24. 02. 2024
Yesterday was a physically exhausting day for me. I woke up at 8 AM and took my usual walk by the bay of Narva. The sea was calm and inviting.
Then, I painted until 3 PM, had a two-hour table tennis training session, and visited the SPA. I got home at 9:30 PM, feeling very tired.
Today, the plan is to rest and paint.
22. 02. 2024
What a slow and physically demanding process painting can be!
Yesterday was my scheduled full working day, and I spent it applying paint to the canvas, which was quite exhausting. I even dozed off yesterday afternoon for about half an hour. By the time I finished my work at 7:00 PM, I was completely drained.
When the alarm clock went off at the usual 9:00 AM today, I could barely force myself out of bed. After a considerable effort and a cup of coffee, I managed to make it to the studio. Upon looking at the painting, I was shocked to see how little progress I had actually made despite working diligently throughout the entire day.
Just take a look at this. Unbelievable!
#paintingprocess #artprocess #painting #contemporarypainting
21. 02. 2024
Just finished reading the book 'Existentialism is Humanism' by Jean-Paul Sartre. It's an interesting text that explores the philosophy of relativity. Even though my own artistic work mainly expresses absolute philosophy, I find relativity just as compelling.
I suppose these two philosophies present opposing viewpoints on the world: The absolute philosophy says we live in one shared world with the same patterns, while the relativity philosophy suggests there are many worlds as each person sees their own reality. That reminds me of classical physics vs quantum physics.
Personally, I don't find either of these philosophies wrong. Because I believe that the world is just made up of contradictions. I suppose that idea might seem counterintuitive to you because our physical experience tells us that two contradictory things don't happen at the same time. But when we look at facts about the Universe, it seems to be true. For example, the Universe is absolute with the same patterns, but every point in it is its centre. Seems contradictory but true.
So, I really took much pleasure in reading Sartre's book. I must also say that the book was truly easy to read compared to most philosophers I’ve read. There was even no need to read it twice, like I always do with philosophy books. A process that taught me Schopenhauer.
I also mostly agree with Sartre's philosophy, except maybe the idea of free will. But it is another big question that I want to discuss further in one of my next texts.
#philosophy #jeanpaulsartre #sartre #existentialism #humanism #universe
20. 02. 2024
Yesterday, I nearly finished putting the drawing with a rose line. It took me longer than I had imagined, like applying the creamy white layer to conceal the charcoal line. Instead of one semi-transparent layer I thought to put, I needed to apply three layers before achieving the desired result.
Painting, like most other goals we set for ourselves, often takes much longer paths to reach than we first imagined. The paths we could never share with others. Because to understand a path means to experience it. And no one can experience a path of another one because our paths are all unique.
#paintingprocess #artprocess #existencialism
19. 02. 2024
I am finishing reading a book about School of London artists by a very famous UK publisher, and it makes me think. There is a very low number of 'perfect pictures' created in the world. By 'the perfect picture,' I mean an image that achieves a “perfect” balance between opposites like straight and curved lines, fullness and emptiness, vividness and paleness, and so on. "Perfect" for a human for sure. It's akin to how a perfect plate should contain a good proportion of sweetness, saltiness, and fats.
I noticed only two painters in the book who created these kinds of pictures: Lucian Freud and one of my favourite artists, Francis Bacon. Other painters in the book produced visually appealing, high-quality, and psychologically charged images, but they don't fit the criteria of 'the perfect picture' because they don't achieve the perfect balance of opposites. Their paintings seem unfinished to me or perhaps too narrowly focused.
I am pondering: Does a picture need to be 'the perfect picture' to be considered among the best images created by people? I don't have an answer yet, but I'm continuing to think about it and will update you on the development of this idea.
#perfectpicture #schooloflondon #lucianfreud #francisbacon
18. 02. 2024
Let me share some of my fears with you, stemming from the escalating political situation in the region.
Two days ago, I learned that one of the bravest men on this planet and the main political opponent of the Russian government, Alexey Navalny, was killed in a Russian prison.
Yesterday, I learned that Russia plans to attack Europe starting from Estonia in April-May 2024. Various sources, including the Estonian government, have reported Russian forces concentrating near Estonia's borders.
Living near the Estonian-Russian border, I've long been aware of Russia's intentions to attack Estonia. Russian propaganda has targeted Estonia in recent years. That's why I've already made the decision to leave Estonia in June 2024. The news of a potential Russian attack in April-May is deeply distressing.
I am asking myself, would I have enough time to leave Estonia? Would I need to abandon all of my stuff here, including half of my paintings and art materials?
The sun is shining, making for wonderful times outside. I've returned to my work on painting and feel good. Painting is therapeutic, or maybe just therapeutic for me. I feel such pleasure while painting.
I've sketched the drawing with charcoal on the canvas, and then covered it with the first semi-transparent layer of acrylic. It's a slightly creamy white, mixed with Titanium white and a pinch of Ochre light, to hide the charcoal lines and give the painting this hot shining effect.
Next I'm going to make a new drawing with a pink line that will remain visible in the finished painting.
#humanity #painting #paintingprocess
17. 02. 2024
I am at the beginning of a new painting and reflecting on how making pictures involves a highly optimised production process. Many people think that paintings happen quickly. But typically they don’t. The development of paintings is often a slow process that follows a specific path. The more an artist refines what we call their visual style, the more they optimise their process, making it smoother, more accurate, and thus quicker. Just like with any other production, making pictures requires much optimization to be successful.
#paintingprocess #picturesmaking #picturescrafting #artprocess
16. 02. 2024
I'm really happy to start my first painting in this series, with figures of cubes and houses in the background. I've missed working with tangible materials like pencils and canvas, which provide a physical sensation that brings me immense pleasure. Moreover, finally beginning these paintings, which I had planned to start much earlier, brings a sense of relief, easing the tension that had built within me.
The quite large canvas, 130X150CM, was tricky to put on the frame. But with J.'s help, we managed it.
Currently, I'm testing a new way to transfer the digital sketch onto the canvas. I've made two key improvements: First, I don't print sketches anymore. Instead, I copy the drawing from my laptop screen directly onto the paper. Second, I'm using fewer A4 papers for sketches. I put multiple drawings on one sheet using colour pencils to distinguish them. So now, I only need 4 A4 papers instead of the previous 28 papers. Even though it's a bit tricky to transfer the drawing, split into 8 parts, onto the canvas, this new approach saves me a lot of paper.
