Friday, April 4, 2014


I’m Russian soul without its country,
I’m an American without its soul.
I know that my youth is gone
And now I can only remember.

I remember when I was young
And everything seemed to be achievable.
Every day was there for me to live and I didn’t care how many I had.
I’ve been waiting for happiness to arrive
But only now I understand it was then.

I wasn't aware of myself. I lived unaware of the world.
It was the time of many hopes
And I was waiting for something great to happen;
When I walked the streets of New York and saw myself in stores’ reflections.
I carried canvas and books. I believed in miracles.

I didn’t know I was pretty and
Actions of others made no sense to me.
My reactions were involuntary and  
I had my needs half-met.
I wanted to be loved so badly…

I lived without clear purpose or direction
But I felt like everything was possible.
I wanted to touch and feel
Something that remained unattainable.

I modestly dreamed of success. I wanted to discover a gift.
Nobody understood me and I cared too much to fit in.
It was then when aspirations ran high.

And I was getting asleep, anxiously waiting for it to happen tomorrow…

Mirror, 8x10", oil on gilded panel, aluminum leaf

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to set up a still life for drawing/painting

If your true goal is to draw and paint realistically, get used to working from life. Pictures distort reality. We respond to information in front of us very differently as opposed to painting from pictures. (It’s getting easier to paint from pictures when there is enough knowledge and practice set in place by painting from life).
To set up your still life, make a shadow-box (see the pic.). The color of your background can be changed at any time by placing fabric, colored carton, or any other elements behind the objects. Place a direct light source (lamp) next to the shadow-box and play with the light looking at cast shadows and highlights on objects. To begin, dramatically lit still lives are easier to paint as opposed to subtle variations of color and tone. It’s also easy to control the light by placing objects inside the shadow-box.

If you have none and you are itching to draw like now, make a set up with simplified background space that cuts off all unnecessary information surrounding your still life. Here a small box is covered with fabric to prop the starfish.

Painting looks real when an artist has strong drawing skills. Drawing is essential to understanding perspective, proportions, scale and so on. Take a piece of sketch paper of the same size your canvas is and work on the outline with a pencil. When the outline looks correct, transfer the outline onto canvas using transfer paper and a pen.
Here two images show this process.
Creating the underpainting:
Mix your value scale (white+ black+ a touch of brown) with a palette knife. Paint in black-white only, paying attention to tones (values). Each color has its own value scale. This step helps recognize and interpret colors into values.
I normally have 2 layers of underpainting in my pieces. Each layer must be dry completely before proceeding to the next. Here the image shows the first pass of black and white colors.

Now paint in color. Here the image has 2-3 layers of color. Textures are added in the last layer. After a gazillion of hours spent on it, it's done! Let it dry for 6-12 months before varnishing your oil painting. VoilĂ !

Starfish, 8x10 inches, oil on archival panel

Creative Techniques in Colored Pencil, Graphite, and Oil Painting: Step-by-Step Projects for Teens and Adults  art book:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Hunt" movie review

Absence of hairstyles and high fashion, simplicity of everyday living, undone faces, and (a rather shitty) gloomy weather describe closely-tied rural community of Denmark. The Hunt is a low-budget movie that carries a heavy story line. 
After a messy divorce, a kindergarten teacher ( Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself in the middle of uninvited and spinning out of control drama, where the entire small community rejects the honest man who is wrongly accused of molesting a child. The movie explores emotional drama of the teacher-Lucas, who suddenly faces rejection, beatings, and solitude coming from all the people and friends he has known for many years before. The film shows how the man suffers quietly, standing up for his dignity refusing to admit the wrongdoing, while his teenage son gets caught up in the middle of escalating conflict as well. The unclear ending suggests a dilemma to viewers: Lucas can't stay in his community.
Otherwise boring camera work is good focusing on actors' faces including the little girl-Klara, who has set the commotion in the first place. 2012 movie has won many European awards including best actor at Cannes film festival, and it is nominated for 2014 Oscars in the foreign language film category. Although I doubt it wins, the Hunt is a definite must see for thoughtful plot, exceptional performances, and authentic setting. The power of human emotions will leave you crying only to understand how judgmental we can become following rumors and opinions of others.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Basic papers for colored pencil drawing

