Beamused #1 http://www.bemused.spb.ru / Design and interviews: Silamandarina Cover art: Irina Vaneeva, vaneeva.ru
Always on your side
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The Predictable Column They say C. S. Lewis wrote his Chronicles of Narnia because he had always wanted to read something of the kind. I do share this approach: I once founded a design studio I wanted to work at, and now I’ve decided to make a magazine I would be interested in reading. And when I think of all the people who generously agreed to help me realise this dream, the way they were patiently replying to my questions, sending me large files, replying to more questions, sending more pictures; what excellent artists were working for the first issue of Beamused, I have no words to describe what I feel. A great thank you to all of you!
to those who have patiently waited for this issue. Olia, Ksenia, Lia, Irina, special thanks to you! And, of course, a great thank you to you, Balsara, for making me accept your diversity; I do hope I’ve managed to share this discovery with the readers.
Surprisingly, over the whole period of work on the first issue only one person asked why make another magazine. Well, I’ve already confessed that the main reason for its appearance was my great desire to be doing a beautiful magazine about creative people and their projects. I would like it to have the best of a magazine: an opportunity to enter another world for a short time, learn something new, watch beautiful pictures; and the best of a forum: an opportunity to meet people who think the same, get new ideas or inspire somebody else to do something. This is why the magazine has the contact details of all the people who took part in its creation. Please do not hesitate to write to them, this is exactly the reason they left their email addresses. And please do not hesitate to write to us! I would very much like to know what you think of our magazine and what else you would
like to see here. I will be very grateful if you let me know. The subject of this issue is diversity and acceptance. Diversity is what inspires us, it is nice to show; acceptance, on the other hand, is a difficult issue: our relationship with art often gets complicated and the art itself is not always accepted by others. I’ve asked various people about it and got various answers. I have also received a lot of advice to use against unwanted critique (keep it in mind if you are going to write wrathful reviews of Beamused) and for overcoming creative crises. If this is helpful to you, too, or you get inspired by something, if you try something new or just stop being upset about some kind of creative disappointment, this means we’ve done what we wanted to! And it’ll be great if you tell us. If you want to talk to me about your art, share it with our readers, write, draw, paint or translate something for Beamused, be sure to write to is! The next issue is due in December and its subject will be new beginnings and fairy-tales. Thank you for reading this! If you like Beamused, please tell somebody else about it.
Katerina Solovyeva, Editor-in-chief and designer of Beamused firstname.lastname@example.org (please put ‘Beamused’ in the subject line) 3
My Creative Life
n e X
B i ya
a r a s l a Xeniya Balsara photographer and model balsara.net balsara.deviantart.com
From Balsara’s blog: …I had a totally crazy dream; for hours after waking up I couldn’t understand what and where was the real world. In some part of the dream I was discussing with drunk_billy the details of implanting hives of removable feelers (DER2X is the best!). We were in a giant swimming pool where we were learning to dance something for a fashion show. And, you know, she said, ‘You’d better write down the model, just in case’ (sic!). Then my tattooist called, saying he unexpectedly had a spot free for tomorrow, and as we were bioconstructing octopuses (sic!), he decided to pass it on to me. <…> Well, yesterday, 23 / 5, was the International Day of Biological Diversity. Thank you, dear Universe, for placing me in this zoo in the company of the mutants I love <3
b o dy shor t for bodmod, dy tion, f one’s bo modifica l change o a n o ti n te is an in s on s edical rea for non-m 2Bizarre agazine e British m l characters. v ti a rn e lt is an a rcultura to counte dedicated s 3Body Ar t dification t b o d y mo u o b a k o is a bo e. by Bizarr published as a 4Sideshow includes, ber which r deviations m u n s u c is a cir g tricks o onstratin rule, dem nce) s w, for in ta (freak sho
I. What are you doing right now, what have you decided? I know you were making a choice; have you come up with something? Generally speaking, yes, I did. And? What have you chosen? I want to be in the bodmod1 world and to be doing something visual: like working in the Bizarre2 or doing books like Body Art 3. I am now considering what I need for that. What has attracted you in the very beginning in the aesthetics that occupies such an important place in your life now? What do you call it, by the way? The answer to this question could be either two words or a poem. What I enthusiastically practice now is called body art and it includes tattoos, piercing, implants, side shows4, suspensions and a lot of other things. Basically, when people are drawing on one another, this can be called body art, too. And in this whole subject what interests me most is the visual part.
Balsara by Marko Saari
My way here was long, with unexpected turns and to some extent thorny. Usually people who are interested in the above realize this at an early age, and I got my first tattoo at thirty. To make it very general, about five years ago I started photographing concerts, because this was en vogue and I wanted to make friends in Finland. For a few years I worked for noise.fi, a large Finnish music portal. Then I got tired and promised myself to work only with the groups that I personally would like. As of now there are two: Turmion Kätilöt and Fear of Domination. At one of TK’s shows last year I met Louis Cypher (Lassi Lindquist) and Souci Jaws (Senja Sidoro), who had a few side shows. I enjoyed it greatly. Then was the Helsinki Sideshow Night where there were side shows, suspensions and a lot of people interested in
Fear of Domination by Balsara body modification. Then I worked with Senja and Lassi a couple more times and then I met Mechanical Demon, who has the most radical body modification for today: tattooed whites of the eyes. When
I left his house, I understood I wanted to be in this, though I knew little of it at the time. I spent the following months learning what exactly I was interested in and in what form.
Turmion Kätilöt by Balsara Are you not shocked by body modifications? Well, I guess, you aren’t now, but at the very beginning? I was reading a lot of sci-fi as a child and adolescent, and when I was about 18 or 19 I discovered the cyberpunks: William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Michael Swanwick. Implanting additional parts in the human organism and organ replacement is a normal thing in their world. Sterling’s Schismatrix1 changed me. I learnt that there were people besides me who were interested in the same things. There is an opinion that people who do something unusual to themselves are trying to be different. You produce an impression of a calm, cultured, educated person (what is your education, by the way?) — you don’t exactly fit with this image. Why do people do that? What does it give you to observe this? I graduated magna cum laude in Chemistry from the Moscow State University and I have a nearly finished thesis on Chemistry at the Helsinki University. But I wouldn’t call myself welleducated and cultured: I don’t know a huge part of the classics, to which I sometimes find allusions in films, books, pictures. There are various reasons to do something unusual to yourself. Some people want to be different, some people like their modified bodies, some need this for work.
I have a great interest in human evolution and I sincerely believe that the future will be like the cyberpunks describe it: with a lot of genetic and body modifications. I follow what’s going on in science in this direction, too.
Lucky Hell has her own show, this summer she worked in Macau Circus in China. Her husband Jussi Paradise runs his own tattoo- and piercing studio. In Russia, I know a musical industry top manager and a director-club owner.
And I just generally like it: visually, and I like the people. With them I have the feeling of home, like everything is going in the right direction.
What modifications do you have yourself? At the moment I have five tattoos and one picture. All the five are in the same type, Old English style: direct and reverse hope on my left shoulder; Möglichkeit (possibility in German) on my right shoulder; choice and ulos (choice in Finnish) on my back, and alien on my left inner forearm. On my right forearm I have the latest: a fragment of a metallic DNA.
What do they do apart from body modifications? The rather modified people I know do almost everything. Lassi is a piercer; by the way, he finished Tampere Theatre School. Mechanical Demon is a tattooist. Senja is a primary school teacher.
It was raining heavily when I met Balsara in St Petersburg. She said she was hungry. I took her to a place I frequent where she asked me about all the dishes on the menu I hadn’t even known there existed. When time came for desert, she said she wanted to go somewhere else, so instead of a blueberry mascarpone she got a hardly edible éclair from a lousy pastry shop. It was while drinking tea and eating this éclair that she explained:
I also wear industrials 2 in each year, contact lenses and a hair tattoo. And while this is getting ready for publication, something might add to the list or leave it.
Mechanical Demon by Balsara
Balsara can mean angel or daemon in Higher Sanskrit, depending on the context. And this is my real name: Alien (Kseniya) Angel / Daemon (Balsara).
Schismatrix is a science fiction novel by Bruce Sterling published in 1985. It is considered to be one of the first and most important works in the genre of cyberpank. It was nominated as ‘Best novel’ for the Nebula Award in 1985 (Wikipedia). 1
By Markus Lehto
Which of the shots you’ve made do you consider the best? I sincerely believe that my best shot is yet to come. Which arts do you practice, what attracts you? I model a lot. I also do styling for Hellmet1. My other great passion is typography. I am learning to do sketches, too, and to draw, because I want more tattoos, for which I need sketches. I am thinking of drawing comics. And I do love makeup! Who is Hellmet? Where has she come from and what happens next? She’s come from an idea by Marko Saari, a photographer I work with, to ‘shoot some kind of steampunk’ together. I said that steampunk just
Hellmet by Marko Saari
wasn’t my kind of thing, but I could do postapocalypse or cyberpunk… A few days later I entered a second-hand shop while waiting for somebody and saw Kula Shaker* disk covers. At the same time I was watching (not for the first time) the Six String Samurai2. We are now getting ready for a next series of shots. So, right now Hellmet is your and Marco’s photo project, and the character itself is a mysterious somebody about whom nobody knows anything exactly? At the very beginning, we didn’t know anything exactly about the character either. We didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl. You can never know, with those strange postapocalyptic creatures. Now we
know for sure that it’s a she and know some details of her life. It’s usually like this: I say, ‘Let’s…’ and Marko says, ‘Let’s do that!’ And then we start ‘rolling the grey balls’, the process of selection, preparation, search. Ideas spring from air: sometimes I just like the way some words sound, and this gives us a picture. Sometimes I just start telling something I don’t know yet and listen to myself with interest.
Hellmet is a combination of words hell and helmet. 1
Six String Samurai is a post-apocalyptic action/comedy film directed by Lance Mungia, 1998 (Wikipedia)/ 2
And if you get to draw a Hellmet comics, what will she be doing in it? Oh, I don’t know yet. I’ve seen such excellent flying saucers in the Iron Sky today, this is a low-budget Finnish film with great computer graphics. I think a flying saucer is a perfect place for Hellmet to live!
Hellmet by Marko Saari
III. Is there something you do every day? I try to learn or see something new: a picture, a movie, a place, a technique. So your main workplace is usually a club space? *Laughing* Right now my main workplace is my PC with Photoshop and Internet, where I am looking for information. When you are retouching your photos, do you turn on music or remain in silence? How does it look like when you’re working? Sometimes I turn on music, sometimes I remain in silence. The only thing I don’t like is when somebody is looking into my monitor or sketchbook over my shoulder while I’m working; apart from that, you can talk to me, bring me tea or food, show me all sorts of things. What inspires you? Like when you see something and want to do something creative at once. Oooh! Right now it is Stickerbomb Letters*. I like the whole series. I sometimes go to one of our bookshops and in a café there I browse through various books over tea, not restricting myself to any particular department. This is the way I found it. Before that I had known almost nothing about street art and, rather snobbishly, was not interested in this culture.
