Fusion Art is pleased to feature Washington, DC area artist, Barbara Mierau-Klein in its “A Day in the Life” series. In this series of Artist Showcases, the gallery reveals the “typical” day of many of its award-winning artists.
Barbara is an award-winning photographer and digital artist who specializes in digitally manipulated artwork.
Below please find, in Barbara’s own words, the answers to 12 questions about her, her art and her “typical” day as she gives us a glimpse into her artistic life.
How do you start your day?
I like to have a leisurely breakfast with a big pot of tea and read the newspapers - preferably in my garden if the weather is cooperating. After that, I am ready to take on whatever is on the agenda for the day.
How many days a week do your work on your art?
Normally, I like to be creative and work on my art pretty much every day for a couple of hours. But I also travel a lot, sometimes to faraway places for landscape photography, to compete in ballroom dance events, or to go back home to Germany where I am originally from to enjoy life and visit friends and family there. So, over the year as a whole I would say I work most days of the week, but not all.
Do you have a home studio or do you go to an outside studio to work? Which do you prefer and why?
I am a digital artist and so all I really need to work is my laptop and the external drives with my digital materials and photos. That makes my artistic life extremely flexible as I can work pretty much anywhere, including on my travels. However, I work best when I am undisturbed and can work in peace and quiet. I also prefer working with a large monitor, which is a lot easier on the eyes than a laptop screen; and I invested in a printer to be able to produce high quality prints. With all this technical equipment, I ended up setting up a home studio in a spare room where I enjoy retreating to and where I do most of my artistic work. The home studio also allows me to start working right when inspiration strikes or to take a quick break for a snack or an errand. And over time is has become a place for framing art for customers and the local gallery I joined, as well as storing my fine art printing papers. So overall, I am quite happy with the practicality and comfort of this arrangement.
What kind of art do you create?
I create multi-layered and very colorful digital photo collages. This involves finding imaginative ways to digitally mask and blend different photographs, graphic elements, textures, typography and more. The images I create reflect my fascination with the beauty of colors and the moods and emotions they evoke. Highly stylized cityscapes and people are subjects I often turn to for their vibrance and synergy. Nature, in particular trees and forest scenes, is another favorite subject.
I love the endless creative possibilities of digital art. It allows me to design something new that transcends the underlying photography and allows me to tell stories with added complexity, mystery and intrigue. I hope to capture the imagination of viewers of my art and to make them pause and reflect if only for a moment.
Walk us through your “typical” day?
What constitutes a “typical” day has certainly undergone some changes recently with the coronavirus lockdowns. Many of the things that used to take up sizeable chunks of my day have been put on hold, probably for quite a while, including ballroom dance practice, fitness training, camera club meetings, and work at the local gallery I just joined. Travel is certainly on hold as well. Now while one would think that this should open up more time for art, that has not really been the case so far. I have found myself spending the extra time reading the news at greater length, taking up long postponed home and garden projects and experimenting with different recipes for dinner.
So, my typical day these days starts in the late morning with some art work, followed in the early afternoon by a neighborhood walk in lieu of my usual exercise and a break for tea and a snack. Then there are few more hours of art work on a good day, unless I get distracted by one of my projects. Finally, there is dinner preparation and relaxing with some TV or a good book and maybe a glass of wine. I rarely work in the evenings, but every once in a while a piece of art grabs me late in the day and I just have to keep going until I reach a stage where it feels I can take a break.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I have spent most of my professional life working as an economist in a large international development aid organization and have no formal art or business education. I retired early, nearly eight years ago, and to my own surprise really fell in love with digital art. It was comparatively easy to obtain the technical and artistic training through a myriad of online courses, and I enjoy the continuous learning that this type of art requires. But what I sometimes miss is a more in depth training in art in general which I am sure could provide additional context to my creative process. I have also found it demanding (and tedious) to acquire the necessary knowledge about the business aspects of being an artist. There is some consolation in the fact that apparently, that is the least favorite aspect of many artists’ lives, but it is a challenge, nonetheless.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
The artistic process is something really mysterious and I enjoy it thoroughly. When I have an idea for a new piece of art and start working on it, it takes on a dynamic of its own with different trials and errors leading to new turns. The excitement of moving forward has me in its throngs, and I am often unable to stop until I am finished or at least at a new level. The most baffling thing – at least to my analytical economist’s mind – is that the original idea for the piece may in the process of creation turn into something completely different but still something I am really happy with and that I could never have imagined at the start.
What do you enjoy the least?
Occasionally I have a vision for a piece of art I want to create, and I just cannot manage to make it work and come together. It’s very easy in digital art to start over or to take a different tack, but sometimes it just does not help, and I get frustrated. At that point, I usually put the piece away to take up again at a later stage, but the frustration about having to do so may linger for a while and that makes it harder for me to start on something new.
Do you have any mentors?
The closest thing to a mentor is probably Sebastian Michaels whose series of Photoshop Artistry online digital art courses have not only set me on my path to discover digital art but made me fall in love with it. Sebastian’s most advanced Kaizen class continues to provide me with new training and stimulation monthly and the online community of fellow students and artists from these courses is extremely supportive and inspiring.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I do indeed work on my art in solitude, but I actually relish the peace and quiet and lack of social contact and need it to do my work. It does not feel lonely as I am all wrapped up in the artistic process that has my mind completely captured. That being said, after a couple of hours of solitary work I quite enjoy socializing with family and friends and through many of my other activities like dancing and photography. I think it’s the balance that makes it all work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Practice makes perfect” is probably the most precious piece of advice I have come across. If at first it does not work, try again and then try again. You always learn something in the process and your level of proficiency grows. Just continue to constantly challenge yourself – never stop learning and practicing.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes to me from many different sources. It can be something as fleeting as the line of a song I just listened to, a movie or a book I read, or my own nature photography. Most often, I am inspired by works of other artists, old masters as well as contemporary digital artists.
Thank you, Barbara, for sharing a peek into your life as an artist!
Below are 8 of Barbara’s award winning pieces. To learn more about Barbara and see more of her work please visit her website.
Fusion Art, LLC
Santa Fe, NM