A day in the life with painter Stefanie Thiele
How would you describe your work?
Vibrant, overloaded – a place to remember and re-live the what ifs and could have beens of our life.
How did you get started?
Since the first day of Kindergarten I have always admired the kids who could draw really well and tried to equal them (emphasis on tried! I was convinced I would never be good at it. The grading system back then taught me that only the kids who can draw realistically are talented. Crazy, right?). In 9th grade I found my gateway to “good art” in the form of photography. When I was 16, I moved to the UK to finish my education at a boarding school focused on visual arts. What I have learned during those two years is that I can be an incredibly determined, hard worker as long as my heart is truly in it. I got my A-Levels in Fine Art and Photography and learned a lot about textiles, which influences me to this day (I also learned that “good art” comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures!!!).
In 2009 I moved to Brighton and attended a Fine Art Foundation Course where I was introduced to even more art forms like wood and metal work, sculpture and film. I put my original plan, to move on to get a BA in Photography, on ice and started working freelance instead. For the following two years I did this, testing the waters, jobbed as a photography assistant for some time and did my own photo jobs as well.
In December 2011, I moved back to Hamburg and got my bachelor in Communication Design to earn “a proper degree in case this art thing doesn’t work out” as my dad put it so nicely. At the time it seemed like a good compromise between secure job opportunities and working creatively. It was during this time that my love for painting really came to light though (thanks dad). I felt incredibly constrained having to use my creative energy in the field of advertising and communications. I am very impressed how my friends who currently work in this field deal with the pressure, the long hours and the do’s and don’t’s that come with the job. But it just isn’t at all for me.
During the last two terms at uni it became painfully clear to me that all I wanted to do was paint. So I did. I finished my degree, bending the rules as much as they would to tailor it towards art and it worked wonders in regards to my motivation. After very successfully finishing my degree, I worked as a freelance painter and photographer with the occasional graphic design job to pay the bills and to give myself some time to build a foundation for me as an artist. As of the 1st of January 2018 I am proud to officially call myself a full time painter.
Do you have a daily routine? Can you describe it for us?
Working freelance, you have to take care of a whole lot of things in the background besides painting. So every day looks a little different. In general though, it goes something like this: I get up, make coffee, shower and get dressed. It is really important to me to feel awake and fresh and ready to conquer the day. I then (get another coffee and) work for two hours – answering emails, dealing with all that administrative stuff (online shop, website, etc) to get that out of my head (I also make a lot of different to do lists because I am quite easily overwhelmed when I have to remember too many things at ones).
After a small brunch break I get back in the studio and start getting down and dirty. When I feel like I am losing focus or hitting a wall, I stray away for a while to deal with organisational tasks, read or flip through art books (I am a very proud mommy to a rapidly growing collection of art books) to clear my head and come back to my paintings with a fresh view. Sometimes I work all day and finish at around 7pm to end the day with a long walk outside, other times I can’t find my groove during the daytime and head into my fave coffee shop to work instead. On those days, inspiration usually hits at night and then my studio hours shift to 7pm-midnight.
But hey, that’s the beauty of being self-employed – you can follow your own, weirdly ticking, inner clock.
What keeps you going every day?
Honestly, for a year now I have been going to bed every night thinking “Damn, I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and continue painting. I wish I could skip sleep”. Excited like a little child on Christmas Eve. I know it’s a huge privilege but I feel this glow inside of me that lets me know that all I ever want to do for the rest of my life is paint and as long as I can do that I will be so happy, I will meet wonderful, like-minded people, people to share inspiration with, to learn from and to teach. Most of all – every day that I spend painting I feel like my most honest self. That is worth a bucket of gold after having to deal with serious anxiety and panic attacks for the past four years. Art helps me to connect with people and makes the world lose its soul-crushing gravity.
What are the main challenges that you face in your work?
I always overwork my pieces and I tend to over-mix the colours until they become a dark, moody mess. I have also been told that my paintings often lack a clear focal point. I have grown to love exactly this aspect/criticism because I feel like it supports my message (you can see this in many of my works from the first half of 2017).
However, I started to work on more isolated shapes and pieces lately to develop a better eye for when to stop, to let a painting rest and breathe. I have always been a big fan of negative space in paintings and photographs. And I have hope that I am getting better at it. I am currently surrounded by about 50 sheets of paper full of swirls and swishes.
Practice makes perfect!
What three pieces of advice would you give anyone wanting to do similar work?
1. Paint, paint, paint and then paint some more. I have found that the more I produce, the more I lose the fear of failing. I have created my best work after reaching the feeling of “well it can’t get any worse now, might as well go crazy”.
2. Never stop being curious. Visit galleries, check your instagram, tumblr, blogs, magazines, book stores, movies, music. Don’t just seek out what you like, take in everything! Spend time looking at work that is totally unlike yours, that you might not even like. You’ll be surprised how much inspiration you will find in the most unlikely corners of your daily life.
3. Share your thoughts! Talk about art, leave thoughtful comments, constructive (!) criticism and encourage people to do the same with you. I have found some wonderful people on Instagram (for example) who I consult with on an almost daily basis. With a mix of brutal honesty and highlighting of successes, we have pushed each other’s work to the next level. And don’t be afraid of sceptics of your work, either they are right and you will eventually understand and your work will grow, or they will make your true feelings about your work come to light and you will stand strong and tall above their judgment. It’s a win-win really!
What would you like to work on next?
I am dreaming about painting on a super large canvas, at least 2x3m and I got this notion that I won’t have to wait much longer to make this dream come true. Stay tuned!
Thank you so much Stef! I can’t stop looking at your beautiful paintings, I’m so proud to be able to feature them here on Wonky Peach.
Make sure to follow Stef on Instagram and check out all of her incredible art on Etsy, her own site and at Society 6:
Instagram: @itsstefa Etsy: www.itsstefa.etsy.com
Website: www.stefaniethiele.com Society6: www.society6.com/itsstefa