What information has passed between me and this young Russian woman?
By Randy Luckie, 11/1/2018
Just a short note about myself as an introduction…
I am Randy Luckie, and I live in little town in Florida, USA, by the name of Fort White. I know, nothing special about that, right? Well, I have this thing about creativity. All kinds of creativity. It fascinates me how human beings are always creating things, even while going about our everyday ways, we seem to either create, or benefit from, creativity all along our way as we listen to our favorite songs, or watch our favorite shows, or read our favorite books.
Well, this little bug of mine landed me on a website called Deviant Art. While cruising around on this site, I happen to see a particular gallery by a young woman in Russia. What caught my attention was that a major portion of her collection was of Western (culture) rock music artist. I was hooked right there. I just had to talk to this lady. First, the work is very good, but it was the subjects that got me. Why those subjects? It just didn’t add up to me.
So, I did. I contacted her and asked if she would do an interview with me about her, her influences, and her work. To my greatest surprise, she not only responded to me, (I was sure she would think I was some weird, creepy guy and just ignore me!) but said she liked the idea and wanted to do it. After I got up off the floor (!) I was so excited to embark on the following interview with Olya Gvozdeva (g-VOZ’-deeva). I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I did!
Randy: Hi Olya, I am very glad to meet you. I want to thank you for doing the work that allows me to have this interview with you across the ocean and culture between us.
Olya: Thank you so much for such an offer, I believe that it is quite an interesting idea and I would love to do it!
Randy: Okay, then, let’s start with a little bit about you. Tell us a little about yourself, generally. Who you are and where you are from, that sort of thing.
Olya: My name is Olya Gvozdeva. My full name, however, goes like this: Gvozdeva Olga Dmitrievna. But usually, everyone just calls me Olya.
Randy: I think I will stick with that, too! But please, go on…Olya!
Olya: I am nineteen years old and I live in a small town, Ivanteevka, in Russia. It’s near Moscow. (Ed. Note-Ivanteevka is about 12 miles NE of Moscow)
Randy: Moscow, wow! I can only think of snow up to my eyes! Tell me what is it like there today?
Olya: It’s a bit foggy with a light drizzle today and I absolutely love it! But in general, I’d say that the weather’s quite unpredictable in Russia. Usually it’s warm and hot in summer and late spring and cold in winter. But all in all, each new day may really differ from another, which, sometimes, is not very convenient!
Randy: You know, for instance, Seattle, USA, has a lot of gray overcast conditions, and that gave us Grunge! California has lots of sun, that gave us The Beach Boys! I ask about the weather because I wonder does that have any influence in your general creativity?
Olya: Yes, it does! For instance, today’s weather puts me in the mood to read some detective stories, make some gloomy dark art and listen to jazz or ‘80s pop and classic rock!
Randy: Wow, what an answer. Those references you threw out there seems to show some things are universal, no matter who or where we are!
Olya: I especially love listening to “Purple Rain” by Prince or “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John while walking along the street in the rain.
Randy: Well, seeing that you are nineteen and those kick back a few years, and yes, I am being kind to myself by not stating how many years, let’s look at your past in relation to your art. Do you remember how old you were when you began to do drawings in a regular way?
Olya: I’ve always liked drawing! I believe I was around thirteen, though, when I started [drawing] on a more regular basis.
Randy: Do you remember what your first drawing was that made you think that maybe you had something and made you think, ‘I have to do more of this!’?
Olya: Yes, I think I do remember such a drawing! It was a portrait of Lady Gaga, which was my very first, so to say, serious drawing. It really wasn’t very good, but luckily, I thought it was, so I decided to continue drawing portraits!
Randy: I am glad you did! Did you ever take any art training or classes?
Olya: Not really. I tried attending some art classes, but I couldn’t stay there for a long time, as I didn’t like being told what to draw! Besides, the atmosphere in general wasn’t [very] nice there. The only art class that I did enjoy taking was provided by my school. We were allowed to draw anything we wanted. [In that setting] our teacher was very kind and encouraging and would always give us advice when necessary.
