Lyubov Titova - Watercolor artist, architect.
Interview with an artist
Lubov, tell us how you started to paint?
For all my love of drawing, I didn’t finish any art schools, studios, etc. Probably, it was superficial, unexamined love without a particular perspective and purpose in the future. In school, I was content with being the editor of the school newspaper, and thus expressing myself artistically.
The final realization that, in the future, I want to connect my life with painting, came after graduation, when I had to decide where to go. For admission to art colleges, such as the Stroganov Academy, Surikov Institute (the oldest and the leading art Universities in Russia, located in Moscow - Ed.)., it’s required to have paintings in your portfolio - I did not have those. That was where the regret of paying little time to painting sank in (laughs). Architectural Institute, where there was a department of drawing, inspired me, and there a purpose appeared.
I can say that the entrance exams without additional preparation are very difficult to pass ... In order to become a student of Moscow Architectural Institute, you must go through many hours of creative examinations. Perhaps now something has changed, but when I entered in 1991, the entrance exams were: a drawing (a plaster cast of a head), a composition (a drawing on the observance of proportions and the correct construction of a model), a technical drawing. And from the general subjects - composition and mathematics. Five exams in total.
On the first attempt, I went down in flames (smiles). But it was a temporary setback, it did not stop, and only strengthened the desire to achieve the goal! And the following year I attended courses at the Institute for technical drawing and drawing. At the same time, I worked at the «ZIL» plant coping technical drawings («ZIL» - major Russian automobile, truck, military vehicle, and heavy equipment manufacturer based in the city of Moscow, Russia - Ed.). All this helped me a lot later at the entrance exams, I was very happy!
Tell us about your styding at the university
The favorite subjects at the institute were academic drawing, painting and composition. We were taught academic drawing for four years. Drawing, mainly in pencil, as well as dry materials - pastel, sanguine, sepia, charcoal, sauce. In the summer holidays we went for practice with the teachers on academic drawing. We visited many Russian cities, characterized by their picturesque beauty - Vologda, Kirillov, Ferapontovo, Belozersk, Nyandomu, Kargopol, Saunino. Until now, I very well remember my student years, and those trips (laughs). We graded on open-air sketches at the end of practice.
Painting (painting in watercolors and gouache) was much less because there was no purpose to make us artists or painters.
Emphasis was placed on the preparation of an architect with the ability to draw, to understand the intricacies of the design documentation and design features of the building. The ability to draw in this was certainly welcomed, but it was accompanying.
After graduation, I no longer draw: worked as an architect - and was engaged in architectural design. About drawing I remembered 10 years later - just wanted to paint.
Over the summer, I drew a couple of works in pastel. It was more of a hobby, but drawing is time-consuming. Then for the first time came the idea to change something in my life, to have more free time to paint. Again there was a break for three years.
Did you continue to draw after graduation?
And in 2014 I was presented with watercolors «Neva palette», and I tried to paint in watercolor. From that moment I realized that this was my dream and I want to paint every day. At work, they found a way to understand me, made it possible to realize and consider, providing an unpaid leave for a year.
My husband also supports me in everything! So everything turned out well, and now I enjoy the creativity, dedicating all my time to painting, and making active steps to realizing my dreams.
I try to participate in exhibitions, which gives an opportunity to show my work, to hear some assessment, something to rethink, and to understand in which direction to move on!
What did you start with your studies of watercolors?
Before I started painting in watercolors I dedicated two months to watching YouTube video tutorials by Sergey Andriaka. Made some notes, rewatched ... this was very entertaining and informative, he’s a great master! And then, feeling that I could draw myself, sat down with watercolors.
To the technique I use now, I have come thanks to Elena Bazanova. I saw her on YouTube, and I liked her painting style.
Tell us about your style
Recently, all my works are in the English watercolor technique of XIX century on crude paper with the use of glass and wet tissue. This technique is used by many artists. Through this process, the paper holds water for a long time, which provides unlimited technical possibilities for painting with watercolors.
