Crop of Day 11 #watercolourconversation by Amanda Billing


I really love research.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being an artist and acting is fun, but finding out about stuff is my JAM. If I could be a researcher for a job, I would clasp that work close to my chest. Until that happens (are you listening, cosmos?), looks like I’ll be here googling things, loaning more books than I can read from the library, and writing stuff on the internet.

The subject of this blog is THE KISS. Which kiss? Klimt's Kiss.

Why? Because I’m sweet on someone so I think about hugging & kissing quite a lot. Because the 100 Day Project starts again soon and I’m wrestling with whether to do it (more on that in the next blog). And because Valentine’s Day is coming so I’m here to remind you (you’re welcome) and wave a little something I prepared earlier under your nose: gift=solved (you are also welcome).

This little something is the most-loved illustration from my 100 Day Project last year. The project consisted of abstract, expressive little watercolour paintings: 

Amanda Billing's 2020 100 Day Project - the raw paintings


Once they were dry, I’d photograph them and draw “on” them digitally. For the most part, the illustrations were made with the help of followers of the project on Instagram. They made suggestions based on what they could “see” in each day’s painting, sometimes sending me very helpful marked-up screenshots. If I had time and if the painting had lots of responses, I’d make two or three different pictures.

I’d chosen this project because for years I’d been avoiding drawing. Unfinished business and a brand new iPad were about to make Mandy a very busy girl.

2020 had started off a little bumpy but my January welcome email to new subscribers had been upbeat. At my parents’ place on a snoozy Summer morning, I tapped away at my computer, blissfully unaware of the tidal wave of change approaching. Three months later I found myself completely rewriting it, replacing the “I’ve got a good feeling about 2020 etc” message with: 

“Wow. How’s everyone doing in lockdown?”

New Zealand had gone into full, can’t-leave-the-house-except-for-walks seclusion on March 25th. The 100 Day Project started just under two weeks later and that timing turned out to be a god-send. I’d paint in the morning, post a photo in my Story by dinner time, and spend the evening drawing what people saw. I called the project #watercolourconversation to reflect this connection. I spent Lockdown Level 4 alone apart from Zoom and House Party. I don’t know what state I’d be in now if I hadn’t had that project. It gave me a job. It gave me team-mates. It kept me healthy and sane.

Cat Lady by Amanda Billing - part of her 2020 100 Day Project


On the 17th of April I’d painted something that turned out to be quite “good”: there were fun shapes and nice colours. As usual, I posted the painting (above) in a couple of different orientations and had fun drawing over the top. One orientation made me stop though: I looked at it with my artist eyes. Artist Eyes is a thing I do (and I’m just realising this as I’m typing FYI, this is not #science) where I relax my focus while I look at my work. The whole work. It’s almost like sensing rather than looking. Watching and waiting. There’s a question in it: what is this? And another: what next?

“Flip the image over.”


“Seriously, flip it.”

Pause. Photoshop Express. Crop-Rotate-Flip.

See? It’s The Kiss.”


“That shape there, at the top, looks like them. That shape is her face. This is her gown. That part is his body. It works. It’s The Kiss.”

Why did I know this? Because I have looked at photos of that painting a thousand times. I have an average memory for names and dates but I can trace the shapes and colours in that painting with my eyes closed. It is tattooed on my mind. I love Gustav Klimt. My heart clenches when I think about how long it might be before I can go to Vienna to see it in person. I love that painting. So do millions of other people. Google even turned it into a doodle in 2012.

google doodle from Klimt's The Kiss 2012


I’ve looked up the most romantic paintings of all time (worth doing if you’re that way inclined) and The Kiss is always on the list. It’s not just that it’s literally golden. It’s not just that it’s beautifully coloured. It’s not just that it was painted by an artist at the height of his powers. This is what the Belvedere, where Der Kuss (Liebespaar) 1907/08 is on permanent display, says about it:

“In this early-twentieth-[century] work, Klimt was making a general allegorical statement about love being at the heart of human existence. The fact that the painting still retains its immediacy and emotional impact is a testimony to the artist’s extraordinary achievement.”

The next day I didn’t paint or post anything. I took my stylus and drew my favourite painting. Flipping back and forth between Fresco and a photograph I found on the internet, I started adding colour. Ruby red and gold. It looked...pretty. Once I was happy, I saved it, posted it, and waited.

As I scroll through the comments now, I see how much people enjoyed this little drawing. Lots of “love love love this”. Most precious of all, there’s a comment from my friend Emily, taken from us far too soon: “Ugh I accidentally saw The Kiss last year in the flesh and stood in front of it like this: 😮 .” I would too, Em. I would too. Love is at the heart of our human existence. And so is passion. For me, this painting is erotic. This embrace is not chaste; there is more than Happy Valentine's, dear going on here. They are out of time. Cosmic. Close together in the Elysian Field. 

The Kiss (Lovers) or Der Kuss (Liebespaar), 1907/08, Gustav Klimt


My website was just a twinkle in my Artist Eye on April the 18th, 2020. If I’d been able to print copies of the drawing (the printers were closed) and if I’d been able to sell them (I hadn’t done my research about printers yet), I would have. We had another month of staying home ahead of us. Still, I was happy it could blow gently through my friends’ instagram feed as the leaves turned golden too.

As I type this, it’s late January 2021. Mid-summer. My working life feels a little unstable and I’m finding it hard to know what to “quit” to make things steadier, simpler. But these are some good things I know: I’ve finally made a website and (thanks to research - woohoo RESEARCH) I found a printer literally around the corner who’s now part of my team. I have finally closed the gap between making and sharing. When I get quiet, I can feel the pulse of potential.

Amanda Billing's The Kiss (2020)

I love beginnings as much as research (but that’s definitely another blog), SO:

Will I kiss him? If he asks me nicely.

Will I do the 100 Day Project again? Maybe.

Did I just write an ad for something you should totally give your loved one OR YOURSELF on Valentine’s Day? YOU BET I DID.

You can find my drawing of The Kiss hereTo receive it in time for Valentine’s Day - which is a SUNDAY guys, don’t get caught napping - you (or the person you forward this link to 😘 ) need to order it by THURSDAY the 4th of Feb. That gives the printers time to make them and gives me the time to send them.

The Kiss will always be available on demand, though, so for those of you who don’t dig Valentine’s Day, you can give it to your lover any time you like 😏  . And hey, if I do end up doing the 100 Day Project, there’ll even more drawings to choose from.

Ich liebe dich über alles,


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