In this interview with Art Korner, Zia Branner reveals her artistic process and shares her journey as an artist in the virtual world.
Zia Branner has been drawing and sketching almost all her life. Art courses through her veins. As an adult, she started taking drawing and painting lessons at official art institutions. It was one of her teachers, also an artist herself, who inspired Zia to look beyond what she could see and find her own reality.
“My teacher helped me in many ways. Also a lot of the fellow students helped me. We reviewed each other’s work at the end of the lesson. You learn a lot from listening to different points of view and solving each other’s problems”, says Zia.
She experimented with acrylic paint, ink, pastel chalk, oil crayons and a range of material in order to find her own artistic expression. There is a lot she has tried and wants to try in the future.
Zia explains, “Impressionism, expressionism, modern art and abstract art attracts me the most. But I think concrete figurative art is something I would like to try more in the future.”
She tells me that people always ask her to do realistic art in RL and that can be an opportunity for her to get better at it.
“I painted a baby bunny and now a lot of people in RL have started asking me to paint their pet or their Zodiac sign. I am not a realistic painter and I think I am not as good at it, so I see a challenge there. Portrait painting is also something I want to dive into more. I did a few modern portraits of my relatives and I wonder if I can go more realistic on that.”
Zia was introduced to the world of Second Life in 2006 when she read in a psychology magazine about how SL could be addictive for several reasons.
“Now, that made me really curious, because I have never really been addicted to anything. But we are in 2021 now”, she says with a laugh. “And here I am; still in SL with only a short break every now and then.”
First Exhibition in SL
Although she has been in SL for more than 12 years now, Zia did not explore the world of art in Second Life until a few years ago.
“It was only a couple of years back that I started to look for art in SL. That is how you end up at exhibitions, art stores and galleries. Then I thought : why don’t I rent a small store and put out some of my RL art work? The more people you meet in the SL art scene, the more you talk about art and show people your art, the faster this snowball gets rolling”, says Zia.
She says she has really fond memories from her first exhibition in the virtual world.
“One day I got invited by Ladmilla Medier to take part in an exhibition on her land. I remember I was so excited about my first exhibit! And it was at this exhibition that Carelyna of ArtCare saw my work and then she invited me; this is how your network expands.”
Her Artistic Process
Every artist has a different process they use to create art and one can learn a lot more about the artist and their works by studying their process. For Zia, the time she takes to complete a painting varies from a couple of days to a month sometimes, depending upon the size and the subject of the work.
She elaborates, “Once I see a subject I would like to paint, I start thinking of how I see it – the forms, the meaning, the colors, the structure. Then I get this picture in my head of how it must look like. I start sketching on paper first or sometimes, right away on canvas. But whatever I think of, it always (ALWAYS!) turns out differently.”
But Zia Branner’s art has certainly evolved through the years.
She says, “I threw out a lot of my work earlier thinking it was amateurish and I had a feeling I wasn’t getting anywhere. Stacks of painted paper, canvas boards, practice canvases – they all went out. Looking back, I regret it because I now know I could have still used it somewhere.”
Many of Zia’s works are abstract in nature. People often have this mistaken notion that abstract art is easy to create. But she assures me with utmost confidence that abstract art is far more difficult than painting what is right in front of you.
Ideas and Inspiration
Zia tells me she gets inspired by other artists and their works which she sees in museums and on social media. But perhaps the biggest source of inspiration for her ideas is nature.
“Landscapes and everything they include – the plants, flowers, shapes – they always fascinate me and inspire my work”, says Zia. “I like to take lots of pictures when I am on vacation or even out on a walk. For example, my latest painting, “Peonies“, is something I have always wanted to do : paint mega big peonies on a mega big canvas.”
The landscapes she paints are often inspired by the vacation pictures she takes. Her latest exhibitions at the Kondor Art Center and Raging Graphix Gallery display some incredible abstract landscapes which have been inspired by pictures from her Norway trip.
She continues, “I also have two paintings on display – Overcoming by Love and Overcoming by Strength – which take inspiration from ancient sculptors. I wanted to paint these in support of all the people who have to face adversities in this world.”
Zia looks up to many great masters whose works have been revolutionary in the history of art and admires their work thoroughly.
“Being Dutch, of course I like Van Gogh, Vermeer and Rembrandt”, she says with a smile. “But apart from them, I also like Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and William Turner – his skies are just amazing! Coming to the artists of current times, I love the work of Kiki Lamers, the amazing portraits that Marlene Dumas makes and Ali Banisadr’s style of painting which is often on a huge canvas.”
The Blank Canvas Phenomenon
Before I actually start writing an article, I have a general idea of what I am going to write about. But once I open the document and stare at the blank page, suddenly I find myself unsure of what I should start with. I was glad to find out artists often have the same problem when they are staring at a blank canvas.
“This blank mind is a strange phenomenon because before I started, I knew what I wanted”, says Zia, “And then all of a sudden, it seems gone.”
It is a strange fear that catches Zia and possibly many other artists right before you make the first stroke on the blank canvas. She recommends a method to get over it which almost always works for her : simply start!
“Sometimes I step away and do something else when this happens. Like watching art videos or pictures. But starting with your first strokes is almost always the solution which works best. Thereafter things start to happen, you get into a flow, one stroke leads to another and the process continues”, says Zia.
Why She Paints
Zia paints, primarily, for herself. It is a way for her to express herself, a way to step away from the everyday hustle and bustle of things.
“Figuring out, struggling with or succeeding in creating a painting, capturing things the way I see them on canvas… it is a big drug. Well, okay, there you have my addiction”, she says with a laugh.
This brings us to the question of, why does an artist want to show his or her work? Zia tells me it is because they want people to see the stories and magic of what life has to offer.
“Now and then, people find you and they walk parallel along the story and magic path of life. Sometimes they do not really know why they like your art, that specific painting. They simply like it or love it, and that is the magic of art”, says Zia.
The Greek, she tells me, have a beautiful word : Meraki. It means : to put something of yourself into your work. Soul, creativity, love. And when someone sees that, it’s magic!
Zia’s Latest Exhibitions:
Kondor Art Center – Dialog Exhibition with Wan Laryukov – TELEPORT
Raging Graphix Gallery – TELEPORT