Year 2017: choosing to follow my dream
In the beginning
My journey as an artist started a little over a year ago. I remember a sunny November morning, on the edge of my seat in a local coffee shop, my heart pumping with excitement as I was waiting for Elisabeth Lecourt, a successful established artist who had agreed to meet me, for a chat about what it was like to be a professional artist.
Pursuing my dream of being an artist had been on my mind for many years, yet I was always too afraid to give it a go: Do I have what it takes in terms of talent, skills and creativity? Will my loved ones accept my decision? Will I be able to sell my work?
Growing up in Siberia, in the resulting turmoil as the Soviet Union collapsed, I believed that being an artist was a risky affair associated with a constant struggle. Needless to say that when I asked Elisabeth “What is it like to be an artist?” I did not expect the reply: “This is the best occupation in the world”. But this one sentence, said with such passion and sincerity, had given me enough courage to take the first steps.
I had to start from a blank page, both literally and figuratively. With virtually no materials, studio, creative ideas or network, I decided that the first step was to experiment: get to know the mediums and techniques and most importantly, explore my creativity and get to know myself as an artist.
And so, I set on a journey of creative exploration and research, an experience akin to a rollercoaster: ecstatic highs when something works one day and agonizing lows when it doesn’t work the next day. What kept me going was pure inspiration: for the first time in my life I felt that I was allowing myself to live to the fullest. It was like a dam had been broken and my creativity had flooded all the space in my life, leaving no room for anything else but art for months. Soon, I had come to terms with the highs and the lows of the creative process and started seeing them both as valuable opportunities to learn.
My first break into professional art
This came when I decided to hire a studio in Wimbledon Art Studios (“WAS”), a creative hub for over 150 artists in London. Despite of the fact that staff and residents of the studios had instantly made me feel welcome, initially it was intimidating to be there among the “proper” artists. Even though my mind was bubbling with new creative ideas every day, with only two months to go until the WAS Open Studios Exhibition in May, I had no body of work to exhibit. Being a perfectionist, I felt under pressure. Luckily, I was already on to something, as all of the creative exploration had started to merge into something unique and authentic to myself. Sharing my ideas with the WAS residents was invaluable as it gave me the last push that was needed to solidify what is now Basal Elements and Organic Wreaths.
I remember lying on the floor of my studio on the evening before the Open Studios Exhibition in May, with all the work hung and ready to be seen by the audience for the first time. I was exhausted after the months of non-stop preparation but feeling extremely fulfilled and dare I say it, proud with what I had achieved in these first months.
I had no expectations for the show but the visitors responded to my work better than I could wish for. I had some thought provoking conversations where the meaning of my work had opened up to me even further. Some visitors experienced true pleasure from understanding my work and this affected me deeply, bringing a sense of joy and fulfillment. It was incredibly encouraging to hear positive feedback, sell the work and gain my first gallery representation with Luminaire Arts.
Challenges - social media
Since then, I had been lucky enough to experience many facets of life as an artist, including exhibiting and selling my work, dealing with galleries, being part of an artist collaboration, auctioning art in aid of charity, exhibiting in an alternative art venue and more.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, as I came across a number of challenges. One of them was sharing my progress via this journal and social media, each milestone as it happened. Being an introvert, I had never felt an urge to be part of social media and sharing with the outside world does not come naturally. Initially, I established my presence on social media and the journal because I thought that this was a necessity for an artist who wanted to build a successful business.
However this reason did not reach far enough into my soul to motivate me to share my progress as it happened. I struggled to be consistent and, as I realized that my sharing had often been superficial, it drained my energy. It is only recently that I have realised that it is important to share my journey because it may be useful for someone inspired to follow their own dreams. Understanding this gave me an increased motivation to share more through my journal and develop my presence on social media. As a result, one of my aims for this year is to write in more detail both about my experiences and lessons learned in the past year and, as they happen, this year. I also hope that this will encourage me to pay a closer attention to what my day-to-day experiences mean for me.
Looking forward to 2018
It is important to mention that last year brought another major change as I am preparing to become a new mother very soon. Combining motherhood with continued development as an artist is another challenge that I am looking forward to this year.
My first year as an artist has brought me more than I could ever wish for. Yet it is only a beginning of the journey that I am looking forward to sharing with you as it unfolds.
Finally, I would like to say special “Thanks” to the people who helped me to progress this year:
Elisabeth Lecourt (who gave me courage to follow my dream)
Harriet Hoult (who has been the source of continuous encouragement, advice and inspiration)
People who follow my story and appreciate my art (for making me believe in myself)
Staff and residents of the Wimbledon Art Studios (for instantly making me feel a part of the art community)
Rod Judkins (who’s course “Develop your creativity” at Central Saint Martins had opened the creative doors that I never knew existed)
Charities: People's Trust for Endangered Species and Khadija Saye Memorial Fund (for inspiring me to contribute to a higher cause)
Luminaire Arts, Rise Art, Chelsea Creperie and Phoebe Reith (for putting trust in me)