One year in Watercolour

A short film by Carola Hesse (2021 – 2022)
Music by Podington Bear – Free Music Archive

Follow me on a short journey that shows 12 watercolour paintings which have been painted during the course of a full calender year – a year of my life. Enjoy!

Animated Illustration

I’ve always wandered how my illustrations would look like and behave if they were animated. Then, just recently, a Czech Animation Artist (Michal Maruška) did exactly that with a mixed-media illustration I’ve finished in spring 2022.

Shop – DIN A4 Art Prints

I am happy to offer you some smaller Art Prints that come with a size of about
DIN A 4. Please let me know if you wish them to be hand-signed as well.

If you wish to purchase an item please contact me via

Kreaturen des Meeres
Creatures of the Sea

Limited Edition
Title available in German & English
ca. 21,0 by 30,2 cm
Laser printed on handmade paper.

Euro 32,00

The Icon Series

In the present an icon is ever so often thought of as something in connection with pop-culture, educational culture, advertisement, something on our computer or mobile screens or even something abstract such as beauty or terror. We also find icons in the car industry or architecture. Icons, or rather secular icons, play a key role in our age of mass media and consumerism. Especially insofar as they have an enormous impact on taste, (buying) behaviour and, they have an impact on what a person believes (in).

Up until the 1960s the word icon was still understood as an icon in the religious context. Thus, a Christian icon, and especially its function within the Orthodox Church. Despite the shift in meaning, in both contexts there is a special relationship between the viewer, the visual medium, and its communicated message. That said, there is always more to an icon. It depicts something that we conceive with our senses – visually and then emotionally.

It was perhaps the Kiev-born artist Kazimir Malewisch who first tried to fully abandon the depiction of reality in his art in 1913. His art work “Black Square”, and also the “colour field paintings” from the 1940s onwards, by artists such as Mark Rothko or Barett Newman, are basically inviting the viewer to meditatively contemplate the geometric form, and not the (former) depiction of the real world. As Malewich wrote in his book “The Non-Objective-World” in 1927, it was a desperate attempt on his side to free art “from the dead weight of the real world”.

As a consequence, this “freed art” demands total devotion from the viewer while looking at the painting. And this, coincidentally, bears a risk of getting lost while contemplating. Which brought up the thought that through this process of emptying, not only an invitation to reflect individually is being issued but, furthermore, some sort of vacuum created, which can subsequently be filled with a great variety of new worlds. And this through new types of icons which are, in most ways, completely lacking the full weight of our real world.

But let’s head back to the origins. Although symbols had already existed in pagan times, the word icon derives from Ancient Greek and primarily means image, likeness or depiction. Looking back in time to the early church, icons had been rather strictly prohibited as long as they weren’t created for the purpose of worship. And yet, an icon’s primary purpose is to support the viewer in his or her act of worship, which, following the arguments, makes it a tool used in religious devotion. Religious icons most commonly depict the Mother of God, Jesus, saints, and concrete events of sacred history. Being produced in a variety of media and sizes – from wooden panel to mosaic – for almost two thousand years, the presence and usage of icons is, especially in the Orthodox Church, a reflection of tradition. The icons are not intended to reflect the problems of life but rather to answer them. 

Perhaps ever since humanity arose, it moved simultaneously into two directions: self-destruction and salvation. In this regard, the spiritual meaning of an icon lies within the depicted beings who are reflections of Jesus Christ and they are such by having been restored to God’s likeness.

Religious icons are deeply symbolic by which they transmit a spiritual reality. Most commonly the symbols used in icons are halos, wings, and objects. Beyond that, there are specific hand-gestures to be found. Those were already in use in ancient Rome and Greece, thus before Christianity was established, and they encompassed a complex system that was used by orators and rhetoricians, and understood by the public – contrary to modern people.

Fingers spelling “IC XC” for instance is a symbol of the blessing. It is a four letter abbreviation of the ancient Greek words for Jesus Christ, using the first and last letter in each word (IHCOYC XPICTOC). Hands with open palms, as another example, held at the height of the chest have two meanings: a prayer to God and the acceptance of grace.

Next to the material layer (including letters) there is also the layer of colour, which can be divided into two distinct categories. The first category includes gold (divine nature, the “Uncreated Light of God”), white (eternal life, purity, divine light, holiness), red (activity, divine life but also martyr’s clothes, fire, and the last judgement), green (eternal renovation, hope, growth, fertility) and blue (heaven/Kingdom of God, infiniteness of the sky). The second category includes black (absence of life, a void, death, evil), brown (density, lack of radiance, poverty), and yellow (sadness, misfortune).

