Thursday, November 20, 2014

DPW Spotlight Interview: Katya Minkina

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Katya's painting, "Salt Creek" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Katya's DPW Gallery page:

I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. I drew and painted throughout my childhood and mid teen years until I abruptly changed the course to pursue higher studies in linguistics. What started as a temporary break from painting stretched into long ten years.

It was not until I moved to Seattle in 2008 (after five years in South India where I taught French in an international school), that the absolute need to draw and paint finally caught up with me. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

At the age of seven, I started attending an art school for children in Moscow, Russia, where I studied drawing and painting for about eight years. It was a long-term commitment which pretty much defined my childhood. But then I turned fifteen and...

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

...And I was very dissatisfied with the rate of progress I was making in my painting class. I diagnosed myself with mediocrity and quit my art school unrepentantly in the middle of the school year. I thought I would take a little break, but it stretched into thirteen long years. Around 2008-2009, the urge to steer my life back to art was getting stronger and stronger. I had just moved to Seattle then, and my slow artistic recovery began with the life drawing studio at Gage Academy of Art. Over time, drawing turned into a necessity, it gave me a very clear feeling of doing the right thing. My heart was in it completely, even though it sometimes hurt to see what a long break had done to my skills.

Salt Creek
(click to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Katya's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

When growing up, I was working mostly in gouache and pencil. Those were the preferred training media in my art school. Fast-forward to 2009, and I started figure drawing with the safest and most unassuming pencil. I tried my best to stay in the comfort zone as long as possible until an artist friend in the studio literally forced a piece of charcoal into my hands... then I stuck with charcoal just as fiercely until taking up painting became inevitable. A transition to a new medium always meets with a lot of resistance and discomfort until it is just completely unavoidable. Oil has been the most enjoyable discovery so far, and I had put it off the longest, starting on it only last spring.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

From what my art journey resembles so far, I've been exploring media in a spiral. I take up a new medium, work with it and then move on to something else. At any given point of time, there is one that takes over. With every new loop of the spiral, I discover new interesting qualities of a medium. Right now it's oil. A prolonged exposure to one medium influences the way I handle the next one. It's interesting to see the overlapping that happens.

Master Class with Van Gogh
(click to see original image)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

As much as I enjoy painting, I have a very strong pull towards graphics. I am intrigued by the challenges of composition, movement, depth and volume in a black-and-white medium, when I have to compensate for the absence of color by the expressiveness in other areas. I love to see what other skilled artists can do with a simple pencil, pen, or dry brush with ink.

Who or what inspires you most?

I am constantly on the lookout for inspiring drawings and paintings. I have discovered a wealth of talented contemporary artists in the US and abroad whose artistic paths speak to me. I love different aspects of the work of Catherine Kehoe, Alex Kanevsky, Jon Redmond, Diarmuid Kelley, Hollis Dunlap, William Wray, Jennifer McChristian, to mention very-very few! I was recently lucky to visit some of the best and biggest museums in the US, and being able to observe some great master paintings from close and savor the texture; the brushwork was a priceless experience.

Unrelated to the actual painting inspirations, my artistic journey is fueled and illuminated by the support and unexpected gifts of kindness from others. I was recently offered a spot in a plein air workshop which I would not have been able to afford otherwise. The gift came from one of my collectors, a tireless and dedicated organizer of a wonderful annual plein air event in Port Angeles called Paint the Peninsula.

Adopt 44
(click to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you?

I used to be more prone to procrastination when I was expecting to churn out 'masterpieces' and naturally failed to live up to it. I feel now that this 'all or nothing' mindset was amateurish. I treat art practice as a slow cumulative growth comprised of a myriad of small efforts. I make sure I sketch on days when I don't paint. Even if a particular drawing or painting session doesn't seem to be going anywhere, it's a way to stay in touch with the process and power through uninspired days.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I am a full-time artist, so a solid art routine is of paramount importance. It takes discipline and motivation because you are only answerable to yourself. No one will 'scold' you or 'fire' you if you don't show up to work. As much as it is liberating, it's a big responsibility. It really helps to have a designated space for work where everything is ready and set up for painting.

Busker on Break
(click to see original image)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Since my primary concern in painting lies more in the 'how' rather than the 'what', I think any genre can be handled interestingly with paint. I explore a certain theme in a series, be it still life or a sketching project or portraits. I try not to block myself with waiting for the great complex idea... This was why I was drawn to the daily painting movement in the first place. As long as I paint, explore the palette, and learn to use brushstrokes effectively, I am sure life will supply me with the subject. I believe that in the course of abundant painting, the interest in a certain narrower theme will crystallize as part of the natural process.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

The first brushstrokes are usually the most energizing , and every painting has the very best beginning while it's unrestrained and fluid. I strive to preserve the good parts but with every choice of brushstroke, the painting solidifies and tightens. Then there comes the dreaded moment when I realize I am just beating a dead horse. Cosmetic touch-ups just don't bring the painting back. It is always a very difficult decision to let go of the many hours of work and make some radical changes to breathe life back into the work. It is almost funny to me, after all the battles I fight on my own while painting, going from exhilaration to the depths of despair and back to triumph, losing and finding the right strokes, when I step out of the studio only to see the world just keeps turning like nothing has happened.

500 Faces 107
(click to see original image)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

These past few years have marked the steepest learning curve in my entire life so far. I used to cringe thinking of art as 'business' before, and I still don't treat my work as a commodity even though I paint for a living. However, it is 'business' in the sense that there is more to the art practice than just painting in the studio: it means marketing, professional ethics, professional behavior, having the work organized and well-presented, looking for exposure opportunities, etc.

I have been learning a lot in the studio as well. My main challenge is to use more efficient brushstrokes, working with bigger brushes, filtering the information, deciding on what's relevant and what can be left out. Also, allowing myself to use good quality, professional-grade materials and art supplies, which are sometimes really expensive. It took a lot of time to accept that my work is worth it, it's not negotiable.

Another aspect of art practice that I am learning is patience. Like any other life pursuit, it is a character-building process. It starts with a leap of faith, but it needs daily fuel that might not always come from external validation. You have to grow and stretch your soul to find the internal motivation and sustain yourself emotionally through the many frustrations.

What makes you happiest about your art?

Being able to witness my own growth. Living a life that is so personal. Having a daily routine where my efforts are arranged around what I love doing the most. Knowing I am doing the right thing. Painting plein air when I have a chance, observing the change of light, the life and movement of natural elements. Finding supporters of my work, connecting with like-minded artists, making sales that nourish the hope. I can't overestimate the importance of all the grains of sincere encouragement that I encounter on the way.

Thank you for the opportunity to showcase my work on this really supportive and inspiring platform that is Daily Paintworks!

Thanks, Katya!

© 2014 Sophie Catalina Marine Cruse

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