Mediterranean Sunshine for Soviet Construction Workers

Brighter Future oil on canvas 19x25 inches 2019

Brighter Future
oil on canvas
19x25 inches

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


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.

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.


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.