For the moment, I am happy with these changes that seem to make sense, making the process much quicker.
An interesting detail I noticed and want to share with you: the colour pencil sketch, where 8 drawings are split on one paper, take on a quite pictorial look, reminding me of a kind of geometric abstraction. So amazing!
15. 02. 2024
I've finished reading Van Gogh's letters, all of which I could find. It's about 1500 pages of text. So now I can share with you my impressions of the man and his story found in these letters.
Van Gogh was not the crazy genius the world imagines him to be. He was a very smart man, with a good sense of commerce (likely due to his early work as an art dealer), who knew what he wanted and what he didn't. He deliberately prioritised the development of his artistic vision over sales, fully aware of the challenges in selling such innovative work.
Van Gogh's cleverness is clear to me in how he promptly found an art dealer and sponsor, his brother Theo, who supported his work financially and sought collectors. Thus, Van Gogh could focus on his art without worrying about money, using Theo's—who worked at Goupil and Cie, a powerful art dealership of the time— connections to his advantage, for example, in collaborating with other great artists of his time.
Moreover, Van Gogh was very sociable and paid close attention to details. These qualities helped him create paintings that feel very human and are well-crafted, which is important to last in art history.
However, Van Gogh's struggles, as revealed through his letters, left a heavy impression on me. As an artist, I experienced a sense of melancholy upon discovering his artistic path, which is, I know, shared by many artists. The tragic end of his story, when he took his own life just before gaining fame, only intensified this feeling.
#vangogh #vangoghletters #vincent #vincentvangogh
14. 02. 2024
The sky's colours are stunning this time of year in Estonia, thanks to the Northern Lights. Yesterday, I saw an amazing sight: a broad green stripe near the horizon—fluorescent yellow mixed with a touch of cobalt. It was framed by a purple-grey sky, making the green incredibly vivid, impossible to replicate on canvas. I couldn't take my eyes off the sky.
I continue to think about art, which, for me, is all about communication. Pictures are a non-verbal language spoken by a small group of people who struggle to communicate with words, like myself.
Pictures help us express our feelings and thoughts in a non-linear and non-narrative way, unlike verbal language. When I experience something, it's not like walking along a path, but more like being surrounded by many different elements all at once. When I try to share my inner world with you using words, I have to translate this place into a linear path, which is not a simple task.
Imagine my thoughts are like a forest inside me, and I want to share it with you. Using words, I have to choose a specific path to guide you through, offering just a glimpse of what's in my forest.
But with pictures, I don't need to create a path because I can show you the entire forest at once. So, the language of pictures is in some kind of a better way to express the complex feelings and thoughts inside us than verbal language.
However, both verbal and picture languages are not about the world but only about what we're focused on in this world. Like any verbal language is because there are no languages that have words for everything that exists. Any language has only words for the things people pay attention to.
Comparing two languages, such as French and English, you'll notice that French speakers and English speakers perceive the world differently. French see things that are not noticed by English speakers and vice versa.
For example, the French term "dépayser" doesn't have a direct equivalent in English, possibly because English speakers don't often think about that concept. "Dépayser" conveys the feeling of being out of place or disoriented in a new environment.
This example demonstrates how any language, including picture language, only reflects what we feel or think and doesn't capture the world.
Thus, when we listen to a person or look at pictures created by a person, we only perceive what a person is focused on. And this is what interests us. What other people are focused on.
#northernlights #sky #artist #art #language #artiscommunication
13. 02. 2024
While working on the digital sketches yesterday, I suddenly realised I can't develop the whole series without considering how they'd look on a real 130X150CM canvas, which I planned for four paintings. So, I decided to create one painting first and then return to the digital sketches.
I retrieved the disassembled subframe from the mezzanine and assembled it. All that's left is to attach the canvas, but I found out I didn't have the required stapler, so I'll need to buy one first.
Feeling squeezed, perhaps due to the isolation of being in this remote forest in Estonia, I reflect on art and the artist's journey. I remember when I was 15, I once travelled to Siberia where I discovered isolated wooden houses amidst snow-covered landscapes. I aspired to live in such a place when I became an adult, creating paintings to sell in a city.
Today, I find myself in a similar place, though I'm staying in a flat in a small settlement, not an isolated house. But it's not what I imagined when I was young. I feel lost and abandoned.
Perhaps it's because I didn't choose to be here initially, fleeing from war and a dictatorial state. There's no way to showcase my paintings. I gave up exhibiting in totalitarian Russia, and here, in Estonia, there's no art market. I also lack connections to art enthusiasts from other countries, failing to connect with them even through social networks. Social networks have become highly compartmentalised, showing my posts only to disinterested locals. My previous followers are blocked due to the war, rendering my online presence futile.
I feel lonely, and I question why I continue to make pictures. I've always considered art as a language, a way to communicate with people. Making pictures when there are no people around me who speak the language of pictures feels like speaking to a wall in front of me. It drives me crazy. How long may this continue? I don't know. But I feel more desperate every single day.
#artistslife #artistsjourney #artway
12. 02. 2024
I really dislike what I've been writing in my artist’s journal lately, physically dislike it. And I know why. I've stumbled upon yet another internal conflict that my subconscious was hiding from me. This conflict revolves around the fact that my perception of myself contradicts how I actually appear. I see myself as a typical white person, whereas I am of mixed race.
Seeing this internal conflict now, I understand why I avoid looking at myself in the mirror and taking photos of myself. Because I might have to see myself as I am, not as I've imagined myself since childhood, confusing my appearance with those around me.
I think my subconscious was right, as usual. There are things about ourselves that we humans shouldn't know. Now that I've come across this inner conflict between two opposite self images, I have no idea how to resolve it.
I want to stop thinking about it and get back to action, like creating pictures. I've been thinking too much about myself lately.
#psychology #identity #artist
11. 02. 2024
The further I progress in writing this journal, the less I appreciate myself. Because there are things we should never know about ourselves, and writing makes them visible. Writing reveals who we are, not who we imagine to be.
