If you are a Pinterest user, and if you regularly browse imagery (for relaxation or work, or both ;), I invite you to follow me on Pinterest! Here are my categories and boards:
I am very interested in Orientalist Art. These are paintings that provide a western-world view of what the orient should look like, and they have thus very little to do with the reality of the Orient, past or present. Having said that, this artform does remind me of the books that I used to read as a small boy, and has a great personal sentimental value for me. I collect related imagery here: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-orientalist-pics/
I had a chance to visit Kansas City. First surprise: this town isn’t in Kansas, but in Missouri, a relatively flat place with an abundance of farmland and space. Looked quite rural yet attractive from the air.
As usual I only had a couple of free hours in between, so how best to spend my time? Most US cities do not have an inner city that invites a leisurely stroll, so I had to come up with a plan B (although later I did discover that downtown Kansas City does have its charm). An Uber driver pointed out that the city had an art museum – he wasn’t impressed by it, but by his looks he wasn’t into art too much; more a baseball kind of guy.
So I took two hours for a fast visit to the Nelson Atkins museum of art, and indeed was in for a very big surprise, as shown on the photos below.
An impressive facade protects a rich exhibition, which was assembled by art scouts during the 1930 crisis: with wallets full of hard dollars earned the years before the economic collapse, these scouts bought artifacts and paintings from all over the world.
All in all, a visit to this temple of art is definitely time well spent!
Every week, people visit my workshop and the exhibition that I have at my house. They come to look at the paintings, but naturally, they are also curious to learn more about the process by which I paint. Very interesting conversations, which have actually helped me to structure my work in a better way. Occasionally though, I get a question, which used to confuse the hell out of me.
“How long did it take you to create this painting?”
Yes, this question used to confuse me. Depending on the person who asks the question, I may, on the one hand, notice some criticism behind it, as in: “I cannot imagine it took you longer than five minutes to create this s**t. On the other hand, for most visitors, this usually simply shows interest in my work. Whatever the case, in the past I found the question very hard to answer.
First of all, we all know that good art takes a long time to create, whereas poor art can be created within minutes. Although… come to think of it… is that actually true? Karel Appel, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, and even the public’s current favorite Banksy… how much time did or do these artists invest in a single piece? I know some of them created beautiful work within minutes. On the other hand, there are very poor artists who, at the kitchen table, spend months creating terrible paintings. By definition, a sculpture may take a long time to create, think about Michelangelo, Rodin, or Scarpello. … but how about Marcel Duchamp’s readymades?
The answer lies in the observation that creating art takes more than simply working on the piece in front of the artist. I arrived at the answer to the question when I read an article about hunting. For a hunter, to kill a wild boar takes less than a second: pull the trigger, and that’s it. However, we all know that a hunter has to purchase a weapon and ammunition, needs to take care of the equipment, will need practice in shooting, will have to wait for the prey in the early morning hours, and will need to transport the dead animal to the car and the butcher.. the author of the article calculated that the killing of one single boar takes the hunter on average18 hours.
With art, it is not much different. For instance, I study hundreds of pictures and photos each month. I look at motives, colors, shadows, techniques… even at movies or movie stills. I make dozens of sketches (in the end, most have nothing to do with the final work, and are thrown away). The artists that created action paintings may have made dozens of paintings, the majority ending up in the bin, and the one they liked was selected as the final piece. The failures are never shown, but they contributed to the masterpiece and were part of the creation process.
On top of that comes experience. If you create paintings or sculptures over many years, you become more skillful. Michelangelo didn’t start out as a pro in sculpturing, he practiced and practiced. At the height of his career, he probably needed considerably less time for a sculpture than as a student, but he (and his audience) was probably more pleased with the end result than with his earlier works.
So, if people ask me: “How long did it take you to create this painting?” I have both a short and long answer. The long answer is the explanation that you have just read. The short answer is something like “six weeks.” And that’s the truth. honestly, I have never created a painting within minutes.
