TANJA STADNIC – Mastering quick shadows
Automotive design has always aroused and inspired. Over the years, hundreds of skilled, passionate individuals have dedicated every working hour of their lives to deliver the metallic masterpieces we lust for and admire, the unique forms that “manipulate” colour and light. The effect, in many cases, “climaxes” to an optical pandemonium and the forms become imprinted in the memory forever. This mental process has always been both fascinating and confusing and I have sought expert advice analyzing it, from renowned artist in the automotive field, Tanja Stadnic.
If you haven’t come across her work already, Tanja’s Acrylic Art features stunning paintings of Porsche sports cars in her instantly recognizable style.
She has a strong and continually growing presence in this area and Porsche enthusiasts commission her talent and dedication, for a bespoke masterpiece they can personally relate to, which is inadvertently becoming a respectable investment.
Black: Tanja, is it the optical stimulus that forms the basis of our automotive passion or is visual satisfaction the aftermath of the motoring experience; what we take home?
Tanja: Most people are attracted by shapes and I believe this is the starting point. Attraction is very subjective. Others like curvy shapes, others prefer a more square-shaped model. This is also true for cars. However, a unique design, like the silhouette of the 911, which has been the focus of my work, can sometimes elevate our sensory feedback to a whole new level. That’s when the visual attraction becomes a passion.
Black: Curvy (Porsche) or sphenoid (Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) automotive forms have an almost universal acceptance. Perhaps this is due to the way our mind relates them to performance or other familiar and desired shapes. However, some rather “boxy” designs, some of them from the 1980s (Lancia Delta, Audi Quattro) have proved to be timeless and are still admired. Do you think this is because of the memories we have from their victories, or is there a genuine, “unconditional” pure elegance in these shapes?
Tanja: I personally don’t think we adore these iconic cars primarily for their victories, but more due to their equally raw power and beauty. Somehow they seem to be different than others. Why some cars got this special place in our memories I can’t tell. Personally, I never work with squares, but I believe the square shape always represented something modern. So, I guess it stands for ‘modern life’ back then, as well as today.
Black: Painting is the oldest form of art, with examples of human activity going back to 16,000 BC, when man depicted his life on cave walls. What is the key motive for motoring art today? Is it merely a depiction of a moment, or is it becoming part of our cultural legacy?
Tanja: For sure painting and art in general is a big part of our cultural legacy. Nowadays, it is easy for every person to quickly snap photos of thousands of things. However, people still become involved with art. They acquire paintings; have an opinion on the coloring, the structure and so on. They wonder how it’s done, why the artist chose to make a particular background black instead of blue etc. A painting is never ‘a dull picture’. It is always alive. A picture of a car, even with professional photography, still doesn’t fully capture emotions; doesn’t match the beauty of a handcrafted painting. I believe Porsche drivers in particular (even more so 911 drivers), see the car primarily as a piece of art. This explains their desire to have a matching hand-painting on canvas. It is not just about making a very nice depiction. It is something with deep cultural roots.
Black: Undoubtedly, the automotive world has been dominated by men and even more so, in areas where the drive is related to passion and adrenaline, the one you specifically focus on. What made you move in this field of artistic expression and what were the challenges, both in your technique and in your interaction with mostly -I imagine- gentlemen enthusiasts?
Tanja: Well, unlike most men, I obviously was not born with the affection for cars. Instead, I had the affection to draw stuff; to paint and to be creative from a very young age. So much so, that my parents permitted me to attend an art school for young children. Gradually, my love of drawing blossomed into a profound passion for art in general. A passion that led me to a course at the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts. It’s where I discovered the irrefutable painter within. From that point, I developed my own abstract style and built up a portfolio. During one of my visits to Art Galleries, I stumbled across a painting of a 911 and was instantly dazzled by the beauty of it. The funny thing was, by that time we owned a 911 ourselves, but I never made the connection between my Artwork and the Porsche. From that moment everything changed. Porsche Acrylic Art was born.
