I have always been interested (or rather quite curious :) to see how other creatives live. Does their home reflect their work and personality? How does their study or workspace look? Is it tidy and perfectly arranged or do they have messy piles of interesting books, materials and treasured objects surrounding them? To what kind of music do they prefer to listen while working or would they rather hear a birds song? Join me for a new feature on this journal called ‘The Artists’ Home’, a series of interviews with crafters, makers and creatives, captured at their homes.
Visiting The Artists’ Home of Snezana Stankovic
Snezana’s artistry: restoring/reconstructing historic painted decorative elements in interiors (mostly late 19th century).
Living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia).
1. Where does your fascination with the 19th century come from?
‘I learned 19th century painting techniques at a very old school in Brussels, Belgium. This iconic place is “The Van der Kelen School’, which gives their knowledge in the same way as it started in 1892. Gathering these precious skills to use oil painting techniques, played for me as the strong base to build up further working experience. To me it’s important to preserve these 19th century old painting skills for the future generations. Restoring/reconstructing old buildings (mostly is the team work; each person having a special task in the whole working process) gives enormous satisfaction to see once ruined interiors flourishing again! For instance, at the moment I am involved on a project where wood imitation is found behind lots of layers of the paint. It seemed it was the original layer from the late 19th century. My role here is to make the “same” wood imitation as it was then. Quite challenging, but definitely satisfying work.’
2. Favorite place to work from home?
‘At the living kitchen table! From where I have a view of the street side with enormous old trees. I am also fond of how the light floats through the skylight window, creating a richness in daylight. At this table I like to draw with ink and make miniature drawings. Lately I am drawn as to exercising calligraphy or better said handwriting from the late 19th century, Spencerian lettering.’
3. Tell us about those drawings on the wall?
‘When you walk around in my home, you'll notice some drawings here and there. For instance in my living room where I drew with pencil chinoiserie scenery on big pieces of paper, hanging on the wall. The first time I saw real chinoiserie I fell in love. It was at a little castle in Amelisweerd, situated near Utrecht. I was inspired by the beauty and I just started to replicate at home. I also applied the trompe-l'oeil technique at home transforming dull plain surfaces into elegant doors.’ ‘Another example; when we moved here a few years ago, my husband (who is also very creative) started making birthday decorative quick paper cuts that we would hang on the wall to surprise our children. After a while I started doing it as well. All decorations were always made with little time, but maybe that is where the magic lies. Each year paper cuts would grow into more elaborative designs, using gilding letters and complicated compositions. Sometimes it would be punky, sometimes a bit more classic, sometimes it’s just a quick creative expression. We still create them for every birthday, yes we created our own family tradition.’
4.Big or small projects?
‘The extent of a project isn't the focus really, it is more about the context. Who is it for, can my craft and skills add specific value to the project. Or is it for a project where I am able to gain new experience of how to apply new methods. When you are facing an old interior, first of all It's about having respect for the original craftsman, but please note that not everything old is done with the same amount of attention and good quality. At the moment I am working on the project where the wood imitation was done in the past by different painters. You can see parts that are really delicately painted and with other parts I wondered what happened? Even though they used the same oil technique as I do today, my drive is to follow traces from the guy who did the best job!'.
5.Where does your eye for detail come from?
‘Not sure, the first thing that comes to mind is that my family was always into food. We cooked and talked a lot about it at home and my father and mother also worked in the food-hospitality industry. With tasting fresh home made dishes, you develop a strong sense for complexity of flavors and I believe somehow sharpened my senses for other mediums, in this case is a color. It's about paying attention to all the details when you are faced with the old wall, interior. That's what I do, I meticulously observe.’
6.What tickles your creativity?
‘I am inspired by the unknown people, by saying that I mean, seeing old decorative traces on the wall from the crafts people in the past. I will never forget seeing beautiful painted ornaments at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I was then working on the big reconstruction of “Gallery of Honor”, Rijksmusem. Looking at those original details made me realize that an unknown painter “obliged” me to keep the same standard for the whole reconstruction; yes it was great inspiration! Somehow I wanted to honor his hands, his craft and his talent.’
7.What is a project you look back on with great joy?
‘Actually it is the latest project that I have done. Two old saloons from two different historic time periods were separated with the sliding door; whereupon I've painted wood imitation. For unknown reasons old sliding doors were in bad shape, with several layers of paint. The solution to make two saloons as one ensemble was to paint the same wood imitation as found wood paneling in both saloons. It was staggering to see this interior transformation having back its own value again. And a large project that I have a nice memory of is of course reconstruction of Pierre Cuypers Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I've been working on it for almost 7 years, with a large team. It was indeed a huge project, working on the enormous scaffolds, so many different colors and a wide range of decorative ornaments.’
8.The Artists' Home?
‘I once worked for a project in Andijk (village in NL), in a church from 1930. The assignment was to clean up old dirty layers of varnish. It was amazing to see how bright colors are emerging behind brownish varnish, I was staggered to witness amazing combination color schemes. It was so avant-garde and progressive for that time and definitely still looked so modern for our time. After that project somehow I was inspired or better said influenced to bring some more vibrant color into my own home. I decided to add some bright yellow cushions on the kitchen bench. Who would ever think I would use this color before, but as you see sometimes it takes time to develop a new preference and love of the new color’.
9. Snezana’s Color Lab
‘I have a small atelier elsewhere in the city where I mix my colors to make painted tryouts. Every project needs its own research, its own study. What is the right thickness of the paint? And how do I match my creations with the original color? When creating these samples, it's quite exceptional to find the equivalent color immediately. Gradually I'll know what direction is needed to catch the best matching mixture. I've collected my samples in a sketchbook where I write down all of these findings, sometimes to show to a client and otherwise for my own archive.’
‘I like paper a lot and also 19th century handwriting with an ink pen (Spencerian Penmanship). I am inspired by how the envelope would be made of the same paper as the handwritten letter, sealed either with wax or a wafer seal. I came across, to me, an unknown field, which is called letter interlocking. I am so fascinated by this old method! I also like to make small sketches and scribbles in booklets. It helps me to relax my mind’.
Snezana's Music Playlist while working
Tiny Desk Concerts of Nora Jones, Sylvan Esso, YoYo Ma, Andrew Bird & Moonchild.
Follow Snezana’s work via her Instagram gallery.