Petra Stefankova


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Word cultures reflected in my paintings

My solo show at the Bratislava Castle gallery in August 2021 had the title Traveller. I chose this name because I have visited many countries with my work – the USA, the UK, Germany, Portugal, France, Australia, Austria, Czech Republic or Italy. I also visited more countries for leisure and vacation – Greece, Tunisia, Spain, Croatia. Different cultures left their marks on my visual thinking. For example, my decorative drawn structures are close to the drawings and paintings by the native Australian inhabitants, Aboriginals. Bold, but simplified faces with eyes and characters remind Aztecan symbols. Flat aesthetics of graphic design in painting is known from the works of the American fine artists of the Pop Art movement. The draw-painting technique refers to Street Art, Graffiti, or the Lowbrow movement, but also comics culture, which has a strong hub in the USA. Human profiles and silhouettes of people drawn using a black outline may suggest a context with the historic roots of Egyptian art. Surrealism and cubism – movements, that I base my work on as well, have their origin in Europe – in France and Spain. I was also strongly influenced by the Slovakian fine art and illustration culture because that is where I was born.

Moja samostatná výstava na Bratislavskom hrade v auguste 2021 mala názov Cestovateľka. Zvolila som si toto pomenovanie, pretože som navštívila so svojou prácou mnohé krajiny – USA, Veľkú Britániu, Nemecko, Portugalsko, Francúzsko, Austráliu, Rakúsko, Česko či Taliansko. Samozrejme, v rámci mojich mimopracovných dovoleniek tých navštívených krajín bolo ešte o niečo viac – Grécko, Tunisko, Španielsko, alebo Chorvátsko. Rozličné kultúry zanechali stopy v mojom vizuálnom myslení. Napríklad dekoratívna drobnokresba a štruktúra má blízko ku kresbám a maľbám pôvodných Austrálskych obyvateľov Aborigenov. Výrazné, ale zjednodušené tváričky s očami a postavičky zase pripomínajú Aztécke symboly. Plošná estetika grafického dizajnu v maľbe je známa z tvorby amerických výtvarníkov smerov ako Pop art. Kresbo-maliarska technika odkazuje na Street art, Graffiti, či hnutie Lowbrow, ale aj komiksovú kultúru, ktoré majú v USA silné centrum. Ľudské profily a obrysy postáv čiernou linkou môžu naznačovať súvislost s historickými koreňmi Egyptského umenia. Surrealizmus a kubizmus – smery, o ktoré sa v princípe tiež opieram, majú svoj pôvod v Európe – vo Francúzsku a Španielsku. Tiež ma ovplyvnila slovenská výtvarná kultúra, keďže som sa tu narodila.

New international publications in 2021

My work has been published in various international publications in 2020-2021. Namely, Coronart by Ludvig Rage publishing from Berlin in Germany, Human Body is Art and Limitless Nature by Bruxelles Art Vue from Brussels in Belgium and Current Masters 5 by World Wide Art Books in Santa Barbara, California, USA.

Moje diela boli publikované vo viacerých medzinárodných publikáciách v roku 2020-2021. Konkrétne, v knihe Coronart od vydavateľa Ludvig Rage v Berlíne v Nemecku, Human Body is Art a Limitless Nature od bruselského vydavateľstva Bruxelles Art Vue v Belgicku a Current Masters 5 od World Wide Art Books zo Santa Barbary, Kalifornia v USA.

