When I was a kid, I remember looking through a plane window and wishing so strongly that I could just go and run in those puffy clouds. The idea seemed very feasible. Well, it never happened, and I got used to the thought that sky was the limit, which meant that there was no way on earth to reach to the sky. Yet nature astonished me again. There was a 6,500 miles stretch of salt flats in Bolivia called Salar de Uyuni.
Few times a year during the rainy season, small amounts of water flood the plain, making it the world’s most perfect mirror. In fact, so perfect that NASA uses its surface to calibrate satellite orbits.
Looking through endless photos, where this amazing natural phenomenon made it appear like people were floating effortlessly in between the clouds, made me remember my childhood airplane dreaming. But also, it reminded me of that feeling on the bicycle, when you are going for a long ride and completely zone out at some point. It seems, sometimes, that the surrounding scenery blends altogether and all you see is the sky and a road that disappears in a skyline.
Then, I imagined a dream ride in Salar de Uyuni. The whole peloton that only knows one way: straight ahead. The concept of a dream, that became an obsessive idea, over which one loses sleep, visually combined road cycling and the Bolivian salt flat phenomenon in my head.
I created a series of paintings that depicted that imaginary race. To sum up the project, I am currently planning to go to Bolivia to cross the desert on my road bike and film the experience. The idea is to prove that even the sky is no limit. I will also do a live painting session in Salar de Uyuni and make a final presentation with an artist talk and discussion back in the US.
Finished this one! It’s the newest one out of the cycling series! You can see a process of painting starting from the blank canvas till a signature in the end below.
The piece depicts three champions of the Tour de France 2016 – Chris Froome, Peter Sagan (who also entered the Olympics 2016 as a mountain bike racer. Peter claimed it was his childhood dream and that it’s simply cool) and Nairo Quintana. The subject was inspired by the retired pro cyclists’ talks about eating pasta while competing. A carb filled diet was trending at a time. Also, the cyclists recalled having no team buses as they have now. In fact, they would usually cycle to their hotels right after finishing a stage. It would calm cyclists’ bodies down in addition to saving funds on transportation. Hotels must have been within couple miles radius. Unfortunately, it was rather dangerous as after a dreadful heat or extra tiring mountain climbs cyclists were often losing the focus and could get into an accident on their way to hotels.
This scene puts a race into a cityscape. It is New York and it storms heavily. And while the racers keep competing, in spite of a weather, the only spectators seem to be the people, spinning at the gym. Their room is warm and a heat turns into steam that blurs their view. However, no matter how intensely they spin the pedals, they are only going as far as their machine bike lets. It’s all about the choices and what gets our blood going. Isn’t it?
Today I realized how soon is Christmas: 8 days left. Till New Year’s Eve – 16 days. Being from Ukraine made me long for a number of other winter holidays: St Nicholas day (Dec 19) andOrthodox Christmas (that is celebrated on Jan 7). In addition to this, there is another amazing date: Winter Solstice (Dec 21). I always found it silly that people get all crazy over the gifts hunt and ‘made-in-china’ decorations. It amuses me that in America you start to see Christmas promotions in November. However, when I was on the evening walk a few days ago I realized something important, I think. I saw a holiday rush as a means to unite people, make them feel like they belong and are a part of something bigger. It is a natural sensation that makes a human being’s life worth it. In the essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of a world devoid of God and eternal truths or values.
Finding magic in your life is a lot easier than you might think. A traditional ‘fight for the light’ is really not that necessary, while in pursue of magic, buying 25K worth of Christmas decorations to make your house the brightest in a community is an option but far not the only one.
“A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it’s the most painful thing you’ll ever have to do and that you’ve ever done. But what’s yours is yours. Whether it’s up in the sky or here in your hands. And one day, it’ll fall from the sky and hit you in the head real hard and that time, you won’t have to put it back in the sky again.”
― C. JoyBell C.
10 secret steps to make magic happen
1. Start your day with a special kind of coffee
Recipe by Tove Jansson – novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author; she is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children.
ground coffee, milk, honey and cinnamon
How to make:
Combine 1/4 cup of milk with 2/4 cup of water. Add 1/2-1 tsp of honey; stir well.
Add 2 tsp of grind coffee beans (with a little extra tip). Top it with a pinch of cinnamon. One more pinch of cinnamon you add to the fire that cooks your coffee. Let the fire know what awaits it.
Stir while cooking. And when it is about to escape add a little more cinnamon to the coffee to make it calm down.
