Golden Artist Colors’ new Materials & Applications Specialist is working from her studio in Frankfurt, Germany and gives us our first Materials Support staff in Europe. She has the ability to serve customers in both English and German, strengthening our commitment to artists by answering their questions and assisting with product and application challenges.
Mark Golden: Mirjam, it is a delight to introduce you to our customers. Could you share a little bit about yourself, your history, and your passion for visual arts. How did that get started?
Mirjam Hintz: I think my passion for art was always there because even as a young child, I was fascinated by beauty – everything that was beautiful and pretty around me. After I finished high school I spent two to three years in a spiritual community where I painted icons almost full-time, and in that time I also got to know somebody who was a retired conservator, wall painting mainly. I was fascinated by his knowledge about materials. I always thought I should know more about materials, giving me the freedom to make informed decisions about materials. This desire led me to art conservation.
Mark: As a child, were others in your life involved in the arts? Or was it your own self-interest that led you there?
Mirjam: It was my own self-interest. As a child I mainly spent my time drawing because of my lack of quality brushes and paints. If I had better materials, I would have painted more.
Mark: Did this lead you to pursuing painting in high school? Did you take painting classes?
Mirjam: Yes, I focused on English and painting in high school. I had a great teacher, but in high school you learn a lot about art history and spend less time actually painting. Access to a variety of quality materials was also limited.
Mark: In college you concentrated on art conservation. Were you also able to continue with your own art?
Mirjam: In college I studied conservation full time and continued painting in my free time. Once I focused on conservation of paintings and historically accurate reconstruction of artwork from various time periods, I began to truly appreciate artist quality materials. The greatest experience I had during that time was to reconstruct a 17th Century painting where we made our own oil paint and compared that quality to the less expensive student grade paints that I had at home. That made my awareness of professional grade paints grow tremendously. The variances and what was possible with the professional paints was incredible – they made such a difference! Making ultramarine, real ultramarine tempera paint was a great experience also.
Mark: Tell me about that. What was so memorable about making the ultramarine?
Mirjam: It was like painting with sand because the pigment particles are so big. And if you grind it too much, it loses color intensity. It was eye opening to see how very different each pigment is and how each pigment’s properties need to be carefully considered before handling them.
Mark: I know in the States it’s unusual to find a program that offers conservation. So where was the program? What college did you attend for your undergraduate studies?
Mirjam: As an undergraduate I was at London Metropolitan University and focused on conservation of wooden objects. After that I became worried that I would end up only working on furniture and frames and I knew I had a very high interest in more decorative objects like sculptures and paintings – panel paintings especially – so I continued studying conservation of paintings at the University of Amsterdam. Ultimately, that led me during my post-graduate training to Delaware where I completed an internship at the University of Delaware, which, as you know, is connected to the Winterthur Museum.
Mark: Can you please tell me a little bit about that experience? What were you working on in your post-graduate work at Winterthur?
Mirjam: I was interested in learning more about alternative cleaning methods that are used on acrylic and modern art paintings. A lot of these alternative cleaning methods have been developed by renowned Materials Scientist, Richard Wolbers, and since he teaches at Winterthur, I became interested in attending his classes and working on paintings under his instruction. It was an incredible experience!
Mark: During this time considering the rigors of this degree in chemistry, materials science and painting conservation, were you able to continue your art practice or did that have to be put aside while you focused your energies into your conservation studies?
Mirjam: Yes, I always continued painting. During the summers I was able to paint and focus on my personal artwork. During the years of my conservation studies I took one year off for traveling and painting.
Mark: Where did you travel?
Mirjam: I traveled to California, Guatemala, Mexico, India, Nepal and Egypt.
Mark: Did your time and experiences in those places inspire your painting?
Mirjam: Yes, absolutely! India had a particularly strong influence on my artwork. In India I was able to do a lot of wall paintings because people there are so relaxed. I would just go to a house owner and ask if I could paint artwork on their walls and some of them didn’t even want to see a sketch. They would say, “Yes, go ahead!” Maybe they didn’t understand what I was saying, but yes, I was able to paint a couple of murals, which was great!
