How did you get started doing what you do?
With a colored pencil, on a wallpapered corner of my grandma’s apartment. I think I was never not making art.
I did not, however, take it seriously until after I had my first child. I stayed home with the baby, which allowed me to play with the idea of art as a viable career option. I started doing commissions, participating in art fairs and connecting with local galleries. I began blogging about my art and created a website, which was instrumental in connecting with other creatives and with collectors.
How would you describe your creative style?
Expressive, but also very much concerned with beauty. Introspective.
What is art to you?
Art is the way I respond to life, and a way I relax, and a way I share what I see with others. It is not, to me, a vehicle for social change or political statements.
What does your typical day look like?
I have a ‘day job’ (in architecture), so right now, my typical weekday is very typical of a working parent: get up, get ready for work, feed the kids, have breakfast, take my 6 year old son to school. Work from 9 am to 6 pm, come home, make and/or have dinner, hang out with the family until the kids go to bed. Have some me-time if I’m lucky between then and my own bedtime.
On weekends, I work on any art projects I have going on, usually commissions, in short stretches of time when nobody’s immediate needs need to be met. Occasionally, I go to a life drawing session or on a plein air paint-out.
How do you keep motivated?
Like any other human, I go through ups and downs when it comes to motivation. Some things that help me pick it up: having deadlines (shows, competitions, etc), and setting concrete parameters for my projects. For example, participating in a monthly Virtual Paintout project gives me a whole month to work on my piece, but it has to be submitted by the end of the month (or else it doesn’t make it to their website/Facebook page). Or committing to a 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge, when I make a small painting every day.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
I think my desire and appreciation of beauty comes from growing up in former USSR, where traditional visual arts were respected and supported. Same goes for my love of old architecture: you can’t help but learn to love it when you are surrounded by it.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“It’s just a piece of paper,” spoken by an old artist mentor, as I was sweating over my drawing of a cast head. It helped me relax and see my work in the context of the creative process, rather than shooting for the perfect end product. And if I mess up, oh well, I’ll get another piece of paper!
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
In this age of ever-present social media, we can’t help comparing ourselves to others, but it rarely helps anything. Remember that your path is no one else’s. The super-successful younger-than-you artistic genius may have their own tragedy to struggle with.
On another note, figure out what you want to be known for. Is it puppy portraits? Large scale abstracts? Delicate etchings of old churches? Melting watches? Figure it out and do it.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I have a feeling it’s a lot more fun than architecture school! At some point in the last several years, I strongly considered pursuing an MFA degree. If not for the practical utility of it, at least for the fun I would absolutely have while working on it. After weighing all the pros and cons, I decided against going to art school. But who knows, maybe it’s still in my future. A permission to devote every hour of your day to art? Yes please.
What’s your dream project?
I have a few, all of them involving travel as the catalyst:
1. Travel (say, along route 1 on the Western Coast of the U.S.) and experience local life/architecture/people along the way. Have a show with the 40-60 paintings produced during the trip. Get the galleries along my route to host a series of showings.
2. Spend a month or two away from home to get a perspective on life as a whole. Produce a series of introspective pieces, my take on the human condition themes.