Saturday, October 27, 2007

Artist Profile: Natalia Alexeeva

If you couldn’t tell from looking at her art Natalia Constantinovna Alexeeva is all kinds of awesome. (Yes, we found it imperative to use her entire name). Especially since she shares an undying love for all things Kingdom Hearts and gave us links to all kinds of funky music. Those of you who’ve passed by her deviantART gallery know her as chinup, and know first hand, just how groovy her stuff is and on top of that, she does all her work traditionally. A recent graduate of the University of San Diego, this 22 year old Moscow-born artist now resides in Southern California while doing web design work.







Rococo Flow
: Care to give us some background about yourself?

Natalia: I was born in Russia, left the country with my mom when I was 12, and have lived all over the place ever since then. Most of my family is back in Moscow still but I visit them as often as I can. I grew up sort of nomadic, I suppose. We lived in Italy for a little while and I used to get by pretty all right in Italian and German, but now I've forgotten them both! I came to permanently live in Southern California when I was about to enter high school, which was nice because California is such a beautiful place. I stayed here for university and would have moved to Vancouver for grad school, but I was low on money and decided to stay in San Diego for a while longer. I just landed a very good job very near my home here.

Rococo Flow: Is it an art related job?

Natalia: Yes! Or rather, it is design-related. Design is art, right? I do webdesign when I don't work traditionally. Webdesign is something I've been doing since high school, so it's been a natural way for me to get money. I freelanced a bit before now.

Rococo Flow: So how long have you been drawing and doing things that were art related? Why did you want to become an artist?

Natalia: Hmm, I think it all started with color. I am fascinated with colors and the way they match up and resonate in different ways. I think I was able to grasp how cool that was even when I was younger. I've always been a right-brain oriented person, *ahaha*. I used to draw a lot when I was in my teens, but my not-so-secret secret is I can't draw at all!

Rococo Flow: *laughs* Why do you say that? The pieces you come up with are really fantastical. Who are your influences?

Natalia: Ah, every time I draw something it's like starting from scratch, I don't feel any real experience backing up my hand. It's all completely intuitive. It's the same with design, that intuitive approach. I have to look at technically strong artists' work sometimes and try to figure out what they did right and what I'm doing wrong. Of course I tend to go with my first impulse anyway since I like things that are rough around the edges.

Japanese ukiyo-e prints are my greatest inspiration. I love the way they're simultaneously rough and delicate, and they have such a cool history! I love artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. I believe those artists have had a large influence on Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement, and on contemporary artists like Yoshitomo Nara. And of course I adore Giant Robot and its own artists, whom Murakami and others influenced in turn. Like, Kozyndan, for instance. I have been known to liberally rip off Jeana Sohn, too. Jeana Sohn is amazing.

Er, I mean BORROW from… be INSIPIRED by…*Ahah*.

THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER! *Haha* Seriously, I get a lot I get a lot of inspiration from people like the Giant Robot folks.



Rococo Flow: How would you describe your own style?

Natalia: Oh, that's tough for me to say, I guess whimsical? Playful? I use a lot of color and drips and splashes. I did some mock children’s book illustrations for a senior project in college, they weren't exactly Rembrandt, obviously, but I felt I'd found my element.

Rococo Flow: A lot of your work could be seen as surreal. How do you get ideas for your drawings and paintings?

Natalia: I tend to go with a single image that I see somewhere that strikes me for whatever reason, buildings catching the sun for instance, and then I try to recreate that feeling. Or else I'll see an illustration or a piece of art and think, “wow, amazing, I want to figure out how that was done”. So I try and do it. Of course my own style sort of transforms anything I put down on paper or canvas to something unexpected. That's the being intuitive part.

Rococo Flow: Are you ever trying to convey a message in your pieces?

Natalia: Mostly just moods. The feeling of wanting to run outside, barefoot in the grass or more sinister things, if I'm so inclined. Sometimes I'll just doodle something that looks pretty good and subsequently paint it, and then someone else will come to me with a little story about what the picture means, and I won't correct them.

Rococo Flow: Do you use any programs for your artwork or is it all traditional media?

Natalia: It's all traditional, that I recall. Though I do I photograph my paintings using a terrible, terrible ancient camera, so I have to use Photoshop to tweak colors back to their original look here and there.

Rococo Flow: What's your general approach to creating a picture?

Natalia: 1) Look for a paint-able surface. (My preference is canvas or wood board, though I sometimes desecrate book covers and other things that are flat).
2) Choose colors to work with. (Usually I sketch out the whole deal and match the swatches. Also, this usually all this goes awry and I end up with something different).
3) Sketch out areas onto the canvas/board/etc. with fingers, pencils, anything handy. (By this time I am sort of caught in the moment, *ahaha*).
4) WILL the piece to be good with my MIND (occasionally effective).

Natalia: The problem with traditional art is that it costs money every time so you can’t waste materials. Oh and let's not forget: Step 0 is prepping the canvas and step 5 is putting on finishing touches, usually with materials like marker that would otherwise run under spray paint or water.

Rococo Flow: Is there any particular media that you use most often?

Natalia: Acrylics, spray paint, fine-point marker on canvas or wood board. I've tested out some of trickier stuff in the past, like paper-machétexturing or applique, but those shorten the life of a painting since paper doesn't hold up very well to much of anything.

Rococo Flow: What's your favorite?

Natalia: I HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE THING?

Rococo Flow: *laughs*

Natalia: Um, acrylics. They're smooooooooooooooooth. Oh and wood board! It is a pain to prep, but the natural swirl of the grain is so beautiful.