What’s the magic:
Life becomes better after you drink it. Things and dreams that avoided coming true would suddenly start to. Other little wonders will start to occur as well!
2. Buy/download and start reading The Little Prince by Antonie de Saint-Exupery while drinking that coffee (see step 1)
It’s very short (just 64 pages). The book is translated into more than 250 languages which makes it fourth most-translated book in the world. It was first published in 1943. The Little Prince is a novella by a French writer, poet and pioneering aviator Saint-Exupery. In this story he is thought to have drawn on the aviation experiences in the Sahara Desert.
The watercolour illustrations that were made by the author add a magic visuals to a poetic tale about a pilot, who is stranded in a desert and meets a young prince who has fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid.
It was written during the Second World War: France had fallen and Saint-Exupery fled to North America.
Don’t let the cute illustrations fool you, it is much more than a child’s book, although it’s styled as one. It is a voyage of an adult in search of a sincerity and simple childhood-like excitement.
Where to get it:
Buy a printed version at your local book shop. Be old school, books are very cool to hold in your hands and turn over the pages.
Buy an e-book on Amazon.
Download a free version (pdf, ePUB or Kindle) – no spam, no tricks, this link actually works: http://ebookbees.com/the-little-prince-free-ebook/
3. and 4. Music cures. Dancing too. Get your day moving with a next step. Now we are all different with unique tastes but here’s what I was writing this article to:
Music really can make magic happen. I love those chill electronics by Moderat (German based group). Even 10 minutes of getting lost in a dance in between day-to-day errands putts a newly polished smile on my face.
Feeling more rhythmic? This youtube charnel full of salsa tutorials that are actually very easy to follow fulfills the mood:
For a funk mix of electronics this is the way to go:
But seriously go to dancing classes. Literally sign up for tonight’s local class ‘try it out’!! 🙂 It cleans you inside out – body and soul. It took me ages to make this decision. You know how it goes: lack of time, no partner, too expensive, just keep forgetting. It’s all called procrastination – google it! Signing up to classes takes a simple action – just find a school close to you or the one that looks fun, ask a friend, go to yelp, attend evening open dance classes – don’t over think it.
That’s a good movie to get you inspired on the topic (so old – so good):
5. Seal your wish in an empty bottle of wine.
How to prepare:
Buy a bottle of wine (not too expensive, don’t make it too fency, or the wish will think that you are trying to buy it out). It has to be special: pick by nice label picture, or drink the one that a good person gave you, or buy one here – this wine store claims to expose wine to music, that should change its structure and make every cell of your body cheer.
Drink it. Preferably in a beautiful place to charge it with some good memories and share it with some good people, but I’ll tell you secretly – drinking it alone for this cause is fine too (maybe not the whole bottle…and don’t drink and drive, right?).
Make a wish, blow it inside the bottle and cork it right away (so that a wish can’t escape).
What’s the magic:
Your wish comes true! Really:) Just be humble and you’ll get 10 times worth of a wish.
To be continued…Saving some for the next magical day!!:)
Moment by moment our life floats with a current and we are the brave sailors cruising it. Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. It goes along with being conscious of a moment and feeling every second of your life. Music adds an extra dimension to it. It thickens the air around us, filling it with a sound that resonates with every our cell.
In fact, multiple studies show how music, that is physically a number of sound waves reacts with water, troubling it in a certain way that causes the water molecules to change its shape for the moment. Microscopic videos depict the crystal structure of water to actually rebuild when exposed to sound. In fact, I found the German wine manufacturer that creates a special kind of wine – exposed to classical music. He claims that it changes it making it have a better influence on those who drink it. Like better kind of karma. I’d drink it haha. As we all learned in school – 90% of our bodies consists of water. Hense music must literally resonate with us as well. As a result, music influences human behavior and Spotify claims to its add providers that music helps to sell too. Here is the whole book on that, in case you wondered.
As Spotify promotes it – there is a sound for every occasion. I am an artist. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks on youtube when I paint. It is very entertaining especially in the last stages of the art process, as it is mostly working on details, that doesn’t involve too much of thinking activity. It still takes a lot of time, so audiobooks fit perfectly. I did a great deal of high school program catch up like that. Also, I discovered plenty interesting lectures podcasts. As another option – I use this time to be listening news or podcasts to practice my German listening skills. But that involves a fair amount of focus. Got to be careful with it.