I'm often asked what papers to buy for colored pencil drawing. As a rule, it's very hard to draw on textured surface, so artists really should pick professional paper that is smooth to the touch.
Here are a few links to inexpensive, yet great paper to try.
- Strathmore Bristol smooth paper

- Stonehenge papers (both white and color papers)

-Canson Mi-Teintes drawing papers are sold in 19x25 sheets. Note that this paper is great for pastels (rough side) but its other (smooth) side is great for colored pencil work.

I draw on color papers most of the time now. They offer much quicker block-in of colors with colored pencils "reacting" to color surface in unusual, new color combinations. The color of paper itself shouldn't be chosen based on the image's main color scheme, rather it's the opposite of the expected in my drawings.

For instance the drawing below was done on Mi-Teintes pastel paper(beige hue), which gave the overall warmth to my picture.

yellow rose, photo with permission of T.Kiya.
To learn more about papers, colored pencils, and drawing of flowers and other subjects, browse my books:

French icons-Coco Chanel and Edith Piaf, movie reviews

Coco Chanel and Edith Piaf
As I wanted to learn visually about life of two iconic women of the early 20th century-the fashion icon Chanel and famed singer-Edith Piaf, I’ve decided to travel through history watching three foreign language films-La Vie en Rose, 2007, Coco before Chanel, 2009, and Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, 2009. All three French movies offer a different take on conveying a story through not so Hollywood actors and a different aesthetic.
A difficult task was to see how truly difficult and even tragic life was for women in the early 20th century France. Living on the streets of Paris in overwhelming poverty, women were subjects to prostitution, alcoholism, discrimination, and hard labor. Life was short, especially for children. The First World War and then the Second World War made that hard life a hundred times harder. Yet, the spirit of Love seamed to guide and patch up the heroines just like people around them.
La Vie en Rose (Life in Pink) flashes out different moments in Edith Piaf’s life that get interconnected somehow to her experiences as a child, teenager, and adult. Transformation and acting of the actress are remarkable throughout the movie. Her never ending suffering and everlasting love for music are mutually inclusive in her tragic life, like a see-saw constantly going off balance. I think the movie becomes more interesting when viewers can actually understand and appreciate her songs that are often literal descriptions of her difficult life, hope, and love.  
Although Coco Before Chanel lacks the creativity of cinematography, the movie paints a vivid picture of the early life of the designer before she actually becomes famous-her upbringing in neglect and poverty, her life in orphanage, her short singing career in bars, and her lovers. Chanel’s role is played by Audrey Tautou who is boyish, soft-spoken, submissive, warm-hearted and quiet, which sharply contrasts the character depicted in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.  In this film we see the icon (Anna Mouglalis) who is famed, confident, original, beautiful, and goal-driven independent woman. She is the sponsor of emerging artists, one of which becomes cash-strapped Russian composer-Igor Stravinsky. As she invites him, his wife, and 4 children to stay and work in her chateau, the musician and Chanel begin an affair that eventually breaks Stravinsky’s family apart. This movie features beautiful costumes and fashion of the 1920s with cinematography as fascinating as Coco’s work and romance.
Both Coco Chanel and Edith Piaf were successful and famous during their lifetime. Both women rose to prominence due to their incredible talents. Both women got nicknames. (Gabrielle Channel became “Coco” for singing one of the songs with this name; and Edith Piaf got her last name from one of her financiers meaning “baby bird”). Both women experienced staggering poverty and deprivation early in life as children and adults. Both women had male supporters that were instrumental to their successful careers. Both women had lovers that they lost in accidents. Both suffered from a broken heart. Both were driven by their gifts. Both were Artists. Both were individuals. Both made a choice to be single (although Piaf was briefly married at the end of her life).
While life of Chanel took off rather quickly after a liaison with the baron Balsan who introduces her to high society, she is soon backed up financially by her true love- English businessman Arthur Capel who helps her to open up her first shop around 1910. Believing in her vision, “Boy” Capel gives her the platform to catapult her career. Coco Chanel revolutionizes women’s clothing getting rid of uncomfortable corsets and over the top dresses. Comfort in style with elements of men’s wear becomes her trademark. Chanel develops distinctive, dresses with simple, clean lines and makes it fashionable to wear multiple strings of pearls, little black dresses, fitted skirts, comfortable hats, and collarless jackets made of warm, soft fabric.  She becomes the first woman to put her name on fragrance-Chanel #5.

