Artist Interviews 2023
By Johnny Otto
Where are you currently painting and how does it inspire your work?
Currently I change my locations because of war in Ukraine, now moved to USA. I'm really inspired
by the ocean and nature of California, I like to go on plein air painting here. Next month I'll move to Chicago,
I'll participate at the Other Art Fair Chicago and hope to get more inspiration from the city and art community.
What is khustka and why is that so important to your work?
Khustka - is a traditional Ukrainian floral scarf. In the past, Slavic women would wear them when they were married and afterwards,
also wear them for protection while they worked outdoors and for celebrations.
For me personally, khustka always reminds me of my grandmother and my childhood memories with her.
She lived in a small Ukrainian village and when I came to live with her for summer, she gave me to try all the scarfs she had.
I always felt some special energy wearing them. And I loved the variety of khustka's colors.
You’ve lived in France, China and the UK, but you have held onto a very traditional style of painting
that is true to your Slavic heritage. Why is that so important to you?
I think it's important to remember your heritage and traditions. That's how you can be different from other cultures.
I'll never change my values or beliefs because of another country's values. Also, I was really interested to learn
the traditional style of painting from old masters. I think that artist can create something new only if he knows
the academic style painting techniques first. That's why I've taken a lot of classes in different schools around the world.
My favorite were classes at The Florence Academy of Art where I practiced portrait and still life from life.
Are you self taught or did you study?
The first time I started to paint by myself. I just tried to copy the painting I had at my parents' home with oil paints.
And later I watched youtube videos of Bokb Ross, it was very fun! After I decided to develop my career in art and design,
of course, I started to take professional classes to be able to pass the art exams. And later on I took various classes
in Europe and also experimented by myself. I took a foundation course in fine art at UAL in London. It was a totally
different approach, fresh, contemporary, total experiment, no techniques. The most important was the idea, not the result.
Also, I have a degree in fashion design. It gave an understanding of the design process and inspired me to create a womenswear
collection also inspired by Slavic women and Slavic heritage.
Color is obviously very important to you. Your paintings really pop off the canvas. Can you tell us what color means to you?
Color means everything to me. I never learned color theory because I have an intuitive sense of color. That's my favorite part in the process -
when I can mix the colors on the palette and give myself the freedom to do that without thinking. I start with some color on the canvas
and then I feel which one I need to add next. Recently I've noticed my favorite color combination was using shades of blue and pink together.
What other artists inspire you?
The most I'm inspired by French impressionists. Each time I come to France I don't miss a chance to visit The Orangerie,
Musee d'Orsay, Claude's Monet house and others. I really admire the works of Andy Warhol, Toni Onley and lots of
contemporary abstract artists.
Any shows in the near future?
The next show I'll have in Chicago is on April 27, 2023. It will be The Other Art Fair by Saatchi art.
What else can you tell us about yourself that one might not assume? Something that inspires you to create?
I also feel inspired by dance and music. I was a ballroom dancer in the past and till now I feel much more creative energy
after listening to some dance music loudly. Sometimes I even paint while dancing. It gives some extra freedom vibe to the process.