Get To Know (Sub)urban Warrior

You quit Art for a while because you didn’t think you could make it. Why did you quit?

It was a mixture of a lot of things. Art in college was very frustrating. You weren’t given real freedom, you were supposed to be there to learn to be an artist, and yet they wanted kids to stay in a mold. I got super burned out from College. They always tried to get you to create large pieces and an overabundance work. I took more than the usual amount of classes in a semester just so I could get out faster. College just temporarily destroyed the joy in Art for me. Looking back now there was some value in it, but overall it was tough on me.

What led you to getting back into art?

It took awhile to get back into the groove. One day I got accepted into a gallery (Paper Crown). I was one of the first artists they accepted. While at this point I was still just viewing art as a hobby,  I became acquainted with Jay, the lie, one of the gallery owners, and got inspired by everything he was doing. After strong advice from him, I was thinking, maybe i could really turn art into a career one day. Still took awhile for me to get there, but that was a huge jumping off point.

Throughout your work I see a recurring theme of your character called Beastie. What does Beastie represent?

My beasties are ancient wise creatures that are nomadic and protective. They represent strength and bravery, and their goal is to inspire others to think big, and be a presence in the world. I always try when I’m able, to paint them as large as I can, they’re the size of mammoths in real life. And so I want people to feel as big as they are, in their hearts and minds.

Does nature play a big inspiration within your artwork?

It definitely does. There’s this connection we all have with it. Although, some people are more tapped into it than others. I’m super tapped into it. I love the city, but I feel way more at home in the mountains or the woods. I call nature my church. I’ve always had a connection to Animals too. Our connection to them is an interesting thing i’ve always liked to explore.

Your first solo show in Chicago was Nomads. How was that experience?

This show was such a great learning experience. It meant a lot for me to be able to have my own solo show in Chicago. I do wish I could’ve done things a bit differently, but overall I was very pleased with what I was able to create.

To then follow up that show, a couple months back you co-curated a show with Sara of Chicago Truborn called Stacked: A Group Show. What was that experience like?

This was my first curatorial debut in Chicago, and it couldn’t have gone any better. I truly enjoyed putting it all together with Sara over at Chicago Truborn, and the response and turnout was so fantastic. I had been dreaming of a nesting doll themed show for some time, and when I pitched it to Sara she was really into it too, we’re both Ukrainian, and so this one meant a lot to us both. Seeing the finished product, and seeing what all the chosen artists came up with was such a great payoff for all the work that went into setting it up and making it happen. I hope to do a lot more curating in the future, it’s something I really enjoy, and the challenge of it is so rewarding.

Not being from Chicago, is it harder for you to get gigs?

I’d like to preface this by saying I have been incredibly blessed to get a lot of opportunities and jobs in Chicago, and to be accepted into the art community here, but I had to make sure my presence was felt more than others have had to strictly because of geographic location. In the beginning, me being from the suburbs, I at times felt like I got left out of things. My grandparents and parents grew up and lived in the city their whole lives. I’ve been down here so many times throughout my life too, but because I don’t live here,  I feel like I’m not considered a local. I want there to be more inclusion with the artists that live on the outskirts, we’re a part of this city too.

Recently you went through a tough artist block. How were you able to push through that?

This past artist block was super rough for me. I was getting caught up in wanting to do what I felt others might like. It’s a hard battle, because you want to sell stuff and you want to be successful. Sometimes people will love it and then they won’t. Then others will say, this isn’t the same art. And you start asking, what is the formula? You quickly realize there isn’t a formula.

In this past block I was in, I was questioning whether or not I should keep doing my creatures or should I do something people recognize more? I wasn’t having confidence in what I was creating. I was having a lot of anxiety. It was driving me nuts. But, what I try and do to get out of these ruts is look back at old inspirations. So I was looking through old Charles Freger books, talking to my art friends (which is so crucial), and just going on Instagram to see amazing work. You have to sit down and draw stuff you hate for a long time. Just keep drawing. Even if it looks like crap. Get it out there and maybe eventually you’ll like something. I eventually kept practicing and practicing on my iPad and thankfully broke through it.

What’s your favorite lesson you’ve learned over the years of being an artist?

I can say, I still haven’t learned patience, but am still working on it!  

But I’d say, what I have learned is to accept that there is down time and accepting the fact that not everyone is going to like everything you do. That was the hardest thing to take in. Consumer tastes change all the time and you have to keep a balance of loving what you do and staying relevant. I was getting so caught up in everybody else and what they might want to see and it was hindering my creativity, so I make efforts everyday to change that way of thinking and find more faith in myself and my talent.

And I always end this with, how would you like to be remembered?

I absolutely hope to be remembered for my work. Knowing that I created artwork that may have given someone joy or made them happy. As long as I make an impact and leave behind something beautiful I’ll be happy.