*Посмотрите на YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=dWHWQl5JOag
Michal by Balsara
IV. Do you always wear black? Almost always. I know a lot of people who have the gift of harmoniously wearing various colours at once, but I cannot do this that well. And I feel comfortable with black, this is my colour. What do you do first thing in the morning? Grab my cell phone to see the weather forecast and my emails. Next thing I drink strong dark tea with a few pieces of dark chocolate and an antidepressant pill while still reading my mail as well as Facebook, LiveJournal and deviantart.com. How did you begin as a photographer? It was en vogue and I wanted to make friends in Finland. And to
impress my now ex-, and then future boyfriend who positioned himself as a photographer. What do you like most of all about your job, and what — least of all? Most of all I like generating ideas (and in general this is what I do best in life), and least of all, putting them to practice. What is most important to you about your job? What do you consider a good result? What do you aim at when making photographs? This is the most difficult question of all. For photos of mass public events my main criteria of success are to see them used and see their popularity, the reaction of fans; and also when they bring me new
I made this shot when Michal was showing me some techniques of studio lighting. lucrative contracts. As for the rest of my photos… I think I have to do a lot of work before I can be satisfied with them. Do you use some systems or methods of organizing time, or do you do your work at your own pace? I have an e-calendar, a minimum of two or three notebooks for notes, plans and sketches, Pinterest and Evernote; and this system is not quite effective, so I am reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done now.
Do you have a set of rules for working with your own photographs? How do you decide what you are going to work with and what goes to trash? First of all, I sort them out into various folders. If I have some time, I leave them for a day or two and then do some selection in Adobe Bridge. I look for interesting photos first, and for those that are technically well done, second. Then I draw as much information from them as I can in Adobe Camera Raw, and in the end comes the Photoshop. And when modelling, what is most important to you? There must be something new for me. Or just plain good proportion of money.
Generally speaking, does your art make it possible for you to live the way you want to live? What is your attitude towards earning money with art? Have you managed to overcome the eternal dilemma and just earn money with what you like doing, or is it not that simple? Not that simple at all, and far from all of the things I do give me only positive emotions. And so far I am not earning money doing only the things I want to do. But I try not to do any work that would be disgusting to me (I have the experience). Technical translations, paid model shots, anything exotic that comes my way I just take and do, without asking myself the eternal questions. To be both a photographer and a model is not that easy, either;
sometimes I have to decide how to position myself, what to choose. By the way, what do you think of those clichéd wedding photos people like to laugh at? Like, you know, when the groom is far away and looks like the bride is holding him in her hand, this kind of stuff. I don’t see this often, so I can’t say I think anything about it. But I really don’t quite understand why people need the wedding ceremony with guests and photographers; this is a private matter and a reversible formality (I am officially divorced). Giving birth to a child, on the contrary, changes life irreversibly and is worth celebrating with photographs (I don’t have any children).
Placebo by Balsara
by Marko Saari
by Marko Saari
The theme of this issue is not only diversity, but acceptance, too, so I have to ask you (but you can skip the question). Do you come across — or have come across in the past — miscomprehension and / or lack of acceptance? Or is the whole subject rather simple in reality and nobody is very concerned about other people growing horns? Oh, you should have heard my mother when I told her I shaved off my hair! No need for horns, really. I read this, naturally. And I saw different reaction to my photos (not of myself). But all of this is kinder in Finland than, say, in Russia. And usually people who modify themselves are aware of what happens next; they won’t get a job in a bank, for instance (not that they would like that, either). What do you mean ‘read’: people wrote horrible things? You are rather calm about it: can you ignore the negative reaction or is it that you just sincerely don’t mind? In LiveJournal all of my friends are polite (they know I know how to ban) and the maximum they can write is that they don’t understand something. And when somebody takes me out of those boundaries… one can hear a
Molla Mills by Balsara
Marko Saari [Flickr screenshot]
What does the author of Hellmet’s portraits think about her? We’ve asked Marko Saari a few questions. Who exactly is Hellmet? Hellmet is a fictional character lost in time and space. Stranded to the alien worlds, trying to find her way back to home, wherever that will be.
© All rights reserved Uploaded on Jul 31,2012
© All rights reserved Uploaded on Jul 31,2012
© All rights reserved
Uploaded on Jul 31,2012
Does she have supernatural powers? Unwavering style over substance. Or bad habits? Likes to steal and eat electricity. What do you think about Balsara? She is a creative person full of ideas. Hellmet is just one of her many ideas that has been actualized via photographs.
© All rights reserved Uploaded on Jul 31,2012 © All rights reserved Uploaded on Jul 31,2012
© All rights reserved
Uploaded on Jul 31,2012
In the next issue, Beamused will have a chance to look into the world that Marco Saari, photographer, designer and teacher, creates, and to share it with you.
lot. But as time goes I read less and less of it, nothing binds me to the Russian-speaking Internet. Thank God I have enough of adequate people to talk to.
stored previously. MiuMau has written a very true chapter about this in the Diary of a Maniac Designer.
They say that the Russian-speaking Internet is cruel, people like to criticize. I notice this, too: I remember how I cried on getting one of the first commentaries to my portfolio (it was very weak, yes). And on Flickr, on the opposite, you can post anything you like and get the most hearty reviews, or just no reviews, it is just not the custom to write something like ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘What’s happened with the perspective here?’ What do you think? I agree. The rest of the Internet (and other societies, too) stick to the simple ‘if you don’t like it, keep it to youself’ scheme.
I, personally, can have two types of a creativity crisis. In both cases I don’t want to do what I had been doing up to this moment, and this means: 1) I am not interested, it’s time to change the direction (then the key question is: how?); 2) I need a new technique for realising the new and yet undefined images (then the key question is: what’s the name of the thing I need?).
I had an experience with an article about concert photography: myself and three more photographers wrote a big, long, detailed article. It was well accepted in our personal blogs, but the photographers’ community poured so much… well… <…> on it. After that, I limited my activity in the Russian Internet and made my LiveJournal a ‘cozy little blog’. As I understand, your photos are rather popular. How do you yourself judge and accept them? Are you tortured by perfectionism and if yes, what do you do with it? Of course I am. I keep thinking about it after an article by MiuMau about ‘good enough’. I’ve had a talk with my shrink about this recently: subconsciously I didn’t like one of my pictures. The therapist reminded me of a previous session where we had talked about children and acceptance of their paths in life. I had said that if my hypothetic child would yearn to be and finally become a yuppie (the choice I can least understand), I would survive this and would still support the child. Pictures are like children.
The third one, when I want nothing at all, is called an aggravation of depression and is cured by pills and psychotherapy. Side effects may pop up in the process, like a total change of occupation. What is your favourite joke? I need those flippers glued together my friend, that’s crazy, why’d you ask for money’s scarce, and right tomorrow I have a monoflipper class I am of the category of people who can find a monoflipper class or, if not, quickly create one on their own.
The cat by Balsara
You live with a cat, don’t you? I can talk for long about Musiavra! I’ve come to good paws. She has a rich inner world and an acute feeling of self-esteem; she’s very clever, perseverant and a misanthrope. She can hunt mice (and she eats them after catching). For all those years (11) she has stubbornly insisted on living with me and not with my ex-husband, refuting the thesis that cats get attached to places and not to people. Unlike me, she is well adjusted to life, which is shown by the very fact that we — well, I — while living in a student hostel in a 10‑meter room picked up a big furry cat who turned out to be, though it had not been evident at the time, pregnant. Do you have or have you had creativity crises, a state when everything becomes hard, when you don’t want anything and are no good at anything? How do you overcome this? What would you advice to a friend who is struggling through this drag right now? If you are going through Hell, keep going. Remember it will pass, for sure. For work, get out the pictures and notes that had been
Overcoming the crisis
Tomorrow I’ll Draw a Fluffy Green Duckling Lia Chevnenko, designer and illustrator email@example.com simply-witch.livejournal.com shutterstock.com/g/Chevnenko+Liia
You work as a graphic designer, don’t you? I’ve worked as a graphic designer since 2005. It all began with a class called ‘universal PC operator’ and a very small printshop where I mostly designed in Microsoft Word (!) various log books and blanks until I remembered the existence of a marvellous programme called Corel Draw, a-a-and this did it! Since then I’ve changed about six places and now work at an advertising agency earning about five times what I did at the beginning of my ‘career’, though I actually think the fact owes more to inflation than to myself. And you also draw for stocks? How did this begin and how does it go on? This began with the so-called flashmob ‘365 drawings a year’ organized in LiveJournal by Natalie Ratkovski. Gradually the flashmob girls convinced me that my
sketches could be converted into rather adequate vector cliparts. I was drawn by the idea, drew some pictures for an exam, passed it (to my great surprise) and since then for me it has been, instead of a ‘365 drawings a year’ project, a ‘minimum 5 stock pictures per week’, or ‘yay, it’s 7 pictures this week!’ or ‘hey, why is it just 3?..’ Is it profitable? Why do you like it? It becomes profitable when you have more than five hundred pictures in your portfolio, and at my pace it will be about a year till I get there, but I am surely earning some ‘pocket money’ with my 150 images. The thing I like about it must be mainly the absence of an actual client commissioning an illustration and, consequentially, ‘nice’ moments like ‘make it pink and move it one millimetre’; I like the fact that it is up to me to decide what the picture will finally look like; I also like… hey, I like
everything about it! What do you draw in general and what do you like drawing most of all? It turned out I like to draw flowers (I would have never thought that, until I started drawing them) and really dislike straight lines. In the end my stock portfolio is mostly a kind of anti-gentlemen’s set: flowers, jewellery, ornaments, handbags, shoes, flowers again. And what inspires you? Oh I think inspiration doesn’t exist as such: you just sit down and start drawing, and if you get it right, it is all joy, jubilance and fanfare, and if the result is crooked and wrong, well, a nasty experience is still an experience. The thing is, in the morning you never know what you are going to draw in the evening; and on the evening bus you keep thinking: ‘Oh my God, not flowers again… but they are popular… but
*Stocks — istockphoto.com, for instance — are websites which sell (mostly to publicity agencies) photos and graphics on the condition of their non-exclusivity, but at a relatively low price.
