Microcosmos portfolio by Mirella Niebl
Description The Portrait of My Mother
The Portrait of My Mother
'Things are not always what they seem to be.' If I was given the task to describe my mother with a single sentence, this would be it. She's the typical person whom you get to like only after the second or third impression, because she's very, very outspoken and strong-willed - and these features can be embarassing for people when they first meet someone. I have no illusions about the human race in general, and I acknowledge we all have our good sides and bad sides. Though I'm well aware of that she has her flaws like anyone else, I can't help but think she's the greatest person I'll ever known it's hard to tell wether it's because she's my mother or because it is the truth. I believe a little bit both. The strange paradox about her is that you can tell by her face what kind of personality she has, but often you can't tell what she thinks when you're having a chat with her. She has big eyes which are light brown most of the time, but when she talks about something that interests her, they always get a hazel glow deep inside them. Whenever she talks to you, she looks into your eyes calmly and openly, as she has not a single thought to hide from you. Her eyebrows are finely arched, but whenever something makes her suprised or angry, she knits them heavily. She has great amount of wrinkles around her eyes. When I was about six years old, they looked like tree branches to me - the branches you can see on Japanese paintings - except for the ones in the corner of her eye: those reminded me of long, cartoon-like eyelashes. In fact, they still do. She's got a straight nose with a strongly defined bridge, which can tell a lot to anyone who has some experience in reading people's faces. I'm not kidding when I say she's got the nose of a born leader. It applies to her very well; and however in our family there is no particularly dominant person - because my mother and my father put a great emphasis on balancing the roles as parents â€“ it has always been my mother whoâ€™s kept things together. My father, my sisters and I - well, we could be hardly described as organised human beings, and I know we give her hard times because of it. I cannot say she never complains - she does, especially when we cross the lines of her patience - but she always adds she has no regrets, since we are the life she had chosen. Her voice is deeper than usual, but it's also softer and velvetier, so whenever she says something, it sounds very smooth but convincing at the same time. She never tries to make situations seem better than they really are. You can hear nothing but the crystal-clear truth from her. whatever it may be. When we were really young, my sister and I, we used to think that was a negative thing: all the other girls in kidergarten or in school were praised by their mothers every single time they did something right; we weren't. The good effect of not being used to compliments from her was that any time she made one, you could feel it was worth a lot, and it felt like being awarded for something great you've done. Most of our mates were carefully watched, protected and overly caressed every time they bumped themselves or when they fell off the jungle gym; we weren't. If I got home crying because of a tiny scar, my mother examined it like an expert, fertilized it, then gently told me to get over myself. I used to think it was rude, but now, as a grown up person, with a wider view on life, I can only admire her for being so self-consistent.
Her intelligent, high forehead and her lips which are pressed together firmly most of the time match with the overall picture. It is a bad habit of hers, pressing her lips together so tightly, and she has deep wrinkles in the corner of her mouth because of it; but whenever she smiles, those wrinkles seem to disappear. She has one of the most generous, honest smiles I've ever seen: when she smiles at us, we all feel very special. She rarely laughs, but when she does, you can feel that it comes straight from her heart. I have her mouth and smile, and my middle sister has her chin and that small dimple that appears under her lips when she's in a good mood. I like her face the best when she's sleeping. All the tightened muscles settle on her face, showing the less seen side of her: the tiny, fragile, gentle woman under the surface of a strong, fearless personality.