10. 02. 2024
I envy those who can easily articulate their thoughts. For me, it has always been a kind of torture. When I try to translate what I think into words, it usually ends up as something incomprehensible, to the point where no one would bother reading it.
Reflecting on why this happens to me, I see two types of people who are good at expressing their thoughts: those with simple ideas that are easy to explain, and those who are so smart that they can translate complex ideas into simple ones.
Regrettably, I don't fit into any of these types of people. That means I may never be able to share my ideas with others. All that's left is to accept this truth, no matter how bitter it is.
09. 02. 2024
Yesterday, I worked on my digital sketches for the series of paintings featuring figures of cubes against townhouse backdrops. I made progress on the third sketch, using my recently repainted watercolour sketch as a reference.
I placed the watercolour in the background and then superimposed a figure of cubes I'd drawn in ink onto the foreground to introduce the figure of cubes to the scene. Then I digitally increased the contrast of the watercolour because this medium inherently has a low contrast, and that wouldn't translate well to acrylic.
Next, I compared the three digital sketches I've developed so far and noticed that the lack of self-shadow on the figure of cubes is genuinely concerning. It makes the figure look artificial, even though you could say the same about the human representation, which is entirely constructed from cubes.
Therefore, I returned to 3D graphics to address the self-shadow issue. This proved challenging due to the complexity of 3D programs, but I believe I've made some progress.
Today, I plan to experiment with different types of self-shadows on the figure of cubes and see how they affect the overall impression.
Just finished our daily walk with J. The weather outside is breathtaking. The amount of sunlight reflecting off the snow creates so much brightness that I even donned sunglasses.
We reached the river, finally frozen over. It's a chilly -10°C outside. To think, in France at this time of year, the trees are starting to bloom!
The ice on the river appeared to me to be around a metre thick, thick enough to walk on! J. was so happy about this prospect, like a child. He joyfully navigated the surface, while I was fascinated by his "southern person" attitude of finding such joy in something so ordinary like river ice.
To me, a northerner by birth, it seemed rather commonplace. I playfully teased him about his southern delight, realising my own "northern snobbishness" might be deeply ingrained!
Reflecting on the differences between northerners and southerners has led me to ponder how much we are all shaped by the place we grew up. But the more I thought about this, the more I thought we are also shaped by the people we grew up with.
My own story is a great illustration of that. For more than 30 years, I believed I was a typical Caucasian. When a few years ago, AI identified me as Asian, I first didn't believe it. My conviction to be just a simple white was very profound. Only after much reflection, I realised that AI was right. This revelation made me wonder how I could be wrong for so long.
I remembered how I grew up. It was just me and my mum. I never knew my dad, and my mum hardly ever talked about him. People around me were white Europeans, so I saw myself as them.
Another story appeared in my mind. We lived in Thailand when Y. was a baby. Once, we travelled to Poland for a week because of my job there, and we noticed something strange about Y.'s behaviour. She seemed scared of white people. That was not logical because she's white too.
When we were leaving Poland, at the airport, Y. perceived an Asian man for the first time in a week. To everyone's surprise, she ran to him and held his hand. It was like she was finally reassured.
Could Y. have identified herself as Asian because she lived among Asians? I think so.
The mine and Y.’s stories demonstrate that we see ourselves through people around us. Even if I have always felt that others see me like a stranger, I only supposed it was because of my personality traits.
Anyway, I still can't switch to seeing myself as a mixed person instead of just an ordinary white northerner. I suppose I will always remain the image of all those people I grew up with.
07. 02. 2024
Why do we need people who create pictures, like artists? Every human sees billions of pictures every time their eyes are open. These pictures are also artificially created by their own brain—we now know it thanks to discoveries made by psychologists and neuroscientists—which doesn't show us the world but recreates pictures of the world for us. If we see so many of our own pictures, why do we want to see more pictures created by artists?
Perhaps we want to see the world in different images than those our brain creates for us. It's just a game. When we look at pictures created by artists, it's like playing with ourselves.
Or maybe pictures created by artists are more detailed than those created by our brains. So, these pictures contain more information about the world and help us learn more about it. But for what? To be more aware of reality and better prepared to survive in case of a disaster?
Maybe we like looking at artists’ pictures because we are perpetually searching for something perfect? I mean perfect to us, humans, for sure. A perfect picture for us has a perfect balance between several different things like vivid and nuanced colours, highly detailed and empty surfaces, straight lines and curves, and so on.
A perfect picture is like a representation of a perfect human life where several things are balanced, like work and free time, communication and privacy, reflection and action, and so on.
Maybe when we look at a perfect picture, a perfectly balanced picture, we like to look at our perfect life where everything is perfectly balanced.
All artists are driven by their need for fame, and the best way to achieve lasting fame is to be remembered in art history. Even though I think it's a silly notion because when you are dead, you don't need to survive. Being famous is merely a survival strategy, nothing more. But well, it's one of these numerous funny human paradoxes.
To remain in art history, an artist should create perfect pictures, but not only that. There are a few other conditions that must be met.
An artist should provide information about themselves as a person, because most people are only able to connect to humans. I mean, anonymous artists have no chance of staying in art history because people can't connect to them.
To illustrate this idea, I invite you to look at anonymous artists of the Renaissance, for example. Their pictures were perfect, but they didn't remain in art history.
An artist's flaws, such as drunkenness or other personal quirks, must be known because people better connect to individuals who are like them rather than different from them.
To endure in art history, an artist needs to possess profound knowledge about the world that they articulate. People need to learn, and we learn better from other people. Yes, we are still somewhat primitive monkeys.
Only by respecting these conditions can an artist hope to remain in art history, fulfilling their deepest and most meaningless desire ever.
#pictures #paintings #art #artists #artreflections #fame #arthistory
06. 02. 2024
I've been continuing to work on sketches for the painting series depicting figures of cubes against backdrops with houses. Yesterday, I re-drew one of the watercolour sketches I made last summer in France, which I need so much to achieve a digital sketch I am working on.
The watercolour sketch doesn't satisfy me in terms of drawing and colours. Additionally, there was a large pine tree in this scene that I struggled to depict, as I hadn't drawn pine trees before. Now, after creating several ink drawings of pine trees a few days ago, I feel more confident in portraying them.
However, I still needed four attempts to achieve the right watercolour sketch!
