The Artist’s Magazine: How did you get started creating art?
Marie-Therese Heumesser: My father and grandfather were painters, and both had a difficult time making a living with their art. That’s why my father strictly forbade that I become a painter. Anyway, I had to, so I attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
TAM: Do you create art for a living or have another occupation?
MTH: I create art for a living, though I do have another occupation. That occupation is eight years old and her name is Magdalena (my daughter).
TAM: What media and genres do you work in?
MTH: I focus on portraits because I love people and believe there’s beauty in everyone.
TAM: What was your inspiration for the painting Nina, below?
MTH: I was lucky enough to have a customer who just wanted “a nude.” Everything else was up to my artistic freedom. My intention was to catch what the model offered: the vulnerability that comes with being naked, and the strength and power of her self-confidence. I also wanted the painting to have a “secret,” which I think is in her eyes and the way she looks at the viewer.
TAM: Describe your process.
MTH: Being a perfectionist, the first step in every painting is to overcome the “white canvas syndrome.” Before I begin, I have a very concrete picture in mind of the artwork. Because my standards are high, the most difficult part is getting started. The pause before the beginning is very important.
It’s essential for me to get to know the model, to connect with them before I start. My aim is not to just paint faces, but to catch the subject’s personality, their soul if you will. What’s interesting is the secret that lies beyond the surface?the person’s inner truth. If I manage to catch that in a portrait, I call it an artwork. The rest is technique.
I usually spend a few days with the model. We talk, get to know each other. I take hundreds of photographs as well as sketches. Then I go to my studio and do a drawing of the face and the most important parts on the white canvas. After that, I use bolusgrund, which is a warm, red underpainting.
The next step is to paint the lights. For that I use my homemade egg-tempera. The actual painting process is the enjoyable part of the work. I just finish what I prepared in my mind.
TAM: How long do you typically spend on a painting?
MTH: My manager would say “too much time.” Nina took about three months.
TAM: Were there any surprises or difficulties as you painted this work?
MTH: I was surprised how well the sunlight worked. The white curtain was the most difficult part.
TAM: What are you working on right now?
MTH: The official portrait of Mr. Nekledal, Mayor of the city of Brunn am Gebirge, Austria.