Edited by Kata Bark贸
Process Analysis The Muse, the Method and Me
The Muse, the Method and Me As an upcoming artist, I often get asked things like 'How did you do this?' or 'How can you do this?' or, my personal favourite 'What this supposed to mean?'. To answer all these questions, I usually reply with something like 'I don't know, it just happened', but of course, the real answer lies deeper than this. Only, I came to believe that people expect some wise and inspirational words from you, which is nonsense - it would be too complex and take too long and that's why I'm not even trying to explain it. But not this time: I've decided to clarify this once and for all. First and foremost, to understand the creative process, we have to understand something about artists in general. There are three main visual artist types: the ones who have the skills mostly (or as we often say it 'the hands') - they are able to create wonderful things, but usually under control, hence sometimes they lack imagination, sense for composition and message. The second type is the one who has really good taste in art, eye for instructive adevices and wonderful visions about how ideas should be conveyed, but doesn't have the skills to do it. These people usually become instructors or critics. The third type is the one who is able to merge all these features into one - and society often recognise this type as 'born talent' or 'genius'. Of course, nothing is black and white in the land of inspirational dreams and fantasies, and there are infinite combinations of these gifts which can be sharpen by practise and hard work. Second, it is important to see how artists get their inspiration. It comes out of nowhere and at the same time it comes from everywhere. The funny thing with inspiration in general is that they usually occur in the most inappropriate times; when you have to do something very carefully, when you have to focus on something else, when you're trying to study or fall asleep. But when you feel like creating something, don't even dream about it: it's not going to happen. Your muse doesn't really give a damn about your needs and problems, and can be annoying and whimsical most of the time,but it wouldn't work out without her, so I guess that's why artists have the patience to put up with these situations. Ideas can go away quickly, but the only thing you can do about it is to keep a notebook near at hand all the time - in your bag or in your pocket when you're at school or at your work place, and one next to your bed when you're sleeping. Writing or sketching down everything that comes to your mind is essential, because you would never know what will be useful later. After you have a general idea about the conception you would like to express, it is recommended to examine the topic and all possible aspects. There is an incredible amount of work behind every image: I do a lot of research and even more sketches and studies. When I'm done with studying my subject, I decide what materials to use. Beginners usually start with lead pencil, since it's easy to erase and blend, and it's monochrome, so you don't have to divide your attention between shapes and colors. My favourite technique is watercolour combined with acrylics - it's a wonderful way to express all the visions of my mind, but requires steady hands - since it can't be erased and it's hardly corrigible - and a delicate touch as well, because the beauty of it comes from letting the colors drip, flow and fuse. Once the question of the method is decided, most artists trace up the outlines of the painting, but always very wanly, because seeing the outlines under the image can be very disappointing; except when you are Leonardo da Vinci. Then it's fine. When you're done with all this - and trust me, it can take weeks to get here - you can jump to the next step. It's getting a bit overwhelming, isn't it? And we're not even halfway. So the next step in this journey is to prepare for the long hours spent in front of the canvas. Depending on your taste, you'd better make coffee, black tea or green tea for yourself, because you will need the energy; but no food or snack is allowed. Eating is naturally followed by digestion, and digestion distracts blood from the rest of your body, especially from your brain. And how would you like to create anything outstanding when you're brain is working on half speed? Impossible. While your water for tea is boiling, stretch yourself a little, because you might will be standing or sitting in the same position for hours. Then make enough room around the surface you're going to work on, and get out all the tools and materials
you will need - paints, inks, brushes, watercolor pencils, palettes and mixing bowls, also water and a lot of paper tissues to sponge up extra paint. So far I told you about all the theory part; now let the fun get started. I consider myself very anthropocentric, and however I can paint still lives and landscapes as well, I only use them as backgrounds: for me, there is nothing more interesting, complex, unfathomable and spellbinding than the human nature with its characteristics both on the inside and on the outside. This is why I consider myself a portrait painter. I usually put up three layers on a painting: the first layer gives the main tones, the second one adds all the shadows, highlights and midtones and the third one is like a finishing touch - it's when I work out all the little details. When I was a little child, my mother always read artist's biographies to me as evening tales; and in one of the books it was said that famous artists almost every time started painting the eyes first when it came to portraiture. There is a good reason for that: I know it sounds clich茅, but as the eyes are said to be the window of the soul, the eyes are the soul of a portrait as well. Taking the eyes as a starting point, I elaborate first the nose and the mouth, then comes the skin, the ears (when they are visible), the hair, and last but not least the background. Then ta-dam! All of a sudden you're done. It sounds nice and easy when it's written down, but in real life, the required time of the painting part goes up to extremes as a month or sometimes even more. Another extreme which I should mention: the time when you're doing it. I've always been a night owl, and I usually do my best from around ten o'clock to two or three o'clock in the morning. It also explains why I am always tired during the day, but however sometimes it's taking its toll on my performance at school, I never actually felt like regretting anything. I don't know about the others, but for me, creating was never a choice; it's an unstoppable urge coming from the inside - the urge to express yourself, to say something important, to enrich yourself and the world around you with something meaningful or amazing, and to leave some kind of legacy behind. If there is just one single person on this planet who is touched by your work and benefits from your art spiritually or emotionally, then all the effort and time, all the laugh, anger and cry - it was worth every single minute.
