“Art is life.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art history.
Hi, I am Stef! I am a 26 year old (mostly) abstract painter based in Hamburg, Germany. I currently earn my living with a colourful mixture of jobs in the fields of photography, graphic design and painting. My very first memory painting/drawing is from second grade. I used to envy one of my friends who could (for her age) draw so well! I desperately wanted to be her. My first memory of creating “art” (or what I regarded as such back then) was in 9th grade in Art class. I remember believing that I could only be a true artist if I mastered the art of drawing/painting realistically, seeing that all the kids that could draw pretty well always received the good grades. That was devastating. For years I tried and tried and kept being so disappointed in myself. I was in love with art and this love seemed unrequited. I was determined to change that and decided to move to the UK to get my A-Levels in Photography and Art (you can’t get that kind of focused education that early on in Germany). That’s when my style changed for the first time. My teachers introduced me to this incredible world of different styles of art. The school’s art and photography departments were loaded with art books and other resources. We were made to experiment with anything we could get our hands on and try out lots of different styles. There were students that had incredible drawing skills and I still admired them, but there were also kids that produced sculptures, kids that painted, that sew and photographed… Suddenly there were endless possibilities to be “good” at art. Since then, I have changed again and again, trying to absorb all that creative energy, learn the techniques and see through the eyes of other creators I was fortunate to meet on my way.
I once read this quote that I have lived by ever since “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often”. To make a long story short: I learn and change every time I pick up my brush or camera. Trying to be a specific way won’t make you happy. The only way to succeed as an artist (and with that I mean living a happy life) is to be your very authentic self. It takes a lot of time, a lot of trying and failing. But ultimately you will get to the point where you simply create, and it looks like you created it, and that makes you love it and that makes you love yourself.
In a previous conversation, you mentioned that you put your whole heart into your work. How do you feel that affects you both mentally and emotionally?
Anything you do, do it with passion or not at all. I mean, we all have to do things like take the trash out and I am not sure how much sense it makes to do that passionately, but for art, yes, that’s how it works for me. It’s not only the process of creating that makes me feel good and helps me to get a better understanding of the world and myself. Over the course of the last 5 years (especially since my social unease went from nervousness to proper anxiety) I have found out that art is the ultimate key to connect with people. I am the worst at small talk and keeping a conversation going. I have a hard time focusing and coming up with “intelligent” things to ask back. But as soon as I can talk with someone about art and everything that comes with it, there is no stopping myself. I have had panic attacks multiple times when going out for dinner with friends, but I walked into my final exam, presenting a 30 min speech about my project of the last six months in front of a table full of authority figures, wearing the biggest, most confident smile. Art helps me to be happy with myself, thus having the strength to connect with and help others.
Do you do plan your pieces out beforehand? What is your creative process like?
Funny enough, I just talked about this a couple of days ago. At school in the UK I was taught to explore subjects thoroughly, experimenting with a thousand different materials and techniques, meticulously planning out every move before moving to create a “final piece”. Nowadays, I work on as much as eight big canvases simultaneously. I dive straight in. I feel inspired – boom – paint hits the canvas. I feel I can work like this today because the techniques and thought processes I was taught like a choreography and went on to practice for years and years have merged with my brain, my eyes, my hands and the rest of my body. How long a painting takes from start to finish varies immensely. Sometimes, I leave paintings alone for months and work on other stuff because I don’t know what the piece is missing. In January I finished a piece which I had started working on in May 2016. Until it’s sold I have it hanging in my living room. It reminds me everyday of how much I have learned whilst working on it. There were several periods where I was close to throwing it out, but then I thought “hey, if it can’t get worse, I might as well go crazy and experiment the hell out of it”. Sucking and creating awful, ugly art can be so liberating! And suddenly the mistakes turn into stunning discoveries.
I am mostly inspired by emotions. Those can come from my own experiences, stories I hear, films I watch, the music I am listening to or from looking at other people’s artworks. A couple of artists that really move me (their work as well as the people themselves) are Cy Twombly, Egon Schiele, Albert Oehlen and Yayoi Kusama.
What do you hope other people will get out of viewing your work?
If I have learned one thing, it’s that you can’t force your artwork’s story into people’s minds. The eyes see whatever the soul wants to see. I believe that our vision is shaped by our character and the experiences we have made in our life. So I have stopped trying to convey a particular message. Instead, my work aims to achieve two things: Creating it, it helps me understand, memorize, learn, appreciate and grow. And that is exactly what I hope it does for the people who see my art – I wish for it to be a tool/a space to rediscover themselves.
Mostly acrylic paint on canvas, paper or wood. However, I really like to experiment and don’t ever limit myself to specific mediums. I have recently mixed acrylic paints, pastels, pens, nail polish remover, flour and glue. Also, I am a big fan of BIG – the larger the canvas, the better.