Julia Dubinina - Painter on a pastel and oil painting. Animal painter..
Interview with an artist
Julia, were you going to be an artist? How did it all begin?
To tell the truth, no. Those were the 90s. «How to make money» was on everybody’s mind - not the best time. Then I did not have in front of my eyes any examples of successful artists, who were making a living with art. And I would have never thought that I would become a real artist. Now is the time when art is becoming popular.
For some time during the school years I was professionally doing horse riding and even wanted to connect my life with it. But then the circumstances were such that I went to an art university. And I am very grateful to my mother - she felt what was best for me, and helped me with the choice of my profession. I did not even want to go to a university - I wanted to go to work, because at that time the fi nancial situation in my family was diffi cult. However, my mother insisted and I agreed. And also when I looked through the list of subjects that we would study, I didn’t see any physics or mathematics - nothing that made me depressed. And I thought, «Oh, I’ll draw! Excellent! It will be easy! «(Laughs).
But even already studying at the art university, I did not know who I would be. It was a difficult and uncertain time for me. And again I was helped out by my mother, who at one time proposed me to paint animals on a by-order basis. I have always loved animals, loved horses, so it was interesting for me. So it all started.
Tell us how did you get into horseback riding?
I have already said that I always loved animals. And to paint them as well. But when I for the fi rst time saw a live horse, I was in shock. It was such a beautiful and grand creature for me back then, and at the same time incredibly beautiful. And when I was off ered a ride, I was overcome with fear and admiration at the same time, I stepped back and almost ran away (laughs). But I was so fascinated by this sight, I began to dream about riding a horse.
And after a while I rode a horse at the circus. And it was just one lap, but I was happy! While riding, the horse I was gently stroking it, then the whole performance I was sniffi ng my hands, because they still smelled like this wonderful animal. It seemed to me that this was the most wonderful smell in the world.
Then I went to a children’s camp, which had stables. And all, who wanted, could ride horses. I hung around the horses all the time (laughs)! I waited until someone who had taken the place would not come, and got up to take his/her place. They did not know how to drive me out of there (laughs)!
Then I found out that there is a horse rent in Moscow Timiryazev Academy. I was 10 or 11. And I started there. However, horse riding has always been expensive, and my family could hardly aff ord it. And when at age 12 I was allowed to move around Moscow on my own, I started to go to the stables and help out there: taking care of the horses and train newcomers. Then I started helping the athletes, then the owners of the horses. So I «was earning» for my riding. And it was a separate and adult life! School stopped existing for me - in thoughts I always lived in the stables.
Then it was time to go to a university and look for a part time, plus the circumstances were such that I could no longer ride the horse, which I mainly practiced on. And I decided that I should probably fi nish up with horseback riding and maybe come back to it at the earliest opportunity. At that time, I burnt out, I did not want to do it. Unfortunately, in this case an important part is played not so much by the ability of the rider but by money, which at that time our family did not have.
Nevertheless, I occasionally still did horseback riding. As a result, two hobbies: horses and creativity has resulted in what I’m doing now.
Have you always made a living with painting?
Two years before graduation, I worked in an offi ce. I had a very good and hearty staff , fl exible work schedule. It would look like ideal conditions, but I was a very unhappy person because I felt that I was in the wrong place. I had one dream - to live and not to work (laughs)! But at the same time, I never wanted to live off anybody.
Parallel to the offi ce work, I began to paint on by-order basis. Gradually it began to generate income. At some point I realized that this money was enough for me to live and I resigned. And since 2006, I make a living painting.
At what point did you come to pastels?
In my childhood there were no good pastels in the Soviet Union and the attitude to it was as a material for the outline. I learned about pastels only at the university. And it was not love at first sight.
Once at the university, our teacher gave us a task and said that we could do it with pastels, as he considered it as beautiful material as oil. My friend had with her Koh-i-Noor pastels, which belonged to her grandfather. And she invited me to sit by and paint together. When I began to paint, then I was struck by how gently pastel fell on paper and how easy it can be to give shapes with your fingers rather than a brush. I went to the CHA (Central House of Artists, Moscow)
And bought Podolsk pastels and a sheet of pastel paper. Foreign pastels did not exist in Russia. I came home and thought, «Now I will draw!». I began drawing, and I failed completely. I thought that all this pastel was nonsense and gave it up. It was only after the university I got back to it. But more about this later (laughs).
After the university I painted oil picture on by-order. Watercolors were not my cup of tea. A few years after the end of education, when the Internet became more accessible, I began to look at works of foreign artists and their materials. And when I saw some beautiful pictures they painted, using pastels, I was amazed! And it was pastel pencils. And then it hit me! I went to the store, bought Derwent pencils and realized - this is what I was looking for.
