Interview with Witte Wartena

Witte Wartena
L: "Engels", watercolor, felt tip pen, pencil on paper
R: "Pequot", watercolor, felt tip pen, pencil on paper

We are very excited to be offering "Watercolor Workshop: the Berlin Landscape" with new instructor and artist Witte Wartena. The workshop will focus on the urban landscape of Berlin and introduce mixed media watercolor techniques central to Witte's own practice.

On the occasion of this new workshop, I asked Witte about his unique approach to landscape and the picturesque, as well as his relationship to watercolor as a medium. We also talked about some exciting current and upcoming projects of Witte's very international art practice.
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MOB (Mira O'Brien): You have a unique approach to the watercolor landscape genre. The cityscape of Berlin seems very central to your interest, but not the iconic scenes. How exactly do you choose a location to use as a subject for a drawing? 

WW (Witte Wartena): I choose places that have a special appeal to me. This happens mostly unconsciously a location stands out in my eyes somehow. The function, history or position might play a role too, but the decision to make a drawing is first and foremost based on aesthetics.

MOB: Can you describe your process?

WW: I go for walks and look closely at my surroundings, I take photographs. At a later time I will go through the pictures I took and make a selection. From these images I will then make a drawing in pencil that I will later render in watercolour.

MOB: Your paintings remind me of the tradition of travel sketches, as practiced by 19th century British painters such as John Ruskin or John Singer Sargent, except that you are seeking out a sort of anti-picturesque. What is the idea or motivation behind the anti-picturesque?

WW: Thank you very much, I feel a kinship with these kinds of diary like works. I want to register the world I see around me. However I think it is not interesting to show the typical landmarks and beauty spots. They are well known and will be captured by many others (and probably better than I ever could). The unknown or unseen (overlooked) is more fascinating. In a diary you might describe  a party in great detail but not an ordinary day, however people in years to come or those that are unfamiliar with your life learn much more from the latter. I also think there is much beauty in the mundane or even what is preserved to be ugly. It intrigues my why things look the way they look. Why does that spot gather rubbish, why did someone decide to spray a gratify there or why did someone plant flowers next to a tree and hang out some bunting.



MOB: Watercolor has the reputation for being an unforgiving medium. I find that people are often intimidated because they think with watercolor, you are not allowed to make a single mistake. How would you respond to this preconception? 

WW: Well it can be but you can learn to control it. On the other hand you can also use exactly that and utilise the "mistakes" to make your work more lively.

MOB: What attracts you to the medium of watercolor?

WW: I used scan in my drawings and do the colours in the computer. Although I loved the possibilities of this and the big monochrome colour patches I could make. I missed working with my hands and wanted the work to look more alive and less sterile. I experimented with several materials and was immediately attracted to watercolour, because of it's versatility. You can work very painterly or very graphic. Very thin and transparent with colours that blend in to one another but also with bold colours and distinct shapes.

MOB: What projects are you working on now? You were recently making silk screens prints in Paris?

WW: Yes I did I made one of my drawings (well actually it is a combination of two) into a silk screen print on the same scale. That was shown in an exhibition in Paris last weekend. I am very pleased with that as it is in a show with prints from some other very famous artists. I am also having a show here in Berlin with drawings in ink. This was stimulating as I had not worked with ink for a long time. The size was also much bigger as I am used to and the subject matter took me to draw things I might have not otherwise. However I have learned a lot and think I might continue. I can also use this in my watercolours or combine the two. This show will travel to Uppsala in Sweden next and I am looking forward to see it hanging there in another constellation and setting.

a recent work made at the studio in Paris

MOB: In addition to showing your own work, you sometimes also curate exhibitions? Can you describe an exhibition that you curated? Do you have anything coming up?

The Berlin/Uppsala show is one that I curated myself together with my friend and artist Gijs Weijer who lives in Uppsala. We invited four artists living in Sweden, Germany and Holland who we feel artistically related to. Some are from our present and some go back to our art school days. All these participating artists were asked to create new works with black ink and one optional colour on the theme Transience. I hope to also organize another show in Berlin at the end of the year.

