This week Russian artist Igor (Krapar) Shcherbakov shared his artistic credos and the inspiration that drives his work. With a focus more on his own artistic development and less on academic instruction while in art school, Igor's stunning impressionistic paintings prove formal instruction is not always necessary to make a great painter.
For Igor, selecting a subject is much more than seeing a beautiful pot of flowers and choosing to paint a still life. Instead, Igor's diverse range of subjects reflects periods of different thematic interests. The most recent of these is the theme of spring which Igor believes is particularly exciting after experiencing a Russian winter.
Read on for more about Igor's creative principles and his experience at art school.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on a series of paintings devoted to spring. They will most likely be triptychs, in the form of figurative compositions and thematic portraits in a new experimental textured and plastic manner, as manifested in my recent works. Always with the arrival of spring, especially after a long Russian winter, I want heat and sun. You feel like a sleeping doll, transforming after awakening from hibernation. This is also reflected in the creative process. I want to give freedom to paints, to write juicily, with the necessary drive. This fascinating moment needs to be caught fast, before it's too late.
These physiological metamorphoses associated with seasonal changes have always been close to me. The observation of continuous natural changes gives birth to energy of special quality, which finds its realisation in my work. Painting is a wonderful material that can express all the subtleties and nuances of this energy.
You paint a variety of subjects, from nudes to landscapes to abstracts. How do you select these subjects?
First of all - the desire. Desire is an impulse, it is the meaning and content in any work. It is inevitable and natural to pay attention to different forms and symbols, especially for an artist.
I'm interested in everything outside and inside me. Similar to the way a child likes to play with different toys, I'm interested in different subjects. I am fundamentally interested in the subject expressed in the beauty and attractiveness of its forms and colours. The intersection of the gentle and powerful, ancient and modern, feminine and masculine, contrasts and nuances - all these phenomena compel the attention of the observer.
I find it difficult to solve such creative problems using the same topic and subjects. Some subjects are more realistic and concrete while others are more universal and abstract. I am interested in something alive, impulsive. In this regard, over time, I began to treat creativity as a research activity directed inward. External subjects and themes act as instruments of this study. That is, the choice of the subject for me is connected with the theme of the specific creative task. The wording may be different, but the content is essentially unchanged. The content is life itself which is very multifaceted.
You write that the ‘energy of life’ plays a large role in your creative process. Can you explain what you mean by this?
The energy of life is present in everything. It's like a good old school tube music. For example, when listening to Jimmy Hendrix, Nirvana, The Doors, or the early Pink Floyd you immediately feel shock from the dynamics and depth in the sound and manner of the game. This is a physical and spiritual uplift that's just energy pulsating in this amazing music. I feel the same way when I create pictures.
In general, painting is very musical and rhythmic in nature. When I mix colours, put brushstrokes on a canvas, interact with nature or experiment, this energy is instantly felt. I just called it 'the energy of life', it was so easy for me to express the feelings that I feel in the creative process. It seems to me the nature of this energy is universal and it is a source for all kinds of arts and creativity. Of course, this energy is most desirable to convey in the pictures, not directly but concentrating it in the form of a certain object or artistic image, as a musician plays a certain melody. Therefore, the expressiveness of the work depends on how this energy is contained in one form or another. This is immediately seen and felt by the viewer. This energy flows in nature and I try to convey it my works.
How do you think this energy manifests itself in your art?
How much I manage to transmit this energy in my works is probably a question to ask my audience. I try to do this especially in my later works where the expressive principle is more pronounced. My works are different, both on energy and on creative realisation.
Since I often refer to the female theme, in particular nudity, the intimacy of the harmony of female plasticity and beauty (which particularly attracts me to the nude) seems to me to be associated with a more gentle and subtle aesthetics of modernity and the colour grace of impressionism. Therefore, the choice of tonality of a particular aesthetic, which better reveals the creative intention, depends on the inner intention and the mood for a certain work. But being among the modern trends and the vector of development of modern painting, I understand that it is quite difficult to express the essence of the female nature with the help of already outdated schemes of art trends to date. Therefore, I am looking for materials and a way of expressing this energy in a way that is relevant and interesting to the modern spectator.
What’s your studio like and does it have any impact on your artwork?
