The Wanderarti Interview
Where Art and Travel Collide
… In March 2014 I was interviewed by the creator of the wonderful site “Wanderarti” dedicated to travel and travel art. The questions were very pertinent and interesting to answer, so I thought it is worth to be featured here in my own website. The original interview, with some of my travel paintings as illustrations, can be seen on the site at Wanderarti.
1) Your paintings have a very colourful, unique style to them. How did this develop?
When I started with landscapes, a long time ago, I only painted from photographs and in a rather realistic style, in colours and shapes close to the natural ones. Later, as I moved from Germany to Spain, I opened an art studio and started working with a Russian painter trained in the classic Russian school. For him, painting from photos wasn’t really art. It was under his influence that I began sketching on site during my travels, first with pencils, but rapidly I stepped up to ink pens to consciously avoid the possibility of erasing. My style quickly loosened up, gradually taking distance from realistic colours and shapes, claiming artistic license, and in that way, developing a personal style. This style evolved naturally, without conscious effort, being the result of my rather rebellious and very impatient nature. This impatience especially forced me not to focus on details and instead to paint what I call an „impression“ of the places I visit. The result is a style that people define as „loose and free“: these words certainly match my character! I will never forget an American admirer asking me if the houses were really dancing in Europe, as they do in my sketches.. or my Mom wondering why my houses are always crooked!
2) Let’s talk about process. What steps do you take when creating each piece (I.e. do you sketch onsite or work from photos?)
I sketch landscapes, townscapes, seascapes and other travel motifs on the spot, in a very quick way, with an ink pen to avoid the possibility of erasing anything. If I draw a wrong line, I try to include it in another element of the scene, the aim being to turn the negative into a positive. Anyway I often noticed that these ‘errors’ give a certain charm to the drawings, and even a deeper truth, because, as we all know, in this world nothing is perfect!
I never draw exactly what I see in one place. Often I play with the elements which are in front of my eyes, changing their relative place and recombining them in a way that seems more attractive to me.
As for the colors, I add them later. The colors of nature are very beautiful, but personally I’m bored when I try to reproduce them in paints. Also, in my experience, stepping away from natural colours and giving room to one’s own fantasy leads to a much more personal style. In addition, when I paint, I hate long preparations and technical complications. Painting outdoors always means problems with wind, rain, dust, etc., and also with people who are a little bit too curious for my taste. So I prefer to stay very discreet when I sketch outside, without a big installation drawing attention to me!
It is very rare, nowadays, that I paint from photos. A photo has already made the important step to reduce the three geometric dimensions into two, which is to me the most important step in the creative process of a painter. And,in fact, is the most exciting moment of this wonderful artistic adventure which is travelling art!
3) it’s obvious you have travelled a lot. Where has been your favourite place to paint and why
I love painting everything that is new for me! So, when I travel to unknown destinations, I more or less want to paint everything I see and this inevitably leads to frustration, not having enough time for everything.
Nevertheless it is true that some places inspire me more than others.
I loved painting Portugal, in particular its harbours, towns and castles. In the harbours there are boats in the most beautiful colours, often decorated with lovely frescoes or even paintings. In the towns houses and even historic buildings have something playful that deeply charm me. As for the medieval castles from Portugal, they are simply amazing, somehow not looking as serious and threatening as most medieval castles elsewhere, almost as if they were designed with a sense of fun. And I did fall in love with their multitude of small cute towers hanging everywhere. I also really like the contrast between their brown and warm colours and the white houses at their feet. Also I generally love in Portugal the way how the Portuguese have built their towns, not very geometrically, rather organically and very appealing to an artist’s eye which does not love straight lines very much!
And then there is Italy… Italy is a real monster of artistic beauty and one does not know where to start! As a travel artist you are really overwhelmed by a tide of motifs when you get there. Whether it’s the towns, the landscapes, the seascapes, the people, the monuments, markets, cafes, shops, even the food, everything screams to be painted! It would take me more than a lifetime to try to render justice artistically to that amazing country.
4) aside from travel, what inspires your work?
Everything! I really love to paint everything and in each possible way! Some art critics have told me that it is wrong, that my body of work looks as though it is painted by many different painters. But I think differently. I simply want to paint everything that inspires me, no way I would I allow myself to be constrained by rather arbitrary rules about my choice of motifs!
But generally I can say that I like painting everything that is full of movement and colour. This is why I have a certain predilection to paint sport motifs. Also, because active sport itself plays a very important role in my life, as a vital necessity and a counterbalance to my rather static artistic activity.
And then there is the music. Living together with a passionate musician and songwriter, there is for me no way around ‘painting the music’! I find musicians performing, singing or playing an instrument, extremely aesthetic and emotional. And I do love to paint emotions, true emotions. Perhaps musicians are the people in this world who seem to me the most passionate and intrinsically honest in what they do, and this is what I am trying to render in my artworks featuring them.
And well… fauna and flora always inspired me, and will always do: Nature is the perfect mentor!
5) what do you hope your pieces say to the viewer about the place they represent?
For those viewers who have already visited the places I paint, what I really hope is to remind them of the wonderful time they had when they were on the spot. When one is travelling, as an artist or not, one is generally in a much more relaxed state, more open to all kind of perceptions. We look at the world around us with eyes wide open, and perceive it with a purer and younger heart, simply because it is new. And most of the time people go home with wonderful memories. I would love that through my paintings, people can relive those deep emotions felt during their travels, and at the same time, escape once more from the daily routine whenever they need to, dreaming of their next trip!
And for those who do not know the places I paint, I would like to instil in them the desire to go there! Or at least let them know of all these wonderful places around the world and share with them my own emotions about visiting them.
6) if you could paint anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
There are so many places which I would love to paint in this world, but spontaneously I would say: INDIA!
India because, judging by the photos, films and paintings of various international artists I’ve seen, I think this country would be an infinite source of motifs for me. Beautiful colours, movement, vibrant life everywhere outdoors. And then I find the people from India very inspiring to paint, as well as the clothes they are wearing. India is for me THE place that seems to represent “exotica” in its essence, and exotica is extremely attractive in travel art. That said, I am not sure I will ever have the courage to go there one day. Because judging by movies that I’ve seen, the traffic in India is a nightmare, and that scares me to death! When I’m on a painting trip, I love to change locations frequently and for that, I always need a vehicle, whether it’s my “Boomobile” (my motorhome and atelier on wheels) or a rental car. How to survive India, I wonder! Anybody having been there let me know if they have a useful tip on how to deal with the traffic, and then I will go!
7) finally, do you have any tips for readers who might be interested in painting whilst they travel?
I would advise them to start simply, to draw a little first before painting. To take with them a travel sketch book and a pencil, or even a pen for the bravest. To go out with eyes and mind wide open, and to stop in a quiet place in front of the first motif they like. To relax, to take a deep breath and to start sketching, paying attention to the general lines and not focusing too much on the details. Just enjoy the process, without thinking about the result. Don’t judge your own work, and certainly don’t get angry at oneself, not even if one can hardly recognise the sketched motif! In general I think, in travel art and any kind of art, it is the inner attitude of an artist, especially his self-expectations, that is the biggest obstacle to artistic creation. I would advise the beginners to approach the subject simply with pleasure and curiosity, not just for the motif, but also about their own way of dealing with it. Be like a child who is discovering a new toy!