Witte on site!

the resulting painting "Zum Freund" from the site pictured above

Microscopy Botanical Drawing


During the last class of the Winter Botanical Drawing Workshop, we conducted an experiment in microscopy drawing. We had various levels of magnification available, from a jewelers glass to a lab microscope. 

As winter melted into spring, we had our first flowers at the Berlin Drawing Room garden, the reliable Crocus. These made for a great specimen and we were all to examine the petals, pollen, and structure of the stamen-stigma-style in the center of the flower. We resorted to the epidermis of an onion for highest level of magnification, x400, so that we could get a single cell layer for the slide. 
preparing slides, focusing microscope 

we used a webcam to produce a live feed of the microscope image showing the cell structure of an onion epidermis 
sometimes a jewelers glass is just enough magnification to get closer to a subject

experimenting with different levels of magnification to draw Crocus
Here are some of the paintings produced from this experiment!









Painting Workshop: April 24 - May 30

This workshop is an introduction to the expressive and versatile medium of painting. Starting with basic color theory, learn how to mix colors and achieve a unified color world. Through exercises designed to show the difference between hue and value, or the relationship between complimentary colors, we sharpen our understanding of how colors interact and how to mix paint.  Learn step by step how to approach making a painting, exploring techniques for layering and using brushstrokes to create form and space.

While the focus is on representational painting from direct observation, such as from a still-life, there are still opportunities to explore individual style and personal expression. For example, in one class we create painting collages incorporating the students own photographs. We will also look to examples from both art history and contemporary art for technical and conceptual insights. A field trip to contemporary art galleries is a great opportunity to learn about Berlin's art scene and current trends in painting.

Non-toxic acrylic paint will be supplied. 
  • Course Schedule: April 25 - May 30, 2017
    • 6x on Tuesdays in the studio from 6-9 pm
    • 1 x Field trip on Saturday, May 13 from 12-2 pm 
  • Cost: 150 Euros (including paint)
  • Sign up: contact@berlindrawingroom.com
  • Painting Supply List

Visit our website for full details http://www.berlindrawingroom.com/painting/


Interview with Dave Hedderman

Last Monday I visited Dave Hedderman, the current Portrait Drawing Intensive instructor with Berlin Drawing Room, in his studio and I rediscovered the breathtaking power of figurative works done right. I also had the rare chance of getting to know a very accomplished, yet modest, painter.  
Dave teaching the Portrait Drawing Intensive in his studio

As I walked into the typical “kreuzberger Hinterhof” and went upstairs to the tucked away ¾ Studio I had mixed feelings about the building, which in spite of preserving its sloppy altbau charm, has discernibly been caught in the wave of massively accelerated gentrification of the neighborhood.
My concerns of finding yet another hipster co-working space were quickly wiped away as I walked in on Dave painting a big canvas entitled “X” and took a first glimpse at the studio.  What a refreshing feeling it was to discover an actual place of work where objects exist to be put to use, as opposed to sitting around for decorative purposes.
Dave’s studio is light and spacious. New oil paintings in progress, old works pending revisitation, archive material and drawings from his life drawing sessions hang on the walls, framed by large music speakers, amplifiers and an electric guitar. The first thing that slips out of my mouth, as I discover the camping cooking plates and the folded mattress: “I could so easily live here!” – to which Dave responds with a chuckle.  
'untitled'-2016 112x112cm. oil/charcoal/linen
What was meant to be a short interview turns into a long, pleasant talk sitting by the window, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes whilst debating life in Berlin, the struggles of being an artist and life altogether.
I keep observing everything around me, mesmerized by the quality of Dave’s work – to which his online portfolio does absolutely no justice.  The comforting vibe of the space, like its owner, has no presumptuous sides to it.
Dave tells me about his notes to self and the diaries of his work process as he points at some notebooks on the floor. We talk about his beginnings and academic training, his experiences as a teacher and his initiations at writing.
When I ask him about possible inclinations on inspirational sceneries he paints a vivid mental picture of a Dublin concrete pier in the late evening, but also mentions some distinct situations he’s observed in the Britzer Garten in the summertime (an old lady getting her wheelchair stuck in the loam in an attempt of properly smelling a flower). He proceeds to show me some pictures of random daily encounters he’s taken with his smart-phone and printed out on paper, one of them being the source of inspiration for his current work in progress. Dave explains, “this is technology serving me. I couldn’t capture the nature of such fugacious moments anyhow else”.


