October is a very special month for us over here at ZenART! Aside from hosting various activities for our audience online, we will be having our first International Artists Day celebration! For this month’s ZenARTist feature, we collaborated with five artists from different fields of visual art. We will talk to them about the many abilities that they have, and discover how these skills have contributed to their art careers and personal lives. We go in-depth in the lives of these artists who individually conform to the definition of a Renaissance Man.
Why are they so versatile and talented? How did they succeed in their art journey? Continue reading along, and let’s find out…
Traditional Painting: Yuliya Martynova
R: Hi Yuliya! Ever since I encountered your works and read your bio, you definitely became one of my inspirations in art. Your background is so interesting; you went to art school, studied law, practised it for ten years before completely transitioning into being a full-time artist. Can you walk us through these life experiences?
Y: – All these things mentioned are my personal background, and I suppose if I hadn’t been brave enough to take action in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have travelled to 38 countries, love skiing and listening to bioscience lectures, and try not to forget my Greek. I am very proud of my sister who is a successful leadership book writer and entrepreneur touring Russia, doing public speaking programs. I have also been married twice (with a 5-year and a 9-year relationship) and spent the past 5 years living with my forever who makes me a happy, cloud-painting girl. You can’t paint fluffy clouds unless you have that consistent happiness within.
R: That is so interesting! With regards to your technique – you work with various mediums such as watercolours, oils and acrylics, and you sometimes even combine them in your artworks. As you stated in your website, you are also drawn to the concept of departure, and elements like clouds, airplanes, bodies of water are present in your paintings. They feel very surreal and ethereal. Does your preferred medium have a correlation with your message in a particular painting?
Y: – Artists are followers and trendsetters. I am trying to set the trends. It’s boring to have one body of work to be remembered by, and we all need change and development! In art, it happens faster by switching your media; so I am gearing up to venture into sculptural art too. For now, watercolour is my preferred medium for its complexity and sharp edge, though I can’t stress this fact enough: Choosing high quality (but not necessarily expensive) supplies – paints, paper and brushes is a key to achieving good results.
Departure to me is equivalent to progress, movement and development. So there is a positive aspect to that message of my works, despite the melancholic emotional charges.
(L): Yuliya Martynova’s Colour Code collection, painted with ZenART watercolour brushes from the Turner Collection, 2018; (R) Migration – floaty cloudscapes on canvas, paper & wood, 2019
R: A couple of your works have been featured in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and the TV drama Scandal. A big congratulations on that! Do you have any advice for artists when it comes to transactions involving their artworks? And what can you tell those people who want to take the leap into pursuing their art passion full-time, but are struggling to do so?
Y: – I don’t believe in having your eggs in too many baskets, so I say do it full-time. Make a commitment to your practice. Bet on making it as an artist like your life depends on it. If you are not good enough, go to every art show. Develop your sense of direction and aesthetics with fairs. Train your eye to see beautiful things and your hand will follow. Don’t be lazy to venture online. There is a much better market out there compared to your local art gallery. Learn to tag, listing on platforms regularly, getting the curators’ attention with a slick presentation. Don’t say you want people to understand your art but make no effort to understand how you are perceived. Learn who your crowd is and win it over. Work on your strategy and don’t be afraid to try on a new direction if the one you’ve chosen doesn’t strike the cord.
For the transactional side – here’s the best advice I can give.
(1) Be quick. I work with the USA (LA) curators and had projects with Chinese corporate art buyers and Australian art consultants. Despite the differences in time zones, they love when you answer their queries quick and on point. I have bad sleeping patterns so I do tend to answer my emails even at 3 AM to Americans or 5 AM to Australians. We live in a fast world so everyone loves things that move that way.
(2) Be flexible. Sometimes you gain a lot more than cash when you show you can be accommodating yet still professional when you start getting attention from people who work with art volumes.
Abstract Art: Sarah Coey
R: Hello there, Sarah! Thank you so much for granting us this opportunity of featuring you for our #ZenARTist Series. You live and breathe colour, and call yourself a rainbow artist, too. This is completely seen in your works and personal style that gives such positive vibrations to people! What is your personal reason behind this way of life?
S: – I truly believe that art should make people feel happy. Nobody wants to have a piece of art hanging on their wall that makes them feel gloomy and down, and so I create pieces that make people feel uplifted and joyful! I want to spread rainbows and sunshine, happiness, glitter and joy! What better way to do this than with gorgeous, glorious colour? Nobody can look at a colourful piece of art and feel down.