I’ve kind of had enough of them…oh yes, a fish, I will be drawing a fish because I drew a fish yesterday and I liked it and I want some more!’ Something like this. What do you read for inspiration? I have a marvellous friends page with a crowd of talented artists and illustrators, so there is always something to read and see there. Which of your own pictures are your favourites? I favour about 75 % of what I draw, but only for the first 15 minutes after the drawing is done. And yes, if I like a drawing of mine for 15 minutes straight, this is already a very good result. Stupid perfectionism, I am struggling with it. Selecting pictures for this article was a life-and-death struggle. Do you admire work by other artists? I am absolutely crazy about illustrations by Varvara Gorbash and Yana Moskalyuk. Do you draw every day? Why? Because I am really stubborn! Well, no, not every day, unfortunately. I missed about a week when I was on vacation, for instance, and still cannot catch up with it; sometimes I
What irritates you most of all, and what do you do about it? Naturally, various episodes like ‘you will be giving birth to new designs until we see ours’ (http://clientsfromhell.ru / ) just don’t add up to one’s optimism. In theory, it is easy to do something about it: you just have to understand that on the other side of the monitor is somebody who at the moment likewise has no idea of what you want and what terms you use, so this person is not making it difficult for you, they are just judging your work from their own situation. Sometimes this helps. And sometimes it doesn’t.
miss a day in a week; and I seldom draw from nature, and my consciousness is nagging me for all of this. Are you critical to yourself? To which extent do you accept or don’t accept your own art? What is your relationship with it? I’m afraid I’m too critical. It’s much easier for me to believe an unkind review than a kind one. I think it’s good that the themes and style of my drawings do not by themselves provoke critical discussion: after all, flowers and textures are not like political caricatures or game characters concepts. Frankly, I don’t know what my relationship with my art is. I just draw and there are people who like it and there are people who buy it; I don’t want to analyse anything in this situation in the half-year to come; then we’ll see. What do you like most about working as a graphic designer? The fact that it brings, this way or another, new knowledge each day. The fact that perfection is unreachable, but one still has to reach for it. The fact that you can develop endlessly in this field. The fact that there are really no rules. It’s a pity, honestly, that all of this just doesn’t come to my mind when I am rebuilding for the nth time the ‘not quite orthographical’ letters on a sauna sign and notice this does not do the letters any good. But I do my best not to forget I still love my job.
I think it is important to talk about creativity crisis because this is a difficult and unpleasant state a lot of people know of. But at the same time we often fail to see it coming in time or forget the way we overcame it last time. And it can be completely baffling for our friends and family, it is like yesterday you were drawing and dancing and today you want nothing. This is why it is important to share our knowledge on the subject. The fact that you agreed to talk to me about this means you know this state; what is it, how can one recognize it in time? Where does this come from? Oh, I wish I knew how to recognise it in time! I understand it comes from a lack of impressions. The same people around, the same paths, the same thoughts lead, sooner or later, to your drawings also becoming ‘the same’. If you’ve gotten into this, you should be getting out with all your might at least for a while. I will not be the first to notice, of course, but in such a period you should go out and do something completely crazy. Of course, it’s up to you to decide what is ‘crazy’ for you: have your hair dyed, get a piercing, go to another city for the weekend, ride a camel, do parachute jumping. The most important thing is that this should not present any objective
danger (humanity will not suffer if you decide to become a blonde, for example), but your guts have to be shaking at the thought. And it is also vital to see something new. Get politics out of your friends page (if you have it) and add a couple of illustrators using a technique different from what you are accustomed to. Buy something beautiful and useless and place it on the desk you work at. Make yourself a present of some kind or other. Sit down and start drawing something inconceivable (the Venus people landing on Jupiter at the light of crickets). I mean, shock therapy. What shock therapy against crisis have you practiced yourself, what works best for you? Well, almost all of the above (except for camels and parachutes, which are just plans). Just don’t go beating an imaginary drum saying ‘I am overcoming a creativity crisis’. If your imaginary drum has to have something written on it, let it be ‘I need new impressions’.
concern me no more than last year’s snow. I only have a basic level of autosuggestion so I have to show it to myself that this today’s me is actually different… Thank God I don’t have those crises often: after all, you can’t go constantly dying your hair, getting tattoos and reforming your private life! What do you think of when you get up and when you go to bed? ‘Oh, it’s ten minutes to five, just three more rings and I’ll have to get up’ and ‘Oh my God, five more hours and I’ll have to get up’. Exaggerating, of course. Before falling asleep I usually have ‘insights’ like ‘tomorrow I’ll draw a fluffy green duckling’, which I happily forget the next day; and I am also the one to ‘pick up’ some doubtful moment of the past day and keep agonizing about it, like ‘I had to do it otherwise’… This is a stupid habit and I am getting rid of it. You don’t mean to say you never stop working? Of course not, you could go crazy like that, even if you really love your work. At least one day per weekend I try to spend the farther I can from my PC, and ideally, from the street on which there’s a house in which there’s the PC, or even from the city in which there’s the street… Why go on? For the sake of the process, it is worth it! I draw because I like it. It’s good when somebody likes the result, it’s just great, it inspires me, but this is not my goal in itself.
And what do you do if you feel it’s coming and you’re sinking? First of all, I give myself permission to whimper, sulk and draw poorly. Or stop drawing at all. Then I do something at random from the above given list. This way or the other, my aim is to see a slightly different person in the mirror, not the yesterday version of myself who didn’t know what to do next. It’s like a game: I am today’s me and the problems of yesterday’s me
Fun Factor Carla Sonheim, artist, writer and teacher http://www.carlasonheim.com / http://carlasonheim.wordpress.com /
Carla, first of all, thank you for agreeing to take part in this! I know you are very busy: apart from being an artist, you write books (I am a great fan of your Drawing Lab and I know that your second book is available for pre-order, is that correct?), organize online workshops… what else do you do? Thank you for asking me to participate in this project! I have been working as an «artist» for about 11 years doing various things: craft shows, galleries, online store sales, teaching (both children and adults), and now writing books and hosting online classes. My main job at the moment is creating content for the books and classes, so I really consider myself more of an art teacher than an artist right now. Still, I'm so lucky to be able to illustrate my own books! I have two books coming out this fall: «Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals» (September) and «The Art of Silliness» (November).
How did you begin as an artist? I was artistic as a child but didn't have the confidence to pursue it, so I stopped drawing and painting until I was almost 30 years old. I had just switched careers to do graphic design and my boss encouraged me to take a figure drawing class; drawing from the nude figure was so scary! But, after about 30 seconds, I LOVED it.
true, if I drew every single day, how much better I would be than I am now! However, it's more important to me that I keep it FUN for myself, as there are plenty of things I need to do every day that I don't necessarily enjoy doing; and I think it's important that I preserve the fun factor in drawing for myself; otherwise, it just becomes a duty and a chore.
So I took figure drawing and various painting and printmaking classes for a few years before my second son was born, when I stopped taking formal classes. But by that time I had caught the vision and was drawing and painting on my own whenever I could. Eight years later, I quit my graphic design job to «give art a try.»
Also, to me, drawing is much more than technical proficiency… it is about SEEING and FEELING (and some days, frankly, I just don't see or feel it!).
Do you draw every day, do you believe this important? No, I don't draw every day. I can go several weeks without picking up a pencil, but then the urge to create becomes overwhelming and I pick it up again. I think everybody needs to find their own pace and pattern with what to draw and how often. It's
I used to feel so guilty that I didn't draw every day! But through the years I've «met» many artists, including famous ones through books and interviews, that don't draw every day either. That makes me feel a little better; I'm not alone! How does your usual day go, what do you do? Summers are different than the other parts of the year, as we can sleep in a bit and our working days tend to start later and end later. But basically I wake up, check
email for any «emergencies,» have coffee and breakfast, commute to our studio (I share a wonderful space with my photographer husband, Steve, in downtown Seattle), and check email again. Then I will often (but not every day!) start a little drawing or painting to clear my head. Then I will make a to-do list and go about checking things off it. I spend most of my time on the computer writing emails, blog posts, book stuff, proposals, or online class content. (Gosh, I am primarily a «writer!») I have my office set up where I can just spin around and continue working on the drawing or painting I might have started, so that happens here and there. Then, when I can't take it any more, I go home! As a participant of some of your workshops I know that your drawing exercises include left-hand drawings, one-liners, blind contour drawings; but you seem to view those drawings not only as exercises, but also as drawing techniques. You seem to be able to make real art out of a one-liner or a blind contour. Do you really do that? Do you appreciate the imperfection? Yes, I LOVE artwork that is imperfect. Children's art, for example, is a huge inspiration for me, as well as the work of outsider artists (untrained artists) and work that is intentionally naive in style. For that reason I do use a lot of those traditional «exercises» as
starting points for «real» work. Or, I will intentionally «mess up» a piece and then set about trying to save it. I love the challenge of trying to save a mess! I can see that to people who participate in your workshops it is a boost of creativity, a place to communicate and great fun. What is it to you? What is your aim in those workshops? I think that my number one hope for my classes is that people have a great time drawing, painting, and sharing their work. I think anything worth doing can be difficult at times, but the majority of the time, it should be fun! I guess that when you have people confess their
appreciation of your artwork — and I can see that there are people who do appreciate yours — it gets a bit easier to be less critical about your art — or no? Are you self-critical? Well, yes and no. It IS nice that I get so much positive feedback, and it does help me be a bit less critical, yes. But it's like anything… I always want to improve and get better! And there's always some little mistake or some part of a drawing or painting that you liked better at an earlier stage, for example, that bugs you about each piece. But I try to practice accepting and appreciating that it was the best I could do at that moment, and then move on to the next one!
Have you ever met with an unpleasant reaction to your art? Were you ever shy to publish your work? It's scary putting yourself out there. Once during a craft show, a man said: «These look like a preschooler did these,» and another woman told her daughter, «Look, honey, they're calling this art now.»
An angrylooking bird or sad-looking dog are really just a couple of selfportraits!
I have been fortunate that most people on the internet (so far) have reserved their comments to mostly positive. However, my art is «different» and I know for sure that there are many people who might not like it (and are just too nice to say anything). I have had negative reviews of my book, and that is very painful, especially at first. Setting myself up for criticism is not my favorite part of what I do, but on the other hand I feel art is meant to be shared, and I do understand that my art isn't for
everyone. Sometimes it's just a little painful to have that pointed out, though! Do you know what is a creativity crisis, have you passed through one? If yes, what would you recommend to someone who is going through this right now? Yes, this happens regularly! I used to panic and stress about these times, but the last few years I've really come to know that they are just normal phases and they will pass, usually quite soon! I try not to push myself too much… I will try to draw or paint and if it's just frustrating, I stop. I know that it will become fun and easy again soon! What is your priority in art, what in your art is most important to you? Right now I am trying to practice what I teach and hold it loosely and not put too many expectations on it. I'm in kind of an «experimenting» time right now, I think, and am trying all kinds of media and ways of mixing media. I tend to do a few pieces and then move on to the next thing. Lately I've been painting animals, figures or flowers! At some point down the road I would love to concentrate on one strong body of work and have a show at a gallery here in Seattle, but for the moment, I'm okay with doing what I am able to do. The most important thing to me about my art is that I stay true to my own voice and vision, and expressing visually my unique take on the world. I'm very interested in the EMOTIONS that my characters might possess. An angry-looking bird or sad-looking dog are really just a couple of self-portraits! Do you earn your living doing what you love to do? How difficult (or easy) is that? Or how do you find balance between things you don't overly enjoy but that pay off and things you like to do but that don't pay off that well, if that is the case? Yes, I do. I love to teach and I love to draw and paint, and I am able to do both of these things in my business right now. I am fortunate! It has been both hard and «easy,» though it's always a bit scary; you're only as good as your last book. Or class. Or drawing. Will it continue?
