PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We’ll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come with running a creative business.
This week we are interviewing New Orleans-based, but internationally working, Contemporary Artist Olesya, who paintings are bursting with colour, whimsy and energy that hits you right between the eyes.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
Freelance Graphic designer for HBO in New York. While I was finishing my last year of college, I was taking a 6 am train to Manhattan from my school (Stony Brook University), coming back and going to my evening classes. I was so proud to have landed the job, I worked hard every day. This is the work ethic I keep to this day. I am proud of it. Graphic design was my start in creative industry and grew into an Art Director role. And now I am the creative mastermind of my own world.
Has art always been in your blood?
Genetically speaking, no one in the family was an artist. However creativity is in the DNA, my mother is a poet and a prolific writer, working on her memoir in Russia at the moment. And my grandmother was an incredible tapestry embroidery master. I would watch her embroider for hours, surrounded by rolls of colorful threads. Some of the tapestry hangs in our house, and it’s luscious floral motives are dreamy and enchanting. Some misplace it for Dolce & Gabbanna florals, and we politely correct the visitors with a smile: ‘“It's not Dolce, its our Grandma, she is remarkable'. I think this range of disciplines trickled down to me unconsciously, to keep creating within this poetic, dreamy realm, just with a paint brush as a medium. A couple of my exclusive painting series, I did embroider.
Do you see yourself as introverted or extroverted, and does being either affect the way you work?
I have both, in an interesting sense of when each side comes out. When I work and create, I need my space. I become extremely introverted. I disappear for a few days or weeks, when I need to focus on producing in my own realm. On the other hand, I can run around the streets and throw glitter everywhere, with my portable speaker and pop champagne like its New Years Day, everyday. I am social and I love my family and my close circle of friends. I love creating elaborate art experiences as my gallery shows, that engage the people to celebrate life! So you definitely get a full package of both sides with me, I live life to the fullest on both spectres.
What is your favourite kind of commission, and why?
Commissions that allow me to travel. Because I can’t sit still.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
It took over 15 years of honing my skills and growing in the professional creative industry. I worked for major brands and fashion houses. Under Armour, Abercrombie&Fitch, HBO to name a few. I knew I wanted to do my own thing one day, however, I knew the road to being ‘ready’ will take time, I would have to learn a lot along the way. I was growing my wings, and getting ready to fly. The professional maturity gave me a sense of when I was ready, and then I took a chance. ‘What if I fall? Oh, baby what if you fly?’ – a famous Instagram quote. So, I decided I’d fly by becoming a travelling international artist. And did I fly, spending lots on time on airlines, and spreading happiness around the world through art.
Things lined up in a mysteriously magical way, and I ended up in New Orleans. I always followed love and inner intuition, it took me places I have dreamt of. The vision was already in my head, and I was ready to bring it to life. However, I learned along the way that not everything can’t be under complete control. Having fun with what you do, is really when all the magic happens. Your mind opens up, and the most beautiful things come to life.
How did you secure your first clients?
When I was starting with the full-time painting studio, all I thought about was the vision of the new paintings. I had dreams at night and woke up to paint them. Once completed all the envisioned collections, I slowly started showing my work, and an Ogden Museum Of Modern Art acceptance at the time gave me a real sense of validation. But I kept my head down and worked hard to expand the collection, obsessed with my vision. The clients came organically. People started following what I created and seeking me out based on the work they have seen. I think this organic growth and progression is key to real success.
I believe we are all connected by this energy, and when people feel it, they come seek it out. It’s the energy of happiness. Social media is definitely a great creative outlet that bridges art with collectors.
What is your typical daily routine like?
Waking up and having my coffee. Checking emails and doing all the admin work in the first half of the day (not a morning person, only when jet lagged). Then I go to meetings, see gallery spaces, or meet with editors, magazines, and my gallery. Photoshoots and digital creative take place in the late afternoons. Religiously, my painting brain turns on around 3pm, after that my mind is all about painting. I go back to the studio and paint. Studio looks like a miniature version of Michael’s store. It's my little world with all my materials and supplies. I make more coffee or brew some healthy tea. Play my happy tunes. And paint till midnight or later. Sometimes I would work through the night and not even notice. It’s a state of meditation I enter. When I come out of it, the painting is usually complete. It’s magic, every day is.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
There must be a certain discipline and relentless dedication. Discipline to keep on track with deadlines and deliverables. Keep the calendar organised for commissions schedule, gallery installations, projects, events etc. Dedication is natural, if you love what you do, you will do it no matter what. Like Diogo Rivera said: ‘If you love to paint, you will paint for the rest of your life’. I would add ‘…and you will adjust and organise around it’.
