Summer Days Paintings at Mingo West in Beaverton, OR

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Cafe Mingo was one of the first Portland restaurants I went to when I first moved here. It is family owned and a friend who lived here before me couldn’t recommend it high enough. ⁣

With its attentive friendly service, welcoming atmosphere and thoughtful yet unfussy seasonal fare Mingo is still one of my favorites years later. ⁣

So I was very excited when a local curator asked me to show some of my Summer Days series painting at Mingo West in Beaverton. Two of the larger oil paintings from the series, Arbor and Homeward are on display in the private dining room (I know, I am fancy, what can I say) and there are a few smaller works by the entrance in the lobby.

I am planning on stopping by some time soon to grab a drink and take in the atmosphere. I just think it’s so great to walk into a restaurant and see original contemporary figurative paintings on the dining room walls. Guess I am nerdy that way.

Fun Casual Venue, Affordable Art

Happy to work with a new curator

Danielle is an awesome local artist and an avid art collector.  She curates a few casual spaces around Portland, and we just installed 26 of my earlier paintings at one of them, Blackbird Pizza on SE Hawthorne.  Music is loud, pies are solid good, booze is plentiful and there are arcade machines in the back. I love the irreverent spirit of the place and think my work is quite fitting.

 

Pleasant discovery about the past

It was really fun to excavate my painting storage and find some paintings from when I was first starting out. One thing I didn’t expect was to be pleasantly surprised by so many of them. Back when I was beginning to paint in 2012, I was using acrylic paints and felt constantly frustrated by their limitations.  I am fascinated by the freshness and raw quality of gesture and fun daring solutions that elude me now that I have the amazing malleability of oil paint at my disposal. Maybe I should give acrylic another try?

Good Paintings at Deep Discounts

Anyways, despite having rediscovered many good things about my earlier paintings, I have just a few too many and I would rather have you enjoy them on your walls than put them back into storage after the show is done. 

Therefore, everything at Blackbird is 50% off my usual prices.

They are up for a month. Go get them.

Are you in town in August? Want to have a drink and talk art with me at Blackbird?

Tell me if you are around and would like to come to a casual artist reception toward the end of the month to hang out with me, ask questions, buy original at seriously low prices. If I get a lot of folks, interested, I’ll set up a reception date.

Thanks!

First Thursday Art Walk, New Art Friends and Good Music

Buying art directly from the artists

I love a good hustle. I love it when people take matters in their own hands and make the thing they want. Nothing against folks who work with established structures and institutions, but there’s something about making it one’s own and on one’s own, that always appeals to me. Maybe it’s my soviet upbringing, the distrust of the institutions and structures. Maybe it’s the suppressed entrepreneurial desire of the generations that came before me, but I sure love seeing artists sell their work directly to public.

A few years back, also during First Thursday Art Walk in the Pearl district in Portland, I came across an artist who was selling small paintings outside of one of the well known galleries. I was immediately taken with the expressive gestures, the edges of representation and rough realism dissolving into a vibrant chaos of vigorous brushwork. My friend and I each bough a painting and kept in touch and watched Charlie’s work develop. Check out more of his work at www.charliejmeyers.com

So I was absolutely thrilled to happen upon another talented entrepreneurial artist who was vending, just like Charlie, setting up paintings on the ground, at the same gallery crawl even the other day. Joanne Gravelin is from Portland, Maine.

She makes fresh and eloquent contemporary landscapes. I absolutely love her use of neon glow colors in combination with a muted palette of bluish grays, subdued lavender and sky blue. I was especially taken with the small works on paper, maybe 4x6 inches. Soft washy surfaces, subtle transitions are juxtaposed with bursts of unnatural and compelling artificial brightness. 

If someone wants to get me a little gift, or ten, you know what I want!

You can find Joanne on Instagram @mylastplaceonearth

 

Local finger style guitrist Amber Russell

Summer art evenings in Portland aren’t all about visual arts though. Two nights in a row I had a pleasure to cross paths with a wonderful musician who was performing at the rooftop bar at the Society Hotel and then at the art walk the next day. I don’t have a vocabulary to talk about music, I just know she is really good and I absolutely loved her free-flowing style. She is Amber Russell and I can’t wait to hear more.

And I met a fashion twin!

