No. 6

Artistic Technicians or How to be a layer-painting artisan

New York was nasty. But not in a “the-streets-smell-like-urin” kind of way. No, quite the opposite: I loved it so much there that going home bode an adjustment, even though I felt stunned sometimes. This metropolis has countless opportunities to offer, choosing something can be fairly hard. In my case selecting museums and other cultural institutions to visit was a daily challenge. In the end I always made up my mind and simply trusted my instinct.

Onna Rageth_1
Fig. 1: Sparks. Unknown. Highlights of a Madagascar Cichlid using biological dyes

I remember taking billions of photos. Such as the one shown in Figure 1, the beautiful fish called Madagascar Cichlid displayed in the American Museum of Natural History. This fish symbolises my first inspiration regarding my own artistic process in New York. When I started to paint I knew I wanted this fish to be a lasting memory of my stay in the Big Apple. Maybe because I subconsciously felt he would swimmingly point in the right direction…!

Onna Rageth
Fig. 2: Rageth. 2013. Artistic interpretation of a biologically dyed Madagascar Cichlid. (Mixed Acrylics on canvas)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was outstanding, I had to visit it perhaps five times for eight hours each (I felt slightly addicted to it – please have a look at the mightiness of it on its multiple maps):

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The sheer amount of so many cultural artefacts and masterpieces made me feel overwhelmed with joy. I couldn’t resist Dora’s smile so I had to paint her in my own way as well.

Fig. 6: Picasso. 1939. Dora Maar in an Armchair. (Oil on canvas)

The technique I used is called Structuristic Art. The name is programme – its structure is based on many overlapping layers of colour and paint. There are permanent markers involved to draw ornaments, there are crayons to create shadows or acrylics to scumble in order to generate depth. In short, this easy to learn method provides a fantastic medium of reflection through art. There are no boundaries regarding what one paints, the only requirement is to always make sure the technique is properly conducted. I believe Tolstoy was wrong claiming art is no craftsmanship:


But he was certainly right about the other part of his quotation! And maybe the best thing: No single layer is unnecessary, every brush stroke, every pattern is preserved on canvas. My students told me drawing and sometimes even writing down their feelings in the first few layers was unforgettable, since they treasured their New York memories into a lasting piece of their own art.

Onna Rageth_2
Fig. 7: Rageth. 2013. Artistic interpretation of Picasso’s Dora Maar in an Armchair. (Mixed Acrylics on canvas)

Perhaps the most unforgettable moment of my stay in New York were the several (!) visits in the Whitney Museum of American Art. I was lucky enough to see the original and breathtakingly beautiful  painting ‘Nighthawks’ of American realist Edward Hopper (1882-1967). This masterpiece has an ongoing appeal to me and therefore I’d like to show you a video regarding the exhibition HOPPER DRAWING (May 23-Oct 6, 2013), which clearly shows varied sources an artist can draw from:

Hopper’s work is inimitable and I didn’t even dare to let me inspire by it artistically rather than on a very deep emotional level.

Even though teaching in English on a new continent with international students was a huge challenge, I realised that instructing this technique is like a melting point of all of my likes and interests: Art itself; colours and creation; interpersonal exchange; making people feel great and ultimately happy. But still, there is the budget problem: How could I ever make a living out of structuristic painting lessons? I believe one major point is to think of the target group in order to meet their needs and wants. Being a relatively new method (established in the early 1990s by Swiss communication analyst Felix Stoffel), it has one massive benefit:

The old arts sector did not highly value the size or diversity of its audiences. The sector operated as a self-referential ‘closed shop’ that, in practice, only expected to engage with itself. Artists and the cognoscenti were the intended audience and often were the sole revolving audience for elite arts presentations. The sector was organised and ruled by ideas of excellence and elite peer taste (Craik 2007: 49).

Structuristic Art is a technique learnable for everyone, the lessons are affordable and there are no entry requirements to study it. It is actually quite the contrary to being elite. This is strongly interlinked with Joseph Beuys’ (1921-1986), German Fluxus, happening and performance artist (Gompertz 2012: 326), view of life regarding his famous claim “Everyone is an artist”, or as we Structurist’s use to say it: “Everyone is a structuristic artist”. To be continued…!


B i b l i o g r a p h y

CRAIK, Jennifer. 2007. Re-Visioning Arts and Cultural Policy. Current Impasses and Future Directions. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

GOMPERTZ, Will. 2012. What are you looking at? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye. London: VIKING, an imprint of Penguin Books.

RATCLIFFE, Susan. 2012. Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Fifth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

F u l l   l i s t   o f   f i g u r e s

Figure 1: SPARKS, John. Unknown. Highlights of a  Madagascar Cichlid using biological dyes. [online]. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

Figure 2: RAGETH, Onna. 2013. Artistic interpretation of a biologically dyed Madagascar Cichlid. Private Collection: Onna Rageth.

Figure 3: Anon. Unknown. ‘The Metropolitan Museum of Art’   MAP OF MET! Ground Floor. [online]. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

Figure 4: Anon. Unknown. ‘The Metropolitan Museum of Art’   MAP OF MET! Floor 1 and Mezzanines. [online]. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

Figure 5: Anon. Unknown. ‘The Metropolitan Museum of Art’   MAP OF MET! Floor 2 and Floor 3. [online]. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

Figure 6: PICASSO, Pablo. 1939. Dora Maar in an Armchair. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [online]. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

Figure 7: RAGETH, Onna. 2013. Artistic interpretation of Picasso’s Dora Maar in an Armchair. Private Collection: Onna Rageth.

F u l l   l i s t   o f   v i d e o s

FOSTER, Carter. 2013. ‘The Whitney Museum of American Art’   Edward Hopper’s New York: A Walking Tour. Available at: [accessed on 26 March 2017].

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