The only thing I don't overly enjoy about what I do is the amount of computer time I seem to need to spend. But I am just like most others in that regard! What is your favourite artwork of your own? Someone once said that each newest piece is their favorite piece of art, and in some ways that is the case for me, too. In other words, I'm usually excited / enamored with something I just finished, and then the enthusiasm eventually wears away as newer pieces replace it. But some of my all-time favorites (that I still like, even after so much time) are my scribbly rat, the red figure, Tire Swing Play.
Some of the newer pieces I like are this taped rooster and this bull. I know your husband is a photographer and teacher and is writing a book now, too; and I know you're a mom — do your children also do something creative? Did you encourage them for that somehow? Yes, Steve and I have been married 20 years and we approach our art and teaching similarly! Both of our boys are very creative; our oldest is a musician and web designer; our youngest draws and writes. I think both of them have shied away from the term «artist,» but both are truly creative and talented.
As an art teacher, what can you advise those who want to learn to draw? I would encourage everyone to keep it fun… if you find yourself bored, angry or frustrated, stop! Instead, switch and draw with your non-dominant hand, draw your kid's stuffed animal, or try to copy the work of an artist you admire. The more you keep the process and subject matter fun and interesting to YOU, the more you will be inclined to want to spend your time drawing!
It’s Burning Daylight Время не ждет Irina Youshchenko translator (I mostly translate books; sometimes I do interpreting, too, but rather as a hobby, to shake me up) http://autumn-flavour.livejournal.com / profile
At the end of July, I asked Irina if she would give me an interview. She said, ‘We’re going off hiking today and won’t be back until August, 5th; the week after that will be very busy with getting the children ready for school, so from August, 13th until August, 26th we can have a nice languid thought-out talk. (And after the 26th comes the time of parents’ meetings in schools, which softly drifts into a few months of getting my son used to school and my daughter, to kindergarten, so until midNovember I wouldn’t be signing up for anything serious). She is finally answering my questions when her youngest daughter is sleeping. ‘Fantastic’, she says, ‘Mania has slept an hour more than I had expected! That’s planning for you. I thought I would have to finish my answers in the evening’.
...schedule works miracles...
Do you always have plans for a month or two ahead? Is it easy to go with them? I always have plans; some of them, for two to three years ahead. But longterm plans are of the ‘life demands’ kind. Now, for instance, I have it in my organizer that on the 1st of March, 2014 I must organize the hot water counters check in our apartment, and on the 1st of March, 2016, the cold water counters check. This is not easy to follow: when I’ll open this page on the 1st of March, 2014 and will read that I am to make this call, this will make me mad. Some sheet of paper is going to tell me how to live! I will then reschedule this assignment for three days later, and all of the three days I’ll be quietly protesting and getting used to the idea, and then will make the call and organize this. The same happens with assignments like ‘get my daughter’s documents to school’ etc. Long-term plans are the most difficult ones, because by the time you get to them, you can’t remember how you rationally proved their necessity the moment you put them down. As for personal things, I never plan them. With three children, personal longterm plans are hardly realistic, so I am lucky if I even write down that there’ll be a festival I want to go to in a month; it doesn’t mean, though, that I will actually get to go there. (By the way, thank you for reminding me, I’ve just wrote down the Seasons festival for the 22nd of September). You have three children and, judging by your blog, you are constantly doing something with them or for them, like sewing, taking them to competitions, or, say, going hiking. How do you prioritize to get your work done and spend quality time with your family? To tell the truth, I get only a small portion done of what I would actually like to do. Children’s competitions are of the ‘life demands’ kind of business, I just have no choice, though I really don’t like them. But the children need that, so of course I help them out, what else can I do? I am constantly weighing out my to-do list. My life can carry two and only two main tasks, and now this is children and work. There was a time when I tried to include a third one, studying; I plunged through it for three years but had to admit that three tasks just didn’t fit in: they got in the way of each other, each one turned out to be done not well enough, so I had to quit my studies. Besides, I count my time: I need, say, four hours a day to work — so I will have them dead or alive: I will work when the children are at school, or extract these hours from my time off, my sleep, my weekends or holidays — I will get them wherever I can get them. My children get the rest of my time. Having in mind this means they get around 12 hours a day of it (apart from the time they have to sleep), I think this is fair and doesn’t infringe them. Note: I count my translator’s norm by the size of a translation, not by hours. But this amount, expressed in a certain number of characters, can usually be done in four to five hours. I count this every time for each new book, but there is never a great difference.
...my theme is duality, belonging to two worlds at once... your desk and get up only when it is so and so o’clock, it becomes apparent to them that real work is being done here, because it is scheduled! How long have you been working like this? For 16 years.
As for sewing, this is just for fun. Apart from the cases, of course, when it is like ‘Mom, I need a princess’s dress, twelve skirts and a crown, by tomorrow morning’. Then this turns into the ‘children’s needs’ type of business. Luckily, my children know the world ‘schedule’ and do not do this trick often. I suppose every woman working from home has come to face the fact that people call this ‘sitting at home’ and in general take it less seriously than any office job, no matter how much money it brings. Has this happened to you? How do you feel about that? I figure there are two questions here: the one of working from home and the other of the woman who is ‘sitting’. It is fairly easy to manage reproach of the ‘you’re sitting at home [and, supposedly, doing nothing] ’ kind. The critic gets to spend a day or two at home witch a child, in the very same conditions. This gives a marvellous effect! The phrase ‘sitting at home’ just disappears from their vocabulary, for ever. As for working from home, I’m lucky: when I was still living with my parents, my father worked from home for many years, so I’ve never doubted that working from home is really a job, not a way to kill one’s time. And when you are certain about something, it’s much easier to convince others. Besides, schedule works miracles: if your family sees that every day at so o’clock you get to
What do you translate mostly? And what do you like most of all about your job? I mostly translate books. Psychology, non-fiction, sometimes children’s books. I started with romantic novels and science fiction, this was a fun side job for me as a student. Being a translator is a superb occupation for a scanner (a person who is prone to take a small interest in a lot of things, as opposed to a diver, who chooses one career and goes on doing this for the rest of his life). I am a scanner, and I very much like to be studying animal life today, World War history tomorrow and the reality of American ballet schools the day after tomorrow. Well, you can’t call this type of erudition deep, but at least this is fun. I know from your blog that sometimes you retell the contents of some books to your readers, books you’ve liked that have not been translated into Russian (at one moment I, personally, read about Barbara Sher’s scanners with great pleasure, and then, about undoing depression). What books do you want to retell and what is the most important thing in this process for you? One of the books I have been recently translating, Composing a Further Life by M. C. Bateson, said everybody has one or several life themes which come up one way or another in everything they do. I thought about that and realized that my theme is duality, belonging to two worlds at once, and I have to get those worlds closer to each other, I have to bring some things from one world to another. Retelling is one of the ways to do that. Let’s say there is a good useful book, but it is only in English, so not everybody can read it, and those who can, say, never heard of it. Then I take it and bring it to our side, I retell it in Russian. And now we have it, so everybody can read it if they want to, or find the original and study it on their own. After I retold Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft, for instance, somebody got to fully translate it, and I think this is a fine result. I want to retell useful books, books which can help, or help come up with a good idea, or just get stored in the baggage of memory and then spring up in a good moment and help with an appropriate decision. In the near future, if I have the opportunity, I want to retell Mood Mapping, a book about managing your own mood, and A Weekend to Change Your Life, a book by a woman who got to live by the sea and started thinking about women’s life
A fragment from Irina’s retelling of Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor: A depressed person, as we might yet remember, is cut off from her feelings, and, likewise, from her body. She is simply ignoring the signals of fatigue: pain, psychosomatic reactions of all kinds, — and instead of taking a rest, is taking medication, which makes it all worse. OK, the medication deals with the symptom, but the reason for the symptom does not go away, so it is bound to reappear. Everybody knows optimists live longer than pessimists, get well sooner and are less prone to heart attacks. So, if you’re a pessimist, you are your own worst bad person. If you are depressed, this is twice so, because depression is like doubled pessimism. A depressed person has a high level of cortisol and adrenalin (the hormones which tell us whether to run or attack). It is supposed to be like this: when a prehistoric person sees a sabre toothed tiger, his body is reacting producing hormones, so he starts running, passing a few startled antelopes, and then reaches the top of the highest cliff in a jump and sits there while his body is urgently healing his feet which got damaged during the run. Then the hormones calm down, the body comes to normal, the heart rate slows down and now our runner has only one problem: how to get down from this cliff. But he has some time to think it over, because stress cuts off the digestive system. How is it with a depressed person? She is nervous and suspects foul play all the time. So the hormones are pumped into the veins like oil from a shaft, constantly and without interruption. And then the discharge just doesn’t come. When it fails to come again and again… How much time can an organism survive under stressed conditions? And how many illnesses will it earn? Depression heavily hits on all the systems in an organism, and the depressed one is going to suffer from this. Besides, all of this makes it difficult to engage in any healthy activity, because it is evidently not easy to start jogging in the morning if your body hurts all the time. This was about ‘real’ illnesses, but there also are the somatic ones. When somebody keeps ignoring one’s body telling one: ‘I am tired, I have been sitting for too long, I feel sick, do something!’, the body says: ‘So you don’t want to hear me? So here’s chronic fatigue syndrome for you! Here’s chronic pain! Here’s allergy! Now you understand?! ’ Well, even if the body wouldn’t conceive this mischief, it is still heavily connected with brain, and when one aches, the other is not too happy, too. Conclusion: if you are frequenting doctors and complaining, and the doctors fail to find anything and keep telling you to take your vitamins, you should go to a psychoneurologist. And also to a gym, and get a massage, and do some swimming.
in general. By the way, I stumbled upon this one in LiveJournal, where somebody was retelling it, and the retelling got cut off in the middle, for which I was really sorry. I know from your blog that you didn’t study chemistry at school. How come? My father is a war diplomat, so we were travelling a lot when I was small and I studied in a lot of different schools. I finished my first grade in Washington D. C., for example. At the moment when I might have studied chemistry we were living in Nepal and there was no Russian school over the 4th grade, and local school, which I attended, did not have chemistry classes. This was a girls’ school at a catholic monastery (sounds a bit like Victorian England, doesn’t it?), and evidently, the monks didn’t consider chemistry necessary for girls. Or they just started teaching it later. What is your higher education, then? Moscow Lenin’s University, Foreign Languages. But even though I have it in my diploma that I am an English language teacher and translator, we did not, unfortunately, study translation.