In my watercolors I do not use white color. White is a white sheet of paper, untouched by watercolors. The whole range of shades I obtain by mixing a few basic colors. I prefer to use three basic and loved by me colors: lemon (yellow), carminic (red) and Prussian blue (blue). I believe that by using these colors in different proportions, you can draw any picture. I draw both from nature and from photographs.
I love to paint still lives, because it is convenient: a still life composition is easy to create at home. But some architectural pattern, such as the «balcony of Catalonia», I drew from my photos, made on the trip.
Why don’t you paint portraits?
Portraits I drew at the institute, but only in pencil, and in watercolors - I have not tried. But, I think, it is still to come. The desire is there, but by nature I am not very assiduous (laughs). Sitting still for a few hours is not achievable by everyone.
Are there scenes that you will never draw?
Yes, I will not draw weapons. Only if by-order.
What do you think, is there any required features for an artist?
Hard work, perseverance, and curiosit, imagination and fantasy.
Can you remember the fi rst picture that you painted in watercolors?
I remember very well my fi rst watercolor paintings - a rosette in a glass of water. The result was not pleasant to me, and I threw it away. Then there were two more unsuccessful with apples and a white rose, which suff ered the same fate. Gradually works were getting better, they might or might not be liked, but they represented something, and it was joyful.
And now, with each new work, I learn and gain experience, learn and tame watercolors.
I’ve learnt to transfer many of various textures - metal, glass, fl owers, fruits, vegetables, wool, animals, birds, water, cloth, sky, foliage, etc. Undeveloped, probably, has remained only a person’s face.
Are there any artists, whose work you follow and are inspired by?
Yes, they are Sergey Andriyaka, Elena Bazanova and Eastern artists Toshiyuki Abe (Abe Toshiyuki) and Shin Jeong-sik (Shin Jong Sik).
What art materials do you use, and why?
Watercolor paints by Nevskaya Palitra, brand «White Nights», as I said, I was presented with. With them I began, and I’m very satisfied, I consider them of good enough quality. Later, I tried to paint with the Dutch paints Van Gogh and Japanese Kuretake Gansai Tambi. And for myself I realized that I can paint with any paints, and I do not see any special differences between my works written with Van Gogh, Nevskaya Palitra or Kuretake.
And for beginners, if you ask me, I advise - do not waste expensive watercolors, paint with local budget colors, for example, Neva palette «White Nights». They are of good quality, and it’s true. It’s better to give preference to a good cotton paper. Remember only one important watercolor rule - do not mix more than two or three colors, otherwise they will turn out dull, dull tone, and then just dirt.
As for brushes I prefer natural bristle of Siberian weasel by Roubloff. Paper - cotton Arches, grain fin 300gr. - It is ideal for wet technique due to its density and naturalness.
Also in my work I use masking fluid, which I put in the beginning of work on the pencil drawing in the places that I want to leave white, untouched by watercolors. Using masking fluid in watercolors is optional, and you can get around each highlight separately, but with difficult watercolor fills the mask greatly facilitates the work and reduces the time spent on all the details.
Tell us about the watercolor technique of the XIX century. What’s the idea?
Thanks to this technique, the paper holds water for a long time, which allows you to combine soft and smooth transitions of color «in the raw» written on top of them with emphasis on the small details.
For a piece of paper to keep moisture as long as possible,to be like dry and wet at the same time, we do not just moisten it on the reverse side, but also smoothe it further in the wet gauze and waterproof hard tablet - for example, plexiglass. Plexiglas can be replaced with glass, plastic or stiff oilcloth.
Perhaps you are a very patient person, if you draw such painstaking work …?
Yes, that’s right. The style in which I paint, involves detailed study and close to reality. Therefore, patience and perseverance are indispensable. Now I like to paint this way, and then we will see. And a large number of good reviews from my subscribers say that we need to continue in this direction (smiles).
Where do you get ideas for your paintings?
Basically, I am trying to take all from life. I try to ignore all the fun that surrounds me. If it is summer, then there are still lifes of fruit, berries and flowers. Maybe something from everyday things. If I am on a trip, then I bring photos of beautiful places, and architectural subjects which, in future, I can paint.
