Sky Is The Limit – A Dream Ride Salar de Uyuni

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.

Sky Is The Limit
Painting – Acrylic on Canvas

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.

Chasing the Pink
Painting – Acrylic on Canvas

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.

Yaroslav Popovytch in the Pink Desert
Painting – Acrylic on Canvas

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.

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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.

To see more art check out my Portfolio and follow me on Instagram: @Createdbymasha!

Cheers!

Masha

I have a problem – I can’t stop cycling

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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.

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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.

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1936 Tour de France Stage 1 by BikeRaceInfo

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.

My new art series is about this impossibility to stop cycling. You just don’t stop, however out-of-this-world the circumstances around you seem to be.


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.

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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.

See more sports related paintings here.

Targo Florio – Brian Redman & Porsche 908

Brian Redman – a talented racer, who survived a massive crash at the pick of his career. Always with a smile and great charm. Brien’s is the one of a true British elegance and humble success stories. He is usually accompanied by his absolutely beautiful wife. Traveling around the US with the automobilia car events, races, and vintage car shows teach one to appreciate having such person nearby.

We meet closer at Monterey car week in California. Particularly at the Laguna Seca Vintage Race.

The portrait I painted of Brian was signed and copy on canvas was given away for a charity auction, that both Brian and myself committed to.

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Later I decided to make a bigger piece of him. Brian raced at Targo Florio in 1970. That was a very unique race, as it was going through the mountainous Italian island of Sicily and was held entirely on the public roads. For this event, Porsche introduced their new car, the light and nimble 908/03. Pole position went to the Wyer 908/03 of Jo Siffert/Brian Redman, followed by the official works 908/03 of Vic Elford/Hans Herrmann.

I thought it made a great story for a larger painting. In fact, Brian wrote a great book based on his memories of racing career, that I became obsessed about.

See the complete painting, with a chance to purchase the original or a copy here:

http://www.steveaustinsautomobiliaandtravel.com/masha.html

Here’s how the process looked:

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Painting Targo Florio 70′ – depicts Brian Redman on the way down to Cerda in the Porsche 908
See the final product and buy the original painting here: http://www.steveaustinsautomobiliaandtravel.com/masha.html
See more paintings at: Createdbymasha.com

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Cheers,

Masha

Sky Is The Limit painting creation process

Sky Is The Limit – is the painting that was created at a very special part of my life. I am an artist and was painting for as long as I can remember myself. However after graduating from my art academy I was close to realization that I might be not that good at painting and maybe I will achieve more in promoting art (more of a PR/marketing sector of the industry). I also got involved in advertising and contemporary ballet. In fact, I even developed the whole ballet performance project (Sweet Expiration), that I took to NYC to try to raise funds for its production. Little did I know that was the trip that took me away from home country Ukraine for good.

Ballet performance never was produced. I ended up moving to Arizona. The day my plane landed on the US soil, the national revolution had started in Ukraine. I didn’t paint for two years. Then I started that “so west coast” common routine of doing yoga in the morning at a gym, followed by those super overpriced kale smoothies.

 

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I discovered that my yoga group instructor at the Village gym was a massage therapist. My spine is far from perfect and running/snowboarding etc. really don’t help. So I set up an appointment. She was great. I felt like I could breathe again (that magic was the massage, she gave). That day we agreed for a barter: I paint her a painting and she gives me massage sessions worth of the painting cost. I got intrigued to fit her place and concept of it with the painting I will make for her. I came across the Bolivian salt flats pictures. Then, I read all those stories about the biggest one of them – Salar de Uyuni.

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It is the world’s biggest salt flat desert. And just a few times a year, during a rainy season, it get’s covered by few inches of water. That is enough to make it the world’s biggest mirror. In fact, it’s so perfect, it is used to calibrate satellites. The beauty of it (how I imagine it) has curved into my consciousness for a while now. I read multiple blogs on how to travel there. It is definitely on my bucket list. Among the best ones seemed to be this:

Source: Salt of The Earth, Cycling Bolivia’s Salars – BIKEPACKING.com

Deserts like that, are often used for setting speed records (due absence of obstacles). I saw this bike. It all suddenly came together: the Bolivian salt flat desert and Tour of Italy (Giro d’Italia – pro-cycling bike race) that I was obsessing over recently (as it was the end of May, and I was watching this race live).

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I made the first painting, that inspired me to proceed with the whole series. My yoga instructor loved it. I quit yoga classes and smoothies very soon, and never saw her again. But she appeared in my life in the perfect time to kickstart my painting process.

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There is also a great song Sky Is The Limit by Notorious B.I.G. The actual painting was titled in its name. It still hangs in my bedroom – looking for the right buyer. But it is definitely one of the most special for me.

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The final version of the painting is here.

See more of original art at my website: Createdbymasha.com and follow me on Instagram @createdbymasha. Also please feel free to comment and subscribe to my blog. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cheers!

Masha

U[S]A Dream

They say “art copies life”, but being an artist I can long argue that. However, if one tries to oversee the general picture, one is likely to observe a certain pattern. I narrowed my examples down to the two counties (USA and Ukraine), due to residential status, and hence the highest awareness of these two nations.