At other times, when I am just in the beginning stage of a painting, I try to pick music accordingly with the mood that I am trying to recreate in a painting. Music on a background works similarly to a director in the middle of a filming process. An actor has to persuade a viewer that he really feels the emotions, he is depicting. A director has to educate an actor about these emotions. In the way, he temporarily uploads the leading to the current events history and psychological background to the actor’s consciousness.
Modern practices involve a lot of getting into a role preparation. There were multiple articles discussing Leonardo Dicaprio’s preparation to a shooting of the movie ‘Reverent’. They talked about his physical sacrifices to a hyper-naturalistic style of ‘Reverent’. The same stories surrounded Jared Leto’s approach to a Joker role in the new Bateman movie – ‘Suicide Squad’. The speculations in The Atlantic magazine were that this is the death of Hollywood. In the way that it is more so a ‘behind-the-scenes reality show’ that aims at creating promotional drama and coverage, rather than an artistic process.
In reality, this method of getting into the role was invented by the Russian theater director Stanislavski. He revolutionized the classical romantic acting style, turning it into brutally naturalistic. The ‘Stanislavski System’ changed the drama theater forever but it isn’t by any means a contemporary actor’s ‘knowhow’ drawn to gain popularity. It’s nothing more than a style of acting which may be or may be not preferred by a director.
The same thing with painting. With establishing of my artistic style, I have been experimenting with different techniques and genres. That included naturalism, impressionism, photorealism, installations, painting, filming etc. At some point, I had to prepare for an art show that would include 10 of my pieces depicting gigantic candies. So I chose Leonardo’s approach – I stocked my fridge with all sorts of sweets I was painting. Doesn’t help as much, I want to say. Music does, though.
I have no preference for styles – I choose to lose myself in a current moment. Yesterday I worked on the new piece. It is about this freezing snowstorm. Three men are trying to push their friend’s car out of the snow. Windows in the nearby houses are all tight shut. Not a single soul at this ungodly time. But right behind the men, there is a cycling peloton, racing through the snow towards the grand win. There is nothing that can possibly stop them. Because bicycles never get stuck, – cars do. You can read a bit more about my winter adventures as a cyclist in the hilly city of Kyiv (Ukraine) here. These memories inspired me to make a painting on this topic today. I really wanted the viewer to feel that vacuum that you find yourself in at this kind of storm. There are no distinct sounds, you almost can’t breathe, as it makes you feel like you freeze from inside, doing it. But you keep going as there are that finish line and a coziness of electric lights and a hot drink.
Music that filled my painting process yesterday was from the Under Zauber podcast on Radio Aristocrats. It is a Ukrainian radio. But don’t get scared of foreign language talk – the most of the podcast is pure atmospheric music.
Did you ever look at that artist on a street or that painting on a museum wall and wondered – how do they do it? I mean, where do you even start? When painting a portrait for example, do you draw eyes first? Do you start from the top? People got used to considering artists a different breed, ‘free spirits’. But I bet you, there is an artist living inside of you, just being unnoticed!
I grew up in a non-artists family. My father has a degree in engineering and my mom – in foreign linguistics. My grandmother would give me paints and paper so that I entertained myself as a kid when she needed to do some work. That’s how it started and yes, I painted all my life since then. I totally believe any skill is acquirable given time and effort. I was lucky to have a lot of both.
When I had to choose a college – I wanted to go to Australia and study film production. My parents wouldn’t let me: way too far and I was way too young to even apply (as we used to finish high school at 16 then). As a compromise, I agreed to apply to the National Academy of Fine Art and Architecture in my hometown Kyiv, Ukraine.
It was close to exams time and I had a lot to catch up. Most applicants graduated already from a community art college. I spent a lot of time studying about theater (as I chose theater stage design as a major due to the least competition). I saw applicants drawing human models at live sketching classes, while I was trying to at least get the general proportions right (pretty unsuccessfully). I was recommended one of the professor’s workshops. It was in historic Kyiv district in a basement. I fell in love with art much more then and met plenty future friends, who as myself succeeded in enrolling to the Academy.
I remember this stage design workshop with another professor. He would have a huge vintage wooden table in the middle of his studio. There were plenty of books everywhere, that we looked through and discussed during a class. He would brew tea and one of the students would always bring some homemade cookies. Then we would show our work in progress. We would talk about whether an idea that was presented works and what are the other possibilities. Our professor said that a stage should remind one of a dream. It shouldn’t be necessarily realistic but it must be persuasive. Whatever it is, it should reflect your relation to an object that you are observing.