And when I painted the black horse on a black background, people gasped - it was very unusual at that time, because we did not do pastel drawings like that. This picture was ordered half a dozen times.
The more of various materials I buy, the better my work becomes. Good paper and good pastel are the 70% of success rate.
Do you continue to do oil painting?
Oh, sure. However, the oil in the photo does not look as profi table as pastel. You should know how to photograph oil paintings. I know that, for example, Maria Pavlova takes her pictures for a photo shoots. Pastel looks spectacular on the photo and in life, if you put it under a proper glass. Under the museum one the illusion of its absence is created. But matte glass can make a pastel work in dark colors very muted. When I was speaking about the fact that pastel looks less impressive, I meant that just ordinary glass hinders its perception. Probably was not that clear. Without glass, or under a museum one it is better than a photo.
Pastel and oil are very similar in methods and techniques of work, and progress in one entails progress in the other. I can not even tell which one I love more.
Tell us how did you look for orders?
Basically the Internet. An important role played my connections in horseback riding. By word of mouth people passed each other what to order, and they ordered me a picture as a gift for themselves.
I believe that the best advertising for an artist is his/her job. There is no point in spending time and eff ort on advertising yourself if you have not reached the professional level of creativity.
Work more, work better. Number necessarily develop into quality. I do not have a strategy to promote and now I’m even a little bit too lazy to delve into the mechanisms of increasing subscribers, and this sort of thing. It is easier to upload photos of my works in Instagram and that’s all. However, Instagram is not a platform for the sale of luxury goods. I read a study which stated that «the average check» in Instagram is 5 thousand rubles, but my paintings are more expensive. Tell us about your style in drawing I do not draw hyperrealism, as some people think. I paint realism. It seems to me that the picture still has to keep certain charm. In fact, hyper realistic drawing is easier than any other. There is nothing to be processed and passed through. But I do not understand why draw in hyperrealism, if you can have a photo!
You said that you have art education. Where did you graduate from?
I graduated from MPGU (Moscow State Pedagogical University) and simultaneously completed MSPI (Moscow Social and Pedagogical Institute). My first diploma is «Teacher of Fine Arts», the second - «The artist-decorator».
What art materials do you use and why?
I chose materials only by trial and error. Local pastel materials can not give the eff ect that I want. But Russian oil is good - our «Master Class» oil paints from the Neva Palette and brushes from Roubloff plant are excellent! But I use foreign pastel as well as paper and pastel pencils. I cannot single out my favorite manufacturers I just have a lot of diff erent art materials, and I use them all!
Previously, I had a few pencils and mostly natural colors, because horses have distinctive colors and I do not need bright colors. Then I visited an intensive of a famous pastel painter in Moscow and having seen how many various pastels she had, like, ‘How much you can just draw with it all! «. And since then I began buying diff erent pastel and pencils (laughs). I like to feel free and to be able to realize any of my ideas. Also at the workshops I always give my materials, so I just have to have a lot of them.
Is there some kind of a minimum set of pastel for an animal painter?
Yes, there is. I made such a list for my students. I’ll tell you more, and some additional recommendtaions you can fi nd in the table. A white pastel pencil and chalk in pencil. Of course, the best chalk is General`s. In Russia, they do not have it yet, but Bruynzeel, Stabilo, Derwent, Faber-Castell, the hardness of «medium» or rather «soft» will do. A black charcoal pencil - Lyra Rembrandt or Cretacolor. Better to buy two, they usually go away quickly and brittle. Even better, Koh-i-Noor Gioconda, but he has a cold undertone. You need grey shades from dark to light in cold and warm color spectrum. In general, the more the better, grays are never enough. Better to take Stabilo, Bruynzeel, a little worse Cretacolor, Derwent. I highly recommend pastel pencils STABILO CarbOthello. If you can take a set of 60 pencils - take it. If you do not have a set of pastel pencils, then I recommend to take a few soft pencils of blue and sky-blue shades of any brand. Also, green and olive, which will be useful for the cat eyes. Again, this whole big list I advise those who plan to paint in my style. And if a person, for example, is not sure yet whether he wants to paint portraits or animals, then I would suggest for realism a set of pastel pencils Stabilo CarbOthello 60 colors. This is a very good set.
Lyra Rembrandt or Cretacolor Charcoal pencil black
STABILO CarbOthello Pastel pencil 620, 640, 675
Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pastel pencil 283, 180, 189, 270
Cretacolor Fine Art Pastels Pastel pencil sepia hell, sepia dark, sanginuie dark
Derwent Pastel pencil Р530, P650, P540, P560, P630, P050, P570, P600
Kooh-i-noor Gioconda Pastel pencil All grey shades
Rembrandt Pastel chalk 227.9; 411,10; 409.5; 408.2; 700.5
Schminke Pastel chalk white
What kind of paper for pastels do you advise?