Rococo Flow: *laughs* It never really hit me until a year or so ago that one didn't need to use 'traditional' canvases in order to get good results. The wood boards are definitely pretty. Do you have any projects that are in the works?

Natalia: I am currently a little obsessed with Russian folk tale illustrations, especially Ivan Bilibin's work. I'm doing a painting right now of the three fairy-tale knight-brothers that Bilibin's so famous for illustrating. His work is really magnificent and inspiring.

Rococo Flow: Oh that sounds interesting. Do you hang your works in a gallery anywhere or is it possible for people to purchase your works some other way?

Natalia: I've currently got a couple of pieces up near the Arts Center in Escondido, those are for sale and I'm always open to online commissions.

Rococo Flow: Awesome. Do you have any thoughts on the art industry today?

Natalia: Hmm, I don’t know, the art industry today's got a lot to give, so grab what you can? QUICKLY? On a more serious note, I feel that the overlap of "design" and "art" has brought a lot of opportunity for exploration. It's not all urinals in museums anymore.

Rococo Flow: *haha*

Natalia: It's all right for good art to be beautiful to look at. Of course, art history being in a sort of lawless and Armageddon-like state at all times, you'd have no problem finding 50 people who disagree with my last statement, *ahaha*.

Rococo Flow: True. Art is such a subjective thing at times, yet we try really hard to make it objective. I guess to even the playing field.

Natalia: No one who has any real sense can just TELL YOU what is real MODERN ART anymore it's completely subjective to the MILIEU or whatever that's called. Basically I like that magazines like Giant Robot and Beautiful Decay have established their own milieu and criteria. It feels very much like standing up to THE MAN, as with all new art movements :-) *ahaha* I am sounding very dumb right now.

Rococo Flow: *laughs* No you're not. When someone mentions standing up to the man, I always think of the Impressionist movement. They may have been laughed at back then, but look how respected they are now, after many years… so you never know :-). I suppose it's all up to perspective.

Natalia: ....And many years after today, after all of us are properly rich and famous, I don't even want to KNOW what the milieu will be laughing at. Probably dead cats in museums or has that already been done? Anyway, it's good enough for me that modern information technologies, digital media, etc. have given recognition to so many truly talented and skilled artists.

Rococo Flow: Agreed, so what are you future aspirations?

Natalia: Well, for now I am going to work in the webdesign field, since it is such lucrative field all things considered. I find interactive design is just as exciting as art for art's sake. There is such potential in programs like Flash where art becomes interactive! But I'll keep painting in the meanwhile. I find traditional art, especially traditional media in this day and age, isn't something I can just abandon. People work in Painter and forget the way real paint FEELS. It's a messier experience, of course, but the mess is 100% organic and therefore good for you.

Rococo Flow: Do you have any interests besides painting?

Natalia: I love pop music a little too much. I write for a website called aurgasm.us (RF: Music fans should definitely check it out!!). Of course there's manga and anime, without which I wouldn't have ended up befriending such amazing people as Chira and her friend Muun (they do Salad Days). I'm a little less interested in anime these days, but I still work with the Karaoke Kaizokudan at West-coast cons. We run the Karaoke rooms. :-). I play videogames too, everything from Battlefront to Flight sims to Square-Enix RPG's. I also read a lot of books. I like old stuff and historical fiction. I am only now discovering Georgette Heyer.

Rococo Flow: Oh… do you play Kingdom Hearts?

Natalia: Yeah. This time last year all I could talk about was Kingdom Hearts. I printed and sold some tee shirts that said stuff like “GET UP ON THE HYDRA'S BACK!” and I made one with a picture of Demyx's sitar strapped across on the back. It was good times.

Rococo Flow: Oh man a t-shirt would be cool…. so if you could meet anyone, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Natalia: Uhh, I am terrible at these questions. Pushkin, probably, because he's be such an unpredictable conversationalist, maybe he could tell me what "The Bronze Horseman" really meant, if it was really about Peter the Great and stuff.

Rococo Flow: This next question, I probably should have asked earlier since the topic came up, but what type of music do you enjoy listening to?

Natalia: I have so many bands I like it's a little ridiculous, but then music is OK to be crazy about so long as it is good. Ohoho! Off the top of my head I'll name the New Pornographers, Of Montreal, Destroyer, Ojos de Brujo, Maximo Park, Go!Go!7188, and Jens Lekman. I've also recently discovered Detektivbyran, whose music sounds a lot like Yann Tiersen's Amelie soundtrack, BUT BETTER. I listen to a lot of baroque pop, which is like pop but with orchestras and interesting instrumental arrangements and things. Think The Decemberists. BUT THEN OF COURSE WE KNOW SEAL'S "KISS FROM A ROSE" IS LIKE THE GREATEST SONG EVER.

Rococo Flow: Hahaha… definitely all awesome choices. Do you have any advice for any other aspiring artists?

Natalia: Ah, I suppose something like this: be ready to be modest, and be ready to stand proudly by your work. Produce as much work as you can and be HUNGRY for inspiration and for the creative process. Hm, I don't know if "modest" is even the right word for it. "Professional", perhaps because "be modest" isn't good advice, but "be serious about your work" certainly is.

Rococo Flow: Do you have any other comments or things you'd like to address?

Natalia: "Thanks a bunch" is all I got!

To see more work by Natalia visit the following links:

tiger-tiger.org – portfolio of recent works
chinup@deviantART – DA account
motorbike@livejournal – Livejournal

You can also contact Natalia at nativegirl[at]gmail.com


1 comment:

Sophia said...

These prints are so cool, they would make amazing pillows...

We <3 you Daisy :D