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Artist Feature: Stephen Rasche-Hilpert (English / German)
An Interview With An ArtRage Artist
Stephen Rasche-Hilpert is a German equine photographer and portrait artist who uses his photography and love of horses to create beautiful, heartfelt paintings in ArtRage.
Stephen Rasche-Hilpert is a German horse photographer and portrait artist who uses his photography and love for horses to create beautiful, expressive paintings in ArtRage.
Close up from ‘A Family Of Its Own’
This interview is in both English and German. English questions and answers are on the left. German questions and answers are on the right. Any language mistakes are made by Ambient Design staff.
This interview is available in English and German. The English version of the questions and answers is on the left, the German version on the right. Any translation errors were made by the ambient design staff.
Who are you? What do you want the internet to know about you?
I am an equine photographer and digital artist based in Germany.
Horses play a very important part in my life. I have been working almost exclusively with them for just over a decade now. Actually, to be honest, you could say that horses are my life, I suppose. We live on a little farm in the North of Germany, and a large part of spring and summer is spent traveling the country for equine photo shoots. I mostly work on private commission and am best known for my natural light portraiture, but my work includes all facets of equine photography except studio work. Last fall we had a great time celebrating our 650th private equine portrait session.
Who are you? What do you want the internet to know about you?
I am a horse photographer and digital artist and live in Germany.
Horses play an important role in my life. I've worked exclusively with them for a little over a decade, and to be honest you could say that horses are my life. We live on a rest farm in Schleswig-Holstein, and we spend a large part of spring and summer traveling for photo ops all over Germany. I work mostly for private purposes and I am known for my portraits in natural light, but my work encompasses all facets of equine photography except studio photography. We had a lot of fun last fall celebrating our 650th one-on-one portrait session.
I went to high school and college in the United States and studied Cultural Sciences and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg here in Germany. I have always been interested in art and literature, but it took many years of doing all kinds of things until I came across photography and digital art as being what you might consider my calling. Next to my commercial and privately commissioned work as a photographer, I have done design work for web and print, worked as a writer, and I have won distinctions at a couple of international art contests. In 2012 I was commissioned as photographer / artist / author of the illustrated book “Noble. Dignified. Beautiful. The Quiet Elegance of the Horse ”by one of Germany’s largest publishing houses for equine literature. Coming from a book-loving family, this was a dream come true.
Being asked by ArtRage to be included in the ranks of their featured artists still seems like a dream. What an honor!
I went to high school and college in the United States and studied culture and linguistics at the University of Hamburg. I've always been interested in art and literature, but I've done everything possible for many years until I came across photography and digital art and discovered that they are my calling. In addition to my photographic work for commercial and private clients, I have designed and written for print and web, and I have won a few awards in international art competitions. In 2012 I got a contract as a photographer / artist / author of the illustrated book “Adel. Would. Beauty. The quiet elegance of horses ”. I come from a book-crazy family and with this project a lifelong dream came true.
To be included by ArtRage in the list of their Featured Artists is again a dream come true. What an honour!
Equine Photography from Stephen Rasche-Hilpert
What kind of artist are you? What kind of subjects do you draw? (How would you describe your style and / or theme?)
I found my way to painting digitally through my photography. I am greatly indebted to my own horses - all horses, really - and I try to show every horse I work with in a way as to inspire awe at its beauty, its elegance, its dignity. These are qualities, in turn, that inspire respect for the living creature, and that is what drives me in my work: I want the people who look at my pictures to respect the horses for what they are, individuals who deserve to be treated well and respected in their needs. It is my way of showing gratitude for what my horses have done for me. It's not merit in sports or breeding - they kept me going when nothing else would, simply by being who and what they are.
So it's horses - mostly.
I have been influenced by artists of the past, especially George Stubbs, and I think that my style could best be described as rather conservative. A couple of years ago, I found out that my 12 times great-grandfather was Lucas Cranach the Elder, an important German artist of the Renaissance. I found that inspiring, too.
What kind of artist are you? What kind of subjects do you paint? (How would you describe your style and / or orientation?)
I found digital painting through my photography. I am deeply indebted to my own horses - all horses, actually - and I try to show each horse I work with in a way that inspires respect for its beauty, elegance and dignity. These are qualities that demand respect, and that is what drives me in my work: I want the viewers of my pictures to show the horses the respect they deserve. They are individuals who deserve to be treated well according to their needs. It's my way of expressing gratitude for what my horses have done for me. There were no achievements in sport or in breeding. They raised me up to who they are and who they are when nothing and no one else could.
So horses - mostly.
