Julia Barminova - Watercolor artist, architect.
Interview with an artist
Julia, tell us how you started to paint?
My art career started twice. For the first time - as a child. I was a quiet child, I could spend hours doing something by myself, sculpting or drawing. I do not remember myself as a child engaged in anything else. But my passion didn’t get anywhere.
All the time I was trying to get art education, but all my attempts were unsuccessful. I would get somewhere, but after a while I would get wildly bored. So I ran away from the art school, probably because of the draperies and still lives in the orange colors. I wanted something unusual, like to show the inner world in the works, and classical education has not always contributed to this.
After school I went to become an architect, but the romance ended in the second year. I was sure that never in my life would I draw, and for four years in my house there was no pencil or paper. At that moment I decided to do yoga and completely changed occupation. But the inner desire to be an artist did not go anywhere.
Having worked as a Yoga center and painting studio administrator for several years, in 2012 I decided to start painting again. I went to Sergey Andriyaki’s watercolors school, but without changing my tradition dropped out six months later. In parallel, I studied oil painting, but that education ended halfway. As a result, all of my creative life and self-growth has been very crumpled. Even now, I teach people to ignore the classical school and find themselves in something unique. For classical education not to overlap the potential inherent in each of us.
What exactly made you decide to change occupation 4 years ago?
At that time I worked as an administrator in a yoga studio. And our director was fascinated by drawing. She became involved with the teachers on watercolors, pastels and oil. I was very curious (laugh). On the basis of the yoga center we had some master classes in painting. So it was that I became involved in the organization, purchasing of materials, maintenance of the site, because I knew the difference between a pencil 2B from 2H (laugh). After a while, watching the various master classes, I decided that I still want to be an artist, instead of an administrator.
I even remember the day I made this decision! It was summer in Kislovodsk. Some time ago my daughter was born, I sat with her in the garden on a swing, and definitely realized that I always wanted to draw just something I was forced down. On the same day got a blog in LJ (barminova.livejournal.com). Began writing about my experiences, uploading my first works. Instagram did not yet exist. Since then, I have drawn almost every day.
Tell us about your style
I have a pretty essential approach to creativity. I listen to my inner feelings. For example, I do not like all of warm yellow-orange colors. At first I tried to do the «the right way» and painted and golden autumn and still lifes in terracotta tones, and then abruptly stopped using these colors in my works. Autumn, and then winter disappeared from my works. The most I can do is to sprinkle snow on architectural sketches (laugh). Then I stopped to paint still lifes, rural landscapes, and then the city. Attention from them I have switched to the details - they are really interesting to me.
With the sea was a very interesting story. I once wrote in my blog that «the artist must narrow down his/her work themes, and I, for one, will never draw a seascape!». My students have recently found these old records! I remembered that, indeed, earlier I completely could not draw water.
And the summer of 2014 for the first time I went with a group on-site open-air in Provence. It was so beautiful! I could draw every single corner. After an open-air in the south of France, I went to Cyprus. Architecture and nature of Cyprus very much lost to France. I did not know what to choose as the nature to catch up, except for the coastal zone, where there were boats. I realized that in addition to water and ships I did not want to paint anything else. Those early paintings became a turning point, which gave a push to a large series of works, which I now draw.
Tell us more about the series of works that you are creating
It’s called the «Island in the Ocean» (Island in the Stream), and my goal is to draw in as many port cities as I can. Over the past two years, since the beginning of the series, I traveled to 21 ports. Now the sea takes up most of my time and creativity.
I have a second series - flowers (Violet, purple, lilac). As soon as the spring, I travel to different countries to catch blooming season of almond, peach, wisterias, hydrangeas, peonies, poppies, lavender, and anemones. I used to draw almost all the flowers in a row (well, except for the yellow ones;) and now more often I choose only purple.
The third series is called «Watercolor sketching» (in the draft «Aix-en-Provence, etc ..»). On the one hand, this is a training program that I teach in different cities, and with whom I go to workshops, on the other hand it is drawing while traveling. Quick sketches, you can create, for example, in the cafe, outdoors, in the open air, at the airport or on the train. These sketches I always do in notebooks. I draw the interesting features of places, signs, lights, doors and windows, architectural elements, bicycles, in general, all that can be drawn quickly.
What inspires you to art?
Of course, travelling inspires me! And lately for me the most powerful stimulus to creativity is sunlight. I’m looking for some interesting highlights or shadows that the Sun gives. For example, on a sunny day, you can find very interesting lace like trees shades on houses. Such moments are the best inspiration for me.
