Hundertwasser handmade book

My sketchbook project for the Leigh Art Trail 2019 was inspired by the artist Hundertwasser: an artist, architect and ecologist. Here is a selection of pages followed by a Q&A for the art trail…

Q. What artist or art movement is your art book / sketchbook inspired by?

Friedensreich Hundertwasser: artist, architect and ecologist (Born Vienna 1928, Died New Zealand 2000)

Q. Why did you choose this artist / movement?

I first came across Hundertwasser and his work during University, where I studied textile design. I love his use of colour and I’m inspired by the pattern-like style in his paintings and architecture. More recently I visited an exhibition of Hundertwasser, Klimt and Schiele at Ateliers des Lumieres in Paris, which was an immersive experience that rekindled my interest.

Q. Where did your creative process start? (ie, a particular image / idea / colours, etc)

Several years ago, I bought a book of Hundertwasser postcards of his lost and stolen paintings. I began by selecting some of these to explore in more detail. Each postcard I chose inspired me to use a different process as a starting point, i.e. the use of bright colours, the spiral, curved lines, cut up and reconstruct…

Q. Which idea came first the book or the artwork? Please explain

Having always used bought sketchbooks in the past I initially thought I would start by creating my own sketchbook to work into. However, once I started to experiment with the artwork it felt a natural choice to create separate pages, of a similar size, which I could then organise and build into a book at the end.

Q. Describe your book – why did you choose this format?

I’ve chosen an oversized landscape format, as many of his paintings were large scale. The book is divided up into five sections (he was known as ‘the painter king with five skins’) which are inspired by Hundertwasser quotes. I have individually hand-punched each hole along the spine of the pages (Hundertwasser was opposed to the straight line, so these are slightly wonky) and the book has been bound with a spiral. Hundertwasser was very passionate about the spiral, which he thought of as the ‘symbol of life’, and it became a consistent motif that he used during his mature years. For the cover I’ve created a repeat textile design of one of my pages and digitally printed this onto natural cotton. Hundertwasser was also a keen ecologist and known for his efforts in environmental protection.

Q. How did you find making your own book? Why?

This is my first book-making project and it came with a number of challenges! The first was deciding how to approach the project – whether to make a book that contained art, or whether the book should be the art? The second challenge was to decide on the format of the book. Books come in many shapes, sizes and there are endless binding options – which can all seem very overwhelming. I decided to keep it simple and make a collection of pages that I could bind together at the end. The cover was the biggest learning curve and I have a long list of people to thank, who helped me with the process – from creating the repeat textile design, to the choice of fabric and printing supplier, to making mitred corners, fitting eyelets and spiral binding…

Q. How did you bring your own art style / process / ideas to your chosen theme?

  • Hundertwasser was primarily a painter, architect and ecologist, my practice is collage art, design and print. To bring my own style to the work:
  • I reinterpreted a selection of his paintings in my collage style using found ephemera and tissue paper to emulate the translucent quality in his paintings.
  • I made a lino cut of his spiral that I used to make prints on tissue paper and included gelli prints in my collages.
  • I made a stream of consciousness doodle incorporating spirals and shapes found in his paintings.
  • In the final section I focused on environmental issues using found ‘letters to the earth’ published by Extinction Rebellion and created collages and a poster design inspired by current environmental projects from Earth Day Network.

What did you learn about the artist / movement during the project?

  • Hundertwasser was a visionary artist who rejected all standardisations, traditional rules, artistic philosophies and techniques in his work.
  • His work seems child-like, as he believed that children have a special creative process free of any custom and tradition as true and real expressions.
  • He rejected straight lines and was fascinated by spirals, as he noticed that there are no straight lines in nature.
  • A major theme in his works was “reconciliation and harmony of mankind with nature”.
  • He planted over 1.5k trees around the world.
  • He was the forerunner of “Creative Clothings Movement”. He designed and created his own clothes (wearing two dissimilar socks was a characteristic of Hundertwasser’s dressing) and also made his own shoes.

Q. What did you learn about your own creative process / art style from this project?

I really enjoy using mixed media collage, creating a weathered and layered look; I also realised how much I enjoy colour! My process is very methodical, although the outcome is often a total surprise, and by working to my own ‘rules’ I found that I stuck to my go-to selection of materials, rather than venturing out of my comfort-zone. The pieces I’ve created have a surface pattern style and I would like to develop these further into a textile prints. 

Q. What was your biggest challenge?

Working as an individual rather than collaborating as a group was a very different approach for SEVEN and was my biggest challenge.

Q. How did you inspire / motivate yourself to overcome this challenge?

SEVEN continued to meet fortnightly throughout the year where we shared our progress and our issues, which the group provided their support on. In between these sessions I would aim to take a small step towards my book each day (however small). I also created a mindmap to keep me focussed on the work that Hundertwasser did and what had inspired me to choose him, which I referred to throughout the project.

Q. What would you like people to take from your book / or your work in general?

My inspiration was to play with bold colour and Hundertwasser motifs/shapes to reinterpret his paintings using my own style and translating them into patterns. There is also a connection to the environmental issues that he cared about (and are still very relevant today) i.e. the planting of trees, recycling, living in harmony with nature, plastic pollution…

Q. Will this project impact the way you create your own art or how you look at other people’s art work? (ie, have you discovered a new technique, something you didn’t know which you can relate to?)

The influence of Hundertwasser has increased my confidence in the use of bold colours. Previously I have favoured more muted colours along with blacks, whites, greys and metallics. I’ve really enjoyed having ‘permission’ to use bold, contrasting colours, which I would like to continue. I have also enjoyed working on a slightly larger scale.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share?

Creativity is available to all and inspiration can be found everywhere. If you don’t enjoy drawing – try found images; if you’re not confident with colour – try using found colour, above all enjoy the process and don’t get too precious about it, perfection isn’t everything.

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