In my work I merge abstract and realistic elements together to create mood, movement or an impression of the world around or within us. Everything moves, even a rock. The ever-changing states in man and nature are a constant source of inspiration for my work. I begin each painting with a single word in mind – ocean, bull, sky, light – and finish it with an almost abstract version of it. A fleeting moment is captured and transformed by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles. The brush strokes are moving, pushing, emerging and overwhelming, but never still and quiet.
I paint alla prima using watercolor, acrylic, enamel or inks. I’ve been painting en plein air since I was a teen. It is the most exhilarating artistic expression that makes me connect to all. Feeling the breeze and the sun, smelling the grass and the water and meeting many people while painting makes it all-sense experience. It makes the painting look and feel spontaneous and alive.
In my abstract work, I’m currently exploring a technique very similar to “swirling” originally used by ancient eastern artists. It is very exciting to discover the endless possibilities and the fluid look of the painting. The results are unpredictable and almost always unique and beautiful.
Recently, the Village Art Circle presented its new artists such as myself with several very important questions to help us clarify and explain our creative process and our work in general. It was such a useful exercise that I decided to post this brief Q and A as another way of explaining what my art about:
What influenced you to make art and become an artist?
From a very young age I’ve always been drawing, sketching and painting. I’ve had a very vivid imagination and a deep desire to express all that I was not able to express in words. I was surrounded by art and books about artists from an early age which influenced my deep appreciation and desire to perfect my skills.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? What were your formative experiences in the beginning?
Ever since I can remember, I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. My grandfather was a prominent artist, but I he’d pass away before I was even born. So I remember growing up being surrounded by his paintings everywhere in our house and admiring his work. My mother used to tell me stories about him, his art and his struggles and I felt the connection vividly in my impressionable mind. When I was 6, I won 1st place in the city art competition which I still remember being a nice boost for my determination to become a professional artist.
What artists, artworks, or personal experiences have influenced and/or inspired you?
At the age of 12 I found an art class all by myself to prepare me for the vigorous and very tough entrance exam to the high school level Special School of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria which I passed with flying colors. I studied there for five years under the guidance of many very talented artists. We studied classical realism, anatomy, perspective, art history and drew and painted hundreds of sketches and drawings from life. My early influence were all classical masters from the Renaissance, also Bruegell, Bosch, El Greco as well as the Impressionists, mainly Toulouse-Lautrec and later on one of my favorites – Hunderwasser. We’d paint plein air for ten days straight every spring and fall producing large amount of work. After that I, studied at the Sofia’s Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in Illustration. Again, I went through a very rigorous and thorough education in art focusing on classical realism. In 1990 while in my 3rd year in the Academy, I along with a small group of friends decided to escape communist Bulgaria and managed to travel to Austria, where we were registered as political refugees. I didn’t even tell my parents where I was going. Luckily, I was accepted to immigrate to the US and arrived in New York City. I earned a BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Illustration with a gold medal of honor and was selected out of 3000 candidates to work for Walt Disney Feature Animation Studios in Orlando while still a junior in college.
What is your process for coming up with new ideas and are there any special themes you pursue?
I like to observe everything around me with the eye of an artist. My ideas or themes come suddenly and without much deliberation. I’m swept by the look of a face, cityscape, nature, emotion, movement, light and begin exploring the subject by creating series. I also love to paint abstract as well as realistically and sometimes merge both in a very expressive way. In my abstract work, I begin each painting with a single word in mind – ocean, bull, sky, light – and finish it with an almost abstract version of it.
What is your working process when creating your art?
In both my paintings and drawings, I always move quickly using spontaneous gestures. The brush strokes are moving, pushing, emerging and overwhelming, but never still and quiet. Painting is like making your brush dance on the surface – full of life and fun.
What is the most difficult part of the creative process for you? What is the best part?
I don’t find any phase of the creative process difficult. The best part is when I see the painting coming together and being close to complete. It is a very magical moment.
What do you like most about working as an artist and what are your most satisfying moments at work?
I like getting into the zone where time and space stop and I’m one with my work. It’s intense and tremendously satisfying seeing my creation taking shape. Surprising myself and discovering new techniques is also a joyful experience. I also love painting plein air where I can talk and meet with many people.
Has your art changed over time? What has prompted changes? What has remained consistent and why?
My art has gone through many transformations. I started as a very well trained realistic painter thanks to my classical education in Bulgaria. Then I thought that it was boring to be a realistic painter and began exploring all kinds of possibilities – deforming, deconstructing reality to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Then I became a conceptual, more surrealistic artist expressing my ideas rather than my feelings. I also painted primitive art for a few years and then switched to abstract expressionism. Did I mention that I also did editorial illustration; children book illustration, digital art, animation and murals? Now I’m making a full circle, “coming home” after exploring every artistic expression back to the more representational and realistic way of painting. I realize that it’s been part of my process and each and every stage has been fueling the other with its source of energy. I’m finding my true voice and desire that above all, I want to create beauty that inspires and elevates. The “how” becomes secondary.
What do you look for in your work that makes you most satisfied about the outcome?
I look for life and movement. I strive to keep it spontaneous and alive which affects the viewer emotionally, not just esthetically.
What is the best piece of advice you have received or would like to give to a beginning artist?
Don’t give up. Also, draw, draw, draw – quantity will lead to a better quality.
What do you want people to take with them about your artwork?
I want people to feel inspired, uplifted and more alive.
What have been your favorite projects? If you currently have a dream project, what is it?
I want to paint another modern version of the Sistine Chapel. I do dream of some large scale paintings.
For whom do you do your art? Everyone.
So, this very briefly sums it up.