For example, recently I was bringing a bike to the studio. I remember very well how the Sun was shining, and there were some interesting reflections on the steering wheel and compositionally an incredible bike shadow on the pavement. I still see it, until I draw it, it will haunt me.
Do you draw only from life or from imagination too?
I used to draw a lot of imagination. But in 2014, I went to the open air for the first time in France, and I was won over by this place. It was perfect! Flowering markets, architecture and atmosphere, some unique light - all this so captured my imagination, I wanted to reflect it all.
In general, I realized that the work of imagination was over and I just need to watch and look for beautiful and inspiring moments in nature, not in imagination. I have a million stories from France. I’ve been there many times, and there is still more to come.
How much time do you devote to painting?
A lot of time every day.
My job is directly related to painting: I teach in several schools in Moscow and constantly hold master classes in different cities.
Sometimes I arrange myself a month without teaching. At such times, I create my most complex works. I sit down at the table early in the morning, and sometimes I draw for 13 hours.
Tell us what art supplies do you use?
First let’s talk about the paper. My choice of watercolor paper is paper by Canson company. Initially, I tested a lot of paper. Almost all. I tested, doing different sketches.
Then in 2014, when I began to draw water, in France there was a novelty - cotton paper by Moulin du Roy. I tried all sorts and stopped at Fin texture - it was my favorite. I use it often. This paper is ideal for everything: the sea, the flowers, some architectural things. On the Moulin du Roy I have written probably 95% of the works. It embodies all of my ideas. Also, sometimes I use watercolor paper Canson Héritage and Arches Torchon.
At some point, I was contacted by representatives of Canson plant, offered to sign a contract with them and become their representative in Russia. Since January 2016 I am the Ambassador of the brand.
Paints. Here, the same situation. When I began to actively draw, I wanted to test the entire watercolors. But I stopped at the paints in tubes, as always focused on the top European watercolor artists, who mostly do not use cells. Unfortunately, in Russia at that time it was a sad situation with an assortment, and I bought them abroad. Sometimes, if someone from the friends went on a business trip, I asked to bring me Winsor & Newton from England or Sennelier from France. In principle, all brands were equal to me. Different companies I select some special colors, but on the whole paints were similar in quality.
And then, about a year ago, I went to America and from there I brought Daniel Smith. By the way now (in 2016) they appeared in Russia. They immediately became special to me. Daniel Smith are very different from all the others. If some brands I can confuse with each other, Daniel Smith stands out, and even in my works, I see where I have used them, and where not. The fact that they have a very large palette of colors, and some of their colors are made from natural minerals that behave in a certain way. For example, fall into several different shades. They have gray colors that fall into pink, purple and green.
This is a kind of innovation in watercolors, and Daniel Smith modestly positioned its brand as the best watercolors.
Brushes. I do not have a favorite brand of brushes. But there is a favorite nap. I actually made, so to speak, a step from the academic approach. I almost do not paint with a squirrel and a Siberian weasel. I can use them sometimes for large backgrounds. Basically I use synthetics for watercolor paint. It has a sharp tip, making a very nice circuit and in general is very versatile. Now, foreign firms such as Raphael, Da Vinci, Leonard or Russian Roubloff Pinax began to make synthetic watercolor, which is more suitable for my stories. Squirrel, takes too much water and too much gives back. Siberian weasel is often too soft and does not always have a hard tip. Synthetic brushes are very easy to control.
For example, there is a series Pinax inexpensive synthetic brushes ARTISTS HI-TECH with a very good tip. In Escoda good series: Prado, Barocco, and of course, this Perla - their most famous series. In Raphael SoftAqua brush.
Sometimes I use white gouache or white gel pen for some fine lines.
You said that often you give master classes in other cities and countries. Do you travel by yourself?
Differently. If it is for a long time, I take with me the whole family. My husband’s work is also related to travelling. He is a musician and a frequent traveler. Therefore, we try to combine: if he is invited somewhere, and I have the time, we go together. If this is some kind of a long trip, for example, for a month in France, too, we go together.
If it is a small two- or three-day workshops in the cities of Russia, I fly alone.
What should you do if there is no inspiration, and you do not want to paint?
I think a lot depends on good company around. You can go to a master class. A lot of artistic meetings are held, you can paint in art schools, shops and cafes.
Discussions with like-minded, drawing together and purchasing new art supplies help in the fight with the creative bad mood.
You said that the artist sooner or later needs to define his/her subjects and style. Why?