It is a common presupposition — and, frankly, as an employer I partly share it — that mothers with children are rather unreliable. Children get sick, they need to be taken to doctors, or met after classes etc. So mothers miss and cancel appointments, are late, sorry and late again. I know you have your own system of counting time, which lets you avoid such situations; what is it about? It is about the same thing: if I have to translate a certain amount of characters and I need a certain amount of time for this, I will get this time no matter what. All I have to do is make the process of getting this time as soft as it can be: plan with reserve, work only when it is convenient to everybody (after giving birth to our second child, for example, I had to give up working on Saturdays, because my family was not happy), cut up on other occupations, etc. Take the notorious children’s illnesses, for instance. Let’s imagine that in the morning you unexpectedly find out that your child is running a temperature, so you can’t send her to school or kindergarten, you have to call a doctor and wait. For such cases I always reserve three workdays which I add when counting time for completing an order. Of course the illness lasts more than three days. But, firstly, I do not give myself a day off just lying in bed together with the child. I spend with her the time she needs me, and then she falls asleep, or the temperature goes down, or she agrees to a diversion of some kind, and I can get some work done. At 9 in the evening all of my children must go to sleep (the sick ones as well as the healthy ones), so it’s work time for me once again. Usually I get to do about half of my daily workload each day during the first two to three days of temperature, and if the illness drags on (which is, happily, seldom, because I train my children, make them do sports and in general am raising Spartans), I call in a babysitter. When the temperature is high, a child needs his mother, yes, but when the temperature falls and the child goes around the house jumping, the mother can very well do her job. Things that are not urgent, like visits to doctors, classes etc, are planned ahead, so when I take an order I know what time I will have to expend on other things in the near future. OK, so if your children get sick, you go on working as a mother in a more ‘hot’ mode; and if you yourself get sick? If I am running a temperature, I do not work, this is simply impossible, my mind goes off. (Well, every ‘impossible’ is a question of motivation, of course, so I would be translating with a gun to my head, but in the absence of the gun I do not want to ruin my health, it is a precious and non-renewable resource). If I don’t feel well in any other way, I keep on working. Each work has
Each work has two conditions: it is either done or not. If it is not done, it is of no importance to anyone how you feel. Your job is simply not done, and this is bad. two conditions: it is either done or not. If it is not done, it is of no importance to anyone how you feel. Your job is simply not done, and this is bad. But each day has a limited amount of hours; how many hours exactly do you work per day? Over the last years I have been working 4 to 5 hours. Now my youngest daughter is going to go kindergarten, and my son, to school, so I will be planning less work for the months to come, and then, maybe, will be able to raise my norm up to 5 to 6 hours per day. But each day is unlike another: sometimes the text gets translated in a wink, and sometimes I plunge through it and keep sadly thinking that I will have to catch up with the norm in my dinner break. So you are stating your own terms to your clients? Does it never happen that a favourite client asks to do something in such a period that it gets clear to you that if you go on working like you’re used to, you have no chance of doing this in time? What do you do if this is the case? Yes, I give them my own terms, because sometimes the clients are unrealistic, and sometimes they just need another translator, less caught up in life. If they need something urgent, there are options. If I have visits to doctors and competitions planned, I will pass on the offer. If my plans have nothing that cannot be postponed, I will agree and work in the evenings and
while the children are sleeping after dinner, but not for long: for a week or a week and a half at the maximum. If the client wants this on a regular basis — sorry, but we have to break up. By now I have a certain amount of clients who do not usually demand extra efforts, with whom we get along well and are quite happy with one another. Clients who are happy with the deadlines you give them are the dream of any freelancer, strangled by the fact that every client needs the work done by yesterday and used to covering for others’ lateness with their own extra time. How have you managed to train your clients like this? It seems to me that translating books is not at all a business which can be done in a hurry. Only a very naïve person can think that translating a book is a quick business if you scare the translator enough. My clients are clever! And I have been working for years with them (Career Press, for instance). Of course I have to part with some clients, alas. So I do not do any training, it is either we get along or not. Good reputation helps to get along, too: if the client knows that you always hand in your work in time and do it well, he will often prefer to loosen his demands in some way but keep such a responsible person employed. Weirdly enough, responsibility and the ability to get one’s work done in time are not at all widespread (this still surprises me and seems hard to believe in), so a reputation of a responsible person is a very valuable asset. It is worth cultivating and supporting. And this makes negotiating with clients much easier. So you work as much as you yourself decide; do you manage to earn enough for anything you might want? Is it easy to be earning your living doing the work you love, or not quite, what do you think? Well, I wouldn’t mind earning more, of course. I have recently announced a rise in my charges; the clients sniffed, but agreed: again, in the end it is more profitable to pay a responsible and tested translator than risk coming up an irresponsible slacker. But seriously, I have a time limit, for the moment it is those 4 to 5 hours a day. Breaking this limit is only possible at the expense of my family, so I just try to get the best of these hours: have a lot of work done, set high planks. The money I earn is a significant part of the family income, but, luckily, only a part. I would be earning enough to feed the family if I had to, but that would mean neglecting my mother’s responsibility. So my golden middle is what I have: to earn enough to know that we won’t starve if something bad happens, but to expend on the job only as much time and energy that it wouldn’t get in the way of maintaining a normal family life and giving the children all they need: comfort, communication and education.
And whom do your children want to be now? To which extent would you support their desire to do something creative and interesting, but that doesn’t generally pay off well? Oh, my children have ambitious plans. My son wants to be an aircraft designer and I won’t be surprised if he really becomes one, he keeps making plane models and in general is very technically minded. My elder daughter is torn apart because she wants to be a translator (she has recently translated a book, was very surprised at how difficult the process turned out to be, but has not given up her dream), a biologist and a primary school teacher. My youngest daughter has not yet shared her dreams with us. I want two things from my children (although, of course, they will decide it all for themselves, like any normal children): that they be able to solve their problems on their own and be useful to the world and society. So, if they want to do something they like, but it pays little, this is OK with me, but they have to know that apartments don’t grow on trees and family support is not forever, while getting hungry is. As long as you manage your own life and are not a burden to anyone, you can do whatever you want. You can find a spouse who will have nothing against sponsoring you and your beloved work; or you can get grants if you are a scientist, or you can work hard for some time and then spend the accumulated money. I don’t have to explain the second point, right? It is not seldom in the society that useful jobs do not pay off so well, but here my children have a great example: my husband and their father works at the Moscow State University because he loves that and earns almost nothing there, but earns our living with a well-paying second job. This is not easy, but I think this is a very responsible approach, and I am glad my children have such a role model (in other aspects, too). Do you ever come across what’s called a creativity crisis: a nasty condition when you want nothing, are interested in nothing and motivated by nothing, and are practically unable to do anything? If the answer is no, then why, do you think, you are free of it? If yes, how do you manage it? Well it can be that the book I am translating is rather boring, but this has nothing to do with a creativity crisis. There are days when the translation doesn’t go smoothly, I spend a lot of time finding the right words and still cannot find them, this kind of stuff. But this does not cancel my daily norm: I still finish it and hope that by the time I will be proofreading the text (this is a separate part of my work, to read the whole book a few times with a fresh eye), my head will be in order.
There was a time when my husband and I did a lot of arguing about how to organise work correctly, so that everything would be done in time and according to schedule. My husband is a programmer, he designs programme modules, and he says that precise organisation of a really creative work is impossible. As an example of this he cites the many factors that influence his work, including creativity crises, being just not in the mood and such kind of things. My hair rises when I listen to this, I would die of such creative work in half an hour. I have it all simple: the plan, the deadline, the pages, the characters. This is not so much an art as a craft, I think, though a really exciting craft. So whether I am motivated or not, whether I have the inspiration or not, this just doesn’t count. My business is to translate the best I can at any given circumstances, this is it. Even if my inspiration is on vacation. I’d like to ask you about acceptance, you being a translator. I, for instance, do not watch translated films, because I seldom like the translation, and I get irritated by the mistakes. Do you read and watch others’ translations? How easy is this? Yes, yes, I read and watch others’ translations with great pleasure! Really, it’s an enormous pleasure! Because then I look from aside at a work that is similar to mine and see how difficult it was for somebody else in one moment and how he made it through in another, how he studied the whole problem to produce a single correct sentence or, on the opposite, was lazy and sloppy. For me every translated book is like Hailey’s novel, only he wrote about the inner workings of various professions, and for me it is about one single craft, translating.
So whether I am motivated or not, whether I have the inspiration or not, this just doesn’t count. My business is to translate the best I can at any given circumstances, this is it. Even if my inspiration is on vacation.
