illustration kubin book

Project in the home straight – almost

The illustrations for the new Wolfgang Kubin book

As mentioned some time ago after the Theodor Storm book I was invited to illustrate another book. This project means a lot to me. On the one hand, it is by Prof. Wolfgang Kubin. (I already introduced him in a previous blog post). On the other hand, because it is a special challenge – in some respects.
What are these challenges? The book has a cumbersome title:  “Das Buch der Zähren.: Swatower Oden, Wiener Elegien” (The Book of Tears. Swatow Odes, Viennese Elegies). Who still knows the term “Zähren” – an utterly outdated term for “tears” from our great-grandparents’ generation.? And Swatow? Who is really familiar with odes and elegies?

When I first started designing the book cover at the beginning of the project, it quickly became clear to me that it should look quite hefty – which initially wasn’t seen as so positive by everyone. But the skepticism soon gave way. However, my illustrations follow these considerations and are also quite “strong”.

What makes this book even more difficult is that the illustrations will be black and white. Since most of my works are in color and lose a lot when they are converted to black and white, the number of works that can be considered is of course smaller. Nevertheless, I have demonstrated more than 50 works that are basically useful. And the publisher is delighted with the choice, which makes everything more enjoyable.

I uploaded 3 formats for review: horizontal, vertical, and details. Using details from images seemed like a viable idea to me. Some look like this.


The first part of the volume is about Swatow, now Shantou (汕头市). Few in the West are familiar with the history of this city, meaning little about the Japanese atrocities during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Accordingly, these odes are somber.

But the second part of the book is about Vienna and that is of course a completely different world.
For this reason alone I didn’t want to use any images that were too illustrative. As before, I wanted to address the general mood of the book and remain vague as to the content.

The author and I have grown quite close over the past year, and since we each value each other’s work, it was particularly important to me to provide good material. Even if the publisher or I ultimately make the choice, everyone involved should of course be happy with it.

Wolfgang Kubin photo
toasting the new project with Wolfgang Kubin

I will choose fewer horizontal images because I fear that if they are greatly reduced in size, they will lose a lot of their appeal.

illustration for Kubin book
Kubin book illustration

And last but not least, 2 examples of a vertical nature.

gestural painting
kubin book illustration

The book is not yet in print but is already being offered as a subscription. BACOPA

Putting it all together was quite a lot of work, but it was fun 🙂


Mozart is not an insider tip for music lovers – who doesn’t know this great composer?. But as far as interpreters are concerned, one can always come across unknown pleasant recordings. Even though I’ve known the pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida for a long time, it’s always a pleasure to hear her Mozart sonatas. If I wanted to paint her music interpretation, it would be a clear, babbling brook in spring. Enjoy!



27 responses to “Project in the home straight – almost”

  1. gary j avatar

    All your work is profound, it speaks all languages, confronts and soothes my eyes. Such a sublime feast for them. Thankyou and bless you Friedrich Zettl, humble greetings from oz.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you Garry, your kind words mean a lot to me as they come from someone who never fails to impress with his fine contributions. I wish you all the best, a lot of joy and artistic success!

  2. janet weight reed avatar

    Good morning, Your illustrations excite me and get to my core – especially the final one…..wonderful. Are you using inks or watercolour?

    I write these words as I listen to the Mozart Senata which always gives me a sense of hope and yes a running stream during a peaceful spring day…..:). Janet.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much Janet for your kind words! I use ink and India ink. However, they are very good, expensive inks and I rub the Chinese ink myself. Here, too, I pay a lot of attention to quality. Since I often work in fine nuances – even if the work seems very expressionistic – the painting materials are very important to me.

  3. Edith avatar

    Mir gefällt die 49 besonders gut- etwas Festhaltendes/Flüchtiges hat es. Und auch zu den Klängen von Bach schaue ich sehr genau deine genialen Gemälde an. Ein Singsang in Schwarz/Weiß.
    Herzlichst ich ❤

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Wiederum ganz herzlichen Dank fuer Deine freundlichen Worte! Ich wuenschte ich faende diese immer, wenn ich Deine herrlichen Gedichte lese! Alles Liebe f

      1. Edith avatar

        Du findest sie! ❤

  4. David Milligan-Croft avatar

    Simply stunning, Friedrich.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      You are very kind, David! Thank you for your support 🙂

  5. swabby429 avatar

    I love the collaboration and agree that the illustrations must be bold. I like these. BTW, thank you for the music link. It was lovely to hear it on the day after Mozart’s birthday.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! I did not realise yesterday was Mozart’s birthday. Somewhat embarrassing as I live in his hometown 😃

  6. Spira avatar

    As I am recently getting acquainted with your amazing creative body of work, I feel I am the last to have a meaningful opinion.
    However, I agree with your approach of portraying details; there are so much hidden and universally evocative in the nuances of each caligraphy brush stroke (apologies for not using the appropriate terms).
    May your collaboration bloom.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! I am glad you like it and your comment is very helpful. All the best!

  7. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    A magnificent treat for eyes and ears!
    My goodness – her circle of fifths. Amazing!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks a lot 🙏 Great to hear both your eyes and ears like what they saw and heard.🌻

  8. Renee Espriu avatar

    Quite the undertaking but something you did enjoy doing…per my estimation. Congratulations are in order to both the author and the illustrator.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! A bit difficult, yes, but that’s the appeal of it. And there is satisfaction when it all works out quite well in the end.

  9. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    A “Book of Tears” demands strong and sombre, yet uplifting, illustrations. The samples you’ve shared are a perfect companion to the written content. An excellent collaboration!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Let’s see how the printed book looks. There is a chance it will be all ok.

  10. Sue Grey-Smith avatar

    Congratulations! Your illustrations are very dramatic and strong and engaging – and work so well in black and white!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Some work in black and white, some not. Each small mistake with brushwork shows up clearly 🙁

  11. Ashley avatar

    Dramatic, and requiring the viewer to engage! Excellent! 🙋‍♂️

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, Ashley! I am very happy to hear. I often don’t know how others see it, so feedback helps me a lot – even if it’s critical.

  12. rabirius avatar

    Fantastic images.
    There is so much you can do in black and white and greys and it looks just stunning!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much! I am happy to hear 🙂

  13. Klausbernd avatar

    We like these bold images. Thanks for sharing. We love your black-and-white art.
    In the picture where you are toasting who is who?
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! I am the guy at the right side. We were toasting at the chin. Embassadors residence. He unfortunately retried now.

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