Letting Go

“Letting Go” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2020

Strenght
to bear
Life
unfolding…

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Negotiation Techniques for Young Artists

When an opportunity presents itself, seize it right away.

State the fact of the matter.

Show them the advantages, don’t just tell.

Remember: it’s about value, not price.

Sustain your argument with real world examples.

Nullify opposing arguments using irrefutable logic.

When on a winning streak, don’t hesitate to go for an even better deal.

Never weaken your argument by using it twice. Present the issue from another angle.

If hard facts are against you, switch to an emotional approach.

Make irrational subjective statements…

… then take them to their logical conclusion.

Elizardbeth and Friends in the spruced-up frog corner

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Click here to see the plant pen wobble.

Red

“Red” – acrylics on canvas – 9 x 11 in (23 x 28 cm) –  © Petra Elster 2015

“Red”is the first painting I made specifically for my Fløra project.

Fløra is about flowers. Flowers that have something else going on with them. Like Monster Trucks which are trucks that have something else going on with them. Or those little scooters with flames painted on.

That’s Fløra: Flowers that are… tricked out. : )

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Choices

“Choices” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2019

No choice
only Life
… knows the big picture
is the big picture.

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Julietta und Trudi

Julietta und Trudi – Acrylics on Canvas – 5.5 x 11 in (15 x 30cm) © Petra Elster 2008

Julietta and Trudi are lifelong friends.

This is no small thing since they are almost 400 years old. That´s like 12 in human years. :O

The two friends love to garden.

They are getting very good at creating new species of flowers.

Their latest MMO (Magically Modified Organism) is the White Bunny-Eared Wild Violet depicted on this painting.

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Express to Nowhere

“Express to Nowhere” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2019

Too much. Too fast.
No time. No fun.
No way.
Next stop: my life.

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Painting concrete on SOLO: Express to Nowhere;

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Painting concrete on SOLO: Express to Nowhere

This is one of the studies I made for my piece “Express to Nowhere” that is part of my SOLO project.

Color Study for Express to Nowhere

I am happy that I managed to find a solution to painting the pattern of the concrete slabs that doesn’t involve gimmicks.

I decided not to use gimmicks on SOLO. Gimmicks are all those things that aren’t exactly painting: pouring, sponging, throwing salt onto wet paint, mixing in additives, and other fun things you can do to a wet canvas. (This sounded sexy.)

There is nothing wrong with using gimmicks. In fact, some people do incredible art based on gimmicks. I, myself, like to indulge in gimmicks from time to time. I call them techniques then.

The problem with these – ok, let’s call them – techniques… is that they are fairly unpredictable and if you go that way, you are subordinating your art to the whims of the elements.  When it comes to control over your art, a brush is a brush is a brush. A sponge, on the other hand,  is a frog in a pond of crimson red.

I went to a watercolor workshop once, where the instructor filled up time demonstrating all the weird stuff you can do to your painting, to get the watercolor to do things by itself, so that you – the artist – don’t have to bother learning how to do them. He brought out all kind of spatulas and knives and at some point he was waving a salt shaker over a wet watercolor, causing the paint to retreat in despair. He prodded at the salt with a silicone brush,  applied some heat on the painting  to make it dry faster and then collected the grains that spilled onto the table with the spatula. I felt I was in a cooking class.

The pattern that emerged  did look gorgeous, but the lights and darks settled themselves wherever the salt landed. If he had to repeat that pattern, with any level of control, he wouldn’t be able to.  Gimmick-aided painting takes advantage of physics and leaves a great chunk of decisions to the gods that run the universe. And you know how the universe operates, right? Sometimes you get butterflies, sometimes you get tornadoes. It depends on the mood of the particles involved.

The other problem of using indirect painting techniques (the fancy name for gimmicks) is that, if you are working on a series, and you use a gimmick on one painting, you have to incorporate the same gimmick in other paintings of the series that show the same material or theme. For instance, if I were to use splattering or sponging to achieve a concrete effect on this painting, I would have to figure out a way of incorporating sponging in all paintings of this series that showed concrete, otherwise this one painting would just seem wrong and out of place among the others.
A series calls for coherence.

Since I have no intention of suffering under the tyranny of gimmicks throughout the whole project, I decided to go without, as I generally do. If I have to deal with the chaos of paint and water and uneven surfaces, I prefer to have at least some familiar element I can exert control over. And that would be my trusted brush.

Imagine sending a knight to slay a dragon with a tiny fork, a hot plate, a couple of hammers, a shovel, a pickax and a tuba.

Despite that ridiculous equipment the knight goes out to battle.

He approaches the dragon from behind. He blows the tuba with all his might and pokes the dragon’s business with the tiny fork. The dragon jumps up, startled and appalled. The hero quickly shoves the hot plate under the beast’s left paw. The dragon lands on it, burns itself and screams like a little witch. The knight proceeds to play xylophone on the toes of the dragon’s right paw with the two hammers . The beast looses its balance and falls over, clutching its paw “à la mode” and whimpering. Our hero then hops on the dragon’s chest, hits it over the head with the shovel and in a stroke of incredible luck heroism, cuts its head off with the pickax, killing it.

As you can see it can be done, but if you ask the knight, I bet he prefers to go out to battle with his old and reliable shield and sword.

And so do I.

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Creative block

When I was working full time as a commercial artist, I spent all my waking hours daydreaming about how much better I would have it, if I would be just doing my own thing. I won’t lie. It is much better. A thousand times better.

It is… that many times better.

I will draw that and post a link here later.

Nevertheless, just because something feels like a riding a unicorn through clouds filled with little pink bunny rabbits, doesn’t make it any less stressful.