And I have another way of having fun, too, though, to tell the truth, I do not do this often. I take a film in some language I do not know (French, Japanese or just English with some horrible accent) and watch it with subtitles in another language, except Russian, otherwise this would be too easy. For example, I watch a Japanese movie with French subtitles. My mind goes crazy and blows up! Do you consider some translations decisively perfect, or is there always something one could do better? From childhood, a paragon of translation for me is Burning Daylight by Jack London translated by Vera Toper. There were a lot of good translations in my childhood: Nora Gal translated Bradbury; Ozerskaya and Kudriavtseva translated Gone with the Wind, and Jack London’s seven-volume edition (with an eighth additional volume with The Hearts of Three and The Little Lady of the Big House) was terrific all the way through. This is probably the magic of childhood, but I cannot imagine how one could have translated this better. I keep reading these books now and I still enjoy them. When you open your published translation, do you fear to see some stupid mistake there? I do not fear this because I definitely know I will see some goof. When you give in a book after endless proofreading and rereading, you sincerely believe it is impossible to do better. Then, half a year later, you get your author’s edition, open it and — oh my God, I had to find another word here, and this is a stupid expression, and people just don’t talk like that! It’s good observing others’ work, but when you are looking at your own, it’s making you shiver. What translation do you consider to be your best? Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog. When translating this book, I caught for the first time the balance between the precision of translation and preserving the style of the original. I had always wanted to do what the Soviet translators used to do: to replace the realities unknown to the Russian reader with the native ones so that the text would flow smoothly and naturally. And I did this with this book (not everywhere, only where it was justified), and the world didn’t come falling down, and I think the result is rather nice. (This doesn’t mean I am not afraid to
open this book, which is now lying in front of me. I am certain to find something that would have been better another way). And when working as a mother, what do you count as an achievement? An achievement is managing to spend rather a lot of time with children during the day, and not only to get them to their classes, but also to do something together with the two of the three (I never even try to manage all of them in one day), something that is important and interesting for them at the moment. Then in the evening I feel I am content with myself. And in the morning the result gets zeroed and I have to start at the beginning. How does your usual day go? During the academic year, it is like this: at 7 am I get up and get the children ready for school and kindergarten. At 8 o’clock my husband and the elder children take off, and my youngest daughter, Mania, and I stay at home. We put dinner in the multicooker and do something: we can play or make up the apartment. At 9 o’clock comes the babysitter and I sit down to work until 12:50. At 12:50 I go out and get Kirill from kindergarten. At around 1:20 pm we come home, have dinner and talk until two o’clock, and from 2 pm until 4 pm my children have a nap, while I can work or have a break, depending on how much work I have. (Varia comes and goes autonomously, I don’t have to come to get her from school, but when she comes home, and this varies on different days from 1 pm to 3:30 pm, she likes me to spend half an hour with her, so I have to extract this time from my break or work). After 4 pm, I am with my children and not working, but one day I might take them to their classes, the other we will go for a walk, and sometimes we just stay at home. We have supper between 7 and 8 pm (depending on when the public gets hungry); 8 till 9 pm is for evening chores, getting ready for sleep and bedtime reading (I read to Mania, and my husband reads to Kirill), and at 9 pm lights go off and my free time begins. (If the children don’t have to go to school and kindergarten the next day, they can read in their beds until 10 pm).
I almost never work in the evenings. Ideally I would do something I like until 10 pm, then take a shower, do some reading in bed and get to sleep at 11 pm. Unfortunately, if I sleep less than 8 hours, my efficiency goes sharply down. In practice, the periods of strictly observing the schedule are followed by the periods when I watch a movie until 11 pm, then read in bed until midnight. After some time I feel I am not getting enough sleep and with a great effort make myself return to the schedule. What would you recommend to a freelancer who wants to organize her work from home and is thinking how to get all the things done in time? You have to remember one simple thing: each task requires time. Even if you are just putting something on a shelf, this is several seconds, not to mention ‘a quick email’ or ‘peeling the potatoes’. This is probably the root of the ‘I do not have enough time for everything’ problem. Do you know how buildings get constructed? When all the rooms are settled down in a plan, somebody writes: ‘kitchen, 15 square meters; room, 20 square meters’. Then the building actually gets constructed and it turns out the kitchen is 13,5 square meters and not 15, because the wall has a thickness and this thickness occupies a part of this space. It is the same with what we do: we imagine every chore as a line which does not have a thickness in time, but in reality each business has a ‘surface´ of several seconds, minutes, hours. And this space is taken away from the ´room´ of our time. You have to keep this in mind to have enough time for everything you need. How do you see your future? Every time I try to make a prediction for my future, life tosses everything from foot to head and I get a new set of prospects dealt out like a set of cards. So I try not to do that. I have some plans, but we’ll see how it goes.
Everything Is Possible
How long have you been into photography? Consciously and with the results I am not ashamed of, since 2008. But you photographed before that, too, didn’t you? I did; but, you know, a beginner — and I don’t mean a beginning photographer, just any beginner — doesn’t always realise that what he is doing is really, to put it mildly, not quite good; sometimes one lacks self-criticism, then one’s friends come telling that it’s totally OK. Well, and an adequate understanding of one’s level only comes with time, sooner to some people, later to others. You’ve been doing mostly food photography recently. Why food? I almost quit shooting in other genres except food photography around 2010. I switched to it with the help of one good designer who needed a photographer to do some restaurant shots to use them in menus later. Then my wife and I started to photograph what we cooked and post pictures on LiveJournal and our site, and then came commercial commissions. Did you get commercial commissions via your blog? At first I got them via some people I knew, then the site started to bring something, too, and then, the grapevine. The blog has brought
Anatoly Vasiliev advertising photographer (specialises in food photography) colour correction and retouching specialist http://foodphotographer.info/ http://anatolyvasiliev.livejournal.com/ http://a-vasiliev.tumblr.com/
me no clients, but neither have I expected any. It seems to me that the question of getting clients is rather exciting by itself, and recently, with each year brining a new crisis, all the more so; how have you managed to hold on in a new niche? Well, from the point of view of the crises and fear of them it’s better to start nothing. I am not concerned about politics and do not follow the crises. How have I managed… I sometimes lost heart at the beginning when I had to wait for months for another commission. But I did what I could, and my beloved wife supported me the best she could and always believed in me; and then came more commissions and my reputation in certain circles started to build up. And I go on securing my position, constantly raising my level, I just don’t like to sit still. I remember you writing in your blog that you were invited for a shot in another city, tickets
paid. It must be exciting to travel on a commission. Yes, this happened a couple of times. But I wouldn’t call that travelling: all I saw were the airport, the road to the hotel and the place of the shot; I got maybe twenty minutes for a walk around the city. Do you actually get to eat the food after you shoot it? I honestly like to work with natural products and do not use chemical ingredients… although one cannot work entirely without tricks. Well, I’d say I eat it if I like it. Tricks, what tricks? Well, for instance, coca cola is watered down for the shooting, and burgers are filled with toothpicks and cardboard. Is the food really as delicious as it looks, or does this look owe more to you than to the chef? If we’re talking about restaurant shots, this is mostly our mutual job; if we take advertising shots, this is just me, because here I do everything from start to finish: idea, accessories, composition,
food styling, the photography itself and post production. What food do you like most? I photograph practically anything, but prefer to eat what my wife cooks. What is your aim when you make photos, what is a super-successful work for you? What do you consider a result? My aim is to produce as mouthwatering a shot as can be. A supersuccessful work is the one I am not ashamed of even as time passes. And I consider something a result only when I can definitely say that I’ve put 100 % of effort into it.
It is widely believed that a creative person is disorganised and never orderly. Are you well-organised? I am rather organised and I get up early though I go to bed very late. I plan my time, though it’s not always that I manage to actually follow these plans; and though I’m never late for meetings I prefer to go out a bit earlier. And my workplace gets into disorder really quickly, the next day after I tidy it up. How do you manage to go to bed late and get up early? I wish I knew. But my cat wakes me up in the morning all the same.
How self-critical are you, how easy it is for you to accept your art? I an extremely self-critical, honestly, but recently I’ve been more and more satisfied with what I do. I must be gaining experience.
Do you have creativity crises? How do you come over them? Recently I’ve had no time for crises; and generally speaking I think one shouldn’t stick to thinking about the so-called crisis if it happens and rather take one’s mind off it.
People often say — and, well, this is rather obvious — that creative people find it difficult to put prices on their works, and in general find it easier to create something than to find courage and try to sell it, irrespective of the amount of effort put into creation. What do you think of pricing in your area, is it easy for you to name your price? Yes, it is! I think you shouldn’t be ashamed of your pricing if you are sure about what you do, like shop assistants aren’t shy to place tags on their goods. I earn my living with photography, this is my good, so to speak.
You mean, think about something not connected with work? Well there are a lot of other interesting things, too. What inspires you? To see work by foreign photographers, and also various life moments, house interiors’ details, packaging etc. What are your passions apart from photography? I’m lucky to say that all of my passions are also my work. Apart from photography I design promotional materials, do colour correction and retouching and recently I have also been filming and making video. And I stay in
touch with what happens in the world of printmaking. Some creative people find it difficult to be limited by just one occupation; and you, as it turns out, do design besides photography. Are your clients comfortable with your being a jack-of-all-trades? Sometimes people want to see a specialist in the person they are hiring, and when somebody can do it all, they are afraid he does it all worse than somebody who has practiced a single occupation for years. What do you think? I can understand those people! But design is just something I offer in addition to photography, I do not promote this service by itself. Don’t forget that I’m a printer by education and have been practicing design for more than 10 years (with breaks, but I keep in touch with the industry), it’s just that earlier photography was my hobby, and now design is. In general, do you live like you want to, or would you like to change something? Yes, I live the way I always wanted to: I do what I really like to do and am working for myself, and the most important thing is I have my wife, Ksiusha, besides me, who supports me in everything… Well, and our cat, too. What do you think, how easy it is to build your life the way you want it to be? This is not easy, that’s for sure. But everything is possible; the most important thing is to believe in what you do, to love it and to have the support of those you love.
Photos by Anatoly Vasiliev
Toning an Image Instruction by Anatoly Vasiliev This article is not a step-by-step guide and much less is a pretext to discuss the necessity of applying various effects to photographs. This is just a starting point for experiments. It has become popular recently to tone images reducing their contrast in an imitation of cross processing (the procedure of deliberately processing photographic film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film). The instruments used for these purposes are usually curves and split-toning in rawconverter, but there is one more curious and simple way to do that, based on the imposition of layers. To do this, open your image in Photoshop. During the process of working with the image, the overall contrast will drop dramatically, so we will make up for that in the very beginning. For this, we’ll do two copies of the original layer (Layer — Duplicate Layer, and repeat it once again), apply to them the Soft Light parameter and then eliminate saturation: Image — Adjustment — Hue / Saturation, Saturation –100.
Instead of duplicating levels we could just make a correction level of curves, raise the contrast here and apply Luminosity to this layer.
The next step is not necessary but adds a kind of warmth to the shot. Add new layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) and colour it (Solid Color) R190, G170, B110; apply Soft Light and make the Opacity around 40 %. The last and the most interesting step is to add another layer of colour with colour values of R110, G135, B185 and a 30 % opacity. The most important thing is to apply Exclusion mode to this layer. Note that by changing the colour of this level you can control the hue of the toning, and by varying saturation (using the Hue / Saturation menu) you can control the contrast.
please send us the results of applying this instruction to: firstname.lastname@example.org with Beamused Toning in the subject field. The author of the work that will be declared the best will receive a small present, and the three best works will be published in the next issue.