Edited by Patricia Barbara Temmert and Kata Bark贸
Intermezzo Although this event didn’t seem to have any kind of effect on my life, and was more like a small, separated episode in a continuous, flowing story, sometimes I catch myself thinking about it on certain occasions. I was fourteen and I was at home alone. The whole family went shopping, so everyone was gone except for me. I'd been sick for days with the symptoms of the Great Trinity: high temperature, headache and runny nose. I was lying, or more like dying in the living room among an infinite amount of paper tissues and half empty cups of herbal tea, watching TV. I was right in the middle of pitying myself, so when I heard the doorbell, I wasn't eager to get up and open the door. With the hideous appearance I had, I wished to avoid any unnecessary contact with others. I managed to get up from the sofa, and while I was crawling toward the door, I had several places on my mind where I wished to send the unknown visitor. The journey was more wearisome than usual, and I kept wondering who it could be? My parents had keys, my sister had keys and the neighbor wouldn't had rung this long. Who the hell could it be? I thought I have prepared for anyone standing on the other side of the door - it turned out I had not. After I realised I could not breathe trough my nose, I took a deep breath through my mouth and opened the door. There was an elderly lady standing on the street, staring at me with an expression which was both uneasy and perplexed. I don't know where her uneasiness came from, but after I caught the look she gave me while checking my pyjamas, my face and my hair (all three in a terrible condition) I was pretty sure why is she so perplexed – she clearly expected someone else to open the door, maybe someone more well-groomed. I had never seen her before, and it was also hard to guess why she was holding an enormous sack of bananas towards me; she unconsciously seemed to use it as some kind of borderline between us. The fruit had the very same color of the car parking behind her. I saw an old man, probably his husband, sitting in it, waving at me. I checked the space behind me to see if there was anyone else, but there wasn't. Needless to mention how confused I was when asked whether I can help her with anything, but at least I broke the awkward silence. 'Are your parents at home?' the old lady asked, still holding up the fruits. I told her there was no one home except me, but I would willingly transmit any kind of message to my parents. I was still hoping for an explanation, however I could not think of anything that could have explained the bananas. Just when she opened her mouth to answer, we heard the sound of a car door opening, and his husband got out of the vehicle. She immediately rushed back and kindly but firmly helped the old man back to his seat. I didn’t realise it before, but it wasn’t the driver’s seat, which was unusual because when it comes to old couples, it’s usually the husband who has a driver’s license. But it was even more unusal when his husband - who made an impression of a silent, wise man - made a peevish face and in an even more irritable voice cried out like a 10-year-old about how bored he was. I immediately thought that if it was for me, I would find it rather challenging not to lose my temper, but the old lady did not blink an eye when she asked him in a most polite way to wait a little longer. Then she turned back to me, and apologised – for his son’s manners. I soon learned from her that he was mentally disabled, on the level of a little child, and could get impatient quickly. Now it was my turn to be uneasy. I didn't know what to say or how to say it, and my brain worked on half speed because of the fever, but I really wanted to say something comforting or encouraging. When I opened my mouth, she waved with her hand, assuring me that I do not have to say a thing. Instead I finally got to know the reason of her visit. I saw her smile for the first time during our small chat while she told me how my parents rushed to help her out today. She and her son were misfortunate enough to have a flat tire in the middle of the parking place. She didn’t know how to change a tire, and you could see the anguish on her face when she recalled how impatient the others in their cars got when they could not move and how lost she felt at that moment. Then my father, who saw what happened, jumped out of the car, and helped them, while my mother got out and talked to them in a really nice, comforting way. In the end, she added how lucky I am to have such great people as parents. She was so calm and talked about the whole thing with such ease, it made me feel awful. I could feel my throat getting tighter and tighter, but I decided I’m not going to cry in front of a stranger - so I shocked my head and agreed on her opinion about my luck, then asked her if she came because
she wanted to thank them. As it turned out, she already did, but she wanted to express her gratefulness even more, and she thought we could use some fruit. ‘Do you like bananas?' she hesitated. I tried to wipe my eyes secretly and reassured her that we love them. My speech was a little chaotic due to the bittersweet feeling which took place in my stomach and had nothing to do with my illness, but I managed to thank her for the fruits and wished her and her son the best. She handed the bananas to me then hurried because his son wanted to get out again. They both waved goodbye before they got into the car, then drove away. I was standing in the front door, watching the banana-yellow car moving away until it completely disappeared, thinking about how people’s lives cross each other, seemingly without a reason. So this is how my mother happened to find her eldest daughter sitting at the kitchen table, staring unconsciously at a heap of bananas in front of her. I do not have a point to make here; the reader can decide whether this small story is about how important it is to be good and helpful with others or a constant reminder to appreciate the life we have - or have a totally different conclusion to draw. Edited by Kata Barkó and Mihály Fodor
Essay Task Letâ€™s Stop Exchanging Gifts on Christmas
