibitions. Again this will be a blog post in its own right. For any kind of exhibiting, I need to decide how to frame it and which matting to use. There are several places where I buy frames all of which require driving between 20 to 40 kms. For the matting I usually have to drive twice to the next town (15 kms away), first to choose the color and size and then to pick it up several days later.
Hanging an exhibition usually requires several hours. Slightly less time is needed for talking them down. Plus it requires time for the design of the invitation, the price list, the personal bio, and the labeling of each painting. Even though I’ve done several exhibitions in the past, I always seem to underestimate the time necessary for all these details.
Shipping – if the painting is sold online, it is usually mailed without matting and frame to save on shipping costs. However it can take a lot of emails until a client comes to a final decision on which painting to buy. And of course, careful packing and shipping takes time.
Last but not least, each sale requires the writing of an invoice and/or receipt, as well as doing the bookkeeping process and the taxes.
As you can see, there is more than just the actual painting process that is needed until I have the money in my pocket.
Summary of the above tasks.
Doing a rough estimate on the list above, I came to the following minimal times for just ONE painting:
* Preparations for painting – at least 1.5 hrs
* Painting – between 3 hrs (2 hrs is rare), 3 days or 3 months (with interruptions).
* Post-painting photographing – at least 1.5 hrs
* All tasks around an exhibition – 2 hrs (time split up between several paintings)
* All tasks around an online sale – 3 hrs
All of these estimates do not include the factor that not all paintings are sold. So, you’d have to multiply the hours with a factor, based on the conversion percentage. Neither do these times include all tasks related to general advertising and marketing, both online and offline – for these you can probably double the number of hours. Plus there are all kinds of smaller tasks that are not directly related to one painting or one sale, such as networking and improving your skills.
All in all a good reminder
Even if a painting was done in only two hours, there is much more that goes into it.
> For myself, this is a good reminder for when fixing my own prices.
> For my artist friends, maybe it will help you to be more realistic in your own pricing.
> For those who buy art, I hope it will help you appreciate the time investment by the artist.
Don’t underestimate the time and effort that goes into one painting!
What is your experience? Have you ever tried to calculate the time needed?
Several years ago (2009?), I participated in a Facebook meme. I had fun reading the lists of “25 random things about me” from other friends, so I wrote my own list after being tagged by several.
Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
Here is a revised version of my “25 random things about me” in case you are interested:
1. I am dyslexic and had a hard time at school with German and English classes, but was top of the class in Math. I consider it God’s humor that he called me into a language related work. As a result, I went to England as an Au Pair (nanny) to improve my school English, and had to learned French for one year in France. In addition I learned Dutch during my time living in the Netherlands and Spanish during a short-term work in Mexico. Again for my work, I had to learn three African languages: Sango in CAR, Djenaama and Bambara in Mali. Along the way I learned a little bit here and there but I can’t claim to speak them, such as Turkish and Italian. During different training courses we practiced learning a language for a few weeks, including Amharic, Kurdish, Chinese, Lingala, Suaheli. In most cases, I remember just one word.
2. I can’t read a book or article without finding spelling mistakes.
3. I was not allowed to speak the local dialect as a child (my parents forbid it) so my pronunciation sounded rather “German” (instead of Austrian), to the point that some Austrians would not believe that I am Austrian, especially after 3 years at a Bible college in Germany. For Germans it was always clear that I am not German but Austrian. Talk about identity conflict.
4. I hate traveling but keep doing it a lot for the sake of God’s calling. I have lived in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Mexico, France, USA, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali. I have visited Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Zaire, Chad, Kenya, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Santa Domingo, Croatia, Greece, and maybe some more which I forgot. I even traveled three times to Eastern Europe as Bible smuggler before the fall of the Iron Curtain. For now I am done traveling that much, since it probably contributed to my burnout.
5. My original training was in plastic engineering, as part of a technical high school, but equivalent to a college degree. I would have needed to work in this domain for two years to officially obtain my engineers title, which I never did.
6. I am fascinated by other cultures and love to observe and analyze cultural differences and personal idiosyncrasies. I also love guessing where people come from and what language they might speak.
7. I am an organizer and love logic puzzles. My love for whodunits probably falls in the same category.
8. I first need a framework before any detail information makes sense to me. I guess that means that I am a global thinker.
9. I got my first camera at age 14 and loved photography ever since. I learned a lot about good composition through it. Or maybe I should say, I did it intuitively right which was very helpful also for painting.