“So why portraits?” I ask him.
Dave: “I think there are so many themes in us people that one could explore that throughout a lifetime and still not get enough. Also, observing others with the purpose of drawing them is a much different experience of looking from the one we get out of common social interactions: I often find myself somewhat transported by that, in some kind of a meditative state whilst drawing even, which becomes a great way of looking at myself too. So I guess that’s it; people I can simply express myself through.”   
Portrait Drawing Intensive at Dave's studio

Portrait Drawing Intensive, students at work. 
Interview and article by Cora Marin, Berlin Drawing Room Intern

Dave Hedderman is a figurative artist and arts educator, with a focus on the human form. He received his B.A. Degree in Fine Art from the NCAD, Dublin, Ireland in 2005. He was the 2015 recipient of the Hennessy Craig Scholarship, awarded for his contribution to the 185th RHA Annual Exhibition. His work has been featured in numerous group and solo presentations in both Ireland and Germany.
He teaches the Portrait Drawing Intensive as part of the Berlin Drawing Room team, as well as weekly life drawing classes.

Davehedderman.com

Impressions from January Photo Transfer Workshop


In early frigid January right after the new year, I conducted the Photo Transfer Workshop: Image and Memory at the Berlin Drawing Room with eight eager students. This was my first time teaching at the Berlin Drawing Room and first time teaching adults! Each person who attended the workshop came from varying countries but resided in Berlin as well as each had varying different backgrounds and decided to take the class to learn new techniques with photography. One student was gifted the workshop from a friend for the holidays - a great idea for anyone interested in taking a class! We began the workshop learning about the history of photography and looking at contemporary artists who use photo transfers in their work as well as artists whose work focuses on the idea of memory. Photo transfers are unique in the fact that they can leave partial images or residues and they inherently feel timeless, so it was beneficial to focus on the theme of memory and discuss how we could incorporate it into the work.
Throughout the course we learned three different transfer techniques - solvent transfer, acrylic medium and tape transfers. All three have try different qualities and produce unique results. We began with the solvent transfers. After using many varying solvents in my own work, I found a great solution which creates beautiful images - Citristip - a safe and friendly paint stripper product found very cheaply in the USA. Unfortunately Citristip is very expensive on amazon.de in Germany so I managed to smuggle the solvent in several shampoo bottles from when I was home over the holidays. I supplied the students with images on the first class to give them a feel for the process and it was clear that everyone loved the way images transferred this way, just not the price! I of course wanted to make sure that the materials we used were accessible for everyone, except that Citrisrip went up in price in the EU. I have never seen so many people band together to find a way to get their hands on a solution! Many students researched ways to get the solvent or find alternatives in Germany because they loved it so much! One student ordered it from the USA and low and behold it did arrive a few weeks later! Problem solved!
Our second class was devoted to Acrylic Gel Medium Transfer, probably the most popular technique when it comes to photo transfer. That is because it can be used with inkjet, color and black and white images, whereas Citristip can only be used with black and white laser prints. Gel medium transfers allow you transfer onto several different surfaces including glass, metal, plastic and ceramic, by putting the image face down and rubbing off the back of the image, leaving all areas that are white to be transparent.The only downside is that it takes a while to remove the paper from the back of the transfer. Some students loved this process, others realised it took too long for them to create a successful image.
For our field trip we had a unique experience meeting with the curator and artists showing at DISPLAY in Schöneberg. The exhibition featured collaborative sculptural work by Marie Jeschke and Anja Langer. We spoke to curator Marie dePasquier about the development of the show Enrico - Autoaction in Rehearsals, later the artist joined our lively discussion about collaboration, chance and intuition when it comes to art making. It was a great experience to have all different perspectives and to learn more about the artist’s work.
We returned to the studio the following week to learn one more technique - tape tranfers, created with packing tape using a similar method as the gel medium transfers. It was a nice addition to our repertoire of techniques but it was clear everyone loved to experiment with what they had learned and wanted to work! The studio was alive with creation and each student was exploring and making new beautiful work. We finished our last class with a group critique and reflected on our work as well as our experience Many artists incorporated themes and ideas of memory into their work and I was very fortunate to have such an explorative, eager group of students for this workshop! I hope to continue to teach this workshop as well as many others in the future!
-Keegan Luttrell