My experience shows that focusing on a specific plot, details and colors can greatly accelerate the progress of the artist and give a brighter result. You can look at the famous artists of the past such as William Turner, Andrew Wyeth. Each of them has its own particular artistic theme, and no one drew everything. In this case, the artist and his/her style are recognizable. A colleague of mine once gave me some advice: «Every your new work must be recognizable, even if it is something nobody has ever seen before».
If to draw all in different styles, it may cause confusion in the audience. On the other hand, of course, there is no intrigue - always clear about what the artist will draw next. The question is not simple. Maybe at some point you will get bored, and you will become the hostage of the style and color scheme.
To be honest, I believe that I have a lot of subjects for drawing. Truth be told I should have chosen one topic, such as the sea, and only draw it. Here, of course lies a lot of controversy. Many of my colleagues say: «Well, it’s boring to paint the same thing every day!». Here, it seems to me, the most important thing is to listen to yourself.
I heard that some advice if an artist wants to experiment, to take him a pseudonym and create under it so as not to confuse his/her audience, fans and customers with a different style or technique. Spectators have subscribed to a certain style, and the customer also wants to be clear that he will get in the end, instead of wondering what you throw out as follows. If you want to drastically change something in your work - take a pseudonym.
I myself first drew all. Then I ceased to draw a still life, the last six months I stopped painting landscapes. It’s more interesting to draw a flower close-up than a field and the sky. I cannot say that I have determined my style 100%. I used to paint flowers, then only purple flowers, now I stopped at the only purple hydrangeas. Now there are small specks of botanical illustrations in my work - I’m interested to bring more realism to the image as it «jumps out» from the paper. Maybe then I’ll come to abstraction.
Tell us whether you draw on the by-order basis?
When I decided to become an artist, I would take any orders. Even something that I had never painted before. But then I was faced with the fact that just I did not have time to meet them. For example, I took the order and then walked down the street and saw, for example, lights. And then I went and thought about the lantern, and the order was suspended in the air. In the end, I would draw the lantern, I would see a beautiful purple anemone and that was it, I had an urgent need to draw this flower! At this point, the customer texted, «Where is my illustration?» So I got seriously burnt several times. Now I say «no» to everything. No matter what I am asked to draw, even if it is «my» story, I still say «no».
Can you draw or teach without inspiration?
For my watercolors, I often expect special mood. With teaching it’s a little easier. I choose subjects not for myself but for the students, so that they were interested. Plus, I really like to teach. I am happy I can explain the same thing, disassemble mistakes and help students. Here, I do not wait for inspiration, it comes by itself!
How can an artist survive in the modern world?
There are two options. Either you work on an by-order basis - it is more often illustration work. Or teaching - if you no wish to express yourself. If an artist has its own interesting style, you can go to different cities for master classes, or get into a school as a teacher. Now it is very much in demand. I have chosen teaching, to protect myself from orders (laughs). But I know people who can not and do not want to teach. They do not like to repeat the same for 100 times. It is easier to take an order in exchange for a certain fee.
You can also get a job in the office, and draw in your spare time. It is also an option. Thus, it is possible to avoid the so-called «duty to draw»: when there is no creative impulse, and you just have to draw something to sell now and make money.
You have been drawing actively for 4 years. And a progress and success can be seen. What is your secret?
The secret of my success is Instagram. Many artists are on Instagram, but not all of them are actively engaged in their blog, and communicating with subscribers, as I do. It is because of this social network I have invitations to appear at master classes, open-airs in beautiful locations and company for drawing.
Blogging really spurs. I’m used to that every day, you need something to publish. If the time in the evening, and I have nothing to put in the morning, then obviously you need to go to work. So, perhaps, if I did not have to communicate with subscribers, upload pictures and tell about events than I would have less of these events. Everything is interconnected. Responsible management of your blog motivates and helps not to waste time in vain.
Your friend, also a creative person, has a creative crisis. What do you advise him/her?
I will invite him/her to go with me to some inspiring place that matches his/her taste. After visiting Rome, Venice or Paris, for example, I’m sure that the inspiration will return. The main thing - to change the habitual environment. You can go not far: in St. Petersburg, or even in your city to visit the place where you have not been before.
Do you have a project that you have thought up by yourself and brought it to life?
I had a project called «City sketching form the cafe windows.» It lasted a couple of years. The main idea was that we drew not in a studio, but in the city. Twice a week, we chose the place and drew the views from the windows of a nearby cafe. So it was a series of pictures from the windows. This style of drawing still exists today in different variations. To these meetings come either beginners or very good artists . All talk, share experiences.
