Christel Haag is a self-taught abstract artist, who has travelled extensively, she has spent several years in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Today, she lives and works in Munich, Germany. She has previously worked as an Instructor, Consultant for Foreign Students, as well as Public Relations Officer at Universities in Germany
In 2002 she decided to follow her heart and dedicate more time to developing her skills as an Artist. Although predominantly a self-taught artist she continually takes classes by leading and well-known artists at prestigious art institutions. This included studies at the European Academy of Fine Arts in Trier, the Summer Academy of Blieskastel, as well as a stay in Provence.
Haag has a deep passion for creating abstract art. Nature inspires and drives her work. Whilst the many marvellous impressions she takes home from her travels frequently appear in their abstract form in her paintings. Haag also expresses the mood and feeling of a particular moment in time.
It is first and foremost the joy of painting, of colours, of the creative process itself and of the energy of being that drives her artistic creation.
The Artist in her Own Words
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
It is probably fair to say that I had an instinctive calling towards the creative side of my personality since a young age, during my formative years in education I was always drawn towards the creative elements of painting and drawing. However, upon entering University I made the decision to follow a line of study outside of Art, possibly a decision made more in line with the economic practicalities of life rather than trusting the artistic instinct inside me. This led to a number of years where my creative instincts were lying dormant, always there in the background, bubbling up but not acted upon, a desire but not necessarily a priority in the busyness of my life at that time.
At what point did you allow your creative side to re-enter your life and why?
It is hard to deny your inner drive, your basic instincts are always there, knocking on the door, asking to be released. There is only so many times that you can suppress it before your creative instincts start to eat away at you, demanding to be acted on. It differs from person to person and in my case it was the need to be creative. I realised about 15 years ago that I had to express myself creatively, the waiting for the right moment to appear was an unrealistic choice, so I picked up my brushes and started my creative journey with commitment to exploring my artistic self. Despite it being a natural inner drive I also knew that I needed to take courses to develop my skills and understanding of art, both at home in Germany and whilst I was living abroad. It was an excellent learning curve when it came to learning different techniques but also when it came to finding the most effective means of expressing myself as an artist.
Besides the natural inner drive to express yourself creatively was there any other elements that helped you move in the direction of becoming an artist?
I believe that many artists are curious by nature, observing everything around them, trying to make sense of the world in which we live, as a passionate traveller I found that my experiences abroad always fed my imagination. Maybe it is the freshness of new environments opening your eyes, maybe it is your senses opening up to the new experience, but I would, and do still, feel invigorated by travel on a creative level. Looking back at the numerous places that I have visited each location has left an impression on me that needed to be expressed creatively. This reach a turning point after a stay in Malta, on my return I felt compelled to turn those experiences / impressions into works of art and before I knew it I had created a series of maybe 14 paintings as a result of my time there. So, on a personal level there can be no denying that travel impacts on my creative side, opening my eyes and artistic mind at the same time.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today? What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel? What pushed you in that direction and how can you see you work evolving in the future?
Once I made the decision to open the door to my creative urges, I felt that I had to go back to the beginning to discover who I really was an artist. If I was going to move forward it was critical that I start by remaining open minded and willing to experiment with colours, shapes, textures etc. It was as if I granted myself the right to be free again, free without boundaries or pre-existing ideas of who I should be as an artist. The freedom that this gave me led to a truly energising period, where I approach everything with the natural enthusiasm of a child, everything was possible and everything was there to be explored.
I started to play with various media, I examined how different tools created varying effects on the canvas. I played with colour schemes to learn how they interacted with each other. As I came across a new technique in another artists work, I wanted to see if it worked for me as a means of personal expression. Although this period could be viewed as a time of playful expression, it was also a time where I was subconsciously peeling away the layers and discovering who I truly was as an artist. All this combined to help me find a means of creative expression - a style, a method that is evidently mine.
How would you describe your own personal style?