Without a Heading To illustrate diversity, we have asked various illustrators to draw fish.
the authour of these three four fish is Ks email@example.com http://cargocollective.com / _ks_
Svetlana firstname.lastname@example.org http://illustrators.ru / users / svetabelaya / portfolio
Lia email@example.com simply-witch.livejournal.com (she is also the author of the Industrial, an illustration in the article about Balsara)
Ekaterina Sokolova, z-z-zzz.livejournal.com
A Look Inside
Companion and Muse the joy of life Olga Valeeva artist, wood carver, photographer and the beloved spouse and Muse of the writer and photoartist Yuri Arakcheev ovaleeva.livejournal.com arakcheev.ru
Olga, I know that you write, draw, carve and ‘work’ as a writer’s wife. And this might not be all… what do you do? Right now my priorities are the ‘profession’ of a writer’s and photoartist’s wife and working on my own novel which is called Love Story and is directly connected with our life. Carving, glass painting, drawing, moulding and all the other ‘décor’ I do are more of an energy supply kind of occupations. Awaiting their turn are my sewing machine and a guitar made and presented to me by my father. I also photograph a lot: just couldn’t stay away from it living with a photoartist, and actually I was drawn to photography even as a child, my father was very engaged in it, too. Now my husband and I do pictures together. How do you manage to get this all done? How does your usual day go? I really get much less done than I would like to. If all the things I’d like to do but don’t have the
time to were feathers, I’d be a peacock. But as my husband puts it, the most important thing is the dominant and bringing it forward every day, even if it is just for a small step. For today, the most important thing for me is my part of work with my husband’s photos: I scan the slides (until 2007, Yuri used reversal and negative film), do some editing, gather the images into albums, — on the whole I could say that I technically provide for the authors’ ideas. After this comes my own novel, which, despite a simple idea, doesn’t always go along smoothly. And recently, everyday drawing, at least for a small time, has become almost obligatory, because it lets me relax and makes my mood go up. Our day never begins without gymnastics. It is a complex of 10 exercises which my husband worked out long ago and keeps doing all his life without missing a single day. Then shower and breakfast: tea is sacred. Then we get to do our work. If we are producing another album, this will be my priority; if not, I will try to continue my book or write a sort of a diary. Around 3 p.m. our work time ends and I cook dinner. After
dinner we can go for a walk, watch a film by Yuri or continue working on an album. Or my husband can sit down to getting together a film and I, to my handiwork or drawing. In the end of Spring and at the beginning of wummer we enjoy ‘bathing in the morning’: we go out very early for a walk in a park, and there we are met by sunshine, nightingales and aromas — this is best described in my husband’s short story Our Property. So, your main help is your work on your husband’s albums? Right now these albums are our main joint project. This could be rightly called co-creation. My other way of helping is searching for additional material, reading it out loud to spare my husband’s eyes. He discusses a lot with me and I am his first reader; I get the idea
And the rich aroma of hackberry, of the young fresh greens… Very soon the lilies-of-the-valley will start blooming, and then jasmine. The air is humid, fresh and warm. Olga and me have long since noticed that sometimes the air doesn’t have to be cold to be prickly, hostile, ‘chilleous’. Now it is as though something sweet and fragrant was poured around and the air is kind and cosy.
Y. Arakcheev, Our Property http://www.arakcheev.ru/ imenie.htm
in the process of creation, so I can judge to what extent the resulting work conveys it.
other in general. Every work has its difficulties, but it is easier to overcome them together.
I am often asked incredulously how does it feel to work together with your husband; for once, I can pass this question to somebody else. People usually mean a more typical situation, when a husband and wife work together as colleagues or organise some business together, so it is more of a social kind of interaction. And I think we rather resemble creative alliances like Prishvin and his Valeriya, Tolstoy and Sofia, Dostoevsky and Anna, Matisse and Lidia… Where the woman was the Muse and the assistant. We two are one. We are united in our perception of life, our judgement of events, we fit perfectly; and this is why our work is an extension of our life. Or just another form of it. So everything grows from our attitude to each
So, you’re a muse! What does one need to be a muse, to inspire somebody else for creativity? Does it require a certain amount of selflessness? It sounds funny, ‘what does one need to be a muse’. I think this is a very female occupation, to inspire men for feats. At some time I very much liked the description Ivan Yefremov gave it in Thais of Athens: ‘Your part in life is to be the Muse for artists and poets, charming and merciful, tender, but pitiless in all that concerns Truth, Love and Beauty. You should be fermenting the best aspirations of sons of man, drawing their attention away from gluttony, wine and fights, stupid rivalry, petty greed, lowly slavery. Through poets and artists you, the Muse, must not let the spring of knowledge become a dead marsh’. First of all, I think, the Muse has to love her artist and his art very much and, of course, completely share his aspirations. She needs to be constantly learning and developing not to get behind him in her understanding, to be able to provide support not only with a kind word, but with a deed, and this is not always simple, because a true artist always goes ahead of his time, ahead of what others understand. And as for selflessness… When you are next to a person who has devoted his whole life to the ‘eternal questions’, it would be weird to talk about that. But I am not doing anything that wouldn’t be natural for me. Of course, there are some
difficulties, but they are mostly connected with the ‘outer world’. In general, staying true to oneself is simpler than ‘caving in to the ever changing world’, strange as it may seem. Not easier, because the society is usually waiting to average everybody and everything, but simpler. OK, it is really difficult at times and requires a lot of effort, but to me it seems much simpler to find forces for something you believe in than to constantly force yourself to obey. A tactless question you may skip but that naturally interests people concerns the eternal stereotype of a starving artist. Your blog gives the impression of an idyllic picture: a loving couple who pass their days doing the things they like, and a fairy-tale garden on the balcony. Do you two live the way you want to? Is it difficult from the financial point of view? What do you think of this ‘starving artist’, is it that necessary for an artist to be starving? That’s not a tactless question, that’s a very interesting one! As for the idyllic picture, you’re right, this is the way I view my life. Of course, there are difficulties and sometimes we lack forces or enthusiasm, — this is why it is so important to know how to spur ourselves, to find inspiration. Doing something you really love helps to get in the mood. When you are your own master, you have to take care of your own discipline. We have a so called ‘points calendar’: Yuri worked out
this system of points at a young age to control the amount of exercises done, walks taken and art produced, because creative fever often makes you neglect your body. Now there’s no need to count ‘creative’ points, for instance, though in my daily notes I try to reflect what we have been doing during the day. And we mark the number of points gained for walks, drives and daily exercises on a calendar on a wall because this evidence makes it easier to control our state. In reality this ‘reports system’ is much easier than it may seem at first glance. It is a matter of habit. The rest of our difficulties are restricted to the social part of life, to external circumstances. The lack of follow up, particularly the fact that my husband’s books are not sold in large numbers of copies, though definitely he has a circle of readers and admirers, is producing a negative effect, of course, but we are both optimists, we love to live and know how to be joyful, and this helps to overcome everything. And our life, our relationship, the things we do, our garden of Eden are really the best I can imagine. This is the best in these circumstances. Sometimes a part of my life is reflected in my blog… of course one cannot be telling everything, besides, it is much more pleasant to be sharing good things, to let others know that even in today’s reality this much is possible when there is love and harmony. So, on the one hand, yes, we live the way we want to live in a sense that we do what we love. On the other hand, of course, we are limited by outside events: books and albums not getting published, we cannot go on a trip to some islands, for instance… But in the present-day circumstances, what we are doing is a lot. As for the financial side, we’ve had various moments. At first we were
carefully spending what was left of Yuri’s fees. When we ran out of this money, we had 13 dollars left for an uncertain period of time. (We were spending 100 dollars a month then, all work needs included. Now we spend around 10000 rubles (about 250 euros)). I had to seek work urgently and worked until I provided a minimum for further life. Sometimes we managed to publish a slide or an article by Yuri. If we could only be really published, get all the novels and albums out, we would never have such a problem, but this doesn’t depend just on us, far from that. So, on the one hand, we have a very limited amount of money at our disposition, and on the other, we’ve learnt to manage it so we don’t feel any particular lack. ‘Not he is rich who has plenty, but he who has enough’. We have everything we really need to live and continue our work. It is more important for us to be free, and we have chosen freedom… As for the starving artist, I am convinced that a lot of people understand what kind of hunger this should be. Of course, it is the hunger for creativity. An artist should not be sate, his talent should be hungry and insatiable. And physical hunger brings no good, it is exactly the necessity to earn that kills real art. If an artist is forced to exchange his talent for food and comfort, nothing good will come of this. He will be catering, not creating. And from other points of view, how difficult it was to make your life be the way you want it? I was lucky to meet somebody who already had his life the way he wanted it. And I liked that. So it was rather easy for me to adjust harmoniously to help instead of hinder. Nobody influenced us, and they hardly could have. We were both adults making our choice. Of course, it was easier without doubts: I knew from the first meeting that I wanted to be
there, with that man, to help him and support him. This is why even if something went wrong it was easily corrected. Usually people have doubts about their choices, but for us it was obvious. This is why even when I had to seriously consider earning money, which sort of disrupted our idyllic version of life, we managed to settle this in the best possible manner and I could, having earned the minimum necessary to go on, come back calmly to our normal life. You live in Moscow, it’s a huge capital with heavy traffic and overpopulation — how have you managed to make a garden and start growing flowers there? Once again, it’s not that I’ve managed myself; Yuri was always growing flowers on his balcony. When we started living together we travelled a lot and at first there was no garden. But once in Crimea we gathered the seeds of balsamines and decided to plant them (I knew Yuri had loved them from childhood). And just to make it more interesting, we also gathered snapdragons and nasturtiums and planted them in spring. Then we brought the seeds of gazanias, blue
bindweeds, petunias, cornflowers… And then they started growing. Heavy traffic and overpopulation do not concern us much: we live in a quiet alley (although the number of cars here has risen dramatically over the years). The flowers were going along fine, perhaps, they felt our attitude to them. Then, because of the construction of a heat pipeline, large trees from our alley were sawed down, which was a pity, but this added sunshine. Then we planted some sprouts on a naked space below our balcony: there was no grass or fences, so we could only hope they won’t get trampled down. Luckily, they didn’t. As a result we got this little oasis which our neighbours liked, too, so next year we made the flowerbed larger. And last year we got support: a fence was placed and some soil was brought here, so the flowerbed became even larger. And the good example turned out to be contagious: our neighbours are now planting something to the other side of the house door. How does your workplace look? Not bad by this time: I’ve done my best to make it as practical as possible. This did not happen at once, naturally, but now I can do almost anything I want or need without any difficulty.