10. I am from the tribe of “hunters and gatherers” – during my childhood this meant catching frogs, lizards, grasshoppers, and collecting stamps, coins, dried plants, books, song texts, poems, etc. – Now most of my collecting is digital: photos, music files, song texts, articles, etc). And I no longer put dead mice in my colleague’s in-baskets. 😉
11. I love all kinds of dancing and started teaching others to dance at age 16. I once opened a ball with the Lutheran Bishop of Austria, Oskar Sarkrausky – he was a very good dancer. During a recent furlough I won two tickets for the Concordia Ball, the ball of the Austrian Press club, in the Vienna Rathaus (city hall). It was a challenge to find all the things (dress, shoes, accessories) AND a dance partner within three days but it was great fun.
12. During school I learned playing recorder, during Bible college guitar, and during a recent furlough I started playing clarinet. I did not get very far with playing the pan flute.
13. During the same furlough I took singing classes and even reached the high B. During the next furlough I learned to more use my chest voice. Regrettably I am better in singing along than singing solo.
14. I love musicals and grew up listening to West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Anatevka (Fiddler on the Roof), Porgy and Bess which my father had on tapes – old-fashioned big tapes.
15. I have a large family because my mother had 7 siblings and my grandfather 12. One of my great-grandfathers was a wood turner. During his journeymanship he traveled all over Europe mostly on foot – Dresden, Vienna, Trieste, Lyon, Paris, London, and eventually got married in Paris with a wife sent to him from back home. Another line of my ancestors goes back to the Huguenots from France who fled to Czechoslovakia and later came to Austria.
16. I love watching (and photographing) sunsets and other sun atmospheres and clouds. They can calm my spirit in incredible ways. Watching birds from close by touches my heart deeply. And looking on water surfaces is very therapeutic.
17. I can be very curious. Which really helps with strange food – I have eaten porcupine, snake, bush rat, monkey, gazelle, elephant trunk, elephant guts, cat, giant frog (3kg! photo below for those who can’t believe it), caterpillars, termites, locusts. Elephant trunk is the finest meat and caterpillars with Koko leaves in peanut sauce was my favorite dish in CAR.
18. I won a bike with three gears at age 14 in a youth traffic quiz. I had it for many years until it was stolen in the Netherlands only a week or so before moving back to Austria.
19. For a relaxing vacation, I like to read a lot and swim, preferably in the ocean with lots of surf. A special bonus is when I also have a chance to do windsurfing which unfortunately does not happen very often.
20. I never stick to a recipe but like to change it. That’s called creativity.
21. I learned the hard way that maintaining relationships is more important than avoiding high telephone costs.
22. For a long time, I was “half-African” when it came to temperatures due to living in Africa for 20 years – I hated the cold, and everything below 26C/80F was cold for me, which did not mean that I liked it when it’s too hot, i.e. above 32C/90F. During the recent years in Austria, my body re-adapted to European temperatures. Luckily! Or I might be frozen stiff by now. 😉
23. I think that there are no black people, not even in Africa because even those called black are shades of brown. In my dreams, all people have the same skin color. I usually recognize a friend in my dreams not by their skin color but by their mannerisms.
24. I love worshiping God through songs and whenever possible like to express my worship through freestyle worship dance. Even though I had dreamed about it for many years, the final impetus for this type of worship came from a Fuller colleague and therapist, whose artist name was Picasso.
25. Last but not least – since the original meme I discovered that I am HSP (highly sensitive person, also called sensory processing sensitivity). It was really eyeopening and explains so much of what I knew about myself. I wrote a blog post about it which you can read here. (This replaces the random fact of painting, which is no longer any surprise.)
I would love to get to know my readers
If you have done a similar list, feel free to post the link below in the comment section.
If you have don’t, I’d ask that you post 1-3 random facts about yourself below in the comment section.
At the beginning of July we have arrived at the last compulsory course of our art study. And with the need to paint our final examination painting which we awaited with trepidation.
The subjects of the course included the last sections of art history, material knowledge, and painting techniques, as well as the painting of our examination piece.
After taking time to review and evaluate our homework and receiving the professor’s feedback on them on the first day, we were told the topics for the examination piece to choose from.
Topics for the examination painting:
The manipulated human
Paths of Life
Youth and Old Age
And then we dove into the work. After having done several sketches and developed different ideas, we discussed them with Prof. Baier. To my own surprise and delight, I was able to finish my first piece until the evening of the second course day. This helped me to be more relaxed the remaining days, while working on two further paintings. The first two paintings pictured “The manipulated Human” and the third one, “Youth and Old Age” (life perspectives).
All three of them are painted with Acrylic paint on canvas, 40 x 32 in (100 x 80 cm).
As usually after every compulsory course, we received at list of assignments to be painted at home until the next compulsory course. On the first day of the next course the leader of the academy, Prof. Hannes Baier, would take time to evaluate and critique our paintings in details.
This time we received the following assignments:
1 Group of houses in a landscape
3 Figural paintings in different techniques
2 Portraits in color
3 Concept paintings about abstract topics
2 Sgraffito paintings
Topics to choose from.