My first attempt was poor in both drawing and colours, so I quickly abandoned it. In the second, I tried a new technique I'm considering for my paintings, using a rose separative line between colours.
I came up with this technique about two years ago and tried it making landscape drawings with coloured pencils and acrylics on paper. The separative rose line technique turned out to be fantastic! It gives landscapes a very modern look, adding to the picture truly colourful and solid. I'm surprised no one has thought to use it yet.
The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, who found out how to create the most vivid pictures possible, used a separating black line that makes colours look brighter. My rose separative line also helps colours look more vivid, but it does so more delicately.
The second attempt to remake the watercolour sketch was messed up almost immediately, with the very first line. I inclined too much the roof’s line using a rose acrylic marker that can’t be erased once put on paper. So I made another watercolour sketch on the back.
The rose line was wonderful, and I realised that I truly need to use it in my paintings. However, other colours turned out to be inaccurate. So I made a third watercolour, which was not good enough in terms of colours and drawing either. Only the fourth attempt finally turned out almost good.
In the fourth watercolour, I also increased the tonal contrast, telling myself that Van Gogh was right. Painters need to increase the contrast compared to what we see. This makes pictures look richer.
The only thing I don't like about the fourth watercolour is the colour of the shadow side of the house. I tried to fix it with acrylics, but this trick didn't work out well.
Now I am thinking whether to use the fourth watercolour as it is for the digital sketch or whether I should redo it. The drawing and most of the colours are great, but this ruined shadow wall irritates me. Although I know it probably won't interfere with the digital sketch.
#watercolour #painting #sketches #paintingprocess #impressionists #postimpressionists #vangogh
04. 02. 2024
This morning, my mind is filled with thoughts about procrastination, which, I believe, it's not a form of laziness, as many people think, but a manifestation of fear.
I had plans to complete 10-12 paintings in a medium format before moving to France this summer. However, the progress is slow. Not only because I have to carry out a lot of preparatory work, including watercolour, ink, and digital sketches, but also due to my procrastination.
Developing paintings is a very challenging task, and I am afraid that I am not good enough to bring to life the images I see in my head. I am scared that the accomplished paintings won't please me and will become only a huge waste of time.
To avoid moving forward in this unknown terrain, I prefer to escape by doing something simpler, like writing, cleaning my flat, reading, or anything else that could convince me that I am doing necessary things and not procrastinating.
But deep down, I know that I am just procrastinating, and this has to be changed immediately by the only possible path—starting to work on my paintings.
03. 02. 2024
For many, social media is about fun, but for artists, it often involves unpaid work.
Selling pictures is a challenge. This is why artists go to great lengths in the hope of eventually making a living from their art.
When social networks, owned by big tech companies, promise us connections and exposure in exchange for our images, we tend to believe them. However, after posting our artworks, we realise that no one sees them.
It turns out that art often doesn't reach people on social media, and I see several reasons for that, including:
- Limited reach: Social networks want us to pay for ads, hiding free content.
- Bad format: Physical pictures, like paintings, lose impact on small phone screens.
- Short attention spans: People scroll for quick enjoyment, not for the complex ideas often offered by artists.
We share our pictures, but ultimately, our work doesn't get much attention despite the promises of high-tech companies. Once this happens, the high-tech companies tell us it's because our images are not good enough (a classic manipulation often used by sects.)
We engage in learning and working more, but we still find that we are not good enough for social networks, as our pictures still don't attract people's attention.
While caught in this cycle, we may lose sight that participating in social networking may only lead artists to losses. For example, I've noticed that algorithms struggle to recognize art. They think it's art when they notice a single visual style. So, to show the algorithms that you post artwork, you need to share images in the same visual style.
However, for artists, sticking to one visual style is like professional death, as art is all about exploration, risk-taking, and a human response to the changing world. Making images in the same visual style only shows that an artist doesn't explore, take risks, and doesn't respond to the world, meaning they are not an artist.
Many artists, including myself, confess that creating social media content is just boring. We become artists because we are amazed by making images. But instead of creating pictures, we run for attracting an audience. We spend our time making uninteresting things that give us no satisfaction.
Yet, avoiding social media for an artist isn't a good choice either. Without social media representation, artists have a slim chance of being noticed by other professionals. Art institutions also strive to grow their online audience and favour artists with many followers that they hope to share.
So, artists find themselves creating more free pictures than ever. Free images attract people, and people mean social networks can sell ads to them, thus making money that goes to big tech companies.
#artists #art #socialmedia #socialnetworks #techcompanies #unpaidwork
02. 02. 2024
I received a message from the artist, @steoville, who made the image remarkably similar to my picture about social media. While I initially suspected plagiarism, the artist kindly demonstrated that they created their image in 2018, confirming a shared idea rather than any copyright infringement. As is often the case in the realm of creativity, independent minds can arrive at similar concepts.
I truly appreciate @steoville's clarification, which shed light on the situation. It's fantastic how artists can be so supportive of one another!
However, I haven't received any message from the page, @thewhitecube. This reinforces some of the thoughts I shared in my previous journal entry about.
#artists #artistssupport #artistscommunity
01. 02. 2024
Back in Estonia for less than a day, I already feel like a different person than the one who wandered around St. Petersburg. The environment has completely transformed my personality.
I know that the concept of a "solid" personality is a mental illusion. So, I enjoy noticing how many different "me"s exist within me, emerging as reactions to various situations the world throws my way.
The more I observe, the clearer it becomes: I am just a collection of reactions, a survival machine adapting to the environment. I am both many and nobody.
31. 01. 2024
Could I have been killed by a drone explosion last night?
I was woken up at around 4 am by a massive explosion. Everything was shaking, including the buildings and me. I looked out the window. It was yellow outside. A completely yellow glow, as if a yellow filter had been applied to the scene.
I tried to feel if my building was about to collapse after the explosion. The building seemed to be stable. I rushed to the window to see if there was another building that was collapsing. Thankfully, there wasn't. I watched out the window. The cityscape had stopped shaking and seemed calm. City workers were carrying on with their business as if nothing had happened. "Okay," I said to myself, and went back to sleep.