I've been influenced by artists from the past, especially George Stubbs, and I think my style can best be described as a bit conservative. A few years ago I learned that my 12-time great-grandfather, Lucas Cranach the Elder, was. He was one of the most important German artists of the Renaissance, and I found that inspiring too.
Do you come from a digital or traditional art background?
I have never done any serious work outside of the digital realm.
How long have you been using ArtRage?
For about two and a half years.
How did you come across the program?
Not intentionally, lol! I had felt that I had come to an end of what I could do in Photoshop to create my visions. There was a definite need to move on, and I was introduced to Corel Painter by a very good friend of mine. I had, of course, seen many outstanding works of art created in Painter, but as hard as I tried, the program remained a closed book to me. I returned to Photoshop, frustrated. I then re-discovered that I had an old version of ArtRage on my computer that must have come with a graphics tablet at some point. I had played around with it years ago and then forgot about it (strange for me to think today that I could actually forget about it!). I had another try and it was instant love. The intuitive design and the natural interaction of tools and paints with the canvas have never lost their fascination since that day.
Do you use other programs or traditional media?
My first phase of digital art was done in Photoshop, and I think I did take it quite far, but ever since I started working with ArtRage, Photoshop has been reserved for photo editing and upscaling ArtRage paintings. I have also done some work in Procreate.
No, I do not work with traditional media.
Is your artistic background digital or traditional?
I have never tackled serious projects outside of the digital world.
How long have you been working with ArtRage?
For about two and a half years.
How did you come across the program?
Not on purpose, * laughs *. I felt like I was done with what I could do in Photoshop to make my visions visible. I felt a strong need to develop myself, and that's how a very good friend introduced me to Corel Painter, but no matter how hard I tried, the program remained closed to me as if it were seven seals. Frustrated, I went back to Photoshop. By chance I remembered an old version of ArtRage that I had on my computer. It must have come with a graphics tablet at some point. A few years ago I played around with her for a moment, but then forgot about her again (how strange it sounds today that I could actually have forgotten it!). I tried again and immediately fell in love. The intuitive design and the natural interplay of tools and colors with the canvas have not lost their fascination since then.
Do you also work with other programs or traditional media?
My first phase of digital art was entirely in Photoshop, and I think I have pushed it relatively far, but since I started using ArtRage, Photoshop has been dedicated to photo editing and prepress ArtRage images. I also worked with Procreate.
No, I don't work with traditional media.
What ArtRage works or projects are you most proud of?
As I have said before, it is mostly horses I work with, because I feel a great connection to them, and their welfare is a force in my art.
“The Malemuck On Napoléon’s Throne” is an early ArtRage piece, and while I didn’t get it all right, it is a very important picture for me. The Malemuck is my own dog, she is one of the rescued Spanish Sighthounds we are blessed to be living with. Hardly anyone knows her like I have shown her here - regal, at ease. Unspeakable things have been done to her, and often times she has to battle flashbacks of panic and fear. It is not the best painting I have done, but it is the one that is most personal. It shows The Malemuck as she really is when all the signs of evil which humanity has forced on her are stripped away.
What ArtRage work or projects are you most proud of?
As I said, I work with horses mostly because I feel very attached to them and their wellbeing is a driving force in my art.
“The Malemuck on the throne of Napoléon” is an early ArtRage picture of me, and although not everything is right, it is a very important picture for me. She is my own dog, one of the Spanish animal welfare greyhounds that we are fortunate enough to live with. Hardly anyone knows it the way I have shown it here - majestic, serene. Unspeakable things have been done to her, and she often has to contend with flashbacks of panic and fear. It's not the best picture I've ever painted, but it's the most personal. It shows the Malemuck as it really is when all the signs of the evil that humanity has done to it fall away.
The Malemuck On Napoleon's Throne
How do you choose what to draw? Are you trying to tell a particular story, convey a certain meaning, or just basing it on what looks good? What response do you try and get from people?
It's horses, almost always horses, because I have to. It's what I do, I cannot not do it. It's the indebtedness to them I have described above that lends my paintings purpose, yes. No story, only the elevation of the individual.
Sometimes I enjoy painting just for the beauty of what has caught my attention. Like the birds here. A goose and a crane. They were guests in our pastures on the farm. Both stayed for a few weeks, returning every morning.
I don't like to paint anything that I haven't been a part of.
In the future, I would like to do landscapes, but I am not there yet.
I have learned not to rely on responses too much. Some artists are very good at gathering a large following. Me - not so much 😉 Almost all of my paintings are private commissions. They have great personal significance to the owners of the horses, and that’s most important to me.
