Justine Otto answers some of our questions about her inspirations, the best part of being an artist, and more.
What’s your background?
I was born in Poland and came to Germany with my parents when I was nine. I studied painting at the Städelschule in Frankfurt a. Main. It is the smallest state art academy in Germany. For a year I had a DAAD grant at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, where I mainly did sculpture. Today I live and work near Hamburg.
What’s the best thing about being an artist?
The best thing about being an artist is to be able to organize your time freely. I paint e.g. preferably in the late afternoon and at night.
As an art maker, how do you structure your day?
Rituals are important! In the morning, in any case, first a coffee, then I walk with my dogs, then do some paperwork or work on the computer. At some point in the afternoon I start working in the studio, although that doesn't just refer to painting ... I cover canvases, make collages that often serve as basic ideas for my later painting, and drink one more coffee or two, well, and at some point I'll paint.
Which is your favourite piece in your studio and why?
The two dearest things are my two dogs: my old Labrador Lady Minka and my little York girl
Klärchen, who are always with me in the studio.They ground me, even if I'm not so well.
What gives you the most joy?
It is great when you get into a state of flow when painting, when the picture virtually paints
itself, when you forget everything around you, and a brushstroke emerges from the other.
That is of course an ideal situation, most of the time you are always somehow distracted or you are doing yourself a little harder, but that is also part of it ... I also learned that.
What is the hardest part of creating your work?
Sometimes there are stages in painting a picture where you don't know anymore or are
unsure ... then it can take hours or days for this knot to come loose. This is sometimes very
annoying, especially because I am not the most patient person.
Over and over I experiment with a variety of different image carriers and materials. I have to
arouse my curiosity again and again, this being very important to me for my painting process.
Learning processes, as hard as they sometimes may be, are part of the venture for me.
Often, the best paintings emerge from allegedly failed episodes, paths are then revealed,
which might otherwise have remained closed ....
During lockdown, has your work process been affected? If so, how?
My work in the studio was not really affected by the lockdown because my studio is under a roof with my apartment. I also live outside the city so there was no problem walking with my dogs every morning ... but in the beginning I was just paralyzed by all the news that I heard and the effects .. I would have had five exhibitions during this period, which were either completely canceled or postponed. It was a strange mood and I couldn't paint the first time of the lockdown because my head was so full of it ...
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Jean Christophe Ammann, the founder of the Museum of Modern art in Frankfurt and one of my biggest supporters (unfortunately he died four years ago) once wrote me on a postcard, one should walk patiently and upright ... I'll try ...