Farina Kuklinski is a firm believer that “The most beautiful things arise when you are freed from guidelines and expectations”. This belief is evident in the non-prescriptive, flowing form of her watercolour designs, and her laid back approach to committing her ideas to paper. Finding inspiration in the natural world, her depictions of plants and animals strike a nostalgic note with their innocence and sincerity that never fails to charm. We met with Farina to delve into her world and get to know the person behind the paint brush.
Your work has a nostalgic, dream-like quality to it. What reaction are you hoping to get from your paintings?
I like it when I’m able to conjure up a smile on the lips of the viewer, or to create a sense of well-being—when it "does people good".
Your paintings mostly depict plants and animals, and you're a floral designer by trade. Where does this love of nature come from?
Both my grandmother and mother have always been plant lovers. Even as a child, I spent hours playing in my grandma's garden, weeding flower beds with her or trimming roses and planting bulbs. Plants and nature have a very calming effect on me and help me to recharge my batteries, so I have a lot of plants at home, both in my apartment and on my balcony.
You've moved around quite a lot. Could you talk us through your journey from Maastricht to Barcelona and then Cologne?
I moved to Maastricht to study art at university. During my studies, I spent a semester in Barcelona, which is a wonderful, vibrant city. After finishing my degree, I was set on moving to the creative metropolis that is Berlin to find work and inspiration, and just to experience living there. I had a 3-month break from Berlin when I moved to London for an internship. After seven years in Berlin, my gut feeling led me to a smaller, more manageable city, Cologne, which is where I live now.
Why did you choose watercolours as the medium for your work?
It was actually more of a coincidence than a choice. My father's old watercolour set fell into my hands and I quickly discovered the potential of watercolours. You can get started with them straight away without much training. Depending on how you use them, the effects can be very soft, or very bright and intense. You can never have 100% control when it comes to watercolours. A part of it is always down to chance, which makes the finished results so beautifully “imperfect”.
Where and how do you find inspiration?
I actually get a lot of my inspiration from nature and plants. The time in which I worked as a floral designer really had an impact on me, but I also find inspiration in daily interactions, in my thoughts, and in collecting impressions and pictures. Inspiration often strikes in those moments when you’re not really thinking about anything at all, but letting your thoughts roam free.
We'd like to learn a little bit about your creative process. What does a typical working day look like for you?
I like to start the day early with a cup of tea. Then I cycle to the studio in the fresh air, which helps me to wake up. After reading and answering my emails, I plan out what to do for the day. When I have some free time and no "commission work" to do, I like to focus for a few hours on a particular topic. I only paint with watercolours, but I like to combine different styles. In the process, new ideas and concepts come up, so one thing always follows on from another.
How you get 'in the zone' for painting?
I like to be alone and listen to music when I paint. I need enough time to really get into it, so no appointments coming up in the next few hours. Sometimes you get into a real flow and you don't even notice how time passes. Only when your stomach starts rumbling do you realise that it’s time to take a break!
You're also part of a design duo focusing on motion design and graphic design. Tell us a little bit about this area of your work.
My colleague and I complement each other with our skills. She’s a trained motion designer; I’m a trained graphic designer with a focus on illustration. We also like to organize pop-up events together. For example, two years ago we created a pop-up that was a combination of a plant market and a bar.
How do you spend your time when you're not painting?
I need a mixture of conviviality and peace. I like meeting up with my friends: we cook together, do sports or go on excursions, and have interesting conversations. That said, I also need the evenings for myself at home so I can relax.
Which artwork are you most proud of and why?
Since I find it very difficult to make decisions, I wouldn't want to commit myself to just one! Every picture tells a story for me, or was created in a certain phase of life and reflects a specific place and time.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't be afraid!
If you could be an animal for a day, which animal would you be and why?
A whale. To me, whales radiate serenity and strength. They’re very free, independent animals.
Text: Caitlin Hughes