How do you decide what to paint? Are you trying to tell a particular story, convey a meaning, or are you just painting what is beautiful? What reaction are you trying to evoke and do you get it from the viewers of your pictures?
They are horses, almost always horses, because I just have to do it. That's what I do, I can't not do it It is the commitment I described above that gives meaning to my pictures, yes. Not a story, just the exaltation of the individual.
But sometimes I also like to just paint something whose beauty caught my eye. Like the birds here. A goose and a crane. They were guests on our paddocks for a few weeks. Both came back every morning.
I don't like to paint that I wasn't a part of myself.
In the future I would also like to paint landscapes, but I'm not that far yet.
I've learned not to place too much emphasis on reactions. Some artists manage to get a large following. I - sew, not so much 😉 Almost all of my pictures are private commissioned work. They are very important to the horse owners, and that is most important to me.
Don't delay (Goose)
Why do you use ArtRage?
Because it makes me forget that I am working digitally.
I love that ArtRage is foot-free. Yes, it may be limited in so far as that it doesn't offer a myriad of brushes to create special effects right out of the box. BUT, it makes you think, it makes you dig deeper, it is like a teacher who tells you to find your way of expression within you, not stuffed in a toolbox or in a jar of brushes. ArtRage makes me work, and yes, that can be frustrating, but the result is mine, not the reproduction of a style hidden in a brush with what seems a life of its own. ArtRage has made me the gift of finding a way to myself.
Where does ArtRage fit into your workflow? (Do you use it for the entire painting or for certain parts of paintings?)
I use it for entire paintings, yes.
Why do you use ArtRage?
Because it makes me forget that I work digitally.
I love the fact that ArtRage is straightforward. Yes, it may be that it is limited in that it doesn't offer you a huge number of brushes to create special effects without much effort. BUT, it makes you think, it makes you dig into the hidden, it's like a teacher showing you that language is something that is in you, not in a toolbox or a cup full of paintbrushes. ArtRage makes you work, and it's frustrating at times, but the result is your own, it's not a reproduction of a style hidden in a tool that seems to have its own life. ArtRage gave me the gift of finding myself.
How can ArtRage fit into your work process? (Do you use it for entire paintings or for certain aspects of your approach to painting?)
I use ArtRage for entire paintings.
How would you normally paint a picture? What is your process?
I can't really draw free-hand. I start my work with my camera, and I use my own photographs as references. Actually, I see my camera as a sketch book for my paintings. Yes, it is also a sole tool for purely photographic art and for private and commercial commissions, but for my paintings, it's my sketch book. I do trace, and to some extent I also color trace in the early stages. When I feel that I have caught the essence, I throw out the tracing image and paint by reference. Interestingly, this point comes earlier and earlier with every painting. ArtRage is teaching me to paint, it is encouraging me to take “risks” to discover the possibilities of wild abandon and modest reduction.
How do you usually paint a picture? What's your approach?
I'm not really good at drawing free hand. I start my work with my camera and I use my own photographs as references. In fact, I think of my camera as a sketchbook. Yes, it is also the sole tool for purely photographic art and for commercial and private commissioned work, but for my paintings it is my sketchbook. I pause (trace), and at the beginning of a painting I also take color pauses (color trace). When I have the feeling that I have captured the essentials, I throw away the template and continue painting using my reference image. Interestingly, this happens earlier and earlier with every painting. ArtRage teaches me to paint, it encourages me to “take risks” to discover the possibilities of wild freedom and modest reduction.
A Family Of Its Own
What are your favorite ArtRage features?
Definitely the Oil Brush, the Paint Tube and the Palette Knives. I am starting to use more of the Pencil and the Chalk and Wax, but I am not sure yet where this will take me.
The tracing options are great and important to me, obviously, and I love that ArtRage handles large canvases so very well. I paint to print, and some of my prints are rather large. “A Family Of Its Own” is two meters wide, the working file was 1.2GB at the end. The portrait of the blue-eyed stallion is 1.6 by 1.2 meters. I have no great knowledge of the insides of a computer, but I paint at 300ppi, I am working on an old computer, and ArtRage never complains, so I feel pretty safe in saying that stability counts among the very best of ArtRage’s features.
What I really love about ArtRage is the elegant simplicity of it. Eliminating everything from the screen in Workbench Mode to be left alone with your current tool and your painting is a gift of such value as you may not even be aware of. This design allows me to be free of emotional ties to my computer - it no longer matters that I sit at my desk, I am able to immerse myself in the image I am working on. It's a gift of freedom.