 Edith Piaf’s life was filled with tragedy despite her successful career. An extremely difficult childhood, the absence of role model, a broken heart, wrong accusations, societal judgment, and an illness seemed to haunt the singer who due to her arthritis becomes morphine dependent and dies as a very old woman at the age of just 47.

PS I'm posting a few quotes by Chanel that I found on the Internet. :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014


It is said that time cures everything. That pain disappears and we become healed, moving on with our lives. It's not the time that really heals us, however. It's our spirit that does the job. I believe that's the reason why some wounds never heal. There is no genuine healing if we are unable to overcome our unique behavioral patterns (set deep within us by our family, experiences, and environment we were in earlier in life).
Although it's very difficult to break established patterns on your own (a pro psychologist will do just that), it is possible to recognize your preset behavioral patterns. It happens when you start seeing similar or even the same emotional reactions you experience caused by related situations or particular people in your life. This is when you lose control over yourself and become filled with negative emotions. Simply put, those particular people and particular situations tip you off balance triggering painful feelings, pushing the same buttons... which lead to disappointment, frustration, and hurt. These are the moments when you are accused of having "thin skin" or "lack of patience” on your part. How do you overcome such moments or people without ruining your own sense of self-worth, truly remaining untouched by their comments and conduct? You slowly begin to develop your sense of self-respect inside yourself, where uninvited opinions of others are becoming just their opinions with no true value to your soul and development. This transformation leads to self-acceptance.
Understanding of your unique behavioral patterns not only leads to acceptance of yourself but also to understanding and acceptance of others. Suddenly, actions and reactions of others (even not the most graceful ones) begin to make sense. (Anger is a secondary passing emotion, a cover up of the original feeling-hurt, for example). Suddenly there is understanding that difficult people come to your life for a reason and are there to teach you a lesson. One of which is by the way, showing you how not to behave or not to offend others. Suddenly because of your self-acceptance you grow thicker skin and begin to withstand the blows that used to make deep emotional wounds. Suddenly, you stop worrying what others think of you or tell you what to do. Suddenly your social anxiety faints considerably because the opinions of others are just their opinions and don't subtract from you valuing yourself as a person. Suddenly you reclaim your freedom...

Have you noticed that we tend to spot problems of others, yet we are unable to either recognize or get rid of our own psychological patterns that keep holding us back and limit our spiritual growth? First thing we admit that we don't want to change. Yet, change is the nature of things. For instance, we do change our lifestyle, jobs, hobbies, and even home decor. We can quit smoking or begin studying a foreign language. We age, changing on the outside as well. Nothing is permanent. Everything is in the state of flux. So if we are able to change little bits of our everyday existence, we are able to tackle bigger issues as well. Change is the reason why we can grow spiritually, although most of our personal make-up still remains the same.
Judgment. 9x12,colored pencil

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Like two distant planets we co-exist. Like two black gondolas we strive. Like morning and evening we live. Reason supports my body; emotions power my heart. We struggle and we attempt. We venture and we fail. We love and we suffer.  
My emotions and mind co-exist. Like two distant planets they live. Like day and night they torture and nurture me. I’m filling my mind by day; I’m feeling my heart by night. Dear mind, leave me along. Dear heart, stop bothering me.
Like two black gondolas we strive. My art and I we live. My art and I we love. My art and I we create. I suspend my emotions in painting. I leave my reason behind. I paint.

Do you hear the silence with me? Do you see how lonely I am? We venture and we fail. We love and we suffer.  
36x48 inches, oil on canvas, 2012 @