For artist Britta Reinhardt, everything quickly becomes very colorful. Her philosophy: to bring joy to yourself and to other people. She does this with large-format paintings of penguins and zebras in bright colors. We met the talented painter in the Zeha Store in Berlin-Kreuzberg, where she tried on the new Marathons in bright green. “I saw the green shoes on Instagram and immediately thought, I have to have them,” Britta said about her first pair of Zeha sneakers. The 48-year-old is wearing jeans full of brightly colored spots from the brushes and is in a good mood. She doesn’t differentiate between clothes for painting and for leisure time, as she explains, “When I paint, I have to wear what feels good. Why not good shoes too?” She discovered Zeha shoes at the store in Schöneberg, which the native of Rhineland has been walking past every day since she moved to Berlin in 1992. “Two of my former friends were regular customers there and they told me that if you have them on, you won’t want to take them off.”
From mosaic work in Morocco to studying painting in Berlin
The fact that Britta Reinhardt paints such large pieces today (some are up to 12 meters long) also has to do with her time in Paris. As a 16-year-old she did an internship in a studio that made huge movie posters. There it became clear to her: “I definitely want to paint, and paint big,” she recalls. But even before that, she always liked to paint and loved to be creative. She painted everything she could. Immediately after graduating from high school, Britta went to Morocco, where she spent a lot of time in her childhood thanks to her father, who had discovered the country for himself by car in the late 1970s. The traditional stucco and mosaic work there fascinated her so much that she really wanted to learn the craft. But since the traditional Islamic craft is not typically passed on to Europeans, especially not to a woman, as she says, Britta had to return to Europe after a year and a half and she finally ended up in Berlin. “I fell totally in love with Berlin,” she says. “At first I thought I had to do something decent and sensible here, so I studied and completed social education.” But she couldn’t let go of the desire to paint and so she applied at the Freie Kunsthochschule (which no longer exists) and finally studied painting there. This was the beginning of her artistic career.
Success through intuition
Penguins have been her main subject from the start. “There is a very simple story,” Britta begins. It all started with the fact that they had to look for a motif during their studies in order to depict the topic, “From figurative to abstract”, which was not so easy for her. In the end, her lecturer advised her to “just get started, even if it’s penguins,” and because a group of penguins was on the cover of a magazine, the motif was clear. Britta began to play with colors and to paint bigger and bigger pictures. The people around her liked the colorful paintings so much that she sold some works at university, which did not please the lecturers. For most of them it was always “too colorful, too big, too decorative”. “The bad thing is that I didn’t have the confidence back then. Some of them made me feel really small,” recalls Britta. “I then withdrew a bit, but quickly realized that’s not who I am.” For her, it was clear: “The more colorful, the bigger the better “. “I do what I enjoy. I always had the courage to follow my intuition. And that is ultimately how I am successful.” Offers, orders and buyers came naturally. After she made paintings for a furniture store, they asked for a second piece, but they didn’t want more penguins in the store, so Britta spontaneously decided, “I can do zebras too” — and her second motif was born. At some point she began to combine penguins and zebras with ornaments from Morocco. “And that’s still the case today,” she says. “That might sound a bit simplistic, but when I stand in front of a painting that is 4 by 4 meters wide, I don’t see any zebras, only the open areas. And sometimes it starts out figuratively and then becomes very abstract. I play with it.” Painting every day is a matter of course for the passionate painter, and she doesn’t experience any creative blockages. Only the colors are important to her. “I really like color. It can’t be too beige,” she says and laughs. Immediately after our conversation, Britta goes to Neukölln to paint. Here the new Xelor Jazz Bar is being built in a huge location, for which she creates gigantic paintings. “I’m never afraid of big screens. I’m just looking forward to getting started right away,” she says, and although she works on a 6 meter high scaffold despite her fear of heights, “Should I drive myself crazy now?” she asks before she leaves wearing her green Marathons. Photos by Britta Reinhardt