or at least with a little more detail...
my name is Petra, and, according to my current passport, I'm German. I'm almost always on time, can be organized, meticulous and efficient, if I want to, quite often I don't, and I will most likely strike you as somewhat reserved if we meet for the first time in a very public setting. I think unapproachable is the word I get most often.
why am I starting my about me like this, you ask? instead of with a list of whimsically listed adjectives that make me look successful, humble and woke at the same time? preferably with an alliteration! like improbably inexperienced and ill-informed illustrator? grotesquely garrulous and grandiloquent graphic designer? crazy cat lady, book worm, sun worshipper, dreamer, daughter, dad! or simply with a list of honours, awards, solo exhibitions and interviews?
because it's the truth.
there is a good chance you will think me a little stand-offish and aloof the first time we meet.
and because we judge books by their covers. even if we claim we don't. and because first impressions matter. even though they are often wrong. and because I'd rather be upfront about this and get ahead of the situation, let's not call it a problem, than constantly try to make up for it after the fact.
so, you will think 'who's that snooty cow standing in the corner?’, because that's most likely where I'm going to be, and I won't blame you. I've seen pictures of me in situations where I'm slightly uncomfortable. I know what I look like.
the thing is, I'm actually quite nice. not necessarily a lot nicer than the majority of people you know already. well, maybe a little. definitely not incredibly warm and fuzzy (remember, I am German, and being emotionally effusive doesn't get us any extra points). but, you know, I'm nice enough (depending a little on your expectations and the kind of day I will have had).
my brain just permanently has too many tabs open. with another one opening for every new person, sound, smell or sight making an appearance. the joys of being an – admittedly extroverted – introvert somewhere to the left, or right, I don't remember which way it goes, of the highly sensitive spectrum. I spend so much mental energy on analysing and filing away every morsel of sensory input that I sometimes have none left to smile or make small talk. that's all it is. trust me, it's more uncomfortable (exhausting!) for me than it is for you. and no, I can’t just turn this off and smile more ...
so, I'm an East West German, seemingly stand-offish but secretly and on good days very agreeable graphic artist and writer. I think these are the labels I'm currently using. in that order. because it's not as straightforward as it may seem to make up my mind about what or who I am.
I studied literature and linguistics in Berlin, and even though I never published anything (online doesn't count, I'm old-fashioned in this respect) and have absolutely no desire to do so, I am a writer.
I write therefore I am. period
graphic artist is a bit of a compromise. I'd be totally ok with calling myself an illustrator, but every time I do that, some well-meaning friend gets all upset, saying ‘but you're an artist. don't undersell yourself!’
and because I've been saying the same things to countless friends, especially women, for countless years, and because I mean it, I change illustrator back to artist. we got to own this, right!? then I read 'Petra Zehner, artist and writer’ somewhere, and I instantly, and silently, freak out somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind... what were you thinking? who do think you are?
and I change everything back to alternatively visual artist, so as not to be mistaken for say a culinary artist, duh, or graphic artist, which is what overly ambitious graphic designers used to call themselves, and I am a graphic designer by training, but please, who wants to be an overly ambitious anything? not me! so maybe I should change things back to...
you see where this is going, I guess...
my name is Petra, and I'm an East West German, seemingly stand-offish but secretly and on good days agreeable (quite nice actually) illustrator, graphic and/or visual artist (you choose) and writer who tends to overthink everything and likes to put her mental diarrhoea into as many words as she can get away with. I have a thing for both sarcasm and cynicism, the quality I appreciate most in a man, anyone really, is a sense for self-deprecating humour, and I'm a firm believer in the concept of constructive pessimism.
I know I should say things like I am a talented, ambitious and hardworking individual, with broad skills and experience in digital and printed design, social media and leading projects. furthermore, I am adept at handling multiple tasks on a daily basis competently and at working well under pressure. a key strength is communication; building strong relationships with people in order to deliver the best results instead. but I just can't, and don't want to, I also just did, and if you are 850 words into my about page, you probably don't mind. I figure at this point, I can say whatever I want, so I will.
I should tell you a little about all the countries and places I lived and all the travelling I've done, and how all of this made me the person and artist I am today, my artistic influences, the why and how and who. collage? like kids at school? yes, like kids at school... and where I'd like to take all of this. but I won't. I'm afraid I can't fit this (myself) into a reasonable number of words at the moment. so, I'll tell you elsewhere. later. maybe.
I should also tell you about Paris Collage Collective, because I'm very proud of it, and working on it takes up most of my time. at times. but this too will happen elsewhere. later.
so, to finish things up, for now... my name is Petra, I am an East West German visual (and sometimes culinary) artist, writer and the founder and creative director of Paris Collage Collective currently based in, where else, Paris. I am open to collaborations and available for all types of editorial illustrations projects, print or online, on/off or long-term.
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