A painter and a designer pink shoes yellow dresses

Karin is a clothing designer, she made her wonderful dress and mine was proudly procured from a thrift store in Buffalo, NY some 21 years ago 😊


See more of her work on Instagram @karingraves2

On Creative Procrastination, Venice Lagoon and Painting Process

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Small oil sketch of the Venice Lagoon

While Organizing my studio storage (I am still working on creating an inventory system, one day I’ll get here, wish me luck!), I came across this little oil study for a painting my mom asked me to do some years ago. She traveled to Italy for the first time and fell in love with Venice. She sent me some of her photos from the trip and wanted me to make her a painting of the famous view of the Venice Lagoon resplendent with the shiny lacquered gondolas, turquoise water and San Marcos campanile in the background.

So, wanting to make sure I make a good solid picture of my Mom’s new favorite magical place, I dutifully set up a methodical approach to create a large oil painting. I studied her photos, mixed colors, experimented with the composition and made a quick study in oils to get a feel for all of it. Then, following the proper tried and true protocols of classical painting, I was going to make the real thing.

But it's a funny thing about me and preparatory studies: I can never make a painting if I make a study first. Seems like such a logical thing: do a small sketch, figure out the composition and the color palette and then transfer these ideas and discoveries to make a large solid painting based on all this information.

Sounds smart, but I guess I like to work harder than smarter.

The act of painting has always been about a process of discovery for me. Paintings I end up making are almost byproducts, evidence, artifacts that document the research, all the exploration and all the mistakes. It's an open-ended process. And if I answer all the questions in the sketch, then there is simply no reason to make a "real" painting.

I usually work very fast and deliver before the deadlines, but just could not bring myself to give my mom the large painting version because it lacked the spontaneity and aliveness that I am after. So, instead of feeling guilty for failing to produce a large painting of her beloved Venice Lagoon for my mom for years now, I will be shipping her this small oil on paper study. The gesture is vivid, the fun I had making it is evident.

I hope mom likes it

Photographer in the Painter's Studio

The worst thing a photographer can say is: “Just act natural!“

What usually ensues are grimace-like smiles, corny staged poses and general feeling of dread and wanting to get away from the all seeing eye of the camera lens as fast as possible.

OK, maybe you never felt like that and you are always ready for your close up, but I sure can get stiff and act anything but natural in front of a camera. And I am talking about a still camera. Video is an altogether different level of cruel and unusual punishment.

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I was so excited when Erin and I met at a business class.

I loved her approach to portrait photography. She is warm and funny, kind and sincerely interested in her subjects. Her goal is to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance that allows people to actually act natural even in such an unnatural situation as a photo shoot.

Erin visited my studio recently and we spent a few laughter filled hours goofing off. Just a few minutes into it I forgot that the usually intimidating camera was always trained on me and goofed off to my heart’s content.

I even got to model one of my paintings as a dress!

She is echipps on Instagram.

Get your pictures taken by a cool local lady photographer before she books up solid

Mediterranean Sunshine for Soviet Construction Workers

Brighter Future oil on canvas 19x25 inches 2019

Brighter Future
oil on canvas
19x25 inches
2019

Soviet construction ladies get a Mediterranean makeover.

Back in the studio after some time away. So nice to play with paints again!

I was away in Spain and Italy for two and a half weeks, and I can definitely feel the trip’s effect on my palette, and not in a way I suspected it would happen.
I thought it would be all dramatic chiaroscuro imprinted on my brain from the Prado and Venetian churches, but instead the Mediterranean sun left the strongest impression with all the saturated light color, bright yellows, greens and pinks. I am surprised and excited about this new development.

I made this painting in response to an open call organized by the City of Seattle for their Portable Works Collection. They already own one of my pieces, the Carousel, but they definitely need more. I am sure they do. So, I decided to make a companion piece, a different generation of soviet/post-soviet women and turn up that color and saturation another notch.   

For so long I was attached to the idea of creating images of post-soviet spaces by staying true to the local color palette. All the memories of the dreary melting slush and muddy ruts of my childhood kept showing up in my canvases. I would often get comments that my work was so recognizable, especially locally here in Portland, because of its distinct muted color palette. This was especially true once I started using oils and could really get into the rich hues of grey-black-brown mud and dust.

But recently I have been moving away from a literal interpretation of my reference material and my memories. It’s been a curious exercise to think, feel and see the same content, now re-interpreted in more saturated, lighter color.