“The show must go one” illustrates my hunger for music. It is also one of my all time favorite songs by Queen. And for the show to continue I need MUSIC. Any kind of music; my radio is playing the whole day, from the moment I get up, when I get in my car, late at night… and when needed even in the early morning, when the world is still asleep.
I have assembled for you a list of some of the music pieces that I love most and that I never get tired of hearing. The list is a wild mix of all types, styles and periods. I hope it inspires you to pick up some tunes that you may be unfamiliar with. My typical day may start with Miles Davis’ hard bob jazz (his beautiful 1959 album Kind of Blue, unbelievable I wasn’t even born then, so fresh and revolutionary is the sound), then switch to pop tunes, rock or metal during the day, and listen to Rachmaninoff in the evening – see Anna Federova’s exceptional interpretation of his Second Piano Concerto in the Concert Gebouw in Amsterdam. Weeks pass by in which I only listen to Country Music: Billie Jo Spears’ Blanket on the Ground and Johnny Cash can still move me to tears, or Tift Merritt’s Another Country (listen to the guitar on that one!), then switch over to Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, one of the greatest vocalists the world has ever seen, singing Qawwali (Sufi Islamic devotional music). Or that famous singer Oum Kalsoum who moved Egypt and the arabic world. And then? Back to Neil Young, or fast forward to Republica with Ready to Go. Some Scottish Texas, French Erik Satie Trois Gymnopedies or American Van Halen’s Jump.
Let me stop here. Curious to hear about your absolute favorite piece of music. Especially curious to learn about artists that I have never encountered before. I am hungry to extend my list.
Beautifying yourself is crucial, it is rewarding to stay in tip top shape and your fellow humans will respect, appreciate and like you more. In that regard it may be very rewarding to be able to say: Finally the Sun Yin Yang tattoo is ready!
sun yin yang tattoo
Admittedly NOT on my body, thank you! After long consideration I decided against ANY skin mutilation. After all, this may be hype now, but in ten years that hype may well be over… but any tattoo would still be there! So instead of investing money in this rather special art form, I decided to invest into THIS. In any case, If you’re thinking about tattooling, start small. Give yourself a chance to learn the process, how your skin takes ink, and how your body heals. Don’t do it cheap: a suspiciously cheap tattoo parlour, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You’re altering your body for life. If that’s not worth a decent investment, I don’t know what is.
No matter how madly in love you are now, putting your hubby’s or one-night stand’s name on your body is risky – if not stupid. Be certain that you stand behind your choice for the rest of your (or your partner’s) life. As a tattooist of mine once said, “You want it removed? Bring an axe bro.” Changing Mary to Harry is simple enough (if you adjust in other dimensions as well), but changing Mary to Zebedee, or Kevin Spacey to George “Nespresso” Clooney is near impossible. If you’ve got a tattoo, people will talk about it. They’ll judge you, they will put you in a mental drawer, and they will slam it shut and lock it and throw away the key. So you have to decide about the location: a hidden spot (chest, your back, buttock, or certain organs) or out in the open (cheeks, nose, forehead, hands, neck, ears, calves if you are a short-/skirt-man or certain organs, if you’re that kind of guy).
In any case. Stay in shape, stay clean, dress well – and leave your body as it is – that’s my motto.
I try to write at least three pages each day – and likewise I try to make at least one drawing every day too. The picture of the swimmer (below) is one of such drawings. Creating is very fulfilling. Only through practice, practice, practice can perfection be achieved. Productiveness is a great way to stay motivated within the creative process. The relaxation moment is crucial. By getting out the pen and paper or the crayons and the sketchbook, and sitting down, switching off the mind and focusing 100% on the task at hand, thoughts dwindling by like little sparks that die out above the campfire, the author or painter gets into a flow that is quiet yet unstoppable. Yes, I know my sentences may be too long, yet the creative process is not controlled by everyday rules. You have to love what you do.