During the day, a friend of mine sent me non-official information that St. Petersburg's air defence shot down a combat drone entering the city from my South district tonight. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
I am wondering if I really could have been killed tonight, but I suppose I'll never know for sure. Dictatorships, like the current regime in Russia, don't provide the public with information about what is really happening. For the night's explosion, the Russian government only said that there was a "loud clap" in the city tonight. Really?!"
I am on a bus leaving St. Petersburg. The high-rise buildings outside the window have already been replaced by rural ones, which means I am getting closer to my small, quiet Estonia, which I have come to love so much. The fear that hangs in the air of totalitarian St. Petersburg, and has permeated me through and through, begins to dissipate. With every kilometre away from St. Petersburg, I feel calmer.
I am leaving Russia with a heavy heart. I think about what will happen to all those people who remain in the city. Mass repressions, when people are indiscriminately imprisoned, have not yet begun, but they could happen at any moment. There are constant explosions in the city. People are intimidated.
Russia invaded Ukraine, and I support the Ukrainians, but I know that many Russians are against this aggression, which was imposed on them by their totalitarian government. For me, these people are also victims of war, although they are unlikely to ever be considered victims by anyone.
I am writing these lines in the hope that readers will think of these Russians as victims, at least once. Because these people were just unlucky enough to be born and live in an authoritarian-totalitarian era, which each of them tried to resist as best they could.
#war #ukrainewar #dictatorship #autocracy #artist #stpetersburg #russia
30. 01. 2024
I'm in St. Petersburg, Russia, finding how strangely calm a dictatorship can seem from the inside. On the surface, everything here looks perfectly fine, if you forgo that it isn't.
I spoke to my flat owner. The conversation seemed normal. But I know that it's a false front. People who live in dictatorships are wary of saying anything, so you don't have to listen to what they say, but rather observe their body language.
When I mentioned the "war", my landlord's face changed. Her eyes got big, and her body tensed up.
I understand why. The Russian government doesn't want people to realise that they're waging war on their neighbours. So they've been trying to prohibit the word "war" from being used.
Using the word "war" instead of the government's invented term "svo" could get you eight years in jail. It's like a dark joke, but it's true.
My landlord was so frightened that, I believe, she didn't realise that I deliberately used the word "war". From the start of the war in Ukraine, I made the decision not to play the "I'm scared" game that the Russian government tries to force people into. Because I refuse to be scared.
28. 01. 2024
I woke up at 5am to the sound of loud voices inside my head. My mind had improvised a theatrical play for me, with two faceless actors discussing my failure as an artist. I couldn't escape, so I had to listen.
One voice berated me for not living up to the expectations that were placed on me as a child prodigy. It kept reminding me that I had been drawing since I was a baby, that I had chosen to pursue art professionally at the age of 13, that I had passed the exams for one of the two best art schools in my metropolis, and that I had graduated with an A-level at only 15.
The voice continued, "People had high hopes for him as an artist and supported him, but he is already 39, and he is still not. He failed the people who believed in him and himself."
A second voice timidly interjected, "But he has achieved things: his paintings are widely exhibited, they're sold, and he has won many awards."
The first voice shot back, "That's not enough! Art still doesn't pay his bills. He doesn't have a powerful gallery machine behind him. He is flitting between countries, which prevents him from building a solid art business."
It added, "He is just not good enough to be among the best artists. He is not talented enough. He will never be a great artist. Because he wasn't risky enough, sociable enough, or smart enough."
I suddenly felt that he was right. I am a "not good enough" person. This revelation hurt me so much that I tried to beg my brain to stop tormenting me and make silence so I could continue sleeping. But the voices kept repeating the same thing over and over again.
Only after about an hour did my mind finally take pity on me and I fell asleep.
Waking up two hours later, the daylight was starting to creep into the room. The theatrical piece in my head had stopped. I felt a little better.
27. 01. 2024
On the bus, I am heading to a table tennis competition in Aseri, a small Estonian village. I have been playing table tennis since I was 25 yo and I still enjoy it immensely.
Table tennis helps me to get some necessary physical exercise, but also to learn about myself. For example, I have learned that I love to tackle difficult things well (even though I don't always succeed with them). I am a risk-taker in short distances, but a coward in longer distances. I freeze up when I am scared. And many other interesting things. It's amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through sports.
When the table tennis competition is over in two days, I will return to Estonian Narva. After a short night's rest, another bus transports me to Russian Saint Petersburg, which is only 2.5 hours from Narva. I will stay in St. Petersburg for two days on business.
Honestly, I am not happy to return to Russia. After its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the country has been teetering on the brink of autocracy and dictatorship. And those two are not really my cup of tea.
You, who have lived in a democracy, may imagine that it is nobody's cup of tea. However, I have recently discovered that there are many people who are happy to live in autocracies, and even dictatorships, for various reasons.
Some people are happy to see their smarter competitors eliminated. Some are happy to live in a dream carefully crafted for them by propaganda where they are like smart, kind, and strong. Some people are happy to take advantage of the darker side of their nature, like in the famous experiment at the Stanford prison where the professor transformed his students into persecutors. I see so many options…
Anyway, personally, I feel much better in democracies and republics, like Estonia, not because they are so different, but because there is less violence. That's the only thing that really matters to me.
#sport #tabletennis #politics #democracy #republic #autocracy #dictatorship
26. 01. 2024
The only way for an artist to guard against plagiarism is to be famous or rich. Those of us who aren't, like myself, are destined to see our pictures and ideas stolen. It has happened to me several times before, and today, there's a new case.
While scrolling through Instagram, I paused on an image shared on @the.whitecube 's page (https://www.instagram.com/the.whitecube?igsh=MWN2bnkwbnkyZWFraw==) by an artist named @steoville. The picture showcased a classical painting where the artist used black squares to hide the nude parts, highlighting the censorship of nudity on social networks.
I immediately recognized my idea that I turned into an image about three years ago and shared on Instagram and Facebook. The only difference is that I used a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
How do I feel about that? Very frustrated.
I work hard every single day on creating pictures. I know that I will probably never make much money from my work. I keep doing it because I like to create impressive and meaningful images and then share them with others. And when I find out that my pictures benefit others, it saddens me, because I feel liked it is unjust.