In recent years the phrase “fake news” has become a constant companion of our daily lives. Its definition is “false or misleading information presented as news”. Its aim is the creation of confusion in order to damage a person’s or entity’s reputation or to make money. In other words: deliberate deceit. Although “fake news” has been spread throughout history, it was provided with a new dynamic in the past 130 years. One major turning point regarding the speed in which fake news was spreaded can be first found in sensational newspaper reports that came up around the turn of the further last century. Another turning point, yet far more destructive, came with the rise of social media and web-enabled mobile phones. “Fake news” has already found its big brother within “deepfake”. A technology that creates synthetic media by using machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is being used in order to manipulate or generate convincing but completely fictional visual AND audio content. Other tools for deliberate deceit are “false flags” or “false flag operations”. The phrase “false flag” is looking back on a history of about 500 years and means “a deliberate misrepresentation of someone’s affiliation or motives; something used deliberately to misrepresent in this way”. A “false flag operation” is understood as “an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party”. False flag operations are being used in warfare, as pretexts for war, as tactics to undermine political opponents etc. It was a false flag operation, namely the “Gleiwitz Incident” staged by Nazi-Germany in 1939, that led to the military assault of Poland by Germany and, hardly two weeks later, the Soviet Union joined in.

It was the beginning of World War II, and also the beginning of the Holocaust.

This happened 83 years ago. Ever since the end of WW II in 1945 the generations that followed here in Central Europe didn’t have to face war. Especially not a war with the battle technology used in contemporary warfare.

And while the global community is still heavily struggling to deal with the COVID-19 Pandemic, the crisis of Capitalism, not to mention what lies ahead due to climate change, the thought, that really tough times on multiple levels are coming towards us, slowly sinks in.

What has all that to do with icons?

First of all, and even though I am not religious, I hold a certain fascination for religious icons. Secondly, I recently purchased a small icon painted on wood for its aesthetic value (to me), because it seemed that there is more to learn and understand about it, and because I was afraid it might end up God knows where. It is now residing in my home and looking at me every day with a quite serious expression. 🙂 My knowledge about religious icons is still limited but, being a rather intuitive person, the point in time to deal with the topic seemed to be quite right. And it led to the creation of three icons painted with watercolour (as well as ink in one case) on paper in the past two months. In chronological order:

1. Deceptions

The first icon depicts a saint holding a book with the title “A Brief History of Humankind” in its left arm. The fingers on the right hand are spelling “IC XC”. Instead of a human head it shows a “roemer” (a type of wine glass) coming out of its torso.

2. Delusion

The second icon depicts a hooded saint with the head of a rat. Both hands are being held at the height of the chest with open palms. An old-fashioned bomb with burning fuse is positioned in the heart area.

3. Perpetration

The third icon depicts a saint with a head that refers to the “Moscow Kremlin Egg”. The fingers on the right hand are spelling “IC XC”.  The right arm is holding an anti-tank missile.

The development from icon one to three shows a process of compression and concretisation. I might be able (time-wise) to add more information regarding the history behind icon No. 3 in another article at a later date.

In the meantime three questions:
What are our modern icons intend to reflect?
What answers do they provide us with?
What is left of the depiction of the real world?

Inspired by Spring

There have been times when the goings-on in our world have been somewhat more positive. But fear not, human being, it has always been like that. Has it not?! 🙂

Being able to offer a sligthly more cheerful scenery – thanks to being a freelance illustrator/watercolourist – the following images are showing impressions from my current sketchbook as well as a large Watercolour-Mixed-Media-Collage which I have finished today. Enjoy!

Mixed-Media I Sketchbook Drawings
Botanical Inventions
(April 2022)
Mixed-Media I Sketchbook Drawings
The Egg Party
(April 2022)
Mixed-Media I Sketchbook Drawings
(April 2022)
Mixed-Media I Sketchbook Drawings
The Whale, the Badger, and the Sugar Bowl
(April 2022)
Still Life with Eggs
(April 2022)

Travel sketching – Venice & Prague

It’s been a while since my last post. It wasn’t because of idleness – on the contrary: not long ago I’ve finished (well, almost…) my contributions – namely more than 40 watercolour illustrations – for a children’s book on architecture. Hurray! Fortunately, there is a bit of time to put together bits and pieces now, write a little something that shall be dedicated to travelling and sketching.