Interview with instructor and artist Patrick J. Reed



Meet the new member of our team:

Patrick and his work


Yesterday I had the chance to meet the artist and writer Patrick J. Reed. We sat at the Prachtwerk Cafe and took the time to chat about a bunch of topics, ranging from his political ideas and points of view to his studio and academical practices, and his plans for the upcoming drawing and painting workshops at the Berlin Drawing Room, where he just became part of the team.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we talked about:   



Although your body of work is completely multifaceted, it has a clear focus on cultural responses to ecological crises. What triggered you to fight the environmental fight, and how did you begin working on those topics?
I’ve always had an interest in this sort of cultural phenomena that is the apocalypse narrative – I find it fascinating. But the danger in being interested in that kind of narrative is that it can be very easily romanticized. It’s a horrible thing that can be made beautiful and is therefore not taken seriously. So as a remedy to that I shifted my focus to something that was more scientific, more tangible. This occurred when I was at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, surrounded by environmental historians, eco-critics, scientists, and lawyers who exposed me to all this other information that was tightly linked to the themes I was working with, but approached from very different perspectives. That created a more well- rounded vision of what it means for the world to be in ecological crisis, and how cultures and societies rely on science, law, and technology to essentially cope with this crisis.
from: Distant hammers, graphite, coloured pencil, oil paint, collage on handmade paper, 2015-2016, approximately 40 x 27.5 inches


You’re also part of the editorial branch for the critical online publication Serpentine Magazine; tell us a bit more about that project. 

Serpentine Magazine was started by four graduates from the Visual and Critical Studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and I became involved early on when they had a change in their editorial team. It is essentially a venue for critical and creative writing presented in many possible formats. Being an online magazine gives us the ability to work in a variety of media: there can be experimental poetic and image based works, video… we also did a sound issue, at one point.

I enjoy having a chance to work with such a variety of writers, artists, and musicians to explore a certain topic; it gives me the opportunity to look at a certain thing from plenty of different angles.

from: Distant hammers, graphite, coloured pencil, oil paint, collage on handmade paper, 2015-2016, approximately 40 x 27.5 inches



What is it you’re looking forward to the most in teaching the drawing and painting workshops at the BDR?

I’m really looking forward to getting started, and I’m excited to be part of the team. I really love teaching drawing and painting, so what I want to do as a new instructor is to uphold all of the ideas of my work and everything that Mira has put into it, work in my ways within the general approach of the Berlin Drawing Room; teaching the skills whilst supplementing that with a couple of things that might be an interesting perspective or point of view (in drawing, for instance, explaining how to handle foreshortening, or deal with proportions, etc.).



Tell us a bit about the structure and plan for the courses

So for now there’s the Drawing Workshop and the Painting Workshop coming up, and I am hoping for the summer to teach a workshop that is actually focused on artist books, so that would concentrate on bookbinding and some content generating.


The idea is that through these workshops people get not only a grasp of a solid skill set, but also a general notion on what painting is, what drawing is, what their roles have been historically and why they are still important today.


It’d be great if someone were to take both painting and drawing courses, because that way they’d really get a thorough survey on how they build into each other. Even if that’s not the case, the workshops will remain a comfortable starting point for everyone.

from: Distant hammers, graphite, coloured pencil, oil paint, collage on handmade paper, 2015-2016, approximately 40 x 27.5 inches



Patrick is an artist and freelance writer originally from Iowa City, Iowa. His work explores the aesthetics of disaster, with a emphasis on cultural responses to ecological crises. In 2014, he joined the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society as a Fulbright Scholar and inaugural artist-in-residence. He continued with the Center the following year with a DAAD award for fine art. He is trained in art history, photojournalism, printmaking, and papermaking and has worked extensively in the fields of intermedia and experimental research. His current projects include an investigation of agricultural scarcity and the spectrality of food in early Modern German woodcuts and a translation of the Book of Job into the International Code of Signals. He lives and works in Berlin, where he is the European editorial branch for the critical/ cultural online publication, Serpentine Magazine.











Interview by Cora Marin, intern in the Berlin Drawing Room