However, after a short period of disappointment, I tell myself that there is no need to be sad. Because I have known for a long time that the idea of a fair world where everyone gets what they deserve is an illusion. The strong exploit the weak and reap the fruits of their labor. It has always been like this, and it probably always will be. At least as long as our world exists. This is the law of life, and I accept it.
Here is the link to my image: https://shorturl.at/chuGL
25. 01. 2024
I've just finished my third ink drawing study of a pine tree.
Placing it next to the first two drawings, I can confidently say it's much better. There are more accurate details that faithfully capture the patterns of pines.
While drawing, I noticed these patterns:
1. Trunk Tilt: The trunk leans to the left because there are more branches on that side.
2. Right Side Balance: Despite the leftward lean, the right side has thicker branches that offer a counterbalance.
3. Branch Thickness Hierarchy: The widest part of the tree is the trunk, followed by the right branches, with the left branches being the narrowest.
4. Branch Proportions: The stoutest right branch is about two-thirds the width of the trunk. Thinner branches relate to thicker ones in approximately the same proportion
5. Branch Shapes: Smaller branches are sharp and pointed, while larger branches are curved.
6. Projections: Branches and leaves have many different projections.
7. Facing Branches: Some branches face outwards. Notably, these "face branches" differ at the top and bottom of the tree. Those at the top reveal the branches on their bottom, while those at the bottom don't show many branches, which are situated in the middle of the foliage, hidden by its density.
8. Branch Shadowing: Bottom branches are often darker underneath due to their own shadow, while top branches are darker on top from the shadow cast by the denser foliage above.
9. Trunk Coloration: The lower part of the trunk is green, transitioning to orange at the top.
10. Camouflage Pattern: The green-to-orange shift on the trunk creates a subtle camouflage effect.
11. Trunk Texture: The greener section of the trunk has a rougher texture, as if covered in long wrinkles.
12. Amazing Detail: The center of the tree looks like a tied knot.
So, happy with my pine drawing, but next time I'll trim some fussy bits.. I want to focus on capturing the essence of the pine tree, just like Van Gogh, Sezanne, and other painters did.
Days spent studying pine, I am feeling confident now. Ready to draw another one in my watercolour sketch.
If that goes well, I can finally jump back to digital sketches and move forward on developing my new painting series with houses and figures made of cubes.
#drawing #drawingtechniques #drawingtree
24. 01. 2024
The writing of this journal makes me feel better. There's definitely something therapeutic about writing. It helps all these thoughts that turn inside me in loops find a way out and free me.
Writing is also probably a way to better see who we are. But this isn't entirely a good thing. While writing these notes, I noticed that I rarely talk about people.
I've consciously known I'm not a social creature for over a year, and probably unconsciously for my whole life. But seeing with my own eyes that I'm mostly interested in processes or my own impressions is quite something.
This uninterest towards people feels like my missing chromosome, a flaw that's always made me feel different. I can't connect to others like most humans do, create relationships through constant grooming, or take a place in the social hierarchy. I can only be an observer who gazes at humanity like it's another species, as if I'm a hedgehog living near monkeys. I can see their actions, but I would never fully understand their meaning.
That's probably one of the main reasons I don't put people in my pictures. I only include a kind of collective image of humanity that comes from constantly observing.
The image, I know, people who are able to see beyond this appealing Minecraft-like picture, would probably hate. Because it makes them look at this unflattering side of themselves, which they avoid so hard facing for their whole life.
You may notice, "you wrote above that you are a hedgehog who might never understand monkeys. So, can your image of monkeys show them something different from how hedgehogs imagine monkeys?” I would answer that, "Seeing a pine tree is simpler than you're not that pine tree."
I'm now starting to understand that painting is always about exaggeration. Because we constantly try to see the world better than it is. We are dreamers, dreaming all life long.
23. 01. 2024
Today I started the third drawing of the pine tree that I see through my window. The first two drawings don't satisfy me. I am still struggling with leaves and some other details. But I am progressing at understanding pine patterns, and hope soon to be able to return to my watercolour sketch with a pine to move forward on my painting series with houses and figures composed of cubes.
22. 01. 2024
My demons still whisper in my ear from inside my skull. One coos about my kindness, another trumpets my greatness, others preen with tales of my brains, bravery, and justice.
I listen, of course, but their voices are honeyed lies. I'm not kind, not brave, not brilliant. I'm just a puppet dancing to the strings of circumstances, a creature clawing for survival, however ugly the means.
These demons in my head, they're just echoes of my own mind, a chorus singing survival anthems to keep the animal within me alive. My brain, a tireless computer calculating things endlessly. And me, I am doomed to listen to its clicks for half my days. A veritable torture.
I'm a chimp who swallowed a calculator that ticks and whirs inside me. And let's be honest, aren't we all a bit like this?
Nothing so special, nothing so serious. Just monkeys with calculators, tapping our way through life.
There is a big pine tree outside my window, staring at me as if laughing. It whispers, "You'll never be able to draw me, because your vaunted brain isn't even capable of calculating such a complex thing as I am. You are a loser. You'll never succeed in this painting with another pine tree. You'll never paint this series with cubic figures and their homes. Just accept it and do more easy things than painting, the things you are able to do.”
Many people think that drawing is simply about copying what they see, but that's only a small part of the truth. Drawing is more about understanding the world through its patterns.
When I draw a tree, I discover that its trunk is inclined because there are more branches on one side, that it's thicker closer to the ground. I notice different projections of leaves, and so on. This knowledge helps me create a more truthful drawing of that tree.
Copying that tree, detail for detail, is doomed to fail because there are billions of tiny elements in it that we simply cannot capture and accurately put on a sheet of paper.
21. 01. 2024
Right now, I'm immersed in reading Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. There are 668 pieces in total, and they're quite something. The stories about Van Gogh's life are captivating.
I believe anyone who appreciates art should give these letters a read because they add a certain mental volume to art that may not be perceived only by looking at pictures.
Van Gogh's letters highlight how much hard work and challenges, such as health issues, financial struggles, and the loneliness of not being understood, artists often face while creating good pictures—ones that most people would never even be able to distinguish from bad ones.
Van Gogh’s life also makes me think that artists who create original and well-achieved pictures rarely receive rewards for their work in the form of money, fame, or social status, unlike artists, or even just people, who create ordinary things. It's another sad truth about great people's lives that goes against the common belief that those who create unique and excellent things are rich, high-status, or famous.
