art

Travel Journal: A Diary of Illustrations

“A person of few words, my personality is boldest in my art. It is in my creative endeavors that I most eloquently express my opinions, feelings and humor.”

This phrase has been a part of my artist statement since I wrote it, mostly because I think it’s the most consistent part of my artwork. When I can’t find a way to say it with words, I say it in my art.

I was never good at keeping a consistent and coherent journal, until I started painting from life in my watercolor notebooks. I’ve been very fortunate in that I have had many opportunities to travel. I am always inspired when I visit a new part of the world, but until I started painting I wasn’t entirely sure of how to channel that inspiration. Maintaining a visual travel log helps me remember specific moments, feelings of inspiration and thoughts. I used to take pictures of things I wanted to make art from, but returning to those pictures usually proved unproductive because I couldn’t remember what I wanted from them. Returning to a sketch or watercolor drawing made on site is much more informative and easy to work from. Often the original sketches are just as interesting or more so than any polished work I might produce in a studio.

These sketches are taking my art in a direction I am excited to explore. Though they are whimsical, small works I believe they express a very important part of my personality and life.

Please visit my Instagram so see more of these sketches.

Since I last posted I’ve taken part in Zeitgeist juried exhibition, Contemporary Craft juried exhibition, and Nasty Woman Oklahoma juried exhibition.

Find my artwork next weekend at Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon WA. Reception and Art Walk on August 3rd.

As always, stop by Mad Coffee in Alamogordo NM to see art by yours truly for sale (and great drinks too!)

 

Thanks for reading!

-Tatyana

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Books

Currently Reading: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

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Because of a semi-fortunate series of events this week, I’ve found myself with an abundance of free time, a couple of free days to myself. On one of these days I set off on a mission to acquire a Red Sox jersey for “sports day” at my place of employment. This led to a lively morning and my acquiring a timely, intriguing, and honest book.

After getting myself a jersey and some art supplies, I made my way to my favorite bookstore in Brighton. I wanted to spend lunch sipping mimosas and reading. I entered the bookstore with the intent to leave with some feminist literature. Something to empathize with and something thought out- unlike the shallow, though witty, statements frequently made on social media. I wanted a return to depth.

I headed to the nonfiction section and realized I wasn’t going to find what I wanted. The advertised feminist reading bragged how you can care about equality and simultaneously enjoy “The Real Housewives of…” whatever. It sounded like shallow, self-serving click-bait. I decided I wanted something that was at least written by a woman- the female perspective of anything. Several books caught my eye- the story of an immigrant, how to write, how to think. I shifted to the poetry section.

When I came across Citizen I was enticed by the writing style. It’s a lyric about the many racist micro-aggressions the author, Rankine, faced and how they influenced her. Rankine writes in a way that is fast-paced but what she says makes the reader stop and reflect. The vocabulary is simple but she uses simple tools to create a very complex and beautiful, if painful, lyric. The story is interspersed with artwork by black artists addressing race in America. It was the artwork that really tipped the scales for me, an art lover, to purchase the book. When checking out the cashier commented, “That’s a good read!” I said I was intrigued and headed to a lunch spot I scouted on Yelp, they had a good reputation for mimosas. After ordering I really dove into the book.

It was heavy. I moved through a couple chapters quickly and then closed the book. This wasn’t the light reading I had expected. I finished my lunch and went home. Finishing the book took me days, it was a very frank poem. I felt I needed to take in a little at a time, to appreciate it properly. It had insightful examinations on how the past mingles with the present, how personal experiences are influenced by public ones. On how the line between personal and political can be very blurred, even being able to draw that line takes an abundance of privilege. The text is highly engaging. There were times I found myself unintentionally reading aloud because I was so wrapped in the words.

Sitting on the shelf of the bookstore poetry section, this little book seemed so unassuming. A slender, white paperback squeezed between books with bright, attention grabbing covers. It’s a wonder I spotted it at all. I’m glad I did. It took me by surprise. It gave me perspective. I encourage you to take a peek at this book. While it’s very timely, it’s also an important critique on this country’s entire history with race.