My personal experience in drawing

When I was a child, I was drawing often and everywhere – on the walls of my room, on paper in the dark with my eyes closed, or into my exercise book at school during history lessons. Most frequently, my drawings were animal figures and other fairy-tale creatures – a mole with a wheelbarrow, an ant queen, a witch on a broomstick or a black-and-white turtle. I was also a member of a visual art club at Elementary Art School where I was being prepared and perfected for practice in arts. Roughly since I was five years of age, I had been sure I wanted to devote myself to visual arts even though I had had no idea of what that actually meant. Of course, my drawings had been developing from a childish perception to a professional execution for a long time. However, I grasped principles of the perspective of buildings quite soon thanks to my mum – a visual artist – who was subtly giving me directions. During entrance exams for art high school, teachers’ criticism was harsh. That egg must roll! – they pointed out when looking at my pencil drawing. Unsurprisingly, the words were followed by my heart-breaking crying behind an art room door. It took about three more months of everyday work for my drawing to change from the shy one to courageous and from dull to attractive. The teachers could not believe their eyes. The way I experienced things internally and the outward expression thereof were also changing – deep emotions and timidity were alternating with daring steps. I think that by developing my own drawing production, I was acquiring not only skills but also self-confidence. My personality was thus picking up the pieces thanks to an ordinary pencil and a piece of paper. I was gradually learning to think individually, after all at the beginning of our training in drawing, we were putting only things we saw around us on paper, or we just copied masters’ pieces of art. Nevertheless, the process aimed at finding a way for us to express ourselves independently with a unique approach. At university, I specialized in graphic design. Therefore, a computer was the main tool of my art-making at that time, but we also dealt with traditional figurative drawing. Thus, we were putting figures – human models sitting or standing in front of students in an atelier – on paper using a pencil or a carbon schematically as well as realistically. Later on, I kept drawing almost always and everywhere as well – but that time, for instance, I drew train tickets, calendar or newspaper pages. I was drawing while having phone calls or surfing the Internet. These records had a nature of an automatic drawing, and they were hardly driven consciously. This way, a countless number of records was created. Doing so, I grasped my personal emotions and fragile moments of every-day life, inner dramas and peace as well as a constant change. Automatic drawing originated in the period of Surrealism in the 20th century, and its roots can be found in psychoanalytic Sigmund Freud or visual artist Max Ernst’s pieces of work. My drawings displayed quality in their content, but they also needed an aesthetic form to attract a viewer’s attention. Hence, in 2006, I came up with an idea to transfer my automatic drawings into a computer by means of a vector drawing and make simple computer 3D models with textures out of them. When my first pieces of art were introduced to the public in the Yet Another Face series, a minor miracle happened. I won the talent competition of young artists in England, and the pieces of art were exhibited in galleries and published worldwide in books, magazines and catalogues. The free graphics overstepped the boundaries of free arts, approaching commercial illustration and vice versa. I applied my style to the front page of 4Talent as well as to individual illustrations accompanying articles for example for Retail Traffic in the USA. These final computer illustrations were also published by the magazine Aesthetica or Computer Arts in England. At that moment, it already seemed that the adult drawing and visually artistic expression would indeed find its use. However, hard economic times came, and I again found myself struggling with myself and sometimes with my nearest. Nevertheless, every time I knew that I cannot quit drawing as a typical expression of my identity. At that time, I again had to pick up the pieces and drawing helped me to preserve my integrity. I tried almost every visual art technique and tool, in small and large format. Out of a number of individual sheets of paper containing my “miniature drawings”, I had several books bound. I scanned some of the drawings and combined them into separate computer prints originally authorized with an acrylic felt-tip pen. I named them A Tribute to Basquiat as naive pictures made in a childish style were typical for this author. Subsequently, individual exhibitions of my free drawing and graphic art-making were held in Bratislava, Prague and Berlin. During my independent exhibition, an entrance door of the Slovak House in Prague was “decorated” with a large-format black-and-white linear drawing interconnecting simplified funny figures forming a single lively unit. In A1 format, I also provided children with copies of my drawings during an exhibition on the premises of Bibiana, the International House of Art for Children in Bratislava. The incoming visitors had thus an opportunity to spend their time colouring in these compositions in the gallery. Finally, I drew on my experience in drawing during creative workshops for children which were accompanied by a presentation of my illustrated books. They were held over the course of 2017 and 2018 in several Slovak cities in libraries, kindergartens as well as on commercial premises of a fast-food establishment. One of the workshops organized in a library in Komarno was focused on the cooperation of school children in drawing. It was attended by more than twenty children with the presence of some parents. The group of children was given a large-format piece of paper, black felt-tip pens and colour pencils. Their task was to draw an image using a single simple full-line and colour in a final picture together. My intention was to point out a need for mutual interpersonal communication and collaboration already in early childhood. Another workshop covered the introduction of the children’s book Čmáranica a Machuľa (free translation: Squiggle and Blotch), which was published by publishing house Slovart. It was a spontaneous event aimed at showing that interesting and meaningful pictures such as figures, faces or complex situations can also be created from ordinary colourful squiggles and blotches. This project was a fast rehearsal of creativity and imagination. For me, drawing is an important and integral part of my expression. By drawing, I supplement my verbal expression when communicating with my closest as well as with the unknown. Moreover, I assert that in my case, drawing is a more expressive form of social interaction than speech or written word. Drawing is intellectual equipment that can be used in practice in numerous professional specializations to a higher or lower degree. Therefore, in my opinion, society’s interest in the drawing as a final artefact as well as a form of the record and visualisation of thoughts should not fade away.


Yet Another Face (2016), Lite-Haus Galerie, Berlin, 2 August – 16 August. Filmové paralely, Film Parallels (2017), Slovak House in Prague, Prague, 25 September – 15 October. Kino spod vankúša, Cinema from beneath the pillow (2018), Bibiana, Bratislava, 11 January – 18 February.