For the concept paintings we had the following topics to choose from:
I and the Other
Today and Tomorrow
For the concept paintings I decided to do two versions of “Lost Childhood” – an African version and a European version, and one painting about the topic “I and the Other – our paths cross and part”.
For the Sgraffito paintings I chose two African motives – women who carry calabash on their heads. Calabash are made from the shells of a gourd. They are used for transporting milk and rice and many other things, and in the the kitchen they search as serving and mixing bowls.
Mid May I participated in the very last elective seminar of my art studies. The topic of portraits has long interested me and from time to time I practiced portrait drawing and painting with the help of my JKPP friends.
This time the topic was not just “normal” portrait painting.
Excerpt from the course description:
From everybody’s childhood to Leonardo’s spot on the wall, the alienation of physiognomical perception is the source of interpretation and insight. In this process it can happen that “only the inner image” of the physiognomy of the other comes fully into its own (as can be seen in the works of Beckmann, Ensor, Kokoschka, Modigliani, Schiele, Picasso and others).
In this portrait seminar we will emphasize the own view and the subjective visual language, because the exploration of the vis-à-vis will also further the exploration of one’s own self.
During this seminar the goal was not so much to paint a realistic picture of another person and aim at 100% resemblance but the exploration of different techniques that are suitable for modern portraits.
As a result, similarities with living persons are more or less accidental. 😉
Nevertheless, if one wants to depict a certain person in a modern style portrait, then it is of utmost importance that the eye area is correct and leads to a recognition effect.
Painting Techniques of Schiele, Morandi, Modigliani and Cezanne
At the beginning of May I attended my last but one elective course of my art studies. I was already familiar with Cezanne and Schiele, but it was my first encounter with Morandi and Modigliani.
Excerpts from the course description:
All four artists are representative for a groundbreaking visual language, because all depictions and expressions are impartation, which means seeing “something” in the light of the “other”.
Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918) aimed to show in his idiosyncratic work above all the “inner truth” through artistic means. In doing so he was always searching to show the psychological mood of the persons, may it be in an act, or in an existential “for itself” depicted object or landscape, in their fateful, individual being – as opposed to the mostly superficial “by itself” (per se) conventional representation.
Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964) prefers to deal with the magic of simple forms of things, which through their sobriety and reduction as well as their pastel tones, transform the common place objects into treasures.
Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920) wants to depict a person in such a way that his basic, existential essentially seems to be “poured” into a body shape. Soft and flowing figuration, that often seems archaic, with almond-shaped often sightless eyes, turns the person into an exchangeable “transitory object” and art object.
Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) wants to see art as a “harmony parallel with nature.” He is deemed groundbreaking in technique and style for the avant-garde (fragmentation of contours, and colors, reduction of forms to geometrical object, alienation and glorification of the trivial, etc.), as the “caesura” and thereby “Father of Modernism”.
After a thorough introduction into the biography and painting techniques of these four artists each of us chose one artist for the practical application in our own paintings.
I was especially intrigued by the style of Modigliani, even though I could not go as far as painting the same kind of sightless empty eyes. Nevertheless, I tried to apply his other principles in my own paintings.
Suddenly I felt lifted up with a lot of momentum and whirled around as if we were dancing exuberantly before Immanuel put me down in the middle of a green mountain pasture.
Come, trust my guidance!
Dancing is like no other activity an expression of vulnerability (Brené Brown). Especially if it is a free style form of dancing. Only when you are inwardly free and healed, do you have the liberty to express yourself in dance.
During a conference one unit started with a time of quiet and guidance for the Immanuel process (a kind of spiritual exercise). We had just been told to remember a moment where we experienced God’s presence especially clearly. Even before I could think of something, I suddenly had the inner impression that Jesus lifted me up with a lot of momentum and whirled me around in a circle as if we were dancing and frolicking around, before he put me gently down in the middle of a green mountain pasture.
What a surprise! I was completely unprepared for this and speechless. I certainly could not have imagined that on my own. It was a moment of reveling joy in a beautiful surrounding. It was an expression full of exuberant joy, joy about being together, freedom, liberty, vulnerability, beauty, wordless appreciation and agreement.
When reflecting on it and wondering what Jesus wanted to tell me through this vision, he showed me that this was in a direct contrast to the treatment by others I was used to. Jesus rejoices in me, despite my imperfections and treats me with a lot of appreciation and respect as a woman.
With Jesus, I do not need to be afraid, that he might tear off my stripes or treat me pejoratively because of some failure or lack of gifting, or that he would treat me like a second-class citizen because I am a woman. Only in Jesus can we find such complete acceptance and security!
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph, 3,17