R: Your works were also featured in Caboodle and Bride magazines as part of their production sets! Do you think the quality of the art materials you use (paints, brushes, canvases, etc.) affect the overall impact and longevity of your work, especially when you want to reach out and collaborate with other artists and publications like this?
S: – I think that having good tools is important but I believe that skill is important too. The impact of my work is both a combination of quality materials but also in the method of application and my unique and distinctive style. I think that this combination is what gives my work the extra KERPOW when people see it!
R: Your philosophy of ‘happy, colourful, and affordable art’ is in line with our brand philosophy of quality art materials crafted mindfully. We are both believers that art should be enjoyed by everyone. You are also an avid user of ZenART’s Renoir brush set for oils and acrylics! What do you like most about this set? And do you think this philosophy also translates to a better way of life?
S: – I adore the ZenART Renoir brush collection! I think the materials are fab and your palette knife is absolutely my fave one EVER! I personally love that the brushes aren’t too long and heavy. I can’t be doing with brushes which are too bulky and heavy – it tires me out when I’m working (haha!) I also love that. The palette knife is small – it is the perfect size for me and my tiny hands! I truly think that people are happier with art in their lives and therefore I believe art should be affordable to all. We are all more joyful with colourful art in our lives!
(L) Artist Sarah Coey featuring ZenART Supplies palette knife from the Renoir Collection; (R): A photo from a rainbow-tastic wedding with her painting, featured in @rcoknrollbride magazine, 2019
Music and Drawings: Jonathan Lawrence
R: Hi Jonathan! Drawing takes a lot of discipline, patience, and hard work! To add to that, your drawings are magnificent. You are an artist who specialises in images of dystopia — hence the surreal, dream-like, futuristic images in your works. Can you walk us through this? Tell us more about your style and how you found it.
J: Hello! Drawing has always been something I have done. From a very early age I drew fantastic creatures, dinosaurs and robots with felt tip pens. I was just as happy shut away making things on my own as I was playing in the park with my friends, I think that made it easier for me to dedicate more time to the practice of drawing and become obsessed with it.
The subject of dystopia has always fascinated me. My favourite films and books usually revolve around crumbling societies or cyberpunk futures gone wrong. I was really into 2000ad, a British comic that has been running since the 70s. The writing was incredible but just as important for me, the art was great too. I would attempt to craft my own wonky Judge Dredd comics and invent my own characters and worlds. I read a lot of science fiction for the ideas as much as the pleasure I get from reading them. Phillip K Dick, for example, his novels are just full to the brim with nightmarish thoughts and concepts. Or J.G. Ballard’s world-building in Drowned World. Living in London has also had an influence on what I do. You really feel that history, the present and the future all rub shoulders with each other and just walking around often has a tendency to inspire me.
Nowadays, the idea of dystopia has evolved for me. Nature and the concept of nature either dying off or taking over really interests me. It is something I have started to explore a lot more and I will hopefully make something of it.
As for my process, it is often quite labour intensive but I love that. It certainly requires a lot of patience and discipline through repeated practice and refinement. I enjoy the challenge of putting something together with graphite or treading a fine line between success and failure when working with ink. My victorian portraits, for example, are quite time-consuming. I only use graphite and pencils and I want them to look quite realistic, with very fine shading and details whilst being a bit silly and surreal. Usually, I achieve this with a cigarette and facial hair somewhere. These drawings reflect an obsession with fitting objects together, looking at how they interact and create a personality. I love that.
R: After nearly ten years of being in the music industry, producing and DJ-ing, you have recently pursued the life of a semi full-time artist! Music is an art form in itself, so what made you decide to take the plunge and focus on the visual arts?
J: Music has changed so much in the last 15 or so years, I wasn’t happy pursuing it as a career anymore. I really didn’t think about the business side at all and was completely naive to what went on behind the scenes. It had a terrible effect on my life in that I wasn’t sleeping, I was constantly trying to do things for others and making myself pretty ill. There were some great moments, but it wasn’t a good way to live, for me.
With art I really value the process, I know that what I do with my drawing is far more unique than what I was doing with my music. I also value my sleep nowadays. I still make music from time to time and enjoy going to the odd Techno party but it’s a hobby and that’s how I like it.
(L): Artist Jonathan Lawrence in action; (R): An Inktober entry by the artist entitled ‘Day 19 – Sling’, on his ZenART sketchbook, 2019
R: You are involved in producing music and the visual arts. In your case – is there a connection between the detailing, imaginative illustration and making music? Do you think these areas of discipline influence each other?