Black: Was that a natural start then?
Tanja: Starting is never easy. I have to admit the first couple of paintings were very difficult to make, as it was something totally different to what I was used to work on. I was lucky enough to have the ‘life model’ near-by at all times, in order to achieve the level I am at now. But it has been a long effort. To rephrase Dr. Ferry Porsche: “When trying to find the beginning of Porsche Acrylic Art, simply go back to the last touch that was added onto the first painting”.
[From the quote: “When trying to find the beginning of Porsche Racing, simply go back to the last bolt that was bolted into the first Porsche”]
Black: Without knowing too much about art, I cannot escape the sense of depth and dynamics that is so imposing, looking at your artwork. Cold metal (ok, in some paintings quite hot indeed!) seems to be alive. Is there a mental process or is it purely technique?
Tanja: Very good question. Each painting is different for me. Also the story behind the owner and the car is very important to me. I can somehow sense what style I should choose and which colors to pick. It’s very strange, but when I deliver, I often get reactions from clients like: “Oh I am so happy you picked a blue background for my artwork” or “I am glad you chose the more realistic style instead of the abstract”. I don’t know what it is, it’s just a feeling, call it a connection with the car and the owner.
Now, regarding the process itself, I depend a lot on my feeling, but it is also a visual approach with a lot of attention to detail. Here is where the iPad comes in very useful. By zooming in at the right spots, the creation gets its first draft on the canvas. This is done with crayons. After that, I move to setting the first paint, using brushes in the beginning. At this stage I concentrate very much on the details, the lines and the proportions of the car, but also the shadows, which are very important. Once satisfied, I start to create abstract details using painting spatulas [knives].
Black: So, this is becoming a very personal, involving experience. By now you can probably outline the type of owner/enthusiast, who is interested in commissioning automotive art. What are the key aspects, motives and aspirations that build this profile?
Tanja: All I can say is that all of my patrons are truly passionate about the Porsche brand. They are not the typical ‘spoiled kid’, obsessed with showing off the car. Far from it! The people who commission my work are all the type of very sophisticated individuals, who enjoy life at any level. Some are extremely wealthy, but some had been saving for many years, in order to patiently restore their Porsche and for them a hand-painting of their car is just a vital addition, which makes the process circle complete, I guess. I have many personal contacts with them; all are very friendly and respectful, but mostly involving and encouraging. They are genuinely interested in my work and have been great support in this endeavour. The majority are hard-working business people. And I truly believe that all of them commission my artwork, motivated by their pure and overwhelming passion.
Black: This all sounds very interesting indeed, but how do you get to this point? The talent is obvious, but what was the path you followed in getting not only the skills, but also the ability to “absorb” the clients’ experience that you then have to put on canvas?
Tanja: I guess it is a process developed within me as a person and as an artist. I thoroughly go over all the information provided by those wishing to commission my work and try to understand more about them. I carefully examine everything. The way they write, talk, their age, family status, employment, location, how they took their pictures anything they wish to share from their life…[she laughs at my stunned look and continues]. This is the only way I can create a profile and use this influence, in projecting the image I have in my head onto the canvas. I think this intuition is a very important element of my work, but it is also very challenging. I believe it is what makes each creation unique and meaningful to somebody.
Black: An interesting story on developing empathy. How do you intend to further progress yourself? Are you a dedicated artist or are you more than an artist?
Tanja: Well, I would like to think of myself as more than an artist. In a broader sense I also entertain people, hosting live events, which involve live painting or finishing paintings together with many clients. Through my work and without realizing it, I have become part of my own brand. I discovered people all over the world, who find what I do interesting and are intrigued by my involvement in the automotive field, which is not one typically “dominated” by women. At the same time, interacting with interesting people and hearing their stories, widens my horizons and sharpens my communication skills, which I find very handy for my new endeavours.
Black: Your work is apparently turning into a respectable business by itself. Are there any other ideas of business activity that have been running through your mind?