The world famous “happy endings” are definitely the US “licensed” feature. It all comes down to the morals in the end of the story, that proves that it was all forth it: the hardships, one survives, and all the battles, that a character wins. To sum up, it’s all about the win for Americans. American candidate running for a president, Donald Trump constantly uses the ‘win’ slogans in the motivational speeches. “We will have so much winning, if I get elected, that you may get bored with the winning,” Trump said. That really seems to be working. It has long become the ultimate purpose. A gymnastics commentator quoted on the men AA individual competition final: “If you ain’t first you’re last” (Scene where Reese Bobby inspires Ricky). In 2016 Olympics in Rio one will find multiple examples to prove this point. Michael Phelps comes back with a baggage of 18 Olympic gold medals and a series of controversies (boredom chased by dui etc.), only to win four more gold medals. Aly Raisman, who scored 59.566, in the individual all-around, tying with Aliya Mustafina of Russia, but lost the bronze in a tie-breaker and placed fourth, comes back four year later to Rio and wins silver over Russian gymnast Mustafina. Bernard Lagat, a 41-year old runner qualified to represent USA at the Olympics for the fifth time in his life. Lagat finished in 13 minutes, 35.30 seconds while Hassan Mead (13.35.70) (second in qualification 5k race).

For the viewers it is like a smell of that apple pie, your grandma used to make, when you were 6. It is familiar and so desirable. The smell of win. But more importantly the win over the best. Michael Phelps was so cheered for, not only for the 18 previously won medals, but because he won over the Chad Le Clos, South African athlete, who had won the gold in London 2012. and later in 2015 had choice words about Phelps. “Michael Phelps has been talking about how slow the butterfly events have been recently,” he said. “I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So he can keep quiet now.” And also because he qualified for the next event finals, twenty minutes after receiving that 22nd gold medal on the Olympic podium in Rio on Aug 11. It’s all that drama and nerves that go along with the win, and make you still talk about it years later, just like that best in the world pie.

On the other hand is the picturesque story of Ukraine. The country that is at a constant war for sovereignty, and hence the self-identification, due to its location on the border between the East and the West. Ukrainian National team is ranked top 20 by the number of participating athletes in Rio Olympics 2016. This year is the fourth Olympics for the independent from Moscow Ukraine. As a result of newly formed independent economy, sports (and arts) were left on the “left-over” budget. The athletes are mostly volunteering their health and time, based on pure dedication to the sports. Based on the example revealed by the Ukrainian men gymnastics team, there are no physical therapists, no modern post USSR training equipment, no rehabilitation funds; simple necessities like tapes and hand gloves are donated or bought by sportsmen out of the pockets. And moreover, if the team doesn’t deliver the medals, the funding cuts even lower. That is exactly what happened after London 2012 Olympics, when the Japanese team filed an appeal, believing that Uchimura should have been given more points for his dismount, which although botched in execution, was landed without an actual fall. After a video review by the judges, Uchimura’s score was increased by 0.7 points to 14.166, bringing Japan back to second place for a silver medal, and knocking Great Britain down to third place for a bronze and Ukraine to fourth place, out of the medal standings. Two of the best Ukrainian gymnasts left the team to go abroad, because of the lack of funding. No medals – no cash. So much for the dramatic story build-up.

So when Martha Karolyi (the women’s gymnastics team USA coordinator) comments on her decision at the qualifications finals: “They need to prove themselves. They need to show that they’re able to handle the stress and their routines are very consistent.” – the Ukrainian national team slogan is more likely to be “neck or nothing”. Ukraine doesn’t have a privilege of consistency, but one can be sure it will be the team that throws it all on the table. When you watch Oleg Verniaiev (Ukrainian gymnast) compete in the individual AA face-to-face (in fact leading at times) with the six time world champion, Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, be sure there is some history being written. And even when Oleg fails to score enough for the gold, and lets Kohei seal the championship by the lead of 0.9, it is a miracle of dedication that gets your heart bumping. When Serena Williams’ reign as Olympic women’s singles tennis champion comes to a shuddering halt after a shock defeat by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, there is no place for consistency. It is rather the smell of sweat, produced by adrenaline, when you risked it all at this second. If not now, when?

The little hop during Oleg Verniaiev’s landing at the AA final event separated the gold medal from “what if”. But maybe it is a chance of “what if?”, the adrenaline of allowing yourself this dream of the gold, is what drives the Ukrainians alongside with the American dreamers, regardless of the obstacles surrounding them. It is inspiring to hear Aly Raisman speak of how all the years spent in gym; all the parties, football games and simple teenage joys missed for the cause of sports, are all worth it, when you stand on that pedestal, receiving the medal, and that your life changes completely after that. This is why everyone does it, and this is how it should be.

But there are competitors from team Refugee, who trained for the Olympics without the sneakers, or had to push the boat for three hours just to survive, like Yusra Mardini, 18, or Ukrainian gymnast Verniaiev, who secured the funding for the whole team by winning that medal, that gets a viewer out of the couch and pushes to accomplish more.