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Stories from the Studio

January. The time of “new”… New beginnings, new resolutions, new habits… right? Many of us have developed this “new year” mindset over the years, which makes us want to suddenly change so much. I used to make a long list of resolutions wishing to wake up on the 1st as a brand new person, the best version of myself. 🙂 . With the time we realise that all those resolutions don’t necessarily work as we imagined. For two weeks perhaps. The list of “new” keeps getting shorter with passing years. I’m at the point where I don’t do big or lots of resolutions anymore. Ideally, I attempt to stay consequent throughout the year, apply or quit habits at any time, not waiting for the right moment. However, I do enter into more reflective mode in January, around my birthday. It’s more of a passing time mark for me rather than the end of the year. I revise a general vision, checking if it’s still the same or maybe something has changed? Sometimes it has, even if slightly, therefore the course must be corrected. Like an adventurer, she must occasionally consult the map to ensure she remains on track. It’s easy to lose one’s way, go off course among daily ventures, or be tempted by strange creatures without even realising.

2023 went slower, creatively speaking, than I would like to, and being honest between myself and I, I know I’m capable of much more. Nonetheless, I feel happy that I took a bigger, more decisive steps towards what I really want to do. People mostly know me as a pencil artist, but I’ve always had this desire and longing to paint. I have so much to say about fear, expectations, comfort zone, procrastination, not “enoughness”. Did I mention fear already? On the other occasion. What I’m going to say now is that choosing an artist’s path is bold already. It’s walking against the crowd, it contains risks, even craziness and it’s definitely not easy… why to put additional limits or restrains on ourselves? By making that choice, we must not hold ourselves back. We are already taking a risk, so no holds barred now. ALL in. This mindset really helped me a lot during the last few years. Stepping stronger on my path and not looking back.

Last year’s theme was practice, practice, practice. Answering the call of painting that was growing in me during pencil focused years. I said a lot of “no” that year… but sometimes “no” to something or someone else means big, juicy “yes” to yourself. Painting more felt… as coming home 🙂

My plan for 2024 is still focusing mostly on painting practice, but expand it into brainstorming new ideas and answering the question: what do I want to tell with the skills I’m gaining? Great technique is just half of the equation. I’m developing a sketchbook practice where I want to just explore ideas, keep unlocking different doors to imagination. Sometimes we focus so much on the technical side that we neglect the most important part.

I've been very disciplined with attending life painting sessions for most of the months, Monday to Friday. I can't think of better practice than learning from nature. I want to build my visual library as much as possible, especially in terms of color. It's impossible to observe all those subtle hue shifts and variations on the photographs. Painting from life greatly influences my decision-making while painting from photographs in my studio.

I’m happy and pretty nervous at the same time to share with you a project that has been in making since the last year. I finally got my very first professional camera (thanks to the credit from my mom hihi, love you mom!) and I started to create my own references. It gave me more creative freedom and allowed for more control over choosing the exact poses, gestures, and lighting I was searching for. Thanks to attending the life model sessions for over a year, I’ve met a lot of great, creative people, actors, dancers, musicians with whom I wanted to continue working. As I was creating and enjoying references for myself, the idea appeared…. Why not share those photos with other artists as well? Not everyone can afford to hire models, go to live drawing sessions or buy expensive stock images. It could be a way of supporting artists and potentially have that little extra source of income.

I must admit that I was very nervous before my first photo shoot. As an introvert, I don’t work much with people. I feel the best behind the easel, lost in my worlds. And… I’ve never imagined that I would enjoy this experience so much:) Wow. Becoming a kind of director of people was an enormous challenge. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate my ideas well or express what I was thinking.

You know this saying about the fear of having just big eyes? They appear so big and scary in the darkness of the unknown… but at the moment you shine a light on them… it appears to be a friendly creature that maybe was as scared as you. It was all surprising even for me. And yet once more I’ve experienced on my own example that we can do much more than we believe and that once you let go… yes, you’ve guessed, I’m a broken record haha… that’s when the magic happens 🙂

Working with Erea was such a pleasure. I felt as if I was a silent observer recording a beautiful display happening in front of my eyes. There’s so much grace and confidence in her movements. Each pose, beautifully arranged and composed, needed little suggestions from my part. She knew exactly how to move and how to push the pose to reveal a beautiful gesture. It's no surprise, considering Erea's talents as a multidisciplinary artist with a love for theatre and passion for telling stories. Her sensitivity translates through all her movements.
Collaborating with Max was a real joy. We first met when he modeled for a painting session at the art studio in Madrid. The portrait I painted of him is one of my favorites so far, and I knew I wanted to work with him again. Multidisciplinary stage actor who explores fields of music and dance, producing his own shows for cultural spaces. He just knew how to move, entering smoothly from one pose to another, building on my ideas and creating his own narratives. We took hundreds of photos, flowing.

Lately I’ve been consulting with Old Masters at Prado Museum a lot. Painting more brings new questions and a better understanding of what to look for. Usually after a painting session, either from a life model or photographs, a very specific issue appears that I’d like to explore.

I got “abono museo”. It’s an annual card that allows for unlimited visits to 10 different museums in Madrid. Now I can consult Old Masters even every day if i wanted to, WOW ! What a treat!

The other day I was consulting Masters on portraits as I was about to start one on my own during life painting sessions. You know what always strikes me in museums? Madrazo, for example, is one of the, if not the one, whose rendering is the smoothest among the painters of Prado. And yet. It’s never so smooth as I attempted to be at the beginning. As I imagined they were. You can clearly see the small brushstrokes. Faces are more rendered and then the clothes. For example, if you see up from close, it’s abstraction, big strokes of paint. It made me think a lot. Perhaps it’s because we rarely have the occasion to see paintings in reality. We look at reproductions in books or online… the impression is different. Some paintings are so huge, yet we see a couple of centimeters in the books. It gives us the idea that the painting must be so smoothly and intricately executed down to the very detail… and really most are not. It’s all about the scale and the illusion of realism seen from a distance.

One of my favourite portrait painters from Prado to study from is Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz. There is a range of paintings with different levels of finish on display. From tightly rendered, through executed faster, where each brush stroke is visible to unfinished sketches where you can see the process underneath.

I will tell you more about those projects next month 🙂 Meanwhile, happy creating!

Marta Witkiewicz

Bringing magic into life.

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Marta Witkiewicz

I invite you to take a walk through parts of my world. I hope you will take a spark of magic with you 😉