The Gloop Pen and Glitter.
In your opinion, what are the best features of ArtRage?
Definitely the oil brush, the tube of paint and the painting knife. I'm also using pencils and chalks more and more, but I'm not sure where this will take me yet.
The options to pause are great and obviously important to me, and I find it impressive how well ArtRage handles large canvases. I paint for print and some of my pictures are quite large. "A Family Of Its Own" is two meters wide, the work file was 1.2 GB in size. The portrait of the blue-eyed stallion is 1.60mx 1.20m. I don't really have a clue about computers, but I paint at 300ppi, I work on an old computer, and ArtRage never complains - so I'm pretty sure about ArtRage being a very stable program.
What do you use the least?
The gloop pen and glitter.
Flic Flac Memoriam
Do you have any tips for other artists who might want to do the same thing as you?
For painting horses - as with anything, really - I feel it is necessary to have an understanding of your subject in general and your motif in particular; there should be a connection. I suppose that can happen on many different levels, but for me, it is vital to have a good amount of knowledge of what I am painting, else I am lost very quickly. I have noticed this in paintings I started and left unfinished.
I work with my own photography as the basis for my paintings. I travel (often far) to meet a horse, I work with it, I get to know it, I talk to its people, I share an experience with it. All of these figures in when I paint it. I am recreating an emotion, trying to use it as a means of portraying the essence of a horse as an individual.
If you aren’t great at drawing free-hand like I am not, use your ability as a photographer to substitute for that. Work at creating something meaningful in a photograph, be serious about it and take it from there. I feel there is no shame in tracing. Having made the capture is an act of creation, it is all your own.
Do you have any tips for other artists who might want to do the same thing as you?
When you paint horses, I think it's important - as with everything else - to have an understanding of your subject and your motif; there should be a connection between who is painting and what he is painting. I suspect that this can be the case on very different levels, but for me it is essential to have knowledge of what I paint, otherwise lose it I quickly get an overview. I've noticed this with images that I tackled but never finished.
I work with my own photographs as a starting point for my paintings. I travel (often far) to a horse, I work with him, I get to know him, I talk to his people, I share an experience with them. All of this flows into the creation of a picture. I let an emotion arise and I try to use it to portray the essence of a horse as an individual.
If free hand drawing is not easy for you, as it is not for me, use your skills as a photographer to replace it. Work on creating something meaningful in a photograph, take it seriously, and develop it from there. I think there is no shame in taking a break. Taking a picture is a creative act - it's all yours.
Any ArtRage specific tips?
Be daring, explore. Use layers, and there is always undo. DON’T feel discouraged or fooled by what seems a meager array of brushes compared to other programs. It is not. Imagine what traditional media painters and the old masters achieved with simple brushes and paint on canvas. You can do that, too! It is exciting to find your own way of using the natural feel and abilities of the tools you find in ArtRage. They can be adjusted to a very high degree, but don’t expect brushes to do the work you would rather be able to do yourself. There is great satisfaction in finding your own way.
Any special tips regarding ArtRage?
Be brave, make discoveries. Use levels and there is always a step back. DO NOT be discouraged or confused by the fact that at first it looks like you are offered a limited range of tools. It is not true. Think what traditional artists and the old masters put on canvas with simple brushes and paint. You can do that too! It's exciting and exciting to develop your own way of using the capabilities of ArtRage's truly natural-feeling tools. They can be changed and customized to a great extent, but don't expect them to do the work for you that you would much rather be able to do yourself. There is great satisfaction in finding your own way.
Would you recommend ArtRage for professional artwork?
Yes, I would. I use it for commissions, and that is professional work. I have seen breathtaking illustrations, concept art and individual pieces of art done in ArtRage. If you connect with the program and its tools, there is no way not to think that it is more than suitable for professional work.
Any question (s) you wish we’d asked and would like to answer?
Nope, not really. I am still blown by the fact that you are asking me the ones I have been answering!
Would you recommend ArtRage for professional work?
Yes. I paint my commissioned work in ArtRage, and that is professional work. I've seen stunning illustrations, concept art, and stand-alone artwork painted in ArtRage. If you manage to get involved with the program and its tools, there is no question - ArtRage is more than just suitable for professional work.
Any questions we should have asked you that you would like to answer?
No not really. I'm still totally flabbergasted by the fact that you asked me the one I just answered.
You can view more of Stephen Rasche-Hilpert’s work on his website at www.equidographie.de and follow him on his Facebook and Facebook Page
Note: While Stephen currently does not have an English website (although he is working on one), you can browse his site using Google Translate to read it in English.
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