Doing a project is hard work. Doing your own project is many times harder. It is that much harder because of the exact reason it feels so good: you get to decide everything.

This opens up endless possibilities. There is literally an uber-mega-triple-tera-bajjilion ways you can do something you are pulling out of thin air. I didn’t count, but I know they are that many… or even more, because of how many times I got stuck. Since I started to build this project I got stuck in ways I would never get stuck when doing commissioned work.

Commercial artwork has clear boundaries. It is usually an art piece you are required to do, to fit a particular product, to be featured on a particular medium, that is bound to a particular budget and has to attend a particular market. Once you have all those limitations in place, making decisions comes pretty easily.

Doing your own project, on the other hand, is like going to a candy store with a million dollars cash. You can have literally anything you want.

Turns out the Buddhists are right: Getting what you want doesn’t solve anything. Whatever you want, and then get, isn’t interesting anymore and you immediately want something better… or something else. Not only getting anything you want does not solve your original problem… it doesn’t even solve the wanting problem. Every decision you make leads to more and more possibilities until you are face-to-face with a fractal zombie-hydra of indecisiveness that wants to eat your brains.

The way out of this Halloween scenario is to create some sort of boundaries around your project so it doesn’t grow into a Greek epic trash movie.
But how do you put boundaries around a dream? Once you do that , the dream becomes reality and the thrill of being on the edge of chaos disappears.

No more pink bunny rabbits. No more unicorns. The moment you turn your project into reality you take a free-fall from heaven onto earth and are smack-dab in the real world again facing the blank piece of paper that sent you off into the unknown in search for a good sentence to describe what the hell your project is about.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SPECIFICATIONS OF SOLO UP TO THIS DATE.

(Pepe, Petra, Penelope and Butterfly, the cat : Copyright © Petra Elster – All rights reserved.)

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Yellow Sun

SOLO: Yellow Sun by Petra Elster

“Yellow Sun” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2018

I
see
You
see
the
Sun
?

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My Dream;

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The Unwise Artist

2016_08_08_the_unwise_artist_Petra_Elster_sketch

A long time ago I had two of my wisdom teeth removed. At that time I asked the dentist if I should have the other two taken out as well. He said it wasn’t necessary because if they hadn’t bothered me up to that point, they might never even fully develop. They did, of course, and so, sixteen years and a doctor’s retirement later, I had to go to another dentist to get the freshly grown pair extracted.

The new doctor explained in anatomic detail how the upper tooth would slide right out. “The lower tooth however, is very likely to give me trouble”, he said, and went on to lecture me on the reasons that made him book and charge an extra hour for the whole procedure. That prediction also went the other way around. Nature, as it seems, seldom follows doctor´s orders.

The doctor pulled and prodded at the upper tooth, panting and moaning from the useless effort. I could hear the tooth crushing under the pressure of the instruments, but it didn’t budge.
The doctor examined the X-rays again. He tried pulling it from several different angles. The thing stayed put. If I didn’t know any better, I could swear it was enjoying the battle. The little warrior wasn’t interested in leaving it’s home. If it had to go, it wouldn’t go without a fight. The tooth stood its ground for more than an hour leaving the doctor sweating and breathless. And then it got sawed in half.

After that the doctor took the saw to the lower tooth right from the beginning. No sir, he wouldn’t take any chances with that little rascal. The lower tooth surrendered quietly, albeit not without having to be divided into several pieces.

So there I was: bloody, numb, and completely unwise. My former wisdom teeth lay shattered on a cold metal tray. As I saw them laying there, defeated, I felt the urge to ask the doctor if I could have the spoils of battle. Puzzled by the request, but unable to find any argument to the contrary, he agreed.

In the car, DH asked me what I would do with them. “I don’t know”, I replied unwisely, “I just want to take them home.” And so I did.

As soon as I got home, I crawled into bed, took my antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor and immediately got nauseated from the stupid pills. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the anesthetic started to wear off and then the pain decided to make its grand entrance.

Oh… My… God… The… Pain!  Incapacitating… all encompassing… pain!

DH rushed in with a glass of water and some painkillers but I was too nauseated to take them. In hindsight, it was a little foolish to take the antibiotics before eating anything, but heck, that’s who I am now: the unwise artist.  There was nothing left for me to do but wait for the nausea to subside on its own. Meanwhile the pain just got worse and worse. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think. It seemed as if I would pass out from the pain and then, something amazing happened: Art kicked in.

Suddenly, the excruciating pain became interesting. The artist in me started to actively pursue the experience. I let the pain overcome me. An Indian Guru would say that I was “one with the pain”. From that moment on, everything became fascinating. The taste of blood, the sting of the stitches, the memories of the sounds I heard while my teeth were being sawed into pieces and crushed into tiny shards.

DH came into the room and found me sitting on the bed with a smile on my face. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Great”, I grunted.
“Oh, good, the pain is better, then.”
“No”, I replied barely able to move my jaw, “It’s worse.”
He looked at me, confused. “That’s odd, you seem better.”
“I am”, I moaned peacefully.

If you ever wondered… this is what it’s like to be an artist. To an artist nothing is lost. Everything is valuable. Every experience counts.
Life is messy and unpredictable and painful and amazing. Life, in short, is Art. And Art is what the artist’s life is all about.

Eventually, the nausea faded away. I was able to take the blessed painkillers and shortly after the pain and the thrill were gone. All that was left of the whole ordeal were the pieces of my broken teeth in a little plastic cup on my bedside table. I took them out one by one and examined the poor things. I was tired and though to myself : “I should probably go to sleep”. However, being the unwise artist that I am, I reached out for my pencil and pad and started sketching.

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