My approaches to artistic visualisation

Automatic drawing

At the beginning of my artistic path, there was automatic drawing arising from the unconsciousness. Although it was a structurally abstract drawing, it always depicted also concrete elements – highly stylized human faces and emotional expressions. These artworks represent emotional living inside of the personality with a reflection of external events and their impact on the unconsciousness. When we talk about automatic drawing the emotional state of the author does not matter, because the artwork represents any psychic status.

Constructional and planned visual thinking

On the other hand, I need to reason out my figurative pictures in a state of calm creative concentration. These creations are based on meaningful and conscious planning of the actual visual elements into the complex patterns. This time, it takes longer to put my hand on paper and depict initial ideas in sketches. The artworks arise in my head and I have to see them in front of me as if they were already finished before the idea is initially traced.

Combination of the approaches

In the end, I have a tendency to combine these two approaches. Automatic drawing inside of my figurative painting has a decorative character, but it is also an expressive authorial print and signature.

Moje prístupy k výtvarnej vizualizácii

Automatická kresba

Na začiatku mojej výtvarnej dráhy stála automatická kresba vychádzajúca z podvedomia. Hoci išlo o štrukturálne abstraktnú kresbu, vždy sa v nej objavovali konkrétne elementy – štylizované ľudské tváre a výrazy emócií. Tieto diela predstavujú emocionálne prežívanie vo vnútri osobnosti s reflexiou vonkajších javov a ich vplyvu na podvedomie. Pri automatickej kresbe nezáleží na emocionálnom rozpoložení autora, pretože toto dielo reflektuje akýkoľvek psychický stav.

 Konštrukčné a plánované myslenie v obrazoch

Naopak moje figurálne obrazy však je potrebné premyslieť v pokojnom tvorivom sústredení.
Táto tvorba je založená na zmysluplnom a uvedomelom plánovaní konkrétnych obrazových prvkov do komplexných celkov. Tentokrát trvá dlhšiu dobu, kým položím ruku na papier a zachytím prvé nápady do skíc. Obrazy vznikajú najprv v mojej hlave a musím ich vidieť pred sebou akoby už boli dokončené ešte skôr než vznikne prvotný záznam o nápade.

Kombinácia prístupov

V konečnom dôsledku, mám tendenciu tieto dva prístupy kombinovať. Automatická kresba v mojej figurálnej maľbe naberá dekoratívny charakter, ale je aj výraznou autorskou stopou a rukopisom.

New experimental illustrations

I decided to use my marker drawings as the basis for digital colouring on iPad Pro using Artstudio Pro app. As for the markers, I used Molotow black liners and the Aqua Color brushes. It surprised me, the results are really nice. For now, I created only drawings of unreal people’s faces (fictional portraits). In the future, I will be thinking about more complex ideas using this style too. So it could eventually match some of your briefs, I hope.

Rozhodla som sa použiť moje kresby fixkami ako základ pre digitálne kolorovanie na iPade Pro a aplikácie Artstudio Pro. Použila som black linery a Aqua Color brushe od firmy Molotow. Výsledok ma prekvapil, vyzerá to fajn. Zatiaľ som vytvorila len kresby nereálnych ľudských tvárí (fiktívne portréty). V budúcnosti budem uvažovať o komplexnejších nápadoch v tomto štýle. Snáď sa vám to bude hodiť k nejakým zadaniam.

Appreciation of painting

For 20 years I have been a digital artist. I started as a vector graphic designer and illustrator designing posters, logos and brochures. Later on, I worked on magazine editorial and advertising illustration commissions for clients in Italy, the UK and the USA. My characters have been funky and simple, very technical and based on computer-like geometry.

In the meantime, I was exploring automatic drawing as a technique for relaxation. They were just doodles to me, nothing much. So for the higher aesthetics purpose, I created 3D computer models of these drawings and suddenly became quite well-known for this type of work. It was more than 10 years ago.

I was pushing my drawing skills further every day. Of course, I had graduated from an art academy before, where I undertook the basic figure drawing training. I usually sketched on small sheets of paper, then larger and larger ones. My work was very abstract with some characters, heads, eyes and other figurative elements in it.

Another stage was a pure line work with black markers. These were just strange and funny characters connected by a single line all over the artwork. I used the style in a children’s book too and led a few workshops with kids thanks to the simplicity.

Then I did many more drawings on paper again. Now I realised that the stylisation of my figures was becoming more mature. I also translated some of it into vector illustrations, where every part of the human body was exaggerated. I used new drawings on paper as a starting point for my iPad creations as well.

After many years of doing creative artwork, I started to explore acrylic painting. It was not an easy process, I tested out gouache, oils, watercolours too. Finally, I arrived at a stage, when my art feels ready for people to appreciate it more and more. And it actually works!

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