Dishwashing and Creating
Hard cut to dishwashing. “Oh, what this sudden change of topic? ” you will wonder. Many years ago, our dishwasher broke down. Buy a new one, or look at alternatives? Which alternatives are there to a dishwasher?! Doing the dishes by hand. We got rid of the dishwasher, and now I wash the dishes by hand two to three times a day. Dishwashing is an interesting occupation. It may not sound very creative at first, but through practice, you can become really good at it. The dishes have to be spotless in the end, but you also will want to be as economical as possible with detergent, hot water and spent time. Dishwashing is a creative process, but interestingly with a single outcome: clean dishes. It has a strong Buddhist experience to it. I couldn’t live without it, yet I also dislike it at times, especially in the evening. It is a bit like art.
And art is the only way to survive the apocalypse 😎
Crayon sketch of a swimmer
This is a very simple sketch, I don’t want to exaggerate its importance. I do like the dynamics of this tanned body, as it jumps into to sea and at a perfect angle. It reminds me of summer, my favorite time of year. Will I turn this into an oil painting, as I often do with sketches? Nope.
With more than a quarter of a million videos uploaded per day, more than a thousand years required to view all excisting videos, more than 100 million videos watched daily, and more than 300 million users accounts, YouTube continues to amaze. It is among the most popular sites in the world and the second most popular search engine after Google. Compared to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Tictoc (all channels that I also use for promotion or as a consumer), YouTube may be a prime channel to reach your readers… but it is also highly complex. Stilll, using it for marketing is worth the effort.
How to get started
Many people might consider YouTube and video-making as highly complex, and this can be a tremendous blocker to get started. Reduce your expectations to yourself and your first videos. Just get going!
Making a movie can be done with any smartphone, this is extremely simple. You dont need any special equipment. You don’t need to be a technical eypert.
People value content. This content could be the story that the video brings across, but it can also be you, as a person. So, as an author you may interview yourself about your latest book, a campaign, or ideas about writing. I have filmed myself explaining the content of my blogposts. Bringing a point across by speaking is in many cases more effective (in comparison to written text).
Keep the video short (1-2 minutes) and simple. Dont try to be perfect. In many cases, the very first take will be the best… even if it contains a slip-up.
Be authentic. Just be you. Smiling helps, but many of us aren’t natural smilers. Still, don’t fake it.
Thus, creation of the video will take some thought, but theoretically, you can film it within half an hour, and then be ready for upload.
If you have a google account, your are all set for YouTube too. Uploading can be done within minutes, but you will need to spend some time to enhance the video with useful information:
Use a title that contains the right buzzwords and is attractive for viewers.
In your description of the video, summarize the contents shortly, and try to make people curious. Include a call to action: for instance you can ask people to visit your website. Put that link in the first 2-3 sentences of the description (not at the bottom… where it won’t be noticed).
You can also add some background music, YouTube offers this for free.
Once this information has been included, your video can go live. At this stage nothing much will happen; unless you are famous already. Few people will notice your video. So you will need to use social media to direct people to the video.
Don’t stop with one video. You will have to build a portfolio of videos; and not all will be hits. Learn from the ones that are performing best!
Originally I had planned an art exhibit of my work for June, and the organization of this live event was already initiated back in January, together with three other artists. But then the pandemic struck, and it became quite obvious that a live, on-site event was out of the question.
Luckily, through my previous job in business, I have experience in organizing remote events, so the decision to turn this “viral disaster” into a “virtual exhibit” was a relatively easy step to take. In the end, I managed to hand over a surprisingly high number of paintings and books through this approach. Perhaps you are interested in doing something similar, so let me share some tips and tricks on how to make this work.
Set the theme. I called my virtual event “the fundraiser against Corona” as my objective was to donate any proceeds to the WHO corona fund. This was the red tread through all communication.
Choose the timeframe. I took the month of May as the running time for the event.
Connect to your audience, I have a e-mail list with many subscribers, and emailing was centerpiece to the campaign. You can’t overwhelm people with continuous emails, so I designed just three emails: one for April with the general announcement, one for half of May, and a final closing email announcing that the event was almost over, with a final call to action.
