My dear friends,
I was approached by Mr. Akshay Srivastav, a great author interested in psychology and philosophy. He asked me kindly whether I would be willing to answer some of his questions about my art. I was very pleased with his interest and agreed. I am now more than happy to share the interview with you here on my blog.
1Akshay: What does art mean to you and what motivates you to be an artist?
Petra: Art can have many different forms and functions from classical painting and drawing to modern digital art and can vary from decorative, cultural, psychological, social to religious reasons. Personally, I find art as a way of self-expression, communication as well as therapy, relaxation and entertainment. Through art I can communicate my ideas, feelings and emotions. Art brings both excitement and peace to my life. It is a wonderful balance to my law studies. The process of creating is very satisfying and fulfilling. I enjoy the freedom during the process and I don´t worry too much about the result. I also like to surround myself with art by other artists, I love visiting galleries and exhibitions.
As I have already mentioned, the art is very powerful way of expressing one´s feelings and opinions. Looking at art is like looking in the soul of the artist. The artist and the viewer are in interaction. Thinking about what art means to me raises a question what art actually is. There are so many different forms of art these days that it is difficult to say what art is and what is not. Personally, I think that a work of art should make you stop and think. You don´t have to like what you see though. There is nothing worse than boring piece of work with no message, without expression. The best works of art are worth seeing again and again. Anytime you look at it you discover something you haven´t noticed before. You can never get tired of great art.
It is difficult to say what motivates me to be an artist and what drives me to create. I have a very strong urge to create. In my artist statement I claim honestly that I paint because it brings me joy, excitement and pleasure. I enjoy the creative, though sometimes arduous process. I see the world in dramatic images which I desire to put on a canvas and share with others.
Akshay: I invite you to describe your thinking process/es behind your artwork in more detail. Please focus on 2 or 3 of your paintings to do so. You can of course bring in references to other paintings if needed.
Petra: Although I don´t have a specific approach to painting, my creative process varies depending on the subject matter. The way I approach my cityscapes and landscapes differs from the way I approach my portraits and figures. In either case I pay a lot of attention to my brushwork. I enjoy applying paint on a canvas. Expressive and bold marks look confident and those beautiful brush strokes bring the painting to a higher level. I also love working with a palette knife which can create wonderful effects that no brush can.
When painting a city or a landscape I like to use a number of references. I combine sketches, photos, imagination and my memory. Therefore the resulting painting is never a simple copy of the scene even if I work en plein air. I like to change colours, move, add or remove objects. These changes are important not only to create a balance in the painting but to express myself as well. For example in my painting “Picadilly Circus” I have applied this principle and described it on my blog where this description is accompanied by photos of my work in progress. I am a bold painter and I like to exaggerate certain parts of the painting that I find most exciting. At the beginning of each painting first I have to decide the composition. I think in big abstract shapes. Then I add values to see whether the design works. Despite this stage being very important I try to stay flexible until I have finished the piece. Throughout my painting I make many changes because sometimes I think of something that might work but finally doesn´t and sometimes something I am not so certain of actually works. You cannot plan the whole painting right from the start.
When it comes to portraits and figures I am much more disciplined in order to capture both the physical likeness and the nature of the person. I prefer working from live model to working from a photo. Working with a live model prevents the literal copying of the photograph. Photographic reference often shows false colour and compressed value. Drawing and painting faces and figures requires proper understanding of the structure of human body and form. Unlike landscapes, here it is far more important to draw accurately. Any subtle change makes a big difference. I was recently introduced to Charles Bargue´s sight-size drawing method. This method is based on rather technical approach to drawing but when done properly it brings very precise and well-considered drawing. Another issue is reproducing the skin tones. My figure colour palette is limited to rather muted and naturalistic colours. As I progress with the painting observing carefully the model I realize that I discover colours and shapes that I didn´t notice before. The more I paint the more I see. Yet I still try to establish an interesting design by placing individual areas of colour one next to another.
Akshay: When did you realize that art is going to be a major calling for you and what the journey of growth has been since those days?
Petra: I have been interested in art since my childhood. My parents took me abroad very often so I had a chance to see different cultures including various forms of art. I was most impressed by England though. I visited London every year. I enjoyed the time spent in the National Gallery and Tate Modern watching the paintings. Although I admired the talent of those great artists such as Turner, Gogh and Sisley, I myself couldn´t paint at all. My first attempt to paint was just a few years ago while I was studying law at the Charles University in Prague. The truth is that I really enjoyed my studies. On the other hand, I felt I needed to balance my life with some different activity, totally unrelated to law. I experienced a very urgent desire to have a break from loads of thick books, complicated and constantly changing laws and many not very easy-to-digest cases which had to be read and learnt. At that time I relaxed doing sports, especially jogging but then it somehow was not enough. I felt that I needed to be active in some other – more creative – way. I needed to create and I gave painting a chance. Soon I realized that I really enjoy the process even though I struggled a lot because of the lack of any art education. To compensate this at least a little I was simultaneously doing excessive research about various painting techniques. I had learnt a lot on my own pretty quickly. However, I felt that I could have made much bigger progress if I had studied at an art school. After my graduation from the Charles University I successfully applied to the Art Academy in London. I have been studying there since September and I can only recommend this absolutely unique artistic community. I had classes with such great artists such as Tai-Shan Schierenberg, Robin-Lee Hall or Katharine Prendergast.