In the beginning
What exactly do you mean by ‘practical’? For me it means that I can do what I need to — be it drawing or writing — at any moment. This means I need a large desk, so that even with the computer on top I’d still have space for drawing
Joy is the most important thing in our whole life! and writing. Not long ago I’ve enlarged our dinner table and thus organized more workspace for both of us. Another important thing is easy storage: so that I don’t have to look for any things I might need, but just easily get them out and then put them away — so I’ve built two racks. You need to have all the things you use daily on hand but without cluttering all the space there is. By the way, we live in a small one-room apartment with a room of 19 meters and, luckily, a rather spacious kitchen of 9 meters. We’re a bit cramped but manage to live, work and sometimes have guests. When needed, the room is transferred into a cinema or even a photo studio. What is the most important thing for you in your art? It is joy! It is the most important thing in our whole life and the reason we do the things we do. The joy of learning about the world, of being able to express it. And, of course, of being able to share it (though this part is rather difficult at the moment). I feel joy when I write and am able to express my thoughts as clearly
as possible. Or when I conceive a drawing and then when I actually do it it results to be exactly like I wanted it to, this is so much joy, too. And what inspires you? My husband, mostly. I was lucky to meet somebody who had found his way and stays true to it. And the fact that I can help him in what he does and as a result become closer myself to something that had been out of my bounds, and that this provides soil for my personal growth, all of this inspires, too. My husband, whom I love greatly, is an eager participant of the process of my development. He is always there for me with a kind word and a sound advice. Well, as much as I am there for him. And you’ve been together for how long now, 13 years? Officially, yes. But we got to know each other when I was 15, in Kazakhstan. This was the beginning of the story I try to tell in Love Story. 10 years later I came to see him in Moscow from St Petersburg, where I lived and worked at the moment, and this is when our real love started. At first I came to visit him from time to time, then decided to move to Moscow to be closer. Yuri easily proposed to me and I said yes with the same ease. And on June 30th, 1999 we got officially married. Love Story is the true story of your love which you are describing in fiction, your novel? Yes, it was my husband who made me start writing. When we met again* and our love began, Yuri at once started describing it and the result was his novel The Song of Songs which included my letters and diaries, too. He later changed the name of the novel to Songs Over the Abyss, a name that reflected our life precisely. And he seriously said I did well and it would be great if I described our story from my side. At first I didn’t believe much in myself, but I could not but believe my husband, so I started gradually and it turned out to be so interesting… useful, too, because
* You can read about that in Olga’s LiveJournal
I realise and reconsider a lot of things in the process, and I sort of feel life deeper and brighter. I know that at some point you were shy to draw on paper, though otherwise you were drawing a lot. Have you managed to overcome this barrier? How? Yes, it was weird when I realised that it was paper that made me freeze while I could easily draw on a ceiling, a window, a vase or a door. But thanks to the ‘365 project’ organised by Natalie Ratkovski in her LiveJournal (conjure, http://conjure.livejournal.com / ) and to her kind advice and support I completely lost my fear of paper. She advised me to get hold of various notebooks and allow myself to fearlessly have fun. And this is what I am doing now with great pleasure! Are you critical to your work? How do you accept your art? I am, generally speaking, very critical to myself. And I treat very seriously what I do, whatever it is. This is probably why I couldn’t allow myself to do sketches for a long time: as if they were something unfinished and aimless. I have to like what I do, so I won’t be carving or decorating until I am satisfied with my sketch. And if I like the sketch and I understand how to carry it out, I usually like the result. Drawing, though, is another thing, because this is what I am learning; here I let myself be glad with some intermediate results and then aim forward… They say that people who are critical of themselves are likewise critical to others. Is this the truth? How do you judge others’ works or art? This is probably true, I am exigent both to myself and to others. But I
mostly keep it to myself. Yura says he would have never thought by my looks that I am nagging myself that much. As for the things others do, I am not likely to actually say that I don’t like something, but I will be avoiding contact. And it is the same with everything else for me: I like to have things I like beside me and avoid things I dislike. I guess this is the way I judge others’ art: whether I like it or not, whether I am responding to it or not…And I don’t care about diplomas or titles. If I see something I can praise, I will do this, because this feels so much nicer. I always know my own faults and am more interested in people telling me of the good things they see in my art than in their fingering my errors. This is why I try to do the same to others. I must say people seldom know how to praise, and as for criticism, I like the way Yuri puts it: ‘Critique makes sense only when the critic has seen something good about the work and says it so that the author can judge whether he was at all understood — and only after that can he talk about shortcomings, defined by the general idea’. And people often hurry to say something ‘clever’, not pausing to ask about what the author actually wanted to express.
valuable when it is appropriate. A real critic should first of all make sure that he has understood the author’s plan correctly. And it’s best to start with praising the top points. Then the critical suggestions will be accepted gratefully and can really help. It is really hard not to get hurt. Here’s my advice: do not argue, ask more questions. Well posed questions will help you make the critic’s intentions clear and show his real competence. Either he will be forced to express more clearly something which might help the author, or he will just look like a fool. The critics that are least objective are usually colleagues. Yura once invited five artists to a demonstration of slides. After watching several films they started talking about what they considered drawbacks. This was very unexpected, because during the show their reaction seemed to be positive. Yuri was confused and asked them, ‘Have you really liked nothing?’ They were silent for a
Have you come across such criticism? How do you manage not to get hurt by it? What would you advice to somebody who is suffering from it? I think anybody who does anything comes across this. Especially now, when people got used to the saying, ‘many men, many minds’. Besides, the Internet allows more ways to criticise. Nobody thinks that those minds of the many men should be learned enough and their opinions should be based on something. Really, critique is very
moment and then one of them said (and he was no less confused), ‘No, don’t you think so. Everything is just great! The things we mentioned now are no more than one percent’. Then he added, ‘We are so spoilt! We’ve learnt to find faults first of all and we don’t know how to praise’. So my first advice is to ask the critic for explanations. When I was a little girl, my mother used to put it like this: ‘You can’t grow horns and hooves because of somebody calling you a goat’. So my second advice is to sometimes just ignore the unpleasant opinion, not to be dependent on it. Generally speaking, while we create and this brings us joy, what does it mean if somebody wants to look clever at our expense? Another way of coping with it is a method a friend of mine taught me. When somebody tried to scorn her she said, ‘Right you are! But I am working on myself’, which made the unwanted advice come to a halt.
Of all the works by your husband, which are your favourite? It would be extremely difficult to choose favourites from the thousands of works. Of course, I had some when I saw little of them; one of them was this picture from the album called The Touch. Apart from that, I think the angle is perfect here in this photo of a tree in Kolomenskoye!
Do you sometimes lose heart and seem to have neither forces nor will to create? If yes, how do you cope with this? I think I’ve never lost heart and will to create. I adore life and am grateful for what it gives. And since me and my love are together, there is no reason to despair. Yes, we have difficulties with the ‘coming out’ of our things to readers and viewers, but we have each other, and this is a lot, and besides, we have our albums, films and novels. And we have nature, which never ceases to support and inspire. As for the moments of fatigue, I have them, naturally. But art is an energy consuming task, so there’s no surprise about this. I’m lucky because the man beside me has come a long way and has come up with some basic rules. The organism is a surprising creation, and we create with its help. So we need to look after our health. It is important to avoid bad habits and practice good ones; to do morning exercises, walk and eat properly. One shouldn’t allow oneself to feel low and lazy… And the organism will respect that and will be able to work efficiently. And it is imperative to be doing something you love. Or this fairy-tale, the magic fairy…
I adore life and am grateful for what it gives.
But as time passed I saw more and now I wouldn’t be praising some work over the other; besides, we actively continue the process and are now doing a lot of beautiful shots together.
I like this work very much: I think it has something of Vrubel.
And this one has something of Rokotov or Borovikovski…
I’d rather say I appreciate his style in general, his approach to photography, fiction and film production. Once when we were selecting slides for an album I took one of the boxes, with the butterflies pictures, and started watching the slides one by one. Selection was a difficult task because all of those slides had passed some selection previously, so I watched and watched and after some time felt my mood go up, felt myself in a kind of harmony. And it dawned on me that every slide had a fragment of this harmony, some echoes of the great whole, and while I watched I seemed to get infused with it. The more you watch, the more you feel it. This is why I can’t say I prefer some shots on their own: I prefer films or albums, where you can fall into a state of admiration for the beautiful world… It is not by chance that the first large album was called The Touch: it is about touching the design of the Creator; this is the impression produced by films where Yuri’s attitude to the world can be seen. The shots may be different, but together they make a picture of the world. And Yuri always wondered at the fact that this sort of reaction was uniform, that irrespective of their age or occupation all of his viewers felt the same by the end of a film.
Of all you do: decorating, drawing, writing, photographing, — do you have some works which you like more than others? It is, of course, the same here: I love the process. And though I like what I do, I believe that the best is yet to come. I can mention the wooden platter I made as a gift to Yura where I used a drawing after one of his slides in the central part. And I think I will be proud of the stand I am making now: it’s been my largest project recently and I spent a lot of time inventing the drawing, because you have to take a lot of things into consideration in carving… And the most important thing is to find the motif you won’t get used to, so that it would bring you joy every time you see it.
You can watch or buy the albums at Albooka: albooka.com (authors: arakcheev&valeeva). A new album is added approximately once in two weeks.
I think all the great artists draw from a single source.
Illustrator: Ks firstname.lastname@example.org http://cargocollective.com/_ks_
Based on the answers of all the creative people who have taken part in working on this issue:
What do we draw with? With various pencils; markers; pens; watercolours; acrylics; using a tablet; using an Ipad; with a rapidograph; in Adobe Illustrator; with a gel pen; with watercolour pencils; with pen and ink.
What perfumes do we use? Aromas:
D&G Light Blue (the leader) Opium (YSL) Patchouli (Etro) Saffron Amber Cardamom (Korres) Delicious Night (DKNY) Hugo Boss Salvador Dali Dalistyle Сhanel Сristalle L’Eau Par Kenzo Cacharel
patchouli cinnamonjasmine, and a personalised aroma
do not use any perfume
What’s up with sports? 25%
do not practise sports
have answered vaguely
say they do but do not say which sport
use a bicycle
practise yoga, at the same time 50 % of them do not consider yoga a sport
Favourite time of the year 28,5%
are wise to enjoy all the seasons
Do we like to cook?
Do we like football?
do not like football
do not have a decisive answer
have replied ambiguously
do not particularly like it
are indifferent to it
What do we have for ringtones? Pain — Shut your mouth какая‑то трансовая композиция Hocico + BlutEngel — Never The Box Tops — The Letter Carnival of Rust — Poets of the Fall Pink Martini — Santa Baby Regina Spektor Daddy Yankee — Somos de calle
are using a standard melody
Favourite films: Natural Born Killers For Rosanna Star Wars (the three old parts) My Blueberry Nights The Sky Above Berlin The Hedgehog In The Fog Andrei Rublev and Solaris by Tarkovsky Caligula by Brass The Very Same Munchhausen by Zakharov A Dog’s Heart by Bortko The Beautiful Troublemaker Instead of Me
Other facts: 75%
have no driving license
do not drive a car
(but 20 % of them plan to get a license and drive)
have never played PC games
Favourite fairy-tales: Shrek The Frog Princess The Mermaid The 10th Kingdom
A joke from the illustrator: ‘Do you get enough sleep sleeping 2 to 3 hours a day?’ ‘Slip slipping where?’ ‘Oh I see.’