Art, interview

Interview with Contemporary Artist: Kerstin Marie Backes

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well and enjoying summer. Here it is the interview of July, this month our guest is Kerstin Marie Backes, a German artist who works with collage, illustration and mixed media. I am sure you will love it!

By the way, We will come back with the interviews and normal activity on September!

Do you remember when was your first contact with art or who introduced you to art?

My mom introduced me to art. As an interior designer she was always interested in art and design. I’ve always liked to paint and draw, and she encouraged me doing it. When I was still a young kid, I was allowed to visit art classes, learning watercolor, and drawing techniques. My mother and I also went to different exhibitions which aroused my interest even more.

by Kerstin Marie Backes

When you knew that you wanted to become an artist?

I’ve always known that I wanted to do something creative. It fluctuated between interior design, classical art, and art education. I started studying in Mainz at the academy of arts trying to figure out what kind of art and career I would strive for. I’ve had many great experiences in the academy but came to the point that I wanted to combine different professions. So, I started studying arts and pedagogy in Heidelberg.

When and how you decided to work with collage, illustration, and mixing medias?

During my studies I attended photography and experimental photo lab classes. I experimented with photograms and started to mix up different media with parts of photographs. I began to collect old photographs that I printed on transparent sheets to combine them with other photographs and materials. I guess this was the beginning of my work using collage techniques. Bit by bit I started blending photographs and papers with my own paintings and illustrations. It was like a big playground of materials, shapes, colors, and styles making literally everything possible. That still stimulates my fantasy and the story telling in my art.

by Kerstin Marie Backes

How would you describe your creative process? Starting for the moment when you decide which technique will you use when you have an idea for work.

Some ideas for collages come to mind when I see an element of a photograph or part of a picture. I wonder how it might look in a different context. I usually start out with one basic idea that I tray to elaborate as far as possible. That usually triggers a whole universe of other bits and pieces, seeing how it develops is part of the process.

When I have a specific setting in my mind and I’m sure about the statement, I choose the technique that helps me convey it best – either collage or illustration.

Where do you find inspiration?

There are many things that inspire me. It can be an everyday situation, a picture, a conversation or a song. I have a huge collection of old magazines and newspapers, most of which I have to thank my father for. He has been collecting and meticulously archiving anything and everything. Lately, he has started to digitize everything on paper, I now have a collection of all German “BRAVO” magazines, dating back to the beginning of the fifties. It’s easy to get started when you can flip through these old papers and peek into another time and culture.

This is an old phrase, but you can find inspiration everywhere, when you keep your eyes and ears open.

But there are times, I don’t feel inspired at all… and sometimes it’s ok!

by Kerstin Marie Backes

Do you have a favorite among your works?

Sometimes an artwork seems to effortlessly flow onto paper just like that. These ones are kind of magic to me. I think every artist knows that feeling, when happiness is in super focus, and you don’t have to think or rearrange because it all makes perfect sense from the moment on that it happened. Of course, these moments are rare and sometimes it feels that striving for them is part of what makes creating art so much fun. I can still recall the works that had this special flow, but I wouldn’t call them my favorites either. To me, every picture plays an important role in the overall process. I like however looking back and rediscovering some of my older works, maybe just for reasons of nostalgia.

What are currently working on?

Lately, I have been working on artworks for bands from my hometown. It’s a lot of fun because they come from all kinds of different genres and each style requires a different approach. There is for example a Lo-Fi Pop Duo that has a very psychedelic approach, the other is an alternative rock project that wanted some really crazy and weird single cover designs. It’s nice to really think outside of the box and work with a specific kind of directive for these artists.

Also, I have been designing menus for a speakeasy cocktail bar, something I also hadn’t done before. They gave me a lot of artistic freedom and it’s fun to see people react to my art in a different context.

But first and foremost, I make art that I can exhibit for people to see in the analog world and not just on the tiny screens on their telephones. I had some of my bigger collages print on alu-dibond screens, even for me it’s great to see my pictures come alive on a physical medium.

At the moment I work on some music and cover artworks for different bands. The music styles and musicians are quite different, but every artwork in this business is a lot of fun and very instructive. Recently I’ve designed some menus for a cocktail bar. Something I’ve never done before.

by Kerstin Marie Backes

Has the pandemic affected your work? How?

The pandemic hasn’t really affected my way of working or my working processes. But there were some things in the wake of it that might have affected my art indirectly.

First of all, the factor of time, I just had more of it. This of course is great at first because it allowed me to approach a new piece of art differently, knowing that there is no pressure whatsoever. It made me start working on many things simultaneously and gave me the opportunity to really lose myself in my work during long days in lockdown.

Secondly, there was a new topic much bigger than just the pandemic itself: that is the the changes in social behavior. I have had much more time and opportunity to deal with myself and the people in my life. You could not escape these moments of reflection and contemplation. I could really tell how a change in mindset, in your own and in those around you, affects your expression as an artist, even if only in the smallest of ways.

by Kerstin Marie Backes

For further information on Kerstin’s work:

All the images were kindly provided by the artist.