While I am writing these words about Van Gogh and other great people, I am conscious that I am writing about myself. Something in me still wants to believe that I am a great artist, as if someone is whispering in my ear from inside my skull that I am also great. And then another voice tells me that this was only my demon who tempts me with illusions.
20. 01. 2024
Today I drew a pine tree with ink on white paper. The technique of inversion that I used to draw a pine tree the day before remained too difficult. So, I tried using a classic approach.
The result is even worse than using the inversion technique. I'm not satisfied with it at all. However, I discovered some important details about pine trees.
The tree's trunk leans towards the side that has more branches, and there's often a side with fewer branches.
Pine trees are old and young at the same time—that's probably the discovery that excited me the most—because newly protruding branches are yellow-orange, while old branches and parts of the trunk are grey. This contrast between hot orange and cold grey is very interesting.
While drawing a branch in the middle of the tree, you need to draw three projections of the branch: profile, 3/4, and face. This will make the drawing look more realistic.
I think I'll retry the drawing with ink, focusing more on these elements, but maybe with a different isograph. My 1. 0 Rotring isograph that I used for the first time performed very poorly. The ink didn't flow well from it, meaning that one-third of the time, the line I put down was without ink and only scratched the paper. I had to draw many other lines before the ink started flowing out of the tool again. This was annoying and frustrating because I couldn't control the strokes, and therefore, couldn't control the drawing.
For the next drawing, I'll test my Rotring 0.7 isograph. I hope it performs better for this kind of work.
#drawing #inkdrawing #drawingtechniques #inktechnics
19. 01. 2024
It's a heavy snowfall outside. Snowflakes are quite large and falling enough quickly to highlight the picture window like a white canvas, where it's difficult to distinguish the outlines of objects.
I woke up tired today. Yesterday's pine tree drawing probably took me more energy than I thought. Creating art is a very energy-consuming act, as most artists know. For others, drawing may often remain a pleasurable pastime, labelled as "rest" and not work.
How many things, all the things, must we experience to truly understand them. Yet, how little time we have for such exploration, leaving us teetering on the edge of grasping almost nothing about this very life.
I am reflecting about myself. For many years I had been thinking that being an artist is a privilege, something special, as if you'd been given the chance to be born talented instead of the many others born "just ordinary." It's like I pulled a one-in-a-billion lucky lottery ticket. Today I see that I was only born with these rare parameters, like someone with an extra or missing chromosome.
Nature always creates rare variations in case the world changes dramatically. I am here, just in case. My life feels like a vain wait for a disaster, when I might become useful. But probably never. And I need to constantly keep myself occupied with something, and in my case, it's picture-making. Just because I do it better than anything else.
"Rare parameter" creatures like me, we have a one-in-a-billion chance of becoming famous and loved by people, thanks to the rare stuff we create. But we also have a 999,999-to-1 chance of remaining "just in case," an unused cog in the machine, doomed to produce unuseful things and live by what is generously given to us by others.
18. 01. 2024
I went to the spa yesterday and lost three hours of work time. Determined to catch up, I tried to complete the two drawings I'd planned. However, despite hard work, I only managed to finish one and a quarter pieces.
As I suspected, the spa visit disrupted my work schedule, and I fell short of my goals.
The good news is that I finally made my first drawing of Estonia, and it turned out even better than I'd imagined. While I'm not entirely happy with some elements, like the trees (I'm still struggling with those!), I think the overall impression is quite good.
The drawing features a wooden house in the foreground surrounded by several pine trees. These are some of my favourite trees, but also the most difficult for me to draw. I'm still having trouble with their foliage and the colour of their trunks. I need to find a solution quickly if I want to progress with my watercolour sketch, which also features a pine tree that takes up a third of the composition.
I think I'll start by looking at how Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Chinese painters tackled pine trees. Then I'll do a few studies of my own pine tree using white pen on black paper (inversion aids shape comprehension.) Only then will I return to my watercolour sketch, which will advance my series of paintings with cubic figures and houses.
Today's the rare day when I'm home alone for several hours. J. moved to Tallinn for three days, and the flat's become wonderfully silent. I love listening to this 'ringing silence'—I can't recall who coined the term, though. It was only disturbed for about an hour by a vacuum cleaner that goes about its business every day—a curious artist in its own right, wouldn't you say?
I spent the whole day drawing a pine tree. Seven hours of work and two-thirds of a white gel pen later, the drawing is finished, but it still doesn't satisfy me. That's the reality of the artist's life: pouring hours, days, and years into something that's more likely to end up in the bin than on the wall.
Despite the urge to toss it right now, I'll keep the drawing to track my progress, even if it feels like a failure. It's important to approach it with fresh eyes later. Pieces that seem awful right after completion often reveal their merits later, and vice versa.
17. 01. 2024.
Wednesday brings a full workday for me. I aim to create a watercolour to refine my digital sketches for a series of paintings I'm currently working on. Additionally, I plan to draw the landscape outside my window using white pen on black paper, as the frigid -10°C temperature makes outdoor sketching impossible.
Being in Estonia is a wonderful experience, and I would regret not capturing Estonia's beauty in my artwork. Over a year has passed, yet I haven't drawn a single thing, despite the stunning landscapes revealed during my daily walks.
An invitation has arrived for me to spend three hours at a spa—Estonia is renowned for its delightful Nordic spas. My month-long subscription is ending soon, and a spa visit might be a tempting option. However, it would likely encroach upon my full workday and disrupt my drawing plans. This has happened to me far too often.
I need to make progress on my paintings and adhere to my scheduled work time. Only by doing so do I have a chance to complete ten paintings in four months and also create a dozen drawings of Estonia.
But then, a question arises: can I truly call my artistic pursuits "work"? Here in Estonia, I have no exhibitions, no income from my artwork. This brings my activities back to the realm of a hobby.
The "hobby" label sticks in my head, eroding my motivation. "Spa, or anywhere really," I tell myself, "since I have no actual work, just a hobby."
Yet, I know I will regret not painting. Procrastination and an inability to say "no" to temptation will gnaw at me, diminishing my self-esteem and professional integrity as an artist. My drawing technique still requires refinement, and I'm not seizing this chance to be surrounded by nature, create multiple drawings, and progress in landscaping—crucial for my upcoming paintings.