One time I was walking with a friend in a park. He wanted to take a photo of a tree, wondering how to make it different. I said that he should show through his photo, how he feels about this tree, how he perceives it. Generally, that is how you learn to tell a story every time you create. Unless you are a journalist that has to depict an unbiased reality, your relationship with a subject should be felt through your work. That is where you have to prove why you want one to spend the time to look at your work.
We all have opinions and feelings. Thinking critically is the first step to awakening that artist inside of us. That is when you become conscious of events surrounding yourself and start to notice things. Anything. Whatever it is that resonates with you. It can be facial expressions of people around you, maybe your family or co-workers. It can be patterns of traffic, orglitter of produce (in my case).When you notice things, you will then start to form your opinions, you will realize how you personally perceive them.
When you notice things, you will then start to form your opinions about it, how you personally perceive the matter. It doesn’t really matter whether you love the subject or hate it. There is beauty in both approaches.
The next step is to share the message. It is the skill to let people see (or hear) how you feel about your subject and why. Every one of us has a unique mindset. You know how daltonic people might not even know they don’t see colors right. It’s very simple: the way they see is the only way, hence the right one. So when you tell a story, make sure you tell it loud and clear. The idea should be comprehendible. But it’s not the ultimate goal.
You remember how it feels when you wake up that winter morning and you see that streets got covered with snow over night and it all seems so freezing cold, that it gives you shivers. But then you make yourself some hot tea and while brewing it your inside windows get covered with newly formed condensation from the heat coming from inside the room. It’s warm and bright in the kitchen, where you are at. Remember a smell of that tea and bread or breakfast. It makes you feel ever warm. It’s all about contrast. One feels rich in a poor neighborhood, andone falls in love with rain when living in a desert. Comparison to an obvious opposite makes your idea visible.
They also told us at art school to sometimes rotate our paintings upside down to see what’s wrong. The trick is that we get used to looking at our work from the same perspective. By changing an angle we pay attention to details again. It’s not only in regards an artwork. They say that driving after 3 years of experience is the most dangerous. We don’t have substantial skills yet, but the process already seems very familiar. So we loose focus, hence car crashes. Staying focused is a skill essential to succeeding in any field. In surgery and art particularly.
And the last thing – you just need to find your language. It can be painting, drawing, photography, installations or video. Whatever it is that resonates with your perception. And when you start, just never stop. That’s what I did. You can see my work here and maybe share what you think about it with me. But even now, having over 10 years of a professional art career, I can start aportraitsometimes, and have hard times delivering it. But eventually, I always do. It’s consistency that makes it possible. Also the passion for a subject of the story, you are trying to tell. And constant questioning yourself – why? why not? and what if?
And after that, there are really no rules. Just explore and live your life with a story worth sharing. Choose to see the ugliness or the beauty. Just be open and feel it.
I came across this haiku by Matsuo Bashō(Matsuo was a Japanese poet, lucky enough to be recognized during lifetime):
“Frozen in the night
The water-jar cracks
It made me think of the absurdity of dreams. One may be a homeless, ‘the next top model’, or a manager (you name it) in everyday life. But similarly to a butterfly, that gets out of a cracked cocoon, one reveals the real self in dreams. Guided only with subconsciousness, you travel through intricate scenarios. The development and outcome are based on decisions that you make. Cheating yourself is impossible, though. One can only be a true self. It’s a tricky game, you know.
I once wanted to make an object: a bar cabinet in a shape of a drunk person. A joke would be: ’a person’ stores liquor inside. This idea quickly transformed into an art project: ‘A Dream That Hatched From a Broken System’. Instead of a bar, I felt like I needed to visualize a concept of dreams as a cracked cocoon. In this case, that would need to be a broken, transparent, real-life sized sculpture of a homeless person. I wanted to make it very realistic. My friends and I searched the streets of Kiev to find an ideal model. We provided a full-service: drinks on a bar, car transportation, change of clothes, all in exchange for a couple of hours modeling. We needed to mold a man’s face that had all the signs of street lifestyle.
As it turned out, it was a rather sad story that he had to tell us. He spoke English, he quoted literature and poetry by-heard, in fact, he was rather well-known in the neighborhood. Kolia ‘Fisher” (his nickname) was just unlucky at a certain stage of his life. He used to work in advertising and video production once, used to own an apartment in a prestigious part of Kiev. Then things went downhill. And from there, it’s just a snowball effect. He said he was fine now. What else could he say?
