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5 Things Art Taught Me About My Life

I started painting at the age of 26 and have never stopped since then.

Courtesy of Ivona Fikejzlova

It was late night when I came across a full documentary about Andy Warhol. It was fascinating. His art was controversial, his friends were crazy, and his life was one big party. He was leading the underground New York art scene but managed to be the number one commercial artist too. I wished I could have met him and worked along with him. So, that’s how I became an artist myself.

It did not happen immediately. I was an art and gallery freak. I often persuaded my friends to go with me, although it was not their cup of tea. I liked, in particular, art openings and the buzz people created when discussing the newest art. Some pieces were great, some questionable, and some just too bad. The bad pieces made me think I could do that too.

1. Don’t seek acceptance, be happy for yourself

I bought my first sheets of papers, acrylic colours and started painting. I asked my friends to come over and paint with me. They complained they did not draw since school, but I encouraged them anyway. We painted together and bonded in a different, more intimate way. Like Warhol, I did too collect different personalities and painted with them.

Soon I changed papers for canvases and oil colours. Well, that was not a sign of quality as my pieces were bad. But they gave me a taste of being an artist. I understood I didn’t need anyone’s approval. I painted, experimented, and created something for myself.

The moment I started painting, I stopped caring about what others would say. I did it for fun. Before I tried to please a lot of people. I was social and cared about what other people would say. Art taught me I did not need it to be happy. I could be happy for myself and like what I was doing. Like in art, people have their taste, so if you don’t fit there, that’s fine.

2. Clothes don’t matter

Andy Warhol was a shy boy who came to New York and tried to make his fortune. He was a successful advertising artist, but he wanted more. So, he re-invented himself into a Warhol persona. He was often seen in a silver wig, black glasses, black jeans, and a striped T-shirt.

People say that if you want to be an artist you have to dress like one. There are many stereotypes about how artists, writers, singers should look. So, I gave it a try and immersed myself in the artistic couture. I started dressing like one. I felt important wearing a leather jacket, rounded glasses, and shoes messed up from oil colours.

Yet, it is all just a theatre. Image is not at all important. What matters is if a painting can trigger some emotions. Good, bad, ambivalent, or vague. You can style yourself as much as you want, but if your opinions, writing, or art won’t do anything with your audience. You suck. With or without glasses.

3. Be patient

I don’t like waiting. I hate waiting for other people. I can’t stand queueing up. Oil colours taught me to slow down and be patient. They need a lot of drying. Grrrr. But okay, let’s wait.

Waiting time cannot be shortened. As a millennial, I usually want everything as soon as possible. I ran a promotion race and managed to get a new job title every year since 2015. Did the job titles make me happier? No, they didn’t.

Painting taught me to take small reasonable steps and be happy in one place. Be happy at the moment. I believed that in the future I would be happier with more salary, I was not. I broke the circle and started to enjoy every day. Every day is a special day, even if you have to wait for something.

4. Be humble

I loved criticizing! I was convinced that I knew things better. That I was better than others. Then I started painting. I was not better than others, I was not even good at it. That was bliss.

I became humble and stoped being strict with artists. Art is an intimate representation of the artist’s life and thinking. So, when I was asked at my exhibition to speak about my motives and inspiration. I was shocked and shy. I couldn’t express myself clearly.

It takes little to respect other people and appreciate them. Yet, many are unable to do so. I was one of them. Luckily, painting transformed my thinking and I became more open-minded. I stopped preaching, persuading and showing myself off. This brought me more friendly and interesting conversations. So, be humble. Some people know more than you do.

5. Pst! It is not serious.

Last autumn we went to see a contemporary exhibition in Basel. I was looking forward to it as a child. When we entered the building, it was all I expected and even more. I was so excited that I commented on everything. My boyfriend told me that I was too loud and I should have shut up as we were at the exhibition.

Galleries and museums are not for being silent. Art is art when it is discussed. When spectators are amazed or disgusted. So, being all serious when seeing an exhibited toilet bowl does not make any sense.

I put into my paintings for instance a condom, a cigarette, a brush. I make people wonder and come to me with questions about meaning. There is usually a lot of fun behind it. Art is not at all serious the majority of the time. It is playful and fun.

Final thought

How serious is your life? A lot? Do you live it responsibly and seriously? Having a 9–5 career, dreaming about a higher salary and status. Go for it if that makes you happy.

What matters for me is being humble, curious and appreciate diversity. You don’t have to be a fan of abstract art to be able to enjoy it as an experience. Openness, patience and humour will cut the deal. That’s what I have learned from art and what improve my life in general. Can it be the same case for you?



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Ivona Hirschi

Ivona Hirschi

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