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  • Writer's pictureKOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH

"I’m changing and my art accordingly changes too" • Elena Shimko

“I'm definitely not afraid to try something new,” says Belarusian artist Elena Shimko who likes to create her works using various techniques, either with pastels, aquarelle paints, colored pencils, or graphite. “I prefer to change directions and I think that it’s a natural process in the life of any artist - because I’m changing and my art accordingly changes too,” she says.

With Elena, we talked about the life of an artist, inspiration, and experimenting with techniques. Enjoy reading and especially the spectacle!

Hello Elena! What do you think it takes nowadays to be a painting artist, as in your case?

Hello! It’s a complex of works. You need to be an artist to paint. A photographer - to take a picture of your painting in a proper way and for differing needs. A blogger - to post your art on different social media. A manager - to manage your time and resources and do all stuff in time to obtain the final goals. And a marketing guy at the same time - to tell about your art in such light that someone wanted to buy it.

So in this perspective, the work of an artist is not so far from my previous job where I was a Project Manager in software engineering. The only difference - I have another kind of project and now I’m the only guy performing all the roles I mentioned above, at least for now.

Being an artist isn't easy. Did you always want to be an artist or you got to it slowly?

As a child, I loved painting. I was a prominent member of a school drawing club and read lots of books on the topic. But children will always be children - the next shiny thing came and my interest faded… For a time.

I made a conscious choice to become an artist years later, having built my career in another area, I realized that I probably buried my child's dream to be an artist. I decided to take risks and try. Why was it risky you ask? In my previous job, I was like a fish to water - in the painting, on the contrary, I was a rookie - and I had to start from the basics. Also, I needed to quit my job to have enough time for learning. But I decided that no gods make pots - therefore I decided to try.

I obtained information from a wide variety of sources and used every opportunity: I attended academic drawing courses, painted in online lessons, and master classes. I practiced painting literally every day. And someday, I finally noticed that the quantity of my painting started to turn into quality. It was a real victory over yourself and your fears. Thus, my way to becoming an artist clearly cannot be called fast.

So when did you start to create art full time?

I have been drawing almost every day for a year and a half, since 2020.

Let's talk about your creation. Do you have your favorite subjects or are you not afraid to jump into something new?

I like to paint the same subject in different mediums or in a series of works - because in this case, I can develop my skill, learn from my mistakes, and consolidate my success in practice. Also, it’s quite an interesting way to learn different kinds of materials - it helps to learn the pros and cons of used medium and understand which one is better suited to obtain the initial goal.

But also, I’m definitely not afraid to try something new because I see the challenges of exploring new as an opportunity to learn and sometimes even to find my own way in art. Because there are so many objects/themes and the ways the artist can paint them - and you can't be sure if it is yours, or not, until you try it. So, I think by trying new, we expand our horizons and this, in turn, affects the level of skill.

I like to change subjects and I can switch quickly between them. In particular, the latest themes were landscapes, flowers, and animals. In case I want to step out of my comfort zone, I can practice drawing people, urban sketches, or abstract things.

When we talk about mediums, what kind do you use for your art?

I like to paint with different mediums and sometimes even mix them into one work. In my works, I use soft pastels, oil pastels, watercolor, acrylic paints, colored pencils, gouache, and graphite. I choose which one I would like to use depending on the circumstances, place, available time and the mood.

So you enjoy to experiment?

It’s interesting for me to try some new techniques - actually, that’s the reason I have such a wide range of art mediums - my own apartment all year is more like an art studio. And for each particular material, there are plenty of uses - I like not to use one but to mix them in my works - because it allows me to create different effects and imitates different kinds of surfaces and materials - so the final work looks more vivid, picturesque and you want to look at the details of the drawing.

Do you have a favorite product from the Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth factory?

I really like to work with Koh-i-noor soft pastels - it allows me to add as many layers as I need and it’s easy to mix the colors even with my fingers - without any additional tools, I can either color smooth stretching or add a fine line or detail. I painted most of my pastel artworks using a set of 48 pieces of extra soft pastels and a set of 36 pieces of soft pastels.

Also, I like to use Koh-i-noor graphite pencils in my graphic drawings - my favorite ones which I have been using since my childhood.

We are glad that you like to work with our products. On average, how many hours does it take to paint one of your works?

It depends on lots of things, like the art material I used and the size of the work, level of detail, and style of work. Also, the time which I spend on the work depends - is this something quite new for me or is it something I've done before?

For example, to paint a realistic pastel A3 size landscape takes me about 3 - 4 hours plus additional 2 - 3 hours which includes time to prepare to work, picking the reference or object, making a sketch, choosing a color range, making a photo of ready work, cleaning the art space etc.

If you had to pick one single art style or direction, which would it be?

It’s a tricky question for me - because I prefer to change the directions and I think that it’s a natural process in the life of any artist - because I’m changing and my art accordingly changes too. But what directions inspire me more - Impressionism and postimpressionism. Because initially, I was so impressed with paintings of this period that I bought a big canvas and acrylic paints - and without any experience and any fear of unsuccess - painted a copy of Van Gogh's work. This painting still decorates my apartment and it’s one of those artworks I’m not ready to sell - because it still inspires me and reminds me that nothing is impossible. In other words, from my love of impressionism and postimpressionism paintings began my own way in the art world.

Beautiful story! What style direction would you classify your pieces were created in?

Most of my work I can attribute to realism.

Is there a painting that has stuck in your mind for whatever reason?

Edgar Degas's “Blue dancers'' is the painting I love the most. I can't say why exactly - and maybe I don't want to analyze why - I just love this artwork.

Good choice! Is it possible to see your art live somewhere?

Unfortunately, at the moment, my drawings can only be seen by visiting me for a cup of tea. But I hope to organize an exhibition in the future.

Could you describe what you enjoy most about art?

Art is a joy, a freedom to be me. Painting things around me, painting feelings - it’s like the ability to fly - something really exciting and inspiring. Art makes me happy - the fact that my artworks live in some people's houses - this inspires me most of all and conveys that I should continue. Art is some other language and the more you learn it the more bright and colorful the world around you. Thanks to the art I meet more and more wonderful people with whom I speak the same language of painting and beauty.

And our last question, do you have any plans for the upcoming year?

It’s difficult to plan anything in the view of events taking place in the world. But I want to continue my journey to this wonderful world of art. Hope to continue painting on a daily basis, and hope my artworks will find their audience.



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