His story was a perfect fit and I was glad to tell it. We all just love to stereotype people we know nothing about. I still see him from time-to-time around, when I am in Kiev.
But my story is about dreams. It only becomes more real from there on. It is a story from within ourselves.
After we had his face, we needed a body. Kolia didn’t seem to be excited about it. So it had to be me now. I put on two thick winter jackets to reference the size of a grown man. Slavik, my sculpture-artist friend helped me. I want to tell you: being covered with gypsum, that is heavier than my body weight was a challenge. When gypsum dries, it releases heat. It was very hot. Two jackets didn’t help either.
Then there was a process of filling the shape with plastic. Plastic is a great material on one hand, as it copies every single nuance of a mold (its texture in particular). On the other, it is very toxic and fragile.
In the end of a day, it turned out to be a great project. It was a real trip and I believe it educated all of us (who helped its creation). It is important to be conscious. But even more so, to try to reflect the dreams in real life. Be true to ourselves, and maybe we’ll start to see more clearly the stories, that people around us are ‘filled with’.
It was in mid April 2013, that Kiev drowned in snow almost overnight. And that snow storm just wouldn’t stop. In spite of a perception of Eastern Europe as an eternal winter – it’s not rue. At least in Kiev [Ukraine] we normally wear jeans and t-shirts in mid April. But it started to snow. I remember my neighbors tying to dig out the front door to our apartment complex, as it was blocked by snow. (In fact in Russia during the USSR, it was common to build doors so that they open inside the room/building, for that particular reason. But we are not Russia, so we still have problems opening doors on the days like that.)
Cars got stuck in traffic on the highways that lead in and out of Kiev for two days. Many including myself happily used this opportunity to snowboard down the streets.
Later I stopped by my friend’s art studio. Slavik is a sculpture artist. He had been working on this project for three days now, and cycled to the studio in spring outfit (as three days ago it was spring), before he knew the snowstorm would break out. Slavik is from Odessa and these people are known to be arrogant, but also very hard-working. After locking himself up and eventually finishing the project, he realized he had to make his way home now (to the dorms, where he lived at the time). He got his bike ready. It was a nice Bianchi road bike.
Next day he told us how he cycled to the dorms all the way through the snow-covered streets and that, even though his bike was rather sliding than riding – he made it home quicker than all those cars stuck in snow and traffic, because bikes never get stuck.
I remember cycling to the presentation of my first big commissioned project with a laptop in my backpack through the rainstorm, that would challenge my eyes to even attempt open for a second (as pouring water would momentarily get in them). And then standing in front of the ‘white-collared’ customers, all covered in dirt, with that soaked laptop. But I really wouldn’t rather stay in traffic, because of some collision ahead.
And of course there are those days when you get a flat tire, during that ‘I’ll be right back’ trip. You realize you have nothing that could help you to fix it, and no people around that are willing to assist.
Just that group of mtb cyclists, who almost break your tube even more, by trying to use their air pump on your bike.
And then you walk in your cycling shoes for an hour and a half, with only Slavik on the other end of the phone to entertain you, because his stories are always unbelievably more intense and it somehow makes you feel lucky.
Painting above: ‘Froome Chasing Geese’ – acrylic on canvas. It was inspired by that stage of 2016 Tour De France, during which, after a massive uphill and nervous competition between Froome and Quitano (who was unsuccessfully trying to break away), a crash took place in the front rows of break away. It happen because of the misplaced finish line. It was high in the mountains and due to weather conditions the finish line was moved a bit down. That caused a tight crowd. A motorcycle, that was supposed to clear the way, ran into standing too close spectators and suddenly hit breaks blocking the cyclists. Froome got left without his bike as it was broken. Without further hesitation he started to run to a finish line, that was just around the corner. It reminded me that feeling of chasing geese when you are a kid and you are running for life. Also I was inspired by that book ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’, that I remembered from childhood.
Paintings above: series ‘Chasing The Pink’ – acrylic on canvas. They are dedicated to chasing the dreams (the allegory is a reference to the pink shirt of a champion of Giro d’Italia).
Read more about the creation of the painting above ‘Sky is the Limit’ in my previous post.
The new painting, I am currently working on, explores the absurdity of cycling situations. In this case it’s cycling through snow, no matter what. See the sketch below.
Follow my blog and Instagram to see the finished painting.