Also, the ideas are offered by customers, when they ask to draw something for them. So I had a series of works with coffee, paintings with a summer terrace, angel, naked model and mountain sceneries.
Does it happen that you do not want to paint?
I try to paint every day, and if I do not get it, it is only due to objective reasons. But this, I do not want to draw, does not exist. Sometimes it is simply impossible, but the desire is always there.
How do you find customers?
Customers find me on the site «Masters Fair» and Instagram, as well as, in the friends and acquaintances references.
Do you have any art secret?
I do not have secrets. Often I film the work process, and upload it in social networks to just to show everyone that there is no magic - only hard work and patience. And with a strong desire and effort anything is possible. In my work there is very close attention to detail. Over time, I really want to move away from a more detailed work and to draw more picturesque and less photographic.
Do you participate in exhibitions? How do you tell people about your art?
You know, after starting to paint, I quickly realized that painting for myself «for the desk drawer» is not interesting, I wanted more - evaluation from the audience, attention. I gradually made out my works and dreamed about a personal exhibition. And that’s when I had 30- 40 pictures, I started to learn how I could participate in exhibitions. Visiting the gallery district and talking with the administration I learned that an excellent starting point for a new-comer is libraries that provide their premises for the organization of exhibitions for free! So in 2015 my first solo exhibition «The Beauty Around Us» was organized, which lasted three summer months. And then, on the Internet, I found addresses of libraries and applications for participation. In September, October and November, I held three solo exhibitions. There were also purchases: at the end of one of the exhibitions library staff bought five of my paintings, it was cool and unexpected (laughs).
At the same time I was interested in art galleries and the opportunity to exhibit there. I learned that various associations of artists organize their own events.
On the Internet I found the International Federation of Aquarellists (IFA), I submitted an application for membership, I attached the photos of my work. The selection committee liked my watercolors, in absentia I was confirmed to be accepted and was told to bring my works. It was the selection process of paintings by artists to participate in the exhibition. So I joined the IFA and participated in the autumn exhibition-contest «Watercolor-2015», held in the gallery in Tushino. Then there were three collective exhibitions of the IFA, which exhibited three to five of my works.
About the Russian Art week, ArtWeek, - an international competition of contemporary art, I also found out on the internet and took part in the winter and spring season. And now I will participate in the autumn season. Also recently many exhibition organizers themselves have sent me email invitations to participate. There was the exhibition «World through the eyes of architects», «Let’s talk about the beautiful» from the Merkulov gallery and others.
Preparation, of course, takes a long time: to find a place, finalize the work, to bring, and after the exhibition to take away the paintings. But I can say that this aspect of creativity also needs to be addressed: to find time to participate in the artistic life of the city, just to go to the exhibitions and get acquainted with something new in contemporary art.
Tell about your workshops. How did you start teaching?
One Moscow studio in the fall of 2015, became interested in my work, proposed a lesson from them in a creative space and to become a member of their team. At that time I drew for only a year and felt that I did not yet have enough experience in the field of teaching, and I was not ready for such a responsible step. But in spring, when the studio opened, I was again invited, and I could not refuse.
So in May, June and July of 2016, I held my first and very exciting workshops. I was not teaching, I was rather familiarising with the technique of watercolor painting on wet paper with the use of glass and wet tissue. I believe that to hold such intensives - it’s a great experience and development in the artist’s life.
Do you draw only from life or from imagination too?
I draw from life, and my photographs. I love to put still lifes that have static and resistant composition. If these are architectural scenes or landscapes, I usually take photos.
We always travel as a family, and I have no way to do plein air sketches of favorite moments. I photograph them and then paint.
Drawing from memory, from imagination, I do not do well - I need to see what I want to draw.
What are the pros and cons of the artist profession?
Of the cons only everyday routine and the earning. It is believed that the artist is always poor and hungry. And you have to try so you can feed yourself with your creativity.
