Artist Interview – Why working 9 to 5 isn’t enough

Johanna Hildebrandt came to Australia in 1970 after completing art school in Germany. She was quickly seduced and captivated by the beauty of her newly adopted country and her art has been inhabited by the exotic flora and fauna ever since. She believes creating art is a natural process and not a 9 to 5 occupation; artists have to work around the clock so those without a strong work ethic need not apply!

Johanna Hildebrandt

Johanna Hildebrandt in her studio

Although her art is heavily inspired by nature, Johanna says inspiration is not always easy to find or pinpoint. ‘The trigger for a new artwork can be quite obscure. I can’t go out into Nature and expect to get inspired there and then.’ Instead she sees inspiration as a more organic process. ‘I believe new impressions are like a seed that germinates in the mind. It is important to be aware of that because the next step can be something I look at in a magazine, perhaps an unusual colour combination. Those two elements will then stimulate the imagination enough to start on a new picture. Then the rush is on to get it down on to the canvas.’

Commissioned work is not a high priority for Johanna. ‘I mainly paint what I feel like painting because at any given time it might be based on a subject which is only in my own interest.’ Despite this she has done a few over years and doesn’t find the process easy. ‘It is a little unnerving for me, because I have to overcome the battle of constantly wondering if the client will be happy with the end result. I have to be free of those constraints and be creative in my own way.’

A time Johanna felt this freedom was when she was living in a house with a backyard adjoining a forest. ‘I used to go down into the gully, lie on a rock and daydream up into the tree canapé. This started me on a series of paintings where the aspect was from that angle, looking up into the sky.  It was a lot of fun, because the imagination and fantasy had free reign.’

Johanna’s favourite artist seems the obvious choice considering the recurring subject matter of her work. ‘I think I would have to say it is Henri Rousseau. He was the greatest Naive painter. A self taught artist, who constantly doubted himself and still managed to transcend many art movements and artistic styles to stay true to himself and his vision. His beautiful work represents his yearning for exotic places, which was his escape from the conventional life in the suburbs. His amazing, dreamlike, often large-scale jungle scenes are the most enchanting creations. During his lifetime he was ridiculed by critics for his work, and he died a lonely death as a poor man. Now he is recognised as a genius and the paintings hang in the famous museums of the world.’ She has been lucky enough to see some of his greatest works at the Louvre in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Tiger in a Tropical Storm or Surprised! by Henri Rousseau

Since 1984, Johanna has had 22 solo exhibitions in Australia, Germany and Japan along with many other group exhibitions. She knows a thing or two about putting the work in and not waiting to be inspired. ‘It is very important to have a strong work ethic. To be an artist is not a 9 to 5 job, it is around the clock. Surround yourself with things and people that inspire you, ignore that which will not further your vision and retain the positive influences. Never entertain the thought “I am not inspired”… just work. I love a quote from Picasso: “When inspiration arrives I want it to find me working.”’

You can buy Johanna Hildebrandt’s art online here.

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