Tanja: Apart from getting commissioned for artwork, I host several events worldwide. One of them is called ‘fine cars – fine art – fine food’. During this event 10 couples come to the Porsche Centre to finish off their own unique painting of their own unique car, with my artistic supervision. The interaction with the people is unbelievably nice! Emotionally, it is very rewarding for me and it gives the excited “younger” artists a special sense of ownership. What will the future bring? We will see! The passion for Porsche is universal, just like the passion for art and I would like to reach out to all geographies with my work. I believe it is every artist’s ultimate goal to be universally acknowledged.
Black: There must be some unique moments you have experienced, working or getting inspired or delivering or getting acknowledgement. In the years you have been involved in automotive art, what do you take home with you?
Tanja: There are many unique moments I have savoured as an artist, but the happiest ones are when I receive rewarding words from my clients. That’s what it is all about. After all these years, I can still remember all of them individually and what they said after they got their paintings. A very unique and very emotional moment was when I met the most intriguing Porsche man alive, Dr. Erik Brandenburg.
[For those who do not know Dr. Brandenburg, he is an “epos” in Porsche 911 Safari world. In fact, he is many of them put together. For more read here]
Black: After all this excitement, my next question is bound to sound quite prosaic, but here we go. Are you a driver?
Tanja: Yes I am…mostly a Cayenne driver on a daily basis.
Black: Are you a fast driver?
Tanja: Yes I am. [laughs]
Black: Are there any perks in this business?
Tanja: Yes, many! The freedom; meeting very nice people worldwide and traveling are the most important ones.
Black: Would you like to share?
Tanja: My agenda till the end of this year is pretty much booked. I will be doing some events in China at the beginning of September and will be traveling to the USA several times this year, mostly to work together with Porsche Cars North America. As soon as these dates are fixed I will share them on linkedin
Black: Do you have a favourite Porsche?
Tanja: Oh yes! It’s the 911. From vintage to modern, for me the shape of the 911 embodies the passion of the brand and is a timeless piece of art.
Black: Do you have any technical knowledge?
Tanja: Ha! I have to be honest on this one… no, not a lot. But I am learning along the way! [grin]
Black: What is the purpose of a turbo?
Tanja: Turbo is “fast forward”…both on a car and in life itself. You learn that from childhood. [Cunningly avoiding discussion on impellers and shafts]
Black: And what is the purpose of art?
Tanja: Art makes people happy; it makes them dream. Art calms the mind, elevates the spirit and may reflect on certain periods registering life and style. I once created a painting for a client, who suffered from a life threatening medical issue. After many years of fighting and not giving up, he came out better and stronger. He asked me to make a painting of his 911 and stressed that the background should represent his life story, going from pitch dark to sunny yellow! His amazing story triggered the flow of an amazing artistic inspiration and this stands as a good reference, on the purpose of art.
A Porsche 911 on canvas can create stories, dreams and so on. It is all in the eye of the beholder. A child looking at a canvas may dream about the future lying ahead, a grown-up may have the hunger for the next ride stimulated. So, art can have a huge impact on a person’s vision, imagination, motivation, balance, spirit. It transcends history and makes the human existence richer and more purposeful.
Thanking Tanja for making my existence richer, with the experience of a mind-expanding interview, I am left with a somewhat permanent regret for not paying more attention at school during art class. It is quite fascinating that a typical male piston-head can share the same intense passion, with a female artist, who dedicates her life and talent, in “mastering shadows” over the body of each Porsche legend she outlines. Tanja’s triumph is not only in depicting Porsche in the form of individual, hand-crafted paintings. It is her gift to “connect” and channel images, thoughts and feelings to the tip of her paintbrush. And that is as unique as each and every one of her creations.
If you can create something time cannot erode, something which ignores the eccentricities of particular eras or moments, something truly timeless…this is the “ultimate victory”.
-Dr. Ferry Porsche