My artwork is evidently Abstract in its nature, but its more than that, I would like to think that my love of colour comes to the fore when someone views my work, and that the energy with which I approach my work translates well onto the canvas. I hope that the expressive elements of what I do lead to the uplifting of a viewer’s mood when they engage with my artwork.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, may be even other artists?
If I am honest I would say I have always been more inspired by colour rather than by individual artists. Certain Art Movements have had a more profound effect on me, for example, I have always been instinctively drawn to the works of the Impressionists and Expressionists, the freedom with which they explore colour and approach their subject matter has always fascinated me, even when still in education my room would be covered with prints of their works, a possible reminder of my deeper desire to be creative???
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
My methods and means of working have certainly evolved over the last fifteen years, today I work almost exclusively with acrylic paints on canvas. I find a flexibility in the use of acrylics but due to its quick drying nature I feel that it encourages me to work quickly and with energy. I believe that this need to get my ideas onto the canvas quickly is well suited to my style of painting and personal expression. When it comes to the tools used in getting paint onto the canvas I can be quite free, switching between various types of brushes, grabbing a spatula, squeegee or even a cloth, by not committing myself to only one tool I find that the spontaneity of my work gets transferred to the canvas.
"PickNick", Christel Haag, Acrylic on Canvas, 80cm x 80cm, 2005
Do you need to work from your studio or can you be equally creative in whatever environment you find yourself? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?
The most important thing for me is having place to paint. Whereas, having a designated studio brings a certain comfort and familiarity within the work space, all I usually require to start painting is a well-lit room with a table and my usual equipment of paints, brushes, canvases etc. Once all that is in place, it is a case of freeing myself enough to engage with that inner urge to paint. I guess some artists might describe this as connecting with their muse. It is a balance between having the right environment, the tools and the desire to act.
However, experience has taught me that sometimes action is the best means of engaging with your creative juices. If I only acted when the desire was biting me I would be far less productive, like many things in life, once you start the process tends to take on a life of its own. The act of putting paint on the canvas is in itself a key to creativity which unlocks the door to finished artworks. Once the actual process of painting commences, it is as if I am transported into a zone where nothing else matters, time ceases to exist and everything comes together where my work seems to flow of its accord, each action bringing me closer to creating an artwork that is in tune with my inner self in that moment.
On a personal level, I really enjoy what I do, I get a real sense of satisfaction from painting. It is as if a whole myriad of thoughts and experiences are coming together in that moment. Generally speaking my work is inspired by the beauty of nature and diversity of the world around me. That in itself is the main driving factor in my work, being able to express all that brings me joy in what I do, having said that some of my work is reflective of the normal worries and woes you have as an ordinary person, the personal ups and downs, the dis-heartening stories we hear from around the world, they too deserve their voice and if this is what needs to be expressed in that moment …. I paint it.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
As an artist I do not have a defined means of dictating whether a work is finished or not. It can be an ongoing relationship with some works and then others instinctively feel finished and I have a personal sense of contentment in that moment when I step away from the canvas. It differs from one work to the next, it is hard to describe in words, it is a bit like a baby bird flying the nest, some are ready to leave real quickly and others need to be nurtured, before you feel confident that they have what it takes to stand alone. Of course, there is a balance, because when it comes to painting you can hold on too long, over think it, over paint it and you end up going past the point of no return. There is a fine line between letting go and hanging on in hope, but over the years I have become better equipped to judge when the moment is right.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
I am driven by the desire to express myself, to create, when working I am letting my feelings pour into my work. It is personal. Even long after I have finished the artwork I still recognise a part of me on the canvas. I do not necessarily have an artwork that I would say I most proud off, I do, however, feel that I am handing a piece of me over to someone when they acquire one of my paintings and there is certainly a moment of inner satisfaction when the buyer recognises that, it would be dishonest of me to say that in that moment a sense of personal achievement doesn’t exist, it’s like a meeting of minds. If there is pride in my work, it is more about the connection with the viewer being achieved rather than in an individual work. Each and every work can bring about a different reaction from viewer to viewer. For me it is about connecting with the viewer. That is the point of happiness in my work.