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From formulas to forms

Krys Robertson made her first academic steps at Chemnitz University, today she works as freelance artist – a story about reaching your vocation with some detours

(Note: Translated shorter version of the original article)

That it was the right decision to work as freelance artist realized Krys Robertson after the birth of her son: “When I had my child I realized, that now after giving birth, I had fulfilled my biological purpose. I could die now. And I asked myself if I wanted to carry things on like that and I thought ‘now or never’.” Her motivation: “I didn’t want to read on my tombstone ‘She had potential’. The 40-year old successfully paints landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, nude drawings, still life, and family scenes in the style of painters from the 18th and 19th century. But until she found her real vocation it was a long way – and it led her across the globe.

Around the world for Chemnitz University

Robertson grew up in the contemplative city district Pachum in Schwerin. After her A-Levels she went to Orlando/Florida to work as cultural representative in Disney World – in a dirndl. In 1996, Robertson started her business administration studies at Chemnitz University. In retrospective view a rational motivation: “I studied business administration because I had no clue what to do aside from art and that was a no-go for my parents.”

Although her studies were not her favorite, she learned to appreciate the student life at Chemnitz University: “Chemnitz University was a safe place. The small size of the university wouldn’t let you disappear. For a public university this was more or less cozy.” She likes to think back on her time in Chemnitz, a carefree time with no responsibilities. A time she found friends fast. But soon her study life caught up with her: “Regarding my studies I fell flat on my face first. During school times I never had to work hard for good grades – they fell into my lap.” But that was different at university. She also remembers funny encounters: “It was hilarious when my Saxon colleague asked me, if ‘Skonto’ (German word for cash discount) was written with a hard or soft ‘d’. “

Looking for the right decision in the matter of study

After her basic studies in business administration, Robertson moved to the University Witten/Herdecke for her postgraduate studies in economy. “I had doubts about my choice of study already in Chemnitz. Thus, in retrospect, I had a cosmetic compensation to get rid of this feeling. But instead of a clean cut, I was not yet ready for that, I chose a university for my post-doc that imposed art, philosophy, and technology courses on each course of study. So I regarded masonry and figure drawing despite economy being my course of study as my most important courses. There I should have known.” Against her doubts Robertson finished her degree in economy.

The various contacts to artists and the encouragement she received helped her to decide after the birth of her son, that she wanted to live a life as freelance artist.

Internal bond to the own work

And here we’ve come full circle: finally, the artist felt a connection to her work, which she missed while working as management consultant: “A good painting is just a delight. Comfort. Pleasure. A string played inside your body. Maybe art is one of those unconscious and vain tries to outwit death and to create something like a little eternity.” The artist uses the plein-air (outdoors) style without sketches.

With regard to her art of painting, the studies didn’t help a lot. But it gave her contact to people and skills to help her survive in this challenging job: “As an artist you don’t have to study art to become good. That is up to everyone himself. But many people and authorities value the fact, that someone else put a quality stamp on your work. And very often a degree is some kind of admission criteria to exhibitions, organizations, even for health insurance.”

Note: Doubting your choice of study?

The Central Course Guidance Service counsels students individually on study courses offers and possibilities to change the course of study at Chemnitz University. Please make an appointment beforehand. Call +49 371 531 55555 or send an email to

(Author: Nina Schreyer/Translation: Alissa Hölzel)

Matthias Fejes

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