“But sometimes I just take a pencil and a blank piece of paper and draw whatever comes to my mind.”
Randy: Were you encouraged in your youth, by family or friends, to be creative, or was it some drive from within that later developed into the art you do now?
Olya: As far as I remember, I’ve always been a creative kid. My family and friends have always supported me, and they still do. It really helps me [to keep] going further.
Randy: When it comes to your creative drive, would you describe it as a burning fire that has to be unleashed, or more of a slow burn that just eventually works its way to the canvas?
Olya: Well, it depends! Usually, I [will] suddenly come up with some idea, and then develop that idea into something that I implement later. But sometimes I just take a pencil and a blank piece of paper and draw whatever comes to my mind. In most of those cases, I can’t even tell what it is until the drawing is done!
Randy: When you start from an idea, do you have a mental image of what it will be when you are finished, or do you just start with a line, or a shade, that works itself into the final product?
Olya: I usually have a little plan of what I want a drawing to look like when it’s finished. However, I [will probably] make some changes during the working process [until it is finished].
Randy: What about the cases that just start without the original idea?
Olya: Sometimes, I feel like I just have too many thoughts in my head, and I need to let them out! [That’s when] I may just start drawing some random things and let my consciousness guide me!
Randy: You say in your Deviant Art profile that you like to draw portraits of people that inspire you, and I notice that a lot of them are musicians and actors. What is it, generally, about those subjects that inspire you?
Olya: You know, it’s quite hard to describe it in words, but I guess music is the thing that inspires me [to draw] the most and I want to pay tribute to it, and to people who create it. That’s why I mostly draw musicians or do illustrations of my favorite songs. It’s pretty much the same reason why I draw actors as well.
Randy: You profile also states you are currently studying English Language and Philology at the Teacher Training University, do either of these subjects influence your themes of creativity? Why those study areas?
Olya: To be honest, I decided to study at this university only because I wanted to learn English. [I chose] Philology because it seemed to me like an interesting subject to study.
“I love playing and composing blues, rock, instrumental and pop music!”
Randy: I assume by the university name that you are, or, will be, teaching as a profession, is that so? What type of teaching position are you aiming for?
Olya: When I graduate from the university… Well, I’m supposed to be a Russian teacher for foreigners or vice versa.
Randy: Would this be a plus or a minus in your view of ultimately being an artist? Why?
Olya: Actually, I hope it won’t become my actual occupation. Truthfully, now, I realize that I have absolutely no interest in studying here [at the university]. But I still enjoy learning English, so that’s the main reason why I’m not going to quit [the] university. Moreover, it’s hard to get a decent job without a proper education! …You know, for if it is plus or minus, I consider studying teaching-related subjects as rather a minus for me because it really feels like I’m just wasting my time!
Randy: Ha! Again, I say, some things are just universal! I think a lot of young university students, globally, would share that sentiment!
Olya: [Really] my dream is to be an artist and a musician! Because [what] I’m generally interested in [is] creating art.
Randy: Well, let’s talk about that some more, then. I also saw some great illustrations in your gallery on Deviant Art. There is one called ‘View from a Window’ that I noticed you said you did with your left hand, are you naturally right handed?
Olya: Thank you! Yes, I’m naturally right handed, but I can use my left hand to write and draw as well.
Randy: After seeing it, and others you noted that way, like Perks of being a wallflower, which are very good, I wonder what inspired you to do them with your left?
Olya: Thank you again! I really don’t know! [I had] always wondered what [it would be] like to be a left-handed person! Plus, it just felt quite natural to make watercolor drawings with my left hand, I don’t know why!
Randy: It wasn’t a question I posed to Olya, but showing the influence of western entertainment, this is what Olya says on her site about the inspiration involved with Perks:
“I watched “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in 2015 and I really liked that movie. It inspired me to draw a little illustration of the final scene. By the way, I drew that with my left hand, using watercolor.”
