An interview with the lovely, contemporary artist, Elena Birkenwald!
Introducing Elena Birkenwald
Hi! Great to have you! Please introduce yourself!
Thank you so much! Likewise!
My name is Elena Birkenwald. I am an artist living in Germany, where I followed my husband almost 30 years ago. Originally I am from Odesa in Ukraine (the Soviet Union back then), a city which has produced a large number of legendary classical musicians and artists.
Like most of the children at the time, I also have been raised to become a musician. Specifically, I learned to play the fortepiano and was practicing hours every day since I reached the age of five.
Parallel to my musical education, I started to take private art classes with some of the most significant professors in the country, like Andrey Sokolov.
When did you start making art? What does art offer you?
I don’t remember my exact age, but I became interested in art at a very young age. I started to play around with pencil drawings but soon discovered acryl, oil, and pastel. I also can’t recall what exactly brought me into the art space. I guess it was a hobby like for so many children, but I did not lose interest in it ever.
For sure, what fascinated me and led to me exploring the journey was the ability to play around with colors. To see how they work together. How they transition into each other, how they merge.
Nowadays, it’s an escape. An escape and an entrance at the same time. It’s meditation and creation, as much as a thought process and a way to cope. It has also, very unspectacularly, just become a habit.
Which piece or series are you most proud of and why? Is there a story behind it?
Last year I started a new project, “Birkenwald Art”. It’s hand-painted smartphone cases, (obviously by me). There are no two copies of any work. What makes this project even slightly more exciting for me is that I can infinitely experiment with motives and technique.
Although even I don’t like every artwork (there are about 200 of them at the time of writing) that I painted on them, the cases have a touch of magic to them, without exception. It’s difficult to describe it with words, you kind of need to hold one in your hands to understand. I poured my soul into every single one of them, not seldom painting a delicate artwork for many hours.
Most of the time, these cases also turn out to be incredibly exquisite in terms of quality, and I don’t say just because I am supposed to, they genuinely are. A Gorilla Glass plate safely seals the painting and gives extra protection to your phone itself.
It took a tremendous amount of time, flawed cases, and experimenting to find with the perfect “canvas” case and a working build process. But after the first flawless unit left the “production line”, something in my head snapped. It created an obsession. Now, each piece that I finish drives me further to pursue… I don’t want to say perfection because I know it doesn’t exist, but something that I can accept as an ideal result, artistically.
I am losing myself in words. For a change, here is a video of the creation process:
What would you say is your main source of inspiration?
In the first place, my inspiration comes from nature. I observe the game between light and shadow, the change of colors.
Objects themselves also tend to inspire me. When I see an item, I perceive it differently than others. I don’t notice the way it is, but how it could be.
That’s also how I ended up painting instruments and cases, for instance. These things initially talked to me. They wanted to be more. They wanted to be granted a deeper meaning.
What are your favorite artist tools? What does your workflow look like?
Colors. Not as a material, but in their purest form: Actual colors. Whether it’s going to be pastel, acryl, oil, or even something else depends on the work that lies ahead. I also love to use a painting knife.
I like to just grab a glass of good wine and go for it. So I don’t have a prescribed workflow. Honestly, I think most artists don’t. After all, that’s what accounts for being an artist. Just being able to impulsively create what comes to your mind, if you decide to do so.
What I do, however, is to change my world view every day. Or rather refine. I think a lot about life. I try to research the experiences and world views of other people. I study every existent kind of art, try to receive what it gives on a profoundly emotional level.
This process shapes my work fundamentally and influences the outcome consistently.
What are some pieces of advice you have for other artists?
Watch life vigilantly. You don’t need to search for motives actively, they happen to be around us already all the time. If you want to create something, just do it. You will develop your own style by time.
Thank you for reading! Consider viewing Elena Birkenwald’s beautiful artwork.