Until 2014 I had worked on the smooth side of the paper Canson Mi-Teintes. This is great paper to start on, because buying expensive paper for the first trial is irrationally. Of course, if you have the opportunity - you can buy and try. I always recommend buying the best materials from those that you can afford. Poor materials can spoil the first impression from working with pastels.
At some point, I wanted to try professional paper for pastels. In the sense that I needed paper, that would be better at keeping layered pastel painting. And I tried Pastelmat. This is great paper, but I do not recommend it for beginners and those with little experience - it is very specific. Canson Mi-Teintes - it’s smooth paper. To shade pastel on it, you should just make a couple of strokes and smudge them with fi nger. Pastelmat texture is more like suede. You do not get to make two strokes and shade them. You should completely cover the paper with pastel with the first layer and then, the second layer, you can make beautiful transitions and shading. Accordingly, the consumption of pastel is greater, but it holds a lot of layers!
What inspires you to work?
You know, I’m not an artist who draws on inspiration. There is an order - I’m drawing. Of course, I am very excited when I like the order, but it is not the most important thing.
Of course, I am inspired by photographs of horses. Now I, unfortunately, do not get around to paint a picture for myself. Basically it orders. I do not wait for inspiration - just sit down to work, and the appetite comes with eating.
Partly for that reason I cannot fully identify myself with an artist. For me, the artist is the one who can interpret reality, pass it in the painting through the lens of his/her perception. For me, in pastels such artists are Elena Tatkina and Olga Abramova.
I have difficulties with processing and even more so with drawing on imagination. But I working on it and strive towards it. I want to go to Olga, for example, for a master class. And someday I will do it!
On the other hand, I understand that if I began to write expressive canvases as Lena and Olya, that does not help - this niche is already occupied by them, and I have no reason to try to beat them. I occupy the niche of realism, which feels great.
Are there any scenes that you will never draw?
Yes. Cityscapes. I see these as windows in houses - no, better to shoot me (laughs)! I like painting living things. Nature, people, animals. And houses - they are not alive.
But all you need is to try. Suddenly, you never wanted to paint urban landscapes, and then you have tried and cannot break away!
Does it happen that you do not want to paint?
It happens. If I do not want - I do not paint. I work a lot and sometimes I can aff ord to be lazy. More often than not I do not want to paint when I’m tired. You just need to relax. Still I can stop painting for maximum for three days, then withdrawal starts (laughs).
I never take advance payments for my paintings. I do not like being obliged to anyone. Freedom is important to me. Very rarely it happens so that I fi nish a picture, and the customer refuses to buy it, it might have happened three times no more. And it was for objective reasons. I never worry about it, because I always sell my paintings.
Of course, if an order costs more than one hundred thousand rubles, I’ll take an advance payment, just to be on the safe side.
Which of your pictures are worth that kind of money?
Large and complex oil paintings. I start with the canvas size and the number of characters. For example, I have a picture with a herd of running horses 45 by 225 cm. It was worth that money.
Do you have an art secret?
It happens so, I fi nished the work, and then look at it and do not understand how I did it. I think that talent and pure inspiration are like gifts from above. I do not want, of course, drag any mysticism here, but sometimes it seems that somebody is leading my hand. And I know many artists who have it the same way.
There is no particular secret. Although there is. It is necessary to draw something that you love!
How did you start teaching?
I was on Elena Tatkin’s intensive and realized that what she was saying, I knew, and I could also tell students. At fi rst I was afraid to reveal all of my secrets, animalists will «multiply like mushrooms», and I could lose my income (laughs). Plus, it seemed to me that I did not need it, and in general, it would not be interesting to anyone. In general, there were many doubts. Then Kalacheva School wrote to me and off ered to hold an intensive. I agreed. The intensive was successful, and I realized that I was interested in communicating with people, and I managed to teach them. I held two intensives at the school and switched to freelance.
Now I hold master classes and training courses in an art-cafe in the center of Moscow, oil and pastel.
It is believed that art schools do not allow the artist to develop his/her own unique style. What do you think?
I told you that I appreciate the freedom and creativity as well. So when at the university we started painting more than plaster heads, something alive andmore complex, I realized that I do not want to write horrible still lives with broken pots, torn drapes and putrid light. I apologize. As a result, when everybodybrought portraits and still lives, I brought horses portraits. I did not care about marks. I got «three», they thought I was not right upstairs (laughs). So I started to develop my own style by myself.