And the rest - only pros! A creator is a happy person who lives in harmony with him/herself.
What is your best rest?
I like to relax with the family. We rarely intersect, so time spent together is the most precious.
Describe your perfect day It should be a sunny day.
It does not matter winter or summer, as long as the sun is shining. The close people should be healthy and have the opportunity to draw the whole day.
Do you play sports?
I go skiing in winter, in summer jogging in the park. I try not to eat after 6 pm.
What kind of movies do you watch, and what books do you read?
In the past year and a half I did not watch TV. News there only upset me and frustrate - very few positive ones. I don’t watch other shows not to be distracted from more important matters, and the creative process. Sometimes the family goes to the cinema, my son chooses movies and he invites us.
I love books about artists, the works of artists of the wanderers, and classical art and modern literature.
Does the artist’s popularity on Instagram match the one in his/her real life?
In my opinion, to be popular on Instagram, it does not mean to be successful. Many professional artists have their blogs on Instagram, virtuosos and masters of their craft, but they have few subscribers, while at the same time they are successful, demanded and known!
On my page I share some of the technical issues and the basic techniques while working with watercolors - what to look for, how to mix paints, what materials to use, etc. I hope many of my tips are useful for beginners, and my blog is just about that. I’m still at the beginning of my career, and success comes with age. I must still work on it.
Imagine, you are 60 years old. What advice do you give to your grandchildren?
While I do not want to think of this age (laughs). In general, I would not like to advise anything to the grandchildren, just to wish to dream more, to try, not to be afraid to make mistakes, because in the end they teach how to make decisions and build up the character, bring experience and lead to success.
What are the three wishes you would ask a goldfish?
I want a new trough (just kidding). I would wish the closest to me to be healthy, my watercolor works to be recognizable and creative development for myself.
Imagine that your friend, has a creative crisis. What do you advise him/her?
The best thing - is to go on a trip and meet with friends. And wear Louboutins and go to a Van Gogh exhibition (laughs).
Name 5 things about youself that first come to mind
1. I am a wife and a mother, which makes me happy.
2. After finishing high school, I worked for a year at «Zil» coping technical drawing. This helped with the skills.
3. I entered the Architectural Institute from the second attempt. So, that’s why, I worked for a year at the factory.
4. This year for the first time I tried skiing.
5. Since the beginning of my creative work (for 2 years), I painted 125 watercolors, held 4 solo exhibitions and 8 collective, participated in the exhibition-contest. In November 2015 I joined the International Federation of Aquarellists (IFA)
Imagine that in the next life you will be reborn into a picture. What picture would you like to be?
Something sunny and warm. Perhaps a summer and sunny landscape by Levitan.
How would you spend 3 million rubles?
This modest sum of money I would have spent on the expansion of the apartment - I need a workshop (laughs).
What superpowers would you like to have?
Time control to keep up with all. I still try to keep up with everything, and plan my affairs in advance.
How would you call a book about you and your art?
I would call it «Live watercolors with Love». My name translates into English as “Love”. So this is a good pun (laughs).
Do you have a favorite work? Tell us what did you put into it, the story behind?
Yes, I think I have such work - «The balcony of Catalonia» is the most complex and time-consuming in its execution of all my watercolors, which I painted for more than a week.
One day, walking around Barcelona, I was struck by seeing first hand the building of the notorious «Block of Discord» or « «Bone of contention» - the so-called Barcelona neighborhood where the professional competition between the three great Catalan modernist architects: Antoni Gaudí (Casa Batlló), Luis Dumenek-and-Muntaner (house Leo Moorer) and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and (Amal house) is imprinted in stone.
I was particularly struck by its lightness, extraordinary beauty and complexity of architectural details, the gothic balcony which decorates the facade of the house of Amalia. It shows good attention to the moment, that in the background shows the facade of Gaudi also very interesting element of a building belonging to another author.
At that moment I was not able to capture it directly on a sheet of paper. I took a photo, and in the future, from the photo I wrote this work. At the next show, in which it participated, it was bought.