I actually had to hide my earth tone paint tubes away from myself. Hid them in a far corner of the studio storage so that finding them in the middle of painting frenzy would be more challenging than figuring out how to mix a dark color wish such vibrant hues on my palette. It’s been fun!

I would love to know what you think about this new development. I know a lot of you enjoyed my previous palette and color.

Do you love these these new summer colors or if you are already missing the rich natural tones from before?

Let me know in the comments or send me a message

Thanks!

My Eyes are Full of Art: Venice Biennale, Museo del Prado, Thyssen and Casa Sorolla

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I went to Europe and all I have to show for it are these two thousand photos of paintings on museum walls.

Where to begin?

I love travel. Most of us do.
And it’s been a few years since I traveled internationally.

My last trip to Europe was also an art trip to participate in the 5th Odessa Biennial of Contemporary art.
Two years later I finally got to see the granddaddy of them all, the Venice Biennale. I also managed to visit all the major museums in Madrid. It’s a lot of art to take in!

There was no way for me to post about everything I was seeing as I was trying to see and do so much on my short trip. So I am going to create a series of blog posts about all the renaissance and baroque masterpieces as well as the stunning line up of contemporary art from the Biennale.

Oh, and it’s strictly forbidden to photograph art at the Museo del Prado, but you won’t tell on me, will you?

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Soviet School Children are Heading to South Korea

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"Matinee" is selected for the 5th Geoje International Art Festival in South Korea.

I am delighted to announce that my work was selected for exhibition in 2019 5th Geoje International Art Festival this fall in South Korea.

The theme of the festival is “Freedom and Peace“. The festival is hosted by the Haegeumgang Theme Museum in Geoje.

It’s been a couple of years since I have participated in an international show and I hope I’ll be able to attend and visit a dear friend Hyunju Kim who has been residency hopping in China and South Korea.

I have never been any further east than my hometown in Ukraine and I am super excited to go on this art adventure!

(My well known kimchi obsession has nothing to do with the choice of location, I promise)

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Out with the recent, in with the brand new


As soon as I got all those canvases up on the walls at The Joinery, I got new surfaces up in the studio. Ready to start a new project!

I am still working with my favorite photo content: casual snapshots from the former Soviet Union and post soviet spaces. But now I am treating my references with less reverence by using digital editing tools and fracturing, duplicating and erasing images.

Usually I stay away from digital media. The whole reason abandoned my pursuit of digital photography and became a painter was to get away from the screens. But this process is painterly and I anticipate it allowing for much more freedom and expressive mark-making.

This is a time lapse of the first painting I am making using this digitally altered reference material.

I am brand new to video. I am totally open to all and any suggestions on how to improve it. Tell me how to make it better.

Close ups and Textures

Getting ready for the install at The Joinery.

Twelve of my new large scale oil paintings will be on display at The Joinery downtown Portland, OR.

I am very excited to share this new colorful work.

Warm weather and sunny days definitely influenced my palette. So now my post-soviet denizens have bright sunshine and blue skies above.

Paintings are best viewed in real life, but here’s the next best thing for those of you who live too far away from Portland to make it to the show.

Solo Show at the Joinery

Singers

Please join us for an opening reception at the Joinery

on May 23rd, 5-7pm.


About the venue:

The Joinery began as a one-person furniture refurbishing and repair business in 1982. Today we are proud to employ a team of highly skilled people operating with a strong sense of shared values to design, build and sell our furniture. We use time-honored joinery techniques to create masterful pieces in a variety of modern and traditional designs. We challenge ourselves to continually improve, innovate, and create wood furniture that is as functional and durable as it is beautiful. We invite you to drop in to our Portland, Oregon woodshop and watch our craftspeople at work.  

The products you will see here represent only part of our offering. If you need modifications to a standard piece — or you have a vision of something entirely new — we invite you to talk to us: our team will work with you to make sure you get exactly the look, feel and function you had in mind.


Refreshments are provided by the venue and the artist will be present.