Let’s Stop Exchanging Gifts on Christmas 'Christmas is the season of peace and goodwill, till you go shopping and get the bill.' These wise words from E. C. Mckenzie pretty much sum up what is wrong with exchanging gifts on Christmas. Considering the fact how our everyday life is already full of rush and worrying, one would think all what people want in the winter holiday is some peace and calmness; to get away from their job, worries, financial problems and so on. However, it seems that nowadays the celebration of love only puts more weight on our shoulders with the help of a simple, harmless concept: gifts. But why is it like that? We can possibly ask ourselves an even more accurate question: does it have to be like that? Would it be so hard to stop exchanging gifts on Christmas? When you ask people about Christmas, most of them suddenly have this funny, desperate expression, which usually comes along with the admission about how they feel this urge to spend more than they can comforably afford - to put on a special Christmas for their families. It might not be common in our country, but it's not so uncommon in western countries to start the new year in a debt because of spending on Christmas gifts. These two statements speak for themselves. From a point of view, it is fine we want to have the ’perfect holiday’ - but we should be able to make a distinction beetween the ideal holiday and the advertisements we see on television and on the internet. One of the media’s biggest task is to advertise with the hopes of getting more and more income for companies each year. They show us images to suggest how an ideal holiday should look like according to them - fitting to their needs, not to ours. Spending too much on Christmas presents carries a great deal of problems, and starting the new year with a debt is only one of them. Another great problem with gifts is that we can’t be sure what the other person wants or needs. A study shows that about at least one in ten gifts average people recieve is not really what they want to get. There's no easy way to avoid the feeling of this pressure around this time of the year: the pressure to find a perfect gift for everyone. But whenever we have doubts, we should put it this way: if we have no idea what to buy, should we buy anything at all? The people dearest to our heart shouldn’t need any kind of expensive evidence or proof for that; and the acquaintances like neighbours and collegues should be happier with a self-baked cake than one more pair of socks or a book they’ll never read. If you want to gift someone to show love and care around Christmas time, that’s fine – but you shouldn’t buy a present only because it is expected from you by an unsubstantiated social rule. All in all, not buying anything when it’s uneccesary still sounds like a better idea than buying something no one really needs. Stopping gift-exchanging would make people feel bad and guilty first, but in my opinion, after a while they could get use to it, and then, we could focus on more important matters, the biggest gifts we definitely cannot get by taking out a loan: peace, love and joy. Edited by Kata Barkó
Essay Task The Strongest Principle of Growth Is Choice
The Strongest Principle of Growth Is Choice Our life is a never-ending circle of choices. Once you decide to turn left, it can't be undone, and later you can't go back to turn right this time. We make all these small choices in our everyday lives almost unconciously: what to have for breakfast in the morning, what to wear to school, when to go to bed. In general, simple choices like these have no serious impact on us. We are used to them because we are brought up this way: in our childhood, most of these decisions were made by adults, and in the process of becoming an adult, we get more and more freedom. The turning point in growing up is when we have to face our first important decision: a choice we have to make on our own, with the knowledge that however things may turn out, we have to take the responsibility for it. These turning points usually happen all of a sudden, but mine appeared in my life slowly. It was the question of what I intend do with my life. I know it's neither an uncommon, nor a specific decision we all get to this point sooner or later. But as far as I can recall, this was my first taste of 'real life', and it was just as important as bitter. In the first two years of high school, I was just like most of the teenagers: careless, lazy, even selfish sometimes. I didn't care much for studying; I didn't have any plans regarding college or higher eductaion. I didn't care much for helping at home either. Even back then, I knew I had no reason to be angry with the world, but I was. I had this growing impatience towards everyone - my parents, my sisters, my teachers, my friends, even towards the shop assistants at the supermarket. Towards everyone, except myself. My parents were intelligent, bright people, but they never had the opportunity to go to college, and they wanted us to make it so badly: not because they wanted to recreate their youth through ours, but because they knew we could make it. So after some time watching me going on a downhill, they decided to interrupt. It was a big fight. They told me I better get busy studying and finding a goal in my life; I told them they can't do nothing against the way things were. Naturally they hit the ceiling when I said it out loud, and for the first time of my life, I got punished with confinement, and was prohibited from TV, Internet and family trips. I remember, I hadn't spoken to them for almost two weeks - I only communicated with gestures and grumbles. I was always very stubborn, and I think I have never been so stubborn in my life when in those two weeks. The punishment I got was though of course, but in the end it wasn't the reason for making up my mind. I can't explain how it happened, but one night, when I picked up one of my literature books, it opened at some short prose by Tolstoy. It was 'The Death of Ivan Ilych'. The story in short is about a Russian officer, who thinks about his life on his deathbed, and realizes he has done everything wrong. It was realistic, simple and extremly touching. I cried so hard for minutes after finishing it, but finally I was able to make my first independent decision. I realised I was interested in literature: this realisation was naturally followed by the willingness to know more about it, and it ended up in one single wish: going to university. There's no doubt I made the right choice, and a strange thing about right choices is the fact that they usually lead to other right choices. In the last three years of high school I studied hard, and my grades improved rapidly; I also found out I had real talent in visual arts it's going so well, I even have some kind of income from painting for orders these days. You can't become an adult and grow as a person without making decisions on your own. These choices are important because you have to be able to take the responsibility for your actions, and also because there is no one else on the world to decide how you should live. It's up to you, and with every choice you make, you make a statement not only about who you are, but about who you want to be.
Edited by Kata Bark贸