Randy: Back to your style of creating a drawing, when you have the idea for a work, do you try different mediums such as pencil, marker, watercolors? Is the idea born with what type of medium it will be before you ever put anything to canvas or paper?
Olya: Usually, yes, I already know what medium I’m going to use even before I make a sketch. But the chances are that I’ll change my mind and choose a more suitable tool!
Randy: You also mention in your profile that you love making music, too. Do you play any musical instruments or sing?
Olya: Well, currently, I am learning to play the piano, and I sing a bit, too.
Randy: What style would you be most like?
Olya: I love playing and composing blues, rock, instrumental and pop music! It’s quite hard to define the exact style of the music that I make, but I assume it’s some kind of mix of these genres.
Randy: That is a fair enough answer! Do you feel there is a real connection between your musical side and the subjects you choose in your drawings?
Olya: Yes, I do feel that music is my main inspiration! In my point of view, visual arts and music are directly related to each other!
Randy: Three of your subjects really caught my eye, first on their quality, but also, they seem strange picks in that you, a young Russian woman, chose subjects that really spoke to me, a much older American fellow, who has lived, breathing rock music all of my life, or, since about I was eleven, around 1975, or so. Tell me something about your inspirations for your portraits of (Robert) Plant, (Jimmy) Page and (Ritchie) Blackmore.
Olya: Well, I absolutely understand why my taste in music may seem a bit strange to you. I began listening to classic rock at quite a late age, I suppose. I was 17 then. So, when I first heard “Stairway To Heaven”; it totally blew my mind and changed my opinion about rock music in general.
Then I started listening to Led Zeppelin more and more and it eventually became my favorite band! I believe that Robert Plant is definitely one of the most talented vocalists of all time. Jimmy Page is one of my favorite guitarists, so I just couldn’t help drawing him! By the way, this portrait is part of my Led Zeppelin series.
Olya: You know, Lady Gaga has been my main inspiration for years! She is a very talented singer and songwriter and her performances are always fascinating.
[I find it] so sad that many people miss the fact that she has such a powerful voice and many meaningful songs. [I think it is] just because the first thing they pay attention to is the way she looks. Gaga was the one who inspired me to draw my first portrait! She was the one who inspired me to be creative, but most importantly, she helped me understand how urgent it is just to be myself.
Speaking of the [Lady Gaga] portraits you mention, I can say that it was extremely interesting to work on them! They both have a lot of details. [They both] took me quite a long time to finish.
By the way, the first one (titled ‘Gaga’) was pretty challenging to draw because It was the first portrait I did, fully, with my left hand! Now, I believe I will do more drawings of that kind in the future.
Randy: Okay, swinging backwards again on the time scale, you say [on your site] that you are really inspired by David Bowie. This, again, fascinates me that he is on your top list! Can you tell me more about why that is?
Olya: Well, I didn’t know much about David Bowie a few years ago. [Somehow] I decided to watch a documentary about him called “Five Years“. It is a very well-done movie that shows some peculiarities of David’s nature. It was like a whole new world for me! After watching it, I started listening to David Bowie more. You know, everything about him (like his music, characters, videos and so on) seems to be so special, unique and even mysterious. By the way, it’s he who inspired me to learn how to play the piano!
Randy: Staying with the music theme, tell me about your inspiration for Ахл1, or Axl (Rose), from Guns & Roses.
Olya: To start with, let me briefly explain the title “Axл1”. Sorry, I didn’t mean to confuse you with that, I just didn’t really pay attention to naming the photos I sent to you! I put letters from both English and Russian languages in the title, just for fun, you know! (Laughs!)
The Russian for “Axl” would be something like “Эксл” (/æksl/) or “Аксель” (/ˈ ɑːksəl/), though the first one is closer to the original name, in my opinion.
Guns N’ Roses is one of my favorite bands. Their music is so energetic and beautiful. Axl’s voice is beyond powerful and the way he acts on stage is mind-blowing! When I think of Guns N’ Roses the first things that come to my mind are skulls, pistols, spiders, snakes and the like. That’s why I’ve drawn a spider crawling out of Axl’s eye!