Use a website as the central information resource. The link to that website should be simple so that it can be typed in by hand or communicated during a conversation, e.g. over the phone. Here’s mine: www.clemenssuter.com/papa.
Use all channels available. Not all people receive information through the same channel, as it turned out some customers heard about this campaign through Instagram, others through LinkedIn, and others through email. I pushed out the campaign through my website, email, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, tumblr, two sites on Facebook, YouTube… and a few others that I have in the meantime forgotten about ;-) Naturally you can also use any other way: even written letters or postcards.
Use a single, simple and unique hashtag across all social media. Check out my tag #cps_d2c. That hashtag allows all participants to find your work in their personal favorite channel, and it connects all channels.
Post and communicate continuously. Make sure to provide some piece of news every day, across many of the channels. Indicate which day it is: “today is the tenth day of the fundraiser” or “only five more days left for the fundraiser”. As an example, I shared details of a painting each day, or posted about one of my books every couple of days.
Use video. I made short movies that I posted on YouTube, telling why I was running the campaign. Even three weeks in, not all of the people that I had addressed understood what this was about, so you must keep on reiterating your goal. Vlogs are a great way to supplement blogs.
Talk about successes. If you sell your work, tell the audience about this right away. Also mention if you have successfully shipped a painting, or when it has arrived at the buyer. People will want to know that you can deliver. Also provide some guarantee that you will take the picture back if the buyer doesn’t like it. Naturally some buyers will want to look at the art too; so I organized live visits (in line with corona limitations).
Join forces with other artists. Actually, this is a call to action for YOU, if you create high quality art and literature. Imagine such a campaign with a number of artists, each with their own channels! That would lead to an impressive multiplication. If this approach interests you, contact me.
The count is in! I am very grateful to the people that donated money to Hellabeem and got one of my paintings for free in exchange! In addition, dozens of paperbacks and eBooks were bought between the start on November 1 and the end on December 31st – and these book revenues have also been donated to Hellabeem.
Hellabeem is an organization that is doing fantastic work in Sri Lanka: it champions the disabled and disadvantaged by offering them a chance to participate fully in society. The years these young people spend on the Hellabeem campus prepare them in many positive ways for an independent existence. More on the Hellabeem website.
A few days ago I stumbled over an intriguing site: Prometheum Wastes Chopshop, which describes the story (as the creators put it) of a “dry and dirty landscape and the challenges that you are going to have to face to be able to survive here”.
As the author of TWO JOURNEYS, the 2010 adventure novel that predicted the Corona Pandemic ten years ahead of time, apocalyptic and SciFi landscapes continue to intrigue me.
However, what makes Prometheum Wastes Chopshop particularly interesting is the “sustainable creativity in the new normal”. In these times it is hard for all of us to come together, and with a looming economic crisis, money to spend may be running scarce too. But challenging times lead to innovation, as demonstrated here. In this project, young individuals from different parts of the world came together virtually. They share a passion for painting gaming miniatures (such as Warhammer and Dungeon & Dragons), but realized their means were significantly reduced to buy pre-fab miniatures from the stores. So, they created a community that jointly developed the story of a waste planet somewhere in an apocalyptic future. In addition, they ran challenges where actual waste materials (plastics, such as empty and discarded deodorant containers) are used to create the elements of the story – which include for instance the vehicles, transporters, buildings, and landscape. At the links below you can see how this is done, as well as the end result.
This crowd-initiative reminds me of the concept of the circular economy, which is currently being discussed at all levels of society and industry, with the objective to build a more restorative and sustainable society. The core team of this group consists of students and young professionals. For now, the team may well be mostly focused on growing a community of like-minded folk, being creative and inventing a story together – with no direct monetary intentions. But rest assured, such a virtual, high-quality effort will get noticed and may well kindle the interest of either film or game industry. Why am I impressed? These professionals demonstrate what the new normal in pandemic times could look like: 1.digital, 2.global, 3.sustainable, 4.creative, and 5.delivering value.