I had problems with attendance too. When I saw that the teacher gave us a still life painting and leaves and then comes back in 3 hours, passed through the rows and just maked afew strokes of his/her - I realized that there is nothing to learn there. It is very important when the teacher really wants to teach students and to reveal their potential. But such teachers are unique. Luckily, in the fi rstyear, we had one subject - decorative and applied art - where a talented teacher engrained a great love for oil painting and multi-layering. And the rest,
I would very much like to see the university leaving the best impressions, but, unfortunately, the way I paint now - it’s not university education. I can’t answer, of course, for all higher artistic education.
Now much more knowledge is given at courses and modern schools.
What is the best rest for you?
You know, I do not know how to relax. The best rest for me - it’s drawing. And when I get tired of drawing, I do not know what to do (laughs). I do not even go relaxing somewhere on the beach, because I just can’t lie down and do nothing!
It feels like you’re wasting the time of your life. For me, the time is the most important resource in life. Going skiing in the mountains that’s for me. There, both the head and the body are busy with something. In general, the best rest is a change of activity!
Describe your perfect day
It must have a good weather, with a good light for drawing. I get up, have breakfast, work, play with my child, paint again and in the evening will be with my family. It’s as simple as that (smiles).
Do you play sports?
Now I do horseback riding once or twice a week, in winter season - skiing. You should spend time on physical exercise, especially being an artist - we have a sedentary job, and the neck is always in tension. And the whole body also needs to be developed. Soon my daughter will go to a kindergarden, and I hope that there will be more free time to do sports more productively.
What kind of movies do you watch, and what books do you read?
To my shame, I can’t remember the last time I read a book. I used to read in the transport, but since I moved into a car, I do not read. It’s diffi cult with fi lms as well. Rarely a movie touches me. Usually my husband and I sit down to watch a movie, and after a few minutes it seems to me that I am sitting and doing nothing. And I could be doing something useful in the meantime. I love to watch TV-series or light movies as a background during work.
Imagine that you are 60 years old. What advice do you give to your grandchildren?
Listen to yourself and your heart. It will never lie about the things you need to do in life and with whom to be. What makes us happy. If you do not listen to your inner voice, then one day it will cease to communicate with you. So always listen to yourself.
I do not believe that life is pain and labor. Living should be a pleasure, because life is one. And never say no to opportunities that your destiny gives you in relation to your main activity. Sometimes it seems that the proposal is not very interesting, but then it turns out to be life-changing.
What three wishes would you make to a goldfish?
None of my close people and I were ill. When there is no health - let things rip. Everything else, it seems to me, a person can achieve by her-/himself. The second wish - that there is always time for creative realisation, and I «was not buried» in everyday routine. The third wish - to help my child to fi nd her way as my mother helped me. Children after school still can’t clearly understand their needs. And if I happen to feel my daughter and help her get on her way, then I will consider my mission as a parent completed.
Does the artist’s popularity in his real success match the Instagram one?
Most likely, they are interconnected. If the artist is not in demand, and he/she will not be popular on Instagram. It’s a diffi cult question. Describe your creative workspace As such, there is none. I paint in the kitchen at the dinner table, and it’s terrible, of course. The kitchen is big, though, but I believe that the artist should have his/her own place. Although near the fridge, and you can eat immediately - very convenient (laughs). My dream is to expand the living space!
Name 5 things about yourself that first come to mind
1. If I was not an artist, I would have been a pastry chef, or a make-up artist, or a manicurist.
2. I’m afraid of heights. And only in the mountains, this phobia steps away.
3. My dad was very good at drawing, and my mother had a delicate taste and color perception, she was a talented florist.
4. I do not like cats. For me, they are attractive in nature and no more (laughs)! I love painting them, but would never get one!
5. I have always disliked school. And in high school I did slip to two points. School was always foreign to me. But in my defense, I will say that I finished 11th grade externally, with a nice certificate, where almost all of the marks were five points.
What does your family, friends, significant other think of your profession?
The husband thinks about it very well. For him, perhaps, it was important that his wife had something to do and not just in the offi ce, but there should be a direct correlation between how much you have worked and how much you have earned. He likes my integrity, hard work and independence from him. He is a very silent man and rarely expresses his opinion about my pictures. He will not go into my little world, and I like it. And he supports me very much and forgives the recurrent absence of home comfort. And friends also think well. I feel sorry for the creative people who are not approved by close people.
How would you spend 3 million rubles?
I would make a down payment on a new two-bedroom apartment. Or would buy my daughter an apartment in the mortgage for the future.
What superpowers would you like to have?
I would like to be able to heal, but it should not negatively refl ect on me.
Imagine that in the next life you will be reborn into a picture. What picture would you like to be?
There will defi nitely be a horse. A painting, where a horse stands quietly, so that people could enjoy its grace.
If someone decided to write a book about you and your work, how it would be called?
«Biography of a not quite animalist»