"The sunlight is brighter in Southern California than in Insul, Germany, just outside of Cologne," explains painter and sketcher Natascha Schmitten when describing the differences between her month spent in the second-floor apartment at ESMoA here in El Segundo and her life back home in Germany. "I find myself sketching lots of palm trees blowing in the wind, and ocean waves," she adds.
Palm trees sketched in graphite by ESMoA Artist-in-Residence Natascha Schmitten
Schmitten arrived to the bright, light, high-ceilinged ESMoA apartment at the beginning of June to live and work in El Segundo as ESMoA's artist in residence. In addition to painting and sketching in her apartment, the artist says she has been visiting local museums and galleries, took a road trip up Route 1, visited Big Sur and Joshua Tree---and biked to the El Segundo Whole Foods a few times for salads and other groceries.
"I'm drawing a lot here, trying to capture my impressions and all the things I'm seeing," says Schmitten, whose stay in El Segundo was also her first time in the United States. When I asked her how her experiences here might inform her future artwork, she replied that she doesn't know yet; her memories made here will play out creatively in ways yet unforeseen.
Schmitten is an accomplished painter in her home country of Germany, where her "Phosphor" paintings are currently exhibited at the Galerie Christian Lethert in Cologne. As its name implies, this exhibit features oil-and-ink paintings that seem to glow from within, in part from Schmitten's use of nylon fabric as her painting surface. Schmitten draws from figurations, rooms, and landscapes, using myriad techniques to turn them abstract in her finished works. Her Phosphor collection combines hard edges with oscillating, dynamic swaths of color that play beautifully with light and create three-dimensional effects.
Left to right: Natascha Schmitten's studio on the second floor of ESMoA, one of Schmitten's Phosphor paintings, and the artist with one of her paintings. (Photo of Schmitten by Bozica Babic.)
Schmitten says her time in El Segundo has allowed her the freedom to observe, sketch what she sees, capture impressions, and pursue her art at a leisurely, relaxed pace. "I came with no expectations" regarding what she would do or accomplish, she says.
Schmitten invites the public to tour her studio in ESMoA tonight, June 28, from 6-7:30pm. Those visiting will have the opportunity to see her apartment, get an up-close look at her work, and chat with the artist.