The Joinery

922 SW Yamhill St, Portland, OR


Blue Blazer

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We are all dressed up and ready to go to a party! ⁣


Blue Blazer granny here got selected into the CAP Auction and I get to dance and drink wine with the Portland beau monde. ⁣


There might just be an electric blue vintage dress in my closet that matches her sweater perfectly.⁣


April 29th, 2019

Montgomery Park

2701 NW Vaughn St
Portland, OR


"Carousel" is acquired by the Seattle Public Utilities Portable Works Collection

Carousel  24x30 inches Acrylic on canvas  2018

Carousel

24x30 inches
Acrylic on canvas

2018

I am delighted to announce that my recent, experimentally bright and saturated painting Carousel was selected for purchase by the City of Seattle Portable Artwork Collection. The works in the collection are on rotation exhibition in various city offices and public spaces. I especially loved the fact city employees participate in the selection of artwork, as they are the ones who’ll have to share space with it on regular basis.
Many thanks for supporting local artists and making arts accessible to the public.

What's your favorite city?

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When I was a kid my favorite city was Odessa.
It had a magical aura of adventure and freedom, a sea port dubbed "The Capital of Humor" in the Soviet Union for the wit of its citizens was legendary.
It never snowed there (I could hardly imagine a place like that!) and everyone wore jeans and cool imported leather jackets. Or so I imagined.

I did visit Odessa before leaving for the US in 1998. I was in love with a witty and stylish Odessite. We spent two languorous months sunning at the city beaches and baking clams on the hills overlooking  salt marshes and industrial suburbs.

And this summer I get to revisit this charming city of my childhood fantasy and youthful frolicking. My work was selected for the Odessa Biennial and this will be my first international show. Three of my paintings will be displayed at the month and a half long multidisciplinary exhibit in Odessa, Ukraine.

The theme of the biennial is turbulence. I couldn’t think of a more fitting theme, as my artwork is largely inspired by the turbulent post-soviet years and the lives of ordinary people faced with times of extreme uncertainty and momentous change.

If you are in that part of the world late summer, perhaps I can see you at the show!

Odessa Biennial

Like the Masters



I am a contemporary painter, but I am deeply influenced by the traditions of European and Russian art.  For better or worse, classical painting techniques are rarely taught in American art schools. So I found a book that promised to reveal the secrets of the Masters in step by step instructions.  The tutorial images look more like 80s soft core porn: unrealistically round perky breasts and half open puffy lips of the models are lovingly emphasized by dramatic chiaroscuro.  But I would not be deterred and followed the prescribed steps and painted my soviet citizens instead.

There is a craft aspect of this method that is appealing and soothing. There is a relaxing quality in having set parameters and knowing what the next step is. The palette is extremely simple and  I feel like I can really focus on the subtleties of light and shadow. This is something that was always challenging and overwhelming in my usual approach where I attack the canvas and attempt to solve for all the unknowns simultaneously.  The traditional approach to oil painting does feel more like craft, more like following in the footsteps of the other master craftsmen that have perfected a method. And it's very different from my past painting experiences in which come up with the method as I go.
 

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While "learning from the Masters" I decided to really focus on my subjects, to isolate them from their environment, to elevate the beer drinking factory worker and the bored toilet plunger sales girl using the classical portrait techniques.  This way I can focus on finely rendering facial features and give special attention to the way the clothing drapes the body. I want to paint the worker's smock and the shop girl's bulky vest like the luxurious finery of the stately nobles of the past who were the predominant subjects of such portraiture. I want to do this because I know so intimately how that drab blue-gray worker's smock drapes and folds, how hateful those standard issue uniforms were. I had one too.

An artist statement I enjoyed reading


 

Stephen Shore's Artist's Statement



Until I was twenty-three I lived mostly in a few square miles in Manhattan. In 1972 I set out with a friend for Amarillo, Texas. I didn't drive, so my first view of America was framed by the passenger's window.

It was a shock. I would be in a flat nowhere place of the earth, and every now and then I would walk outside or be driving down a road and the light would hit something and for a few minutes the place would be transformed.

Color film is wonderful because it shows not only the intensity but the color of light. There is so much variation in light between noon one day and the next, between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A picture happens when something inside connects, an experience that changes as the photographer does. When the picture is there, I set out the 8x10 camera, walk around it, get behind it, put the hood over my head, perhaps move it over a foot, walk in front, fiddle with the lens, the aperture, the shutter speed. I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy:

The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I've cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I've found through experience that whenever--or so it seems--my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes--I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still. Fishing, like photography, is an art that calls forth intelligence, concentration, and delicacy.

Stephen Shore, 1982