My art studio is a small but cozy area built into my house which is pleasant to work in. It seems to me very important to have a studio in the immediate vicinity of the house so that ordinary life and creativity are mutually complementary and interact with each other. I have been working in this art studio for about ten years and during this time it became for me natural and intimate. The atmosphere that formed during this time is similar to alchemical cuisine, where everything gurgles, boils, and sometimes explodes. I believe that an art studio is necessary for the artist, even if it is just a very small corner. For a long time when you work in your art studio, it accumulates your energy, which helps you work in the future. The art studio is a living organism that requires attention and communication. It begins to live its life and you have the opportunity to observe and enjoy it from the side. I love my art studio the way it is. This is my alchemical lab. In it lives the spirit of creativity.
Has art school impacted the way you create?
Even while studying, I felt a certain dissonance with the way we were taught painting and drawing and the way I wanted to create. Academic education of course provides the necessary theoretical and practical basis. If the artist wants to engage in creativity in earnest, academic skills are beneficial but they have little to do with full-fledged creativity. Still, we need to distinguish between the academic and creative approach to painting as these are slightly different things.
I unfortunately do not know how to teach painting and drawing in Europe or the US, but in Russia there is a rather conservative method of academic art education, which has Soviet features in teaching. This is manifested in the absence of significant modernisation in the field of creative education and the backwardness of contemporary and actual trends in the field of art. The ideological values of the Russian academic school still remains quite Soviet for today. Therefore, many progressive graduates of academic universities have to independently seek a creative path and get rid of the Soviet value system in their work. I'm not an exception in this sense.
What have you learned as an artist that you didn't in art school?
In the process of studying in art school, I worked very much on myself and I was constantly engaged in self-development. This was always a priority for me because I was opposed to studying. Sometimes the educational process interferes with creativity with strict academic dogma and regulations. This prevents you from creatively analysing and forming your own style. But to date, art education, at least in Russia, cannot fully compensate for the needs of students in modern knowledge about special and applied technologies important for creativity. For me, the bulk of knowledge in the field of art useful for creativity was outside the educational process. In general, creativity is an activity which is difficult to teach and it is even more difficult to teach to experimentation and improvisation.
The best teacher is life itself, and the best experience you can get is personal only. This is my creative credo.
What role has selling online played in your career?
I believe that today the internet is an indispensable assistant for the beginner artist, although many artists from my closest circle do not consider it to be. They miss a lot of opportunities and interesting suggestions. Now the art industry is increasingly moving into the virtual space, it is convenient, efficient and looks very presentable. As for me, it's only thanks to the online space that I began to fully understand what is happening around me, outside of my country on the modern art scene. Because the internet, for the artist, is not only an opportunity to be noticed commercially, but it is also a productive opportunity to exchange experiences and participate in art projects at the international level. If we talk about commercial success, my first work sold abroad was 'Two On The Bridge' exhibited on Artfinder for 6,500 EUR. It was a great success for me and only a month after joining. This is one of many examples of success thanks to online. I strongly recommend that all artists study the internet space, this will allow you to become much more successful.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
I do not really like planning, but there are many plans. If we talk about the work process, then it is difficult to plan far ahead. Creative motives and themes often come spontaneously and I think that this is normal. I personally have creative plans for seasonal changes in nature. Now it is the height of the spring and I want to live, breathe, feel refreshed and strong. It is this state you want to convey on canvas as far as possible. How it will look, I do not know until the very end.
If we talk about exhibition projects, I'm still resting from exhibitions working at the table for myself. Recently, I was interested in stock illustration (vector and raster graphics) and photography. I have been in this sphere for a little less than a year, but have already had some successes in this area. There is certainly more work with the computer, but it also helps and develops me as a painter.
In general, I am for multi-instrumentalism in creativity and I think applied creative areas are very helpful in developing the main professional activity. For example, design helps to better understand the composition, even in painting, and photography gives the possibility of a fixed preparatory material for more effective search for creative intent. In the future I want to study and practice these creative areas in more depth with the goal of developing my painting. Going forward, I want to devote more time to my family and friends, because of the constant work there is little time left for this unfortunately. The family is a support and a source of inspiration and it is a very fragile and tender organism that also needs care and attention. I like family warmth.