J: I don’t think what I create visually really relates that much to the way I work musically but I have always thought about how to combine the two and I do really enjoy translating what a musician has done into something with a visual narrative. I’m fortunate enough that the music I enjoy and my art are often directly connected as I have worked on the visual identity and artwork for record labels and also worked with Paul Rose (AKA Scuba and SCB) on the artwork for his album in 2018. He created a very dark, very industrial project that I think was really complimented by my artwork and vice-versa.
R: We also saw that you practice bullet journaling for therapy. Can you tell us how bullet journaling helped you with the big decisions you have had to take in your career? Would you advise other artists to use this method too?
J: I talk about bullet journaling as a therapy to a lot of my friends. I can’t recommend it enough really. I looked into it last year (2018) and at this point I was working a very stressful job with long commutes, struggling to find creative space. It was having a terrible effect on my mental health, making me incredibly tired, stressed and unproductive. As soon as I found out about bullet journaling I wanted to give it a go as it combined list-making and organisation with creativity and keeping a diary. After 2 months I knew it was a positive addition to my life. After 6 months I was able to look back at what was making me unhappy and stressed (something I kept track of) – I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I handed in my notice and started my freelance/artist career in July and its been going great, I’m very happy.
I looked into quite a few different “modules” and systems by following bullet journal related hashtags on Instagram. There is a lot I have later discovered I don’t use but that’s the beauty of it, you can chop and change really easily. I track what I want to achieve on a monthly basis and with daily lists I can prioritise things in a creative way but what I have found most useful is actually just journaling my day. I probably spend about 15 minutes writing my thoughts for each day and getting things out in a healthy way. I also illustrate mine, it’s like the ultimate creative notebook and it gets you away from the phone screen! Something I would like to advise anyone reading this: not to worry too much about the ‘beauty’ of the thing! By all means get creative with it! I’ve found that a lot of people give up before they have even started because they think it has to look perfect. Bullet journaling can be whatever you want it to be!
I will have my first solo exhibition in Leicester where I will showcase my drawings in an amazing space called Graffwerk, 1st – 14th of May 2020.
Traditional and Digital Art: Jenny Ungaro
R: Hi Jenny! You are a painter and illustrator, and also work with digital art. You wear many hats! A lot of artists tend to focus on either traditional or digital, so it’s a lovely thing that you do both. Do you think working with both art forms has contributed to your work positively? If yes, how so?
J: Hi! It’s really a pleasure to express my opinion with you. It’s true that I’m a versatile artist and I’m happy to be, because I constantly feel the need to modify myself and my work. I’m always looking for innovation and improvement and this helped me in my job to face different artistic realities without doubts or insecurity.
R: Let’s talk about your paintings. You work with acrylics, oils, watercolour and gouache all at the same time, and you feature a lot of women in your works. What is the message that you want to tell your audience? Moreover, especially in this day and age, what is the importance of being a woman artist?
J: I love to be a female artist who paints other women. I feel lucky. I have the possibility and the competences to use all the materials, so why not do it? I enjoy and I get emotional during the creation of my paintings. Sometimes I hate them, other times I love them so deeply that I can’t separate myself from them. Women are the focus of my paintings. I think that the time I’ve spent studying the woman’s face has also helped me to better understand myself. I’ve tried to enclose my feelings into the eyes of the women I’ve painted and into the ones I’ve still in my mind.
R: We found that you also love using the ZenART’s Renoir brush set, as well as the Essential Palette oil paints! These have been carefully and mindfully crafted to suit artists’ needs – with the brush shapes and paint colours selection. What can you say about them?
J: I’ve loved all the ZenART products since the beginning. I first received the Renoir brush set and then the oil paint palettes. I will never separate myself from these oil paint brushes because they’re really comfortable, they have the correct length and above all, they’ve wonderful bristles. These oil paint brushes are easy to clean and are indestructible!
With the oil colours, it was love at first sight and first use. Before that, I didn’t like oil paints in general because I felt like I couldn’t express myself completely with them. The ZenART oil paint palettes have definitely changed the way I feel about oil painting; I love its texture, its tonality and the easy-of-use. I can’t help it!
Traditional and Digital Art by Artist Jenny Ungaro (L): ‘OSSIGENO PURO’, 2019; (R): ‘Stop stopping you’, digital illustration, 2019
Painting and Photography: Anna Gorbatenko
R: Hello Anna! You are a mother of three, a watercolour artist, a photographer, a fashion designer, a businesswoman, and a law graduate! That’s a lot of titles, and we just want to say – you are really impressive! Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you came to practice all of these?