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Ceremonies

The mornings I look forward to the most are the mornings I know I’ll have the time to make coffee with my french press. I have coffee every day, but I enjoy it more when I get to take the time to boil the water in my kettle, pour it in the press. Stir. Sit. Press. Drink. Supposedly it tastes better, but I don’t have such a sophisticated palate. I enjoy the meditative nature of making coffee that way.

Boil. Pour. Stir. Sit. Press. Drink.

It’s like living a poem. Putting aside the time to meditate with my coffee is a beautiful start to my morning. When I think about the people in my life, most have similar rituals for their leisurely mornings. It’s their private and personalized ceremonies to start the day. Some start their day with a cup of tea and watering plants, others sit down with coffee and their favorite book. I sat to illustrate some of these ceremonies.

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Mid-morning latte and croissant 1.5″x 2.5″

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Drinking french press coffee, black first thing in the morning 1.5″x 2.5″ 

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Waking up slowly, with tea and a favorite book 1.5″x 2.5″

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Afternoon cold brew, trying not to over water plants 1.5″x 2.5″ 
These are a few of my caffeine ceremonies, illustrated miniatures. I’d love to hear about your ceremony! Message me on instagram, linkedIn, or my website by this Friday, May 12 and describe your ceremony. Add as many details as you can, and a mailing address. I will illustrate your ceremony and mail it to you! This does two things for me: gives me a bit of creative inspiration, and lets me know who’s reading this blog.

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Find me at the Grady Alexis Gallery this Saturday for Radical Resistance to Xenophobia. See all the art from the First 100 Days exhibition through the Houston Press. Upcoming exibits, Zeitgeist at Converge Gallery and Contemporary Craft at the Brookline Arts Center.

I hope to hear from you!

-Tatyana

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How I Almost Lost Track of What Was Important to Me

Since graduating, I’ve had a lot of trouble reconciling my identity as an artist with the professional expectations put on young people to succeed and make money. When asked what I do, I always answer that I have a BFA and I’m looking into a career in art history, or art therapy, or museum studies or…

I anticipate a condescending attitude from whomever I’m talking to, whether or not they’d have one. While yes, it’s true I’m looking into a plethora of different art careers, I’m looking into them in a vague and it’s far off in the future sort of way. The truth about who I am is, I’m an artist and I make art.

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I didn’t just get a job as a barista because I love a good cliché- that was maybe 30% of my decision. I got that job because it’s a low commitment position with a flexible schedule that allows me to take off when I want, on short notice- also free coffee. Still, I felt like I should be doing more for my “career.” I was applying to jobs I didn’t care about in fields vaguely related to art because that’s what I felt “should” be doing. Then I stopped. I realized I was using time and energy I could have been devoting to painting and applying to galleries and shows chasing someone else’s idea of success. I had created some straw man and was trying to appease him with my career choices when I should have been focusing on what I went to school for.

When I decided to be an artist I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I also knew it’s what I wanted to do. I decided to major in art when I was 17. Initially I intended to get bachelor’s degree in pre-law and pursue a career as some kind of lawyer. I was lying in bed, a senior in high school, thinking about my future. I thought about how much I liked to paint and decided I would have plenty of time to paint when I retired. An instant later I realized I hadn’t even started the education for my career and I was already looking forward to retirement. That wasn’t a life I wanted to live- I decided to pursue art. I knew success would come slowly and there would be a hundred failures with each success, but it’s different living it. I was falling back into the state of mind that I needed a mainstream form of success before I could chase my passion. My heart wasn’t in it, and that led to failure. So I stopped.

I stopped applying to jobs I didn’t care about and obsessing over requirements for graduate degrees I didn’t want. I started painting again, really passionately throwing myself into my art. I started applying to shows, contacting galleries. I still fail a lot, but I also find some success. So far this year, I’ve been accepted to three juried shows and have participated in seven groups shows in five states. It’s still hard, I still get discouraged but it’s worth it because my heart is in it.

I apply to jobs in my field but they’re jobs I know I could feel good working hard at. Focusing on my art has given me the opportunity to give back to my community. I’ve donated art that’s benefited Planned Parenthood, and immigrant organizations. I’m on track doing what I love. While that might not look like success to everyone, it feels a lot like success to me.

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Cut-Outs for “Coping Mechanisms”

Yesterday was the reception for The First 100 Days: Artists Respond. I will also be participating in Radical Resistance to Xenophobia with ArtUnited and  Zeitgeist with Converge Gallery.

Register to attend!

Thanks for reading!

-Tatyana

Books

Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017

Warning for discussions of rape.

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The first time I read The Handmaid’s Tale I was in high school. I received a copy of the book for Christmas. It’s the same copy I read from this week. Like many books I first read as a teenager, I don’t think I fully understood the relevance of the book the first time I read it. But, with every reading the book grew more real.

The story follows a woman in a post-coup United States, now called “Gilead,” a theocratic, totalitarian state. The protagonist, Offred, is part of a class of women assigned to have children for elite couples who can’t conceive.

This time, reading it was different for me. I read the book armed with Atwood’s thoughts on the novel, Handmaids Rising and I now live just a few bus stops from Cambridge, where the novel is set. The biggest catalyst for my reading is the show coming out on Hulu this month. It’s been getting a lot of buzz. Considering current events, I don’t think it is any accident people have taken a renewed interest in the novel.

One might argue that the events of the tale are far fetched. It is, after all, speculative fiction, (I have a hard time calling it science fiction but that’s another conversation.) I would like to argue, all the events of the book are possible. In Handmaids Rising, Atwood tells the reader, “one of my rules was that I would not put any events in the book that hadn’t already happened [in history].” Everything in the book has already happened to somewhere. Some of the events of the book are currently happening in the US.

In her review, Atwood discusses the actions of an aggressive regime. Controlling reproductive rights (Atwood uses the phrase “women and babies,”) is a huge part of what a totalitarian regime does. It was not only access to abortion at risk in Atwood’s universe. It was the right to reproduce when you want and with a partner you choose (this February, Arkansas passed a law allowing husbands to veto their partners abortions, even in cases of rape.) It was the right to your child after it’s born (several states in this country allow a rapist to sue for custody of a child conceived in rape.) Atwood asks the reader, “Who benefits?” What do these conservative lawmakers have to gain from re-victimizing rape victims? This goes beyond reproductive rights. They are the focus of this novel, but Atwood points out many freedoms denied to the people of Gilead. Those same freedoms are under attack right now: access to education, the right to a clean and safe environment, and the right to privacy.

A part of the book that stuck out to me was the idea of “freedom to and freedom from.” Aunt Lydia was the character that trained the handmaids. When justifying the regime, Aunt Lydia stresses that before maidens had the “freedom to.” The freedoms to say what they want, go where they please, and do what they want. This freedom came with danger, though. In Gilead, the women have “freedom from” what is insinuated to be harassment and assault. She encourages the women not to “underrate it.” I doubt that was of much consolation to women forced into sex slavery. It is that idea of “freedom from” that reminds me of some contemporary laws. Take The Patriot Act, we surrender our privacy to feel safer- or was it taken from us? Either way we are giving something up to gain a sense of security. Are we really safer? Or are we just under someone’s thumb, another step closer to an authoritarian regime?

I don’t mean to insinuate the United States will become Gilead. What I want to communicate is that, “it can’t happen here” is a dangerous mentality that leads to complacency. It is very recent history that rights have been denied on the basis of gender, race, and sexuality. This year, Katherine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon 50 years after she was attacked for doing so while being a woman. It is in living memory that women could legally be fired for getting pregnant, or more unthinkably, aging. This is not ancient history. These freedoms are very much at risk.

I’m glad The Handmaid’s Tale is getting a lot of attention recently. Awareness is power. Knowing what rights are at risk, and that they need to be protected is essential for maintaining our civil rights. I think reading this book would help instill that.

I encourage you to read this book if you haven’t already. I can’t wait to see what Hulu does with the show. I’m excited that Atwood has a cameo. Thanks for reading!

 

-Tatyana

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Coping Mechanisms

The world has been pretty weird lately, especially if “pretty weird” means fucking terrifying. Most of my adult life, Barack Obama had been president. This country and others have become more and more progressive and accepting of modern notions. But, for the first time in my adult life, I am experiencing the conservative backlash that comes with rapid social progress. The United States has a leader that makes George Bush look reasonable and the rest of the world is experiencing similar populist regression. I’m coping with that in the way I know best- art.

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I’ve addressed a lot of current events in my art, but I want to focus on a recent series that has been prolific for me. I call it “Coping Mechanisms.” It’s about the feelings of shock, horror, and alienation that come with the constant inundation of bad news.

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This is a series of mixed media paintings featuring newspaper headlines, and a figure literally bursting with bad news. The newspaper headlines were cut mainly from issues of the New York Times and all are from after the election in November.

I wanted to depict how overwhelming it feels to hear about and experience the barrage of bad and dramatic news. It seems like every week we are out on the streets protesting a new human rights violation. Every day we see a new headline about something ridiculous and inappropriate form the current administration.

So I took those feelings to the canvas. I started by gathering my materials. There was no shortage of headlines. I used acrylic paint for everything except the red accents in the background and in the eyes. For the red I used oil paint. After a rough sketch of my figure I used matte gel medium to adhere the paper to the canvas. I chose this medium because it reliably seals the paper without changing or disrupting its appearance. I’ve used this medium before and it was pretty decent.

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After letting the Gel fully dry, I started painting. For this painting I used a slightly smaller painting-study as reference. For this particular series it was more important for me to depict extreme emotion than a specific person. So, while I used myself as a reference, I took many liberties with the features when it came to actually painting.

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I love the look of a limited pallet, and red was the perfect singular complement to the brown hues. To reinforce and feeling of tiredness I put red in the eyes, which are open wide with shock. I also included red symbols behind the subject of the painting. An “x” was a simple message- Stop! Or No! I also used a spiral as a reminder that progress is not a straight line from good to bad. It takes ups and downs and a strong foundation. I also included an eye pattern, for “you’re being watched.” It’s also a play on “the evil eye.”

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After I place the finishing touches all that’s left to do is photograph my work and share it. Here is my cat observing some of my paintings including a couple from this series.

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I really love having the time and opportunities to express my feelings and get involved in politics in a creative setting. I strongly believe that art and politics are intertwined. The influence art has should not be underestimated. That being said, I would like to encourage you to contact your representative about the Trump Administration’s attack on the arts. Use the hashtag #SavetheNEA and let the people you elect know you prioritize art and culture.

A painting from this series with be included in The First 100 Days: Artists Respond in Houston, TX.

Thanks for reading!

-Tatyana

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Plein Air on the Beach

Even an artist takes beach vacations. This past week, I spent several days camped out on Malaquite Beach near Corpus Christi, Texas.

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I enjoyed days laying on the beach, wading in the Gulf, and painting on the sand dunes. There was nothing in the world to be bothered by, but don’t let anyone believe that plein air on the beach is an easy task! Between the sandy breezes and dynamic landscape, I faced one of the hardest plein air challenges I had yet encountered. The struggle was real, but I persevered. I have a long way to go as far as plein air goes, but you have to start somewhere. I just happened to start in paradise!

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I’ve missed warm weather since moving to Boston. I was so happy to have the opportunity and time to travel south. Walking along the beach cleared my head and seeing the ocean reminded me that all my worries are small and manageable.

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I also got to partake in one of my favorite hobbies, collecting beach junk. I don’t know if the seashells I took home like being on my dreary Boston window sill, but I know I like having them there. It’s a little bit of home in my new environment.

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Thanks for reading!

-Tatyana