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The supreme discipline of the visual arts

The challenge

Portraits have always fascinated me. On the one hand, this may be due to the fact that I have always had the feeling that I am not good at depicting faces, and thus admire all those who have mastered this skill. On the other hand, it is much easier for me to form an emotional bond with a good portrait than, for example, with an abstract painting or landscape depiction.

We humans are trained to perceive the smallest differences in faces. Even the smallest deviation lets us know when the likeness is not correct. To portray someone, the portrait should look as much like him or her as possible. To do this, I spent a long time learning proportions, internalising the Loomis method of constructing heads and practising ad nauseam.

Head studies in a sketchbook

I didn't choose this because I really wanted to make it difficult for myself. It just excites me to capture a personality. To fathom the mask, but also to get an idea of what might be behind it. I find the question of how other people perceive the world, experience and feel it highly exciting.

The right motif

I have often found it immensely difficult to decide who to paint. I've always felt that fans make fan art – "real" artists, on the other hand, make art. And I didn't want to be just a fan. I'm also not interested in portraying celebrities adapted to the news of the day. Sure, it brings me coverage – but I'm just not interested enough.

Maybe I'm too strict about it, but I'd rather paint people who inspire me in the long term. It almost annoys me that there are people with a higher recognition among them. Sometimes I have to drown out the inner critic and just go for it.

In the last year, I portrayed two podcaster duos whose shows have both been running for a decade and fascinate me for different reasons.

In "Logbuch: Netzpolitik", Linus Neumann and Tim Pritlove shed light on current events in politics concerning digital rights and freedoms, give technical explanations and expert assessments of their consequences, and deal with the question about what digital rules we want to live by in the future. An extremely informative, but also cynically and funny format.

Tim and Linus / Logbuch: Netzpolitik

Nicolas Wöhrl and Reinhard Remfort, both of whom hold doctorates in physics, present scientific papers from all disciplines in an entertaining way in "Methodisch inkorrekt", making science more accessible. It is always surprising how many different things are researched and what is found out.

Nicolas and Reinhard / Methodisch: inkorrekt

Friends and girlfriends also inspire me and make it into my pictures. Here is a portrait series where I experimented with how much to leave out.

Portrayed friends

Legal situation

When portraying other people, you have to be careful about which photos are suitable as models. This involves both copyright and personal rights, i.e. the person taking the photo and the person portrayed. Even if a certain level of creation is usually achieved through the craft of painting, the legal situation here is confusing. For me, I have decided to work either with my own photos or with photos with a free/CC licence. If you absolutely want to use a certain motif that is not licence-free, you could alternatively ask the photographer – in that case, naming the photographer is good manners.

Of course, there is always the possibility of alienating a portrait so much that it doesn't matter and the photo template is only the first entry point into the creative process.


I also practice and test a lot on self-portraits. These allow me to "tinker" with an image without the risk of alienating anyone but myself. It's incredibly liberating. They are ideal playgrounds for my ideas, both good and bad.

Analogue and digital self-portrait experiments

One's own style and content

It is not easy to be visually unique, especially because you have the feeling that everything has been done before and that good artists are a dime a dozen. The only thing that helps is to experiment and focus on what interests you – both visually and in terms of content.

Drawing inspiration from other art can help broaden your horizons. To avoid copying, one trick helps: to verbalise what I like about this picture. Is it a composition, a technique, a certain visual device or maybe just what is (not) shown? When I know this, I can integrate this approach into my works without them losing their independence.

If you then have ideas about what you actually want to show and say, it becomes even more exciting. I have been working on this question for a long time. By answering it, I am currently moving away from purely "depicting" portraits. More about that soon.

Work in progress

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