Mark: That’s pretty bold, Mirjam – and very funny! Back to your time at Winterthur… After you completed your studies at Winterthur, did you go back to school or back to private practice? What happened when you returned to Germany?
Mirjam: I worked in a private practice for half a year in Frankfurt, Germany. My focus during that time was mainly on contemporary art. It was a great experience – very different from working for a Museum or in a Museum setting.
Mark: Obviously, the pace is sped up in private conservation.
Mirjam: Definitely! You work on many more projects in a shorter time.
Mark: We met at Winterthur when I was doing a lecture with Sarah Sands, our Senior Materials & Applications Specialist.
Mark: Meeting at Winterthur gave us a chance to visit with one another and speak about opportunities for Conservators to work with our Materials & Applications Specialists team. When I had a chance to speak to you about it, I was surprised that this was something that you were interested in pursuing because most Art Conservation students are interested in doing painting conservation. It was a bit of a different conversation with you. Would you describe that a little bit?
Mirjam: Sure. I think I met you a couple of days after I bought a set of GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics. I already knew that GOLDEN was an outstanding company because in a lot of Art Conservation literature, it is mentioned. A lot of Conservators also use GOLDEN Acrylics for retouching not on original surfaces, but on infills, for example, because of the lightfastness and because GOLDEN produces some Conservation paints.
And interestingly enough, it had already been my plan that after graduating I wanted to work with artists directly in some way. This job opportunity with the Materials & Applications Specialist team really allowed me to bridge my own interest in painting with my Conservation background, and it’s very fulfilling to be able to have art as a relief from stress.
Mark: For us it has been that special combination of someone with the depth of professional experience in Conservation as well as a real desire for working with living and working artists. Hopefully also to help them avoid some of the issues that might later occur requiring conservation. It was incredibly exciting to be able to have you consider joining the team!
Mirjam: Yes, and for me as well!
Mark: So tell me about some of the projects that you’ve been involved with since joining GOLDEN. I know some of it has been setting up something pretty unique as you’re our first international Materials & Applications Specialist.
Mirjam: Offering this service in Germany for the European market is going to require a lot of networking in the beginning, of course, and I know that I have great help with our European Sales Manager, Peter France, and our Distributors in Germany and other European countries. I’ve had great contact already, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the European market better and also learning about art communities in Germany. We really have to work towards establishing more trust between the company as the manufacturer and artists because there’s so much mistrust between the two. Since the advent of packaged paint in the 19th Century, the quality was not so much in the hands of the artists anymore, but in the makers of the paint. I just want to help artists to be able to learn from all the experiences and knowledge that the GOLDEN Materials & Applications Specialists have and build good relationships.
Mark: I think that’s been one of the most important things for us in the United States. We’ve been able to really project and share information so easily between our team here and artists around the country and North America. But in Europe, that’s not been the case. We felt it was really important to have a person, a Specialist, trained to be able to offer that same kind of service that we so easily offer here, but to offer it for our customers in Europe, so it has been a delight to get this opportunity started.
So tell me a little bit about your experience with the materials. You had a chance to stay with us for around six months, and it was a delight learning about you and your experience with materials. Have there been any materials that you’ve been able to play with while being here that has crept into your own work?
Mirjam: Yes, Fluid Acrylics, but I started using them before I came to New Berlin. I find the Fluids to be so convenient. You just open the cap or the bottle and you can start painting right away. You don’t have to do anything else with them. They already have the perfect consistency and such high pigment load. The vast color range is very convenient as well.
Mark: That’s something that I think everyone here immediately is attracted to. It is because it is so convenient. You just open the bottle, and immediately you can mix, you can do whatever you want to do with it. So yes, we all find it to be pretty convenient. And it continues to grow. Some people are a little bit reticent, however, because they see its fluidity and assume that it must mean that it’s much weaker in pigment.
Mirjam: No. That’s one of the misconceptions of acrylics.
Mark: Yes, it’s true. That’s the amazing part about acrylic. It offers so much formulating latitude. We can make the paint as thin as water, and so thick you could hold it in your hand without getting wet, and all those iterations in between. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll be sharing about our materials in Europe as part of your new role at GOLDEN!
Again, we’re so delighted to have you join us Mirjam and look forward to our collaborations with all our customers overseas!