In these moments, I feel trapped, weak, and indecisive. A failure in the making, I fear my weaknesses will forever hold me back from achieving true artistic greatness.
16. 01. 2024
I just found out that Ello, a social network for artists, shut down a few months ago. I wasn't using Ello a lot, but the news made me think about how things work in the world.
Ello was a well-made platform with a strong community of dedicated artists. It tried to run it without making a lot of money, unlike most popular social networks. Ello didn't have ads or promoted posts, which was great for artists but probably a financial problem for the owners. Maybe because of this, Ello stopped working one day, showing that you can't survive without making money.
Ello's story showed me that it's not enough to create great things if you want them to keep going. The economy is important. If you don't pay attention to the business side, you're going to fail! Just like many great artists throughout history have failed because they didn't know how to manage the business side of their art. It's crazy to think about how many great works of art we've never seen because of this.
On the other hand, there are a lot of artists who focus more on business than on their art. That's why there's so much mediocre art around today.
Focusing too much on business means you don't have enough time to develop your artistic skills. It also often leads to making the same kind of art over and over again, which gets boring quickly.
So, I think the business side is important for everything, including art. But finding the right balance between making art and being business-minded is tricky. It can lead to either art that never finds viewers or buyers, or to art that is too low-skilled and repetitive.
#socialnetworks #ello #ellosocialnetwork
16. 01. 2024
It's 10 o'clock. Time to get to work on my paintings. About a week ago, I decided to plan out my work schedule, hoping to boost my progress and improve my organization.
In a typical week, I have six working days. Saturday's my day off, the only one when the whole family's free, so we spend it together. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays are my most productive days. I've calculated I have ten hours to work on those, so I call them "full-working days." Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are "half-working days" with only three or four hours available.
The plan's still rough around the edges, but it's already cleared my head about work organization. Even though the same question keeps turning in my brain, "What for?". I've been staying in Estonia for a bit more than a year now, a country I deeply appreciate, especially for its stunning Nordic nature. But Estonia's too small for a robust art community or market. Making art here feels like, as the French say, "pissing in a cello."
Art is a form of communication. If it's not shared, it becomes just a collection of molecules sharing space. Like anything in this world, it becomes nothing without a conscious mind to observe and give it meaning.
Creating art in a place where art barely exists is tough. But the possibility of moving to London next year fuels my painting, driving me to finish my series with cubic figures and houses. I don't want to arrive in London empty-handed, and finding a studio space there worries me—it's an overcrowded and expensive city.
So, back to work! Hopefully, this new schedule will tame the chaos in my work process and bring some much-needed stability, allowing me to create about 10 paintings before I leave Estonia in four months, in July.
15. 01. 2024
It took me a few hours to find the perfect bush, an element crucial to the middle ground I sought for my painting series. The middle ground separates the white figure made of cubes in the foreground from the white houses in the background.
I'm talking to you about the series of paintings with cubic figures and their houses that I'm currently working on. Sometimes, the sheer length of artistic research like this surprises me, especially when I consider if viewers will even notice the bush!
So, I wanted a bush typical of French gardens, as I made sketches for this series in the French town of Niort. I envisioned it with cold green leaves and dense foliage to cast contrasting hard shadows, highlighting the white cubes of the figure through the stark contrast between light and dark.
I also desired a variable top contour for the bush, allowing me to adapt it to different backgrounds in future paintings. My requirements proved challenging to meet. Perhaps research would be easier if I were in France now, exploring directly instead of relying on the internet.
Regardless, I scoured online images. Google kept pushing Estonian websites, offering little information on French gardens. It's a curious thing—we often think of the internet as global, but research platforms and social media track our location, restricting us to content from our immediate area.
I employed various tricks to immerse myself in the French online space, like VPNs and fake locations, but they yielded little success in easing my research.
Finally, I turned to BARD, a Google AI language model I find helpful at times. BARD's solution worked magic today. I found my ideal bush: the Laurus Nobilis. It seems to tick all the boxes. A quick digital sketch suggests it's a perfect fit, but only transferring it to canvas will tell for sure.
The next step? Taking my digital sketch and turning it into a living, breathing painting on canvas. The most exciting and, at the same time, the most daunting step of all.
#sketch #sketches #paintingprocess
15. 01. 2024
I am having my first daily coffee. I love coffee. I have always loved coffee so much that it is probably my favorite drug. Coffee has something special. It is bitter and unpleasant, but every new sip gives me the desire to drink more. Life is like that. Every disappointment gives the desire to survive.
I am writing to you while I should be working. I had planned to start painting a new series of paintings in September 2023. Today is January 2024 and I still haven't started painting. It's true that I have been sketching all this time, but I think the real reason I haven't started painting is my fear of it. I find the task of painting landscapes with gardens too difficult. I'm still not very confident in my ability to paint nature.
I also have problems with the cubic figure I plan to bring to the foreground. I wanted it to be white, like the houses, to create a link between people and their homes. However, while I was making computer sketches, I realized that the white figure blends in with the white houses in the background. The composition also lost its focal point.
A few days ago, I came up with a solution of integrating a kind of green bush behind the cubic figure. However, I am still looking for the best type of bush to use.
Even though the feeling of fear to suppose is present, I am moving forward, even if it is much slower than I had originally imagined for the series.
I am working on overcoming my fear of painting landscapes, but I suppose that the human fear of nature is indestructible.
14. 01. 2024
I am 39 years old and feel like everything is too late for me. Writing is too late, my new artistic path in London is too late, developing my art technique is too late. And what for?
These days, artists become famous young because there are people who can make a lot of money from a young artist and half as much money from an artist of 39 years old.
We all love what is young and new. We love freshness and innocence, not old and sad. We are attracted by the energy of life, like by young trees, not by half-lifed trees.
A sad reminder to myself that I am like one of these trees in the forest that will keep living like all the other trees in the forest. And that will die one day, while the forest would not even notice.
14. 01. 2024
For me, writing is one of the most difficult tasks. I have always struggled to accurately express my thoughts in words. In desperation, I decided to try my hand at writing and start to put my thoughts down on paper. Because there are far too many things that need to be shared that, I feel, are dying inside me.