What are the pros and cons of the artist profession?
For me, the biggest plus is that it is 100% personal realization. If a person works in the office, and not for themselves but for the company, it helps to realize someone else’s idea, but not yours. You are inside a mechanism, but not by yourself. And in the creative work a man is alone with himself and is able to be fully realized as a person individually. Even a football player cannot be realized by himself: he needs a team, a coach, other teams. But the artist does not need anyone. I was very attracted to that I have the freedom to realize my ideas without help.
And the cons ... should there be any? I think it is the best profession in the world.
How you like to relax? What is your best holiday?
Best vacation is hot summer by the sea. I love to swim, and for 16 years I have come to rest in the same city on Cyprus.
Describe your perfect day
My perfect day starts in Aix-en-Provence. It is Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. These days in the central square of Aix Flower Market is held. Season - May, because it is the season of hydrangeas and is incredibly beautiful in May. At the market,
I meet my friends watercolorists, who came from different cities. We have breakfast, draw sketches, drink coffee. Later lunch and a walk through the city, and in the afternoon you can go to any port city near - Cassis or Marseille, on the hunt for a story (laugh) At sunset, the sea has the best light...
What advice can you give to starting artists?
Most importantly, do not choose the style, material or themes just because it is fashionable or someone else tells you to. At first it is very good to listen to yourself and understand exactly what you want to draw and how. If you do not like watercolors or pastels - so do not draw. If you want to paint only flowers - hence, draw only flowers.
Do you do sports?
Yes. I swim, go to the gym.
What kind of movies do you watch, and books do you read?
I love psychological detectives with complex plots and main characters, prone to sociopathy. I do not watch fantasy, comedy and melodrama.
From writers stand out Sebastian Zhaprizo, Vladimir Nabokov, John Fowles, Ernest Hemingway.
What are the three wishes you would ask a goldfish?
The first wish. I want works, painted in watercolors, are not spoiled with time. Now they have started coming up with a special ink and paper processing, which allow watercolor paintings maintain the original appearance longer, but I would like so that through the years 300-500 pigments will not fade, and the paper does not decayed.
My second wish - to prevent people from destroying what they created themselves or nature did. Less murders, explosions and environmental pollution.
The third wish. I want to spend one day with Leonardo Da Vinci!
Does the artist’s popularity on Instagram match the one in his/her real life?
The real success of the artist and the popularity of his/her profile on Instagram are completely unrelated things. Most often, a truly successful watercolorists don’t waste time on the promotion of their pages, and so they all right :) And on the contrary - sometimes just a video about how to mix paint drops recruit tens of thousands of views, but in life such work loses all meaning.
What do you want to achieve in the artistic field?
Now my goal is not to exhibit, but to learn to paint, so that my work leaves a bright imprint in people’s lives. To them it was something more than just another «pretty picture» from the Internet. So after seeing my sea they felt warm and sunny, and the feeling was impossible to forget.
What does your family, friends, significant other thinks of your profession?
Since most of my friends appeared in my life after I started drawing, it is easy to find a common language. It was a challenge for my husband at first. But lately he has learned the names of many artists, how they differ from each other, a lot about the paper and paint, can keep up with the conversation (laugh).
How would you spend 3 million rubles?
I would travel all over the Mediterranean countries. And then I would go to the Caribbean Sea. I can imagine how many interesting stories I would find there!
Name 5 things about yourself
1. I am very curious in terms of geography. If somewhere I see the name of the new unknown place to me that I will not rest until I find it on a map. Also, I believe, I have a brilliant sense of directions (laugh)!
2. My favourite animal is a bat «Flying Fox». These are bats who eat only fruit, live in and around Indonesia and Australia.
3. As a child I dreamed of being a pastry chef. I was sure up to 14, it was my calling. But then somehow I was hurt that you create something for a few hours, and it is eaten in a few minutes.
4. I like to reread books. Some favourites I read 15 times (laugh)
5. At home I do not hang any of watercolor works, as I gaze at them too much and find flaws. I have only two oil paintings hanging that I painted a long time ago. They seemed to have been painted by the other person.
Imagine that in the next life you will be reborn into a picture. What picture would you like to be?
Monet’s water lilies, which are in the Moma in New York or in Orsay in Paris!
If someone decided to write a book about you and about your work what would it be called?
It would be called «Splashes and flecks.» Or «Impressions, inspiration, aquarelle» - as the title of my blog. Translated as’ Impressions, inspiration, watercolor«.