Randy: One other piece that really caught my eye is one titled, ‘Improvisations on the topic of tiredness and angst’, I really love the piece, and there seems to be a lot of moods, indicated in the title, and the work itself. What can you tell me about it?
Olya: Thank you! I drew it in 2014 and I couldn’t get enough sleep [at] that time. So, the eye symbolizes the entrance to my soul, while the tree stands for my life force, though its branches start getting black because of the tiredness that takes over.
However, I still have a lot of ideas in my head, so the grass is green, and the tree is colorful. The birds symbolize the angst.
It was one of my first original works that [I] made quite spontaneously. I started drawing a tree and then my idea developed into that picture. I don’t remember how I did it, though. In my opinion, when you create something that is completely sincere you just can’t remember the process because it comes naturally.
Randy: I would totally be lacking if I didn’t ask a few questions around our different cultures. So, my first is this… Your work subjects are around western entertainment figures. Is western entertainment readily available and popular in Russia? (music, TV, books, movies, etc.)
Olya: Yes, it is! Though it wasn’t fully available until the ’90s, probably. But now Russian fans of western entertainment have the access to foreign music, films, TV series, and books. Not to mention that foreign entertainment figures are often more popular in Russia than the Russian ones!
Randy: Along those lines, I am currently reading I book, that I wouldn’t have known of, except I happen to see a stunning review of it by Viv Groskop on the site lithub, about ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov, and it is so entertaining I can’t put it down.
I wonder if you, first, know of the book, but more importantly, if there are other works, art, music, books, by Russian artist that might not be known to an ordinary westerner, like me, that shows we are not as different, just as people, as it might seem on the surface? This is the very thing that drew me to you on Deviant Art, by the way.
Olya: Yes, I do know of the book, I’ve read it a couple of years ago! You know, there are a lot of beautiful art pieces by Russian artists that are really very meaningful. As for literature, a lot of books and poems’ special features are unfortunately lost in translation.
However, I believe you still can enjoy reading them! I would probably recommend you reading “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy and “The Portrait” by Nikolai Gogol (in the last one, the author touches the theme of creativity!)
It’s very hard to choose what to recommend because there are really too many wonderful art pieces.
Speaking of music, I mostly listen to foreign compositions, but there are some Russian songs that I like, such as “Дельфины” (Dolphins) by Mumiy Troll or “Хочешь?” (Do You Want it?) by Zemfira. But there are pretty heavy bands in Russia as well, such as Круиз (Cruise) or Чёрный Кофе (Black Coffee), my dad sometimes puts their music on and we listen to it. But again, we mostly listen to foreign musicians.
Randy: The book I just mentioned caused me to look into the author’s history, and the review told a piece of it, and due to situations during his life, the work was never published while he was alive, which is quite a shame that people of his own time were kept from the experience. Therefore, I wonder is there any advice that you would give anyone, in any culture, thinking they would like to do what you do, but are afraid, or worry, ‘who would care’ if they pursued their dream of growing their creativity?
Olya: I believe that no one should be afraid to chase their dream. If you like what you do, just keep doing it no matter what; don’t listen to what [other] people say. Be yourself and follow your heart. Nothing is impossible!
Randy: I certainly couldn’t agree more with that last answer, well said!
Lastly, I would like to say that you have been so kind to put up with me and I want you to know that I feel like I have a new friend in the world at large. I want my readers to know you have been so nice to me and put up with my endless badgering of you over emails to get this interview with you done. It really has been a wonderful experience for me and I feel particularly honored that you were interested and worked with me. Thank you so much!
Olya: That’s so kind of you! Thank you very much for giving me such an opportunity. It was a beautiful experience for me too, your questions were very interesting. Working with you has been a pleasure, thank you one more time!
Ed Note- You can connect directly with Olya on her Instagram account, here…