How does being an introvert (or an extrovert) help or hinder you when it comes to business?
I have both. The extrovert side of me, that my friends know, the bubbly, always laughing and dressing up in colourful fun outfits, throwing glitter everywhere. That side is for when I produce my shows and work with galleries and pop-up spaces to put together my extrovert vision of the dreamy world. I transform spaces into beautiful, colourful experiences. My extrovert personally definitely shines there. The introvert side of me pulls me back into ‘focus mode’, where I paint within my own realm, completely removing myself from everything else. The only thing that matters is the canvas and the palette I am mixing.
Do you have a favourite medium or technique?
I love oil and textural high-quality elements like genuine Swarovski crystals, precious stones, genuine pearls, 24 and 18k gold paint. I picked up a paint brush and asked my mother to buy me paints when I was 3 years old. And never put it down since. She bought me oils, and that was the only medium I knew for a while. I love the texture and the smell of oil paints, how they layer. I love the glazing technique, I dive into an oil painting as if it was a deep blue ocean.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
There are multiple decisions on a given day. I do everything following my intuition, and listening to myself. The key business decision was uniting my love for travel with love for what I do. It worked wonders, as a result I go around the world inspiring people with my creations. The scope of each international project only magnifies each time.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
Absolutely! It comes in bursts. Usually right after I travel somewhere in the world. Being a travelling visual storyteller, I get to see many countries and cities, rich cultures, beautiful places and amazing colours. The impulse of a vision, then the need to create that vision. When it happens, I stop everything and go to the studio to paint. It's like air I breathe, to create the vision in the moment.
It is my way to describe the experiences, I don't write, I just paint.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Not at all, my mother sends me texts every single morning with a picture different cup of coffee. I think I will put out a book on ‘Pictures of coffee my Mom sends me’. I am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing group of inspiring people here in New Orleans and internationally. My family is super supportive and even though they don't live nearby, I never feel alone.
How do you relax?
Where do you find inspiration?
Fuelled by coffee and relentless desire for new inspiration, I roam the museums of Florence, fields of Tuscany and Provence, French Alps, and Streets of London and Moscow, sail the boats in Aegean sea, and discover treasures in Turkey and Morocco.This beautiful sparkly world is my inspiration.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Travel to the places you always dreamt of. Follow what your heart tells you. Celebrate life with quality champagne, always. Throw sparkles, and make sure these sparks never leave you. Fall in love. Kiss passionately. Swim with a whale shark. Put on a smile, wear nice shoes, and you will light up the room.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Changing the world with art that bridges nations. Art that has no limits to languages or mentalities, because it's universal. Individual who created an experience that inspired people, made them believe in love and dream.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
It just happened this Fall! I was invited to paint a huge art installation in Japan, commissioned by Kaname Hotel Group and in conjunction with the historical City of Kanazawa. The 2.5 weeks of this incredible project were documented by a camera crew, as I was working as a travelling artist discovering Japanese culture and traditions for the first time, and remixing the inspiration into a visual painted creation. My canvases were giant golden geisha fans, spanning over 2 meters in diameter. The final presentation was in the centre of the city on the main street Tatemachi. With red carpet presentation, a stage, and 100’s of people gathered to watch and celebrate art! The traditional drums opened up the celebration, followed by geisha dance, and them marching down the red carpet with the giant gold fans that I painted. I wore an imperial traditional gold gown to present the art.
We literally launched the fans into the sky to fly, re-enacting the traditional geisha game Tosenkyo. The project was so surreal, a beautiful dream come true. Being the artist chosen to create this spectacular visual experience, in the country I always dreamt of going. I am still speechless, the grandeur of the project takes my breath away. The documentary comes out early next year and will be an internationally distributed for travellers around the world to see and be inspired to create and travel to Kanazawa, Japan. Part of my creative goals in life are to create a dream experience and make it real for all the people in the world to see. This project was that wish becoming a reality, and proof that all is possible. You can check it out here and on my Instagram.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The fact that every day is unique. One day I had a dream to paint a major commission in Japan, the next day it became a reality. This is the ultimate reward, I am grateful for it.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
At this point, it's the growing pains, adjusting to more on a larger scope. I embrace every challenge, those are the ones that make us better, make us grow.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
There are no limits to imagination and what you can do. Believe in yourself. Both are from my best friend, my mother. Treat yourself well, wine and dine, laugh and celebrate, health is key, and we are only given one body, be good to it.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Present, I would like to have dinner with Maria Sharapova. I collaborate with her candy company Sugarpova and create lots of fun sparkly dreamy content for her social media. I think if we got together, we would have one really fun dinner, full of laughter and great vibes. I am a former collegiate tennis player, so there will be lots of chat about.
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