Sometimes people ask me whether I regret that I spent five years studying law. I always say that I don´t regret anything. I am grateful for the education I gained and the Faculty of Law will always be my alma mater. Thanks to those five years spent at university I discovered my talent that I can develop further today. I am still working on my JD degree as I consider law to be a rewarding education. After all you never know when you might use it.
Akshay: You mentioned some of the artists whose work you admire. There must of course be many more whose work you admire. Who are they and what specifically draws you to their art?
Petra: Yes, there are many artists both past and present. Apart from those I have mentioned above I like works by Gogh, Munch, Turner, Constable, Sisley and Kandinsky. I enjoy looking at many different styles. It keeps me open-minded and inspired. I try to identify exactly what it is that I like about their work. This practice is important as it helps me to develop my personal style.
Paintings by Gogh and Munch have a lot in common. They are very expressive and emotional despite of the fact that they are quite simple. I enjoy looking at them for their honesty, for the clear message they convey. In terms of technique I enjoy artists who are bold in colours and whose brushmarks look confident.
Turner, Constable and Sisley are all great landscape painters although in very different ways. While Turner´s paintings are almost abstract, Constable’s work is very detailed and Sisley´s art is nicely simplified with just enough detail (to my taste). Each time I watch their paintings I am impressed. Just recently I recalled these feelings when I visited the Late Turner exhibition and Constable´s exhibition The Making of Master in London.
Last (but not least) I want to mention Kandinsky´s abstract art, especially his later works. His art is inspired by music. Kandinsky developed his own visual language composed of geometric shapes and different colours to express individual tones. The final pieces are harmonious, rhythmical and energetic.
From the contemporary artists I very much like the works by Tai Shan Schierenberg, a well-known and recognized London-based artist. As I have mentioned above he is the head of painting at the Art Academy. Not only is he a great artist but also a brilliant and witty teacher from whose lessons I have benefited a lot so far. I had the opportunity to see his large oil paintings exhibited last winter in the Flowers gallery.
Akshay: What are your other interests beside art?
Petra: I enjoy challenges. I like to push boundaries and stretch my skills and abilities in many ways, not just in art. I am a keen student. Last year I graduated from the Charles University in Prague with Master´s degree in law. I currently continue with a postgraduate programme (JD) there, which I find interesting.
I am also a sports enthusiast. In my childhood and in my teenage years I did sports gymnastics. I took part in many competitions and gained a lot of medals. I stopped doing gymnastics but I still enjoy active life. Above all I love jogging in the open air. Running to music, breathing in the fresh air and watching the greenery around helps me relax and recharge my batteries. The side effect of this is that I find solution to my problems and sometimes great ideas occur to me. So it is inspiring too.
I like traveling. Since my childhood my parents took me abroad. Not only I had chance to see many European countries but I also visited some exotic ones. I repeatedly spent my holidays in Egypt because I was amazed by the historical sights, ancient culture and the Red Sea. I was excited when I visited Jordan and could walk through Petra and swim in the Dead Sea. Another interesting memory is my visit to Dubai which seemed to me a futuristic cityscape, my last experience is a holiday in the Dominican Republic where I saw the beautiful nature and felt the hospitality of the unassuming locals.
Akshay: How do you look at your childhood and teenage years?
Petra: I was a calm child. We lived in a very small village where I had one or two good friends. I was lucky to have a fantastic brother who spent a lot of his time playing with me and taking care of me. On the other hand I remember that I was able to spend hours playing with toys on my own.
As I mentioned above, for many years most of my time was taken up by sports gymnastics. I believe that during that period I gained useful qualities such as the patience, diligence, confidence, courage and competitiveness. I mostly enjoyed my school days too. My favourite subjects were English and French.
Akshay: Can you describe the village you grew up in? Tell us about its environment, inhabitants and life in general. What it was in your early years and what is it now?
Petra: I grew up in a very small but lovely village named Dolní Bezděkov in Central Bohemia. My home village is situated on the border of the protected area Křivoklátsko, a landscape protected area and biosphere reserve listed by UNESCO. I spent my early childhood in that beautiful place and I learnt to appreciate and protect the environment. Naturally my dissertation, on which I am working now, deals with Legal Regulation of Large-area Protected Areas of Nature. On the other hand life was not easy there – we children had to commute to school, parents to work and generally it was difficult to coordinate the family life. The local inhabitants were typical Czech village people, which means modest, conservative people leading a peaceful life. The life like this might seem a bit boring but the people themselves are not boring at all. The Czechs generally have a great sense of humor. Later I moved with my family to a town. Nowadays I very rarely drive past my home village so I cannot compare today´s life there but I suppose not much has changed.
Akshay: Where do you see yourself fifteen years from now, both professionally and personally?
Petra: This is a difficult question. I don´t have plans in such distant future. Life is unpredictable. Of course, I hope that my art will develop and become better-known.