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From idea to realisation – the start of a new artistic project

There is probably nothing more exciting than the magic of a new beginning. Who doesn't know that tingle of a new idea, that excitement when you want to start with a new project? That's probably why Herrmann Hesse's line of poetry 'There's magic in every beginning' has entered our common parlance – at least in the German language.

That's exactly what happened to me when I made the plan to realise a series of pictures inspired by music. The fast, contrasting kind of music I've before. Inspired by its energy, its rhythm, its diversity.

But how do you start such a project?


Knowledge inspires creativity. In her excellent book "The Creative Habit", ballet choreographer Twyla Tharp recommends going a little overboard with research at the beginning of a new project so that you develop the confidence that you can do it. It's all about collecting, and you will inevitably come across aspects that stimulate some idea – consciously or unconsciously.

The form of collection depends on personal preferences and the nature of the project. I keep an analogue "art journal" in which I collect everything that inspires me. This includes such project-related research as well as 'found objects' from the road, sketches, ideas or things I learn in courses. I like to be able to browse through old inspirations and thoughts.

My picture series should be directly inspired by the debut album of 'Protest the Hero'. For this I not only listened to it, but also read song lyrics, interpretations, statements and interviews.

vinyl, interviews, kezia album, protest the hero

About the content: "Kezia" is a concept album that revolves around the execution of a woman, which is told from several perspectives. The number of songs as well as their assignment to different persons gave me a concrete framework for my picture series from the beginning. Ten songs were to become ten pictures, consisting of three mini-series - following the narrators – and one final picture.

Basically, I had already formulated my goal. I can't stress enough how much it helps to write yourself a brief and set a deadline! I now understand that that was one of the reasons why we produced so much creative output during our study time. You simply had a clear goal and a concrete time frame and tried to deliver the best you could create within those requirements. Then you checked off the box and moved on to the next project (or semester).

Letting go

Where do I put all this knowledge? How do I start? In this case, I put everything I had learned in the back of my mind, turned on the music and got started.

To give the fear of the blank page no chance, I began to experiment. On twelve canvas boards, I worked with different brushes, tools and applications of paint. Painted, sprayed, running. Sometimes I also glued in papers. I let my intuition guide me and tried to absorb as much energy as possible from what I heard.

paintings, work in progress, studio, atelier

I worked with a limited colour selection based on the cover, ensuring from the outset that the series of images would harmonise. Why twelve boards and not ten? Because I was sure that not all experiments would succeed. My creative direction was not fixed. I was curious to see where it would develop.

At the point where I felt that different directions were emerging, I sorted the images and decided which ones belonged together and would be suitable for which songs or character. At that point, the knowledge I had gathered earlier also helped me to see where to go from there.

Interestingly, I worked with it in a similar way as the band did in the beginning:

"The problem with Protest [the Hero], when they were so young, is that they had all of these pieces of songs and all of these incredible parts, but there was no real song yet. We needed to make the parts come together and flow together as a song. That was the real challenge." Adam Mott (former tour manager) – Source: The Kezia Interviews

The process was somewhat similar when it came to writing the texts:

"Our bass player Arif did them [the lyrics] and he just came in with these little crumpled up pieces of paper. We bought a cork board and he just laid them out in a sequence that would appear on the record and as we started writing the songs we were like "You know what? This feels like those lyrics go there..." And then we just sort of selected the lyrics in the song based on the feeling [...]" Rody Walker (Vocalist of the band) – Source: The Kezia Interviews


My intention was to mix abstract and figurative and, following the narrative, to paint a few portraits as well. So after sorting, I now sat down to do the first sub-series, three paintings that belong to the first three songs – including a portrait.

The process was different for each painting. While one of the abstract motifs was "finished" very quickly, because I found it totally exciting both compositionally and in the details, the other two turned out to be really hard work. The portrait is even the third one on this board, because I was not satisfied with the ones I had started before. It just hadn't felt "right" for a very long time. The third image was not as good as the other two for quite a while and I spent multiple painting sessions trying to raise it to the same quality level.

paintings, jeanette bohn, kezia series
Kezia series, paintings 01-03

That's the advantage of working in series: You see what works well or better, and you can use that knowledge to improve the rest of the images. You have to make a lot of decisions, weigh what you like and what you don't – sharpen your own judgement about what speaks to you. It's a dance between intuitive work and conscious decisions.

In the end, I don't care if a viewer knows the background of my work, but the process gives me an anchor and direction for my paintings. It pushes me to produce much more and much more interesting output than if I were simply experimenting.

Here's a fitting analogy from the interviews about the album:

"[...] It's a concept album and it's not literal at all; you can still read into everything that's going on and have it not be at all what Arif intended. That's the best thing about any record: having your own thing, and it be your own thing." Josh Lindley ("Band Dad") – Source: The Kezia Interviews

artist and art, Jeanette Bohn, Kezia 02, painting

I am currently working on the rest of the series.

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