In October last year, and, just recently, I’ve managed to sneak away by train for a couple of days. Once to Venice on my own, and once to Prague with a dear friend and artist who is very passionate about as well as good at drawing humanoids. In both cases the focus was on exploring: the places, past and presence, oneself in this context, and art in all its facets.

Although painting is a big part of my daily life for a while, I hardly manage to loosely sketch day to day impressions. But it is exactly this loose practise – a process of memorising and (in a way) self-exposing, and even more: the act of doing so in other places, which is very helpful when it comes to expanding your own horizon, and your own capabilities.

The eye for whatever is in front of you, whatever catches your interest, wants to be trained: the process of understanding sites, things, beings, proportions, light situations, textures, structures, colours, and everything else that comes to mind in this regard. In short: the process of capturing and transferring of what is in front of you onto paper. Whether other people are peeking over your shoulder while doing so – with or without commenting on your work, whether it’s hot or cold or whether you are being properly showered by the lovely water of a Venetian canal unexpectedly (the water is salty in case you wanna know…).
But one can of course also choose a lovely sunny day in a secure spot. It’s certainly more convenient, reduces the stress-level, and enables you to work in a more focused manner on your project. 🙂

Travelling somewhere on one’s own is quite helpful for the purpose of looking at and creating art in a rather undisturbed fashion. The act of following your own interests and rhythms makes it a very personal journey in every regard, and that is, naturally, important for your work as an artist.


There are many things I love about Venice: the absence of cars, light and air, its history, its position in the Lagoon, its feminine character, its structure, architecture, and enormous amount of art treasures – just to name a few. The fact that everything is basically within walking distance (or reachable by boat if necessary), is very helpful if one wishes to have a daily art-programme: one can explore the built environment from the outside and inside, and do the sketching “along the way”. All in all, I’ve spent around 10 to 15 minutes for sketching with a fine liner per detail. Only in one case I sat for about two hours in a Café next to a canal. During the evenings, back at the hotel, I added watercolour to the sketches.

Venice, Hesse 2021

Back in Vienna all of the travel impressions slowly merged into something new.


Prague, Hesse 2022

Even though I have spent some time in the Czech Republic over the years, I’ve never managed to visit Prague. So this year, it turned out to be a wish fulfilled for two artists in one sweep. And that despite all the odds: two complex time tables, missing the first train to Prague from Vienna Main Station (shame on me 🙂 ), and trying to check in without a passport (shame not on me 🙂 ).

Due to travelling and exploring the city together, as well as due to the winterly weather conditions, the Prague Sketches had to be done in less time, and the colouring took place on the train ride back to Vienna.

Back in town, and a few days later, the impressions gathered in Prague merged yet again into something new.

Book Illustration I Architecture for kids

I am currently working on illustrating a book in cooperation with the Austrian architect and author Klaus-Jürgen Bauer. It’ll be the first part in a planned series that will guide young audiences through the world of architecture. The first part is due to appear in 2022 at WortWeit publishing company (German only). You can read more on the topic here.

A little bit of sunshine on your walls

Over the years I have painted many a wall and even furniture. I do appreciate the positive impact that a certain colour can have on a room and yourself. However, every other Interior Decorator might be familiar with the phenomenon of a wall colour not remaining quite as long on a wall as one could expect. I guess, it has something to do with creativity and the self progressing further continously. So over time, I turned towards painting fields of colour onto the walls which are otherwise painted white in order to keep the backround neutral wherever it is necessary.
The colour that is on my mind for a while now is yellow. It has a cheerful, uplifting and inspiring impact on me and is visible in all sorts of things I am working on momentarily.

We are slowly moving towards the season I like most during the year: autumn. For its outbursts of yellows, oranges, reds, and different textures in nature. On one side you can see radiant colours of ripe apples, paers, and berries outside, and on the other side also shades of brown or grey, when trees and bushes are sheding their leaves, only leaving a variety of elongated structures for instance. In that process you can see both, a richness, that touches your senses, but also an idea of parting.

When painting walls, it is rather important to keep in mind, that the colour will indeed change a room, but that it might also have an impact on your mood. So when choosing a colour, it is wise to consider the size of the room, its content, and its general brightness beforehand.

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