A: Aww… Thank you very much! Sounds impressive but the truth is, it took me 20 years (or even more ) to acquire all of these titles. When we’re young, we might be uncertain as to what strong calling is, so we often make choices that we think are important to others (family, society, etc). So after my graduation in law, I started dreaming of a more artistic direction for myself. From studies in Fashion and Textile Design, I gradually found myself as an independent watercolour artist. It takes time to find the right job for ourselves. We spend almost half of our lives at work. I knew deep inside that I should be mindful of choosing the proper job for myself, because it’s an expression of my entire being. The way we earn our living is crucial to our joy and happiness. Our work determines how much peace and balance we create in our family too, how much time we have to dedicate to children. Independent artistic life became my idea of living in harmony with family and my own aspirations. Moreover, we live in Southern Italy where it is not easy to find a proper job. However, I know that our well-being depends not just on having a source of income, but on a job which we can cultivate creativity and happiness.
R: You’re also a user of ZenART’s Black Tulip and Turner watercolour brush sets! The shapes of these brushes were carefully selected by our co-founder Ardak to cater to the varying needs of each painter. With that, what are your favourite brush shapes to use for your watercolours?
A: Yes, I really enjoy using the ZenART Supplies Black Tulip brush set! I’m often painting wedding portraits and the Round Brushes #8 and #10 are my most used ones. They allow me even the finest detailed strokes (face features, but also delicate lace fabric rendering) – thanks to the very precise fine tip and full body. Also, the Flat Brushes #4, #8 and #3/4 are very helpful for landscape and architectural part of painting (trees, wood, water ripples and reflections, windows, doors and so on). Rigger #2 is wonderful for the grass in the foreground.
(L): Artist Anna Gorbatenko in her work area; (R): A commissioned mother and child portrait using ZenART’s round brush from the Black Tulip collection
R: In one of our previous articles, we talked about the importance of encouraging children to explore with activities that help hone their soft skills through an art-based education. In your experience of going through (and excelling in!) various fields, do you think your developmental years helped you get to where you are now?
A: Absolutely agree! It’s very important for children. During my childhood, we had a lot of creative stimulus at school. We had art classes, learning the use of watercolour and gouache. I started painting since then, and it helped me a lot. Also, the many art exhibitions and museums I visited during my childhood with my parents, and the collection of art books at home nurtured my creativity. We teach our children by our own example most of all. They’re our continuation. Practicing art and craft during the childhood years could be an enormous source of nourishment, peace, joy, transformation, and healing.
With school education, teachers should be mindful and kind to help children to express their innate creativity freely, without fear, comparison or anxiety. On the other hand, critical teachers can “kill” the child’s creativity and plant seeds of insecurity inside his/her heart.
R: What advice can you give our mother readers who are trying to balance their passion for art, family life, financial stability, and encouraging their child/ren to grow up as creative souls as well?
A: – Be yourself!
– Do what you love. You teach your children with your life’s example.
– Don’t look for perfection, but for progress in little steps.
– Never stop learning.
– Be kind to yourself, don’t let the inner critic bring you down.
– Take many little breaks, go for a walk, take care of your body.
– Eat and sleep well, don’t let yourself become depleted.
– Listen and try to understand your children, encourage them to be themselves, share with them loving kindness.
– Keep in mind your limits and accept them (for example, in my case: accepting only the quantity of commissions I can realistically finish, considering my family’s needs and my own wellbeing)
– Remember, that our personal lives are not separate from our working lives. Our inability to be mindful, to bring our full attention to what we’re doing in our everyday lives (even if it’s just cleaning a bathroom or washing the dishes), has both personal and professional costs. To understand what’s happening to us at work, we need to look at our home lives and our families. The goal should be the happiness and harmony on your own, with your family, and with all the people surrounding you.
Each artist has a unique path, built and shaped by stories and personal encounters. As we commemorate this year’s International Artists Day, let us take inspiration from the lives of these very talented and magnificent artists above who had the courage to leap and embrace their artfully. This is a reminder for all of us to continue learning, see obstacles as opportunities for growth, and to always look at life with wonder – for it is what we encounter in the journey that’s important; the biggest contributor of our artistic identity. Happy International Artists Day!
Which advice is your favourite? What about this article did you like in particular? Let us know in the comments below, and as always – let us discuss! 🙂
- MEET THE AUTHOR -
Ardak Kassenova is a London based contemporary artist, co-founder and creative director of ZenART Supplies. Her visual style-contemporary impressionism-share similar aesthetic qualities with those by the French Impressionists. After 20 years of a successful corporate career, becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, and with the continuous development of her practice by taking private lessons from the best artists she could find; Ardak decided it's time to align her life with her true passion, Art. Driven by this passion and her corporate leadership background, she co-founded ZenART.
"My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I've been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums."