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»Desk to Success« with artist Bernadette Schweihoff

Our column »Desk to Success« features the working spaces of interesting people. In this issue of sisterMAG we met the artist Bernadette Schweihoff at her desk in Berlin, the everyday life of a modern artist and what it takes to thrive in the world of art. Read the full interview here!

»Desk to Success« with artist Bernadette Schweihoff

Everyday life of a modern artist

In our »Desk to Success« series we introduce you to exciting personalities and their work. For this issue we had a conversation with artist Bernadette Schweihoff. What does an artist’s life look like and what qualities are necessary to survive in the art business? The trained hat maker showed us her workspace in Berlin and told us about her experiences. Bernadette has a degree in art pedagogy, was part of the painting and drawing class of the Art Students League in New York and has been studying illustration since 2017.

Dear Bernadette, thank you very much for allowing us to be guests in your home and studio. Would you like to introduce yourself?

I am Bernadette, 34 years old, an artist and have been living in Berlin for about five years. I call myself an artist because I do many different things: drawings, illustrations, and paintings, as well as masks and photography. I don’t like to limit myself and choose a medium depending on the project. I’m also studying illustration at the BTK here in Berlin, on a scholarship in my fourth semester. I’m very creative and always doing – doing is very important to me.

What is characteristic of your art and how did you find your own style?  

The animal, or the animal form as I call it. I was looking for forms while painting. It started with one foot and ended with this animal. I purposely avoid giving it a name and don’t want to determine what kind of animal it is because it is always evolving, and you have to give the viewer the opportunity to create their own interpretation. This figure runs through all my work, whether it’s a drawing, a photograph, a painting,or a silhouette. Of course, I also do other things on commission, but in my own projects this animal form appears regularly.

My illustration studies include courses like »Character Design« and »Editorial Illustration«, where I started to develop a character out of these forms. For example, my animal form got eyes and a nose. I tried out what this nose looks like from the side, and also when the figure rotates. This first animal form is a beginning. There will certainly be other characters as well.

What is particularly important in your workspace and what should never be missing? 

Paper, my sketchbook and newspaper are essential! There must be something I can draw on. At least one pen or brush and ink should also be handy. Something with which I can scribble and capture and record ideas. I don’t just have one workplace, rather, I work in different places. I draw on the subway, in nature and even in my bathroom. Basically, I work everywhere, but when I have a fixed place, it is important that it is quiet and I feel comfortable. It has to be a place where I can come to rest. If I don’t feel comfortable, I can’t produce ideas or draw and think freely. Of course, it should also be bright.

What does a typical day look like for you?  

Let’s assume it’s a day in my studio. I usually get up early, go to the kitchen and make myself a ginseng drink with turmeric. I often go to my desk first to see what I created yesterday or, if I had ideas overnight, I quickly record them. Usually I sit at my desk all day and work. Most of the time I eat at my place because I feel like I might otherwise interrupt my creative rhythm. When I need a break, I jump on my trampoline or go for a walk. In the evening I continue to draw in bed or read a book.

In your opinion, what’s necessary to survive as an artist today?

Art is at its base a matter of taste. So, you have to learn to just do what you want to do and don’t stop. Not stopping should actually be your main priority. It’s all about perseverance. You should do it because you really want it. It must be a natural urge, and not to become famous and successful. The most important thing is not to be distracted from this path – »This is me and I’m happy as an artist«. You have setbacks and are rejected from time to time, but there are also many promising developments. I think if you take that into account, you can also become successful. Of course, it always depends on how you define »success« for yourself. For me, success means that I can do what I want to do: my art. I’ve done so many other things, but art is always what satisfies me.

What do you wish for your future? Where do you see yourself in five or maybe even ten years?

I imagine my future to be as diverse as my work. I definitely want to continue my art so that I can observe how I develop. I would also like to do illustrations for magazines and book covers. I could imagine giving workshops or working as a lecturer because I enjoy collaborating. I feel like improvement accelerates when you are able to share your work with others. This also gives you new ideas and avoids stagnation. I am a person who has a lot of ideas, and I would be very happy if these ideas could help others. That’s why a position as an art director might be a good fit. But social projects are also important to me, and I would like to continue with them. One example is »Art Against Cold«, where artists create postcards that homeless people can sell on the street. As an artist, it’s important to be socially involved and reach people who aren’t already in your particular circle. But my biggest wish is to continue my art and to make a living from it.

Do you have any exhibitions planned? Is it possible to admire your art somewhere in the near future?  

I’ve actually had an exhibition every year. Last year I decided against it for the first time. This had to do with the fact that I started studying again and had the feeling that I wanted to work on something for a while and develop myself before I showed anything else. Berlin is a big city, and I want to be sure when I exhibit something that I am fully behind the work.

However, a new exhibition is still on the back of my mind and will surely come next year. Maybe at the end of 2019. You can follow updates on my homepage.