About a year ago, I spoke with German artist, Susanne Kasielke, for the first time. We began working on an order of custom made pocket mirrors and magnets featuring her ‘DC Love’ art illustrations. In just this short amount of time, I’ve realized that Susanne is someone with a rare combination of talent, motivation… and genuine kindness! I’ve really connected not only with her outstanding artwork, but with her overall positive attitude too. She’s someone who’s not afraid to set a high bar and then reach for the achievement. Furthermore, she’s a savvy businesswoman and a shining example of how to manage and promote a creative business the right way. So, as we enter into a new year, I thought now would be the perfect time to set up an interview. I think you will find her ideas about art and the business of art to be very inspiring. She’s one of a kind!
Susanne, you are an art queen! You work with so many different mediums and materials: paint, pencil, mixed media, even graphic design. Do you have a favorite?
Thank you so much, Ali – That is so sweet of you to say!
It’s a really tough question, because I love working in different mediums. The variety of styles makes it easy for me to stay inspired and motivated. As soon as I get stuck on a project, I try a different angle and medium.
If I have to narrow it down, my all time favorite medium that I start with and go back to each time I create something new is pencil. When I draw I usually work a bit messy and it takes a while from rough sketches to the final motif – I love the fact, that I can correct my creation as many times as I like until I’m happy with it (because I’m never satisfied the first time ;).
I first became introduced to you through your ‘DC Love’ illustration series. What is it about Washington DC that is so inspiring for you?
Let’s put it this way: What isn’t?
Washington is the very first city in the US that I visited, which will always be special to me. In DC I realized that my dream of becoming a full-time artist can come true – I learnt about all the creative opportunities out there (especially in the US). Those reasons obviously are personal and don’t have much to do with the city itself, but trust me, Washington is such a beautiful place to visit! I basically fell in love with it on my first day after moving here from Munich/Germany.
I’m absolutely fascinated by DC’s buildings: from important government institutions like the US Capitol or Lincoln Memorial to beautiful townhouses in Georgetown – I can never get enough of just walking around the city. Washington offers such a variety of neighborhoods, that all look completely different and serve different purposes: For example we have the bar district in Adams Morgan, shopping in Georgetown and a lot of culture and history on the Mall.
To me DC spreads a huge creative vibe, that I never experienced before. The people here are extremely friendly and kind and very international – You hear so many accents and languages on the streets, which I like very much, because my silly German accent doesn’t really attract attention 😉
I could go on an on about DC, but I think it’s best if you all come to visit and see “my” wonderful DC for yourself!
This next year is shaping up to a big one. Do you have any goals for 2015 that you can tell us about?
I’m really excited for 2015 – It’ll be a great year I’m sure!
When a new year starts I always feel I can start fresh and let go of what didn’t work for me! My to-do list is already pretty long (Does anyone have the same problem or is it just me?), but my biggest goal is to get much closer to my dream of making a living with my art by licensing my work to companies. The possibilities in surface design are endless: my original mixed-media painting or my pencil illustration could be used for so many different products from phone cover to shower curtain. It’s the best feeling seeing your heart work brought to life and being able to share it with the world!
To make my dream happen I’m exhibiting in May at the big licensing trade show SURTEX in New York. Even if it seems still far away I’m already deep in preparations and I’m excited to create tons of new art for it!
You recently returned from traveling in Germany for the holidays. Have you found any new creative ideas or approaches as a result of your trip?
It’s really funny that you ask this question. Even though during winter Germany is not exactly the best place to visit (I basically didn’t see the sun for 2 weeks), I came back totally inspired. I visited Munich and Vienna on my trip and was so amazed by their wonderful sights – There’s no other way than expanding my city illustrations to Europe 😉
As I mentioned before I’m in the middle of preparations for my first trade show. These days – no matter where I go – I always see patterns everywhere and I immediately get ideas for new artwork. For example in Vienna in a museum I saw beautiful old fabric bed and clothing linen with embroidered flowers, plants and geometric shapes – I NEED to use this inspiration for one of my pattern collections!
You’ve been selling original art successfully for years now. Are there any tips you could share with other artists who are interested in pursuing a creative business? Also, any advice about the licensing process?
This question makes me feel like I have everything figured out, which is very far from the truth to be honest. One of the most important things is (even though it sounds cliche), that you believe in yourself and stay true to your art.
There are so many incredibly talented people out there, it often feels overwhelming: How can I stand out? Is my art good enough? But I honestly believe that it shows in your art, when you do something you love. As my creative fairy godmother Lilla Rogers would say: “People buy your joy!”.
I sometimes wish that my creative business would be more creative: The reality is a lot of my days are filled with researching for companies/trends/products, submitting work to competitions, writing sales emails, shipping orders and bookkeeping. Even though some of the tasks I don’t enjoy as much, they are all essential for having a creative business. One very important thing I learned is: If you get stuck or you feel overwhelmed: ASK FOR HELP! The creative community is wonderful and kind – There is room for everyone, we are not competing against each other, we help each thrive!
Here are some resources that help me along the way of making my creative dream come true:
Lilla Rogers – Make Art That Sells Courses (lillarogers.com/lrss)
Smart Creative Women – Interviews by Monica Lee with a variety of successful, creative women (smartcreativewomen.com/)
Print & Pattern blog – a website that celebrates the world of surface pattern design (printpattern.blogspot.com)
Art Licensing Blog – Tara Reed (artlicensingblog.com)
Do What You Love – by Beth Nicholls (dowhatyouloveforlife.com)
Make it in Design – by Rachael Taylor + Beth Nicholls (makeitindesign.com/design-school/)
CreativeLive – Free online classes every day to fuel your creative career (creativelive.com)
Skillshare – an online learning community to master real-world skills through project-based classes (skillshare.com)
Patternobserver – Textile Design and Pattern Design Blog, Trends and classes (patternobserver.com)
Tiffany Han – She helps highly-creative women take bold action. Raise your hand. Say yes. To yourself (tiffanyhan.com)
Jessica Swift – full-time artist and surface pattern designer in Portland, OR (jessicaswift.com)
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
The best place to get to know me better is definitely my website: susannekasielke.com
Of course you can also find me on a couple of social media platforms:
Ali, Thank you so much for interviewing me – I had so much fun answering your questions! You are an important part of my business and your work helps me focussing on being creative rather than manufacturing products!