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My Moleskine Magazine
Michael Rakov
View original article (Russian Language): http://www.mymoleskine.ru/2011/08/okorok-ili-grudinka/

MR: How did you start making art? Maybe there are any funny stories that were associated with it? Tell us about it.

AG: I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon.  On occasion I would be allowed to use more “advanced” (which also meant messy) art supplies such as oil pastels. I was fascinated by their richness and the colors produced. I would draw all the time and literally produced so many drawings my mother had to throw some of them out. I would go through an entire package of typing paper in a week. As I got older, I was interested in other media such as graphite, pen and ink, and charcoal. My work became more detailed so I utilized more pen and ink and sometimes charcoal pencils since they allowed for more precision than sticks of charcoal.

As a child, I was always creating through various means, so it was something that came to me naturally.  I knew even at a young age that I wanted to be an artist professionally one day.  I was about eight years old when I decided that my “job” would be to paint for museums, not realizing that museums do not actually pay you to paint all day and then just stick your work on their walls. By the time I was in college, I decided that I needed to study graphic design and work in the more commercial realm of art. I, like many artists, believed that it was impossible to earn a living as an artist unless you worked in the design field. I did this for over eleven years, but eventually I could not deny my initial desire to paint.  I started reading anything I could find regarding running a business, marketing, sales, etc. I devised a plan to reach my goals and followed a timeline to keep myself on target which is how I became a full-time artist. I think about art constantly- from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep- I think of paintings that I’m working on, or paintings that I will do in the future, or I’m thinking about exhibitions I have coming up. It’s a lot of work, but I love what I do.

MR: What is the basic idea in your works? May be there is philosophy or anything like that? For example, Impressionists wanted to stop impression of moment this was them basic idea. What do you want to tell people with your work?

AG: I tend to work in series, so that each is a collective body of work pertaining to a particular subject matter. That being said, each series serves as a platform for tackling social or political issues. Some series are broad in scope, while others hone in on one issue. Art is my way of communicating with the world, raising questions, and presenting ideas. Though I can’t tell people what to do, I hope that my work will at least inspire them or encourage them to reflect on what they can do to help make a difference in the world.

MR: Your creativity looks like Surrealism, Am I right? But Surrealism is play of senses, meanings etc. What meanings do you play with?

AG: Yes, I have been influenced by Surrealism from a very young age. In addition to art, psychology was another interest of mine so I gravitated to Surrealism quite naturally since it was the grand marriage of the two. My style has become progressively more surreal, and I am always looking to challenge myself both technically and conceptually. As a result, with my latest series “In Our Veins,” I have been working with ideas that come from my dreams and free-association exercises, which were both utilized by the original Surrealists.

"In Our Veins" explores the connections between all life forms and the cycle of life through a surreal, psychologically-charged narrative.  Many of the concepts included in the series deal with life and death, survival and the exploitation of other species for one’s own survival, the connections between all life forms, and the delicate balance of nature. This includes the interdependence of the human race to each other and to the rest of the animal kingdom, as well as the planet itself.  One cannot exist without the other, therefore it is of the utmost importance that we care for each and every living thing.

MR: Why are there many dead animals and skeletons of animals in your series "In Our Veins?" Understand me correctly, I like your works but I would like to know about that.

AG: Actually, I’m a vegan and I love animals. One of the themes explored with my latest series, “In Our Veins,” is animal welfare.  It’s an important issue for me on a personal level, but I also feel that it is a significant part of the future of our environment.  They go hand-in-hand. “In Our Veins” explores the connections between all life forms and the process of the life cycle.  This includes the interdependence of the human race to each other and to the rest of the animal kingdom, as well as the planet itself. One cannot exist without the other, therefore it is of the utmost importance that we care for each and every living thing.

As humans, we often view nature as a means to an end.  Animals are treated as pieces and parts and labeled as such- head, tongue, rump, rear, breast, wing, etc. Even when they are not referred to simply as parts, they are named something other than what they are- chicken is poultry, a pig is pork, cows are beef, etc. They are no longer acknowledged as animals, but as food.  Others are treated as trophies to hang on a wall, or turned into "luxury items" to wear or carry things in.  I see animals as what they are- sentient beings. They are living, breathing, thinking beings with offspring of their own which they care for just as we do.

Though humans typically treat their fellow members of the animal kingdom as a means to an end, I depict them with personalities, or what others arrogantly deem as "human" qualities (as if only humans can express emotions).  Many of the animals I depict have eyes that look more "human," in that you see the whites of the eyes, or they have blue, green, or amber colored eyes and not large, dark doe eyes as typically associated with animals.  In some paintings, the animals are seen in a dominant stance or their facial expression is calm and serene or they are staring directly at the viewer, demanding attention and acknowledgement.  Again, these are all qualities typically associated with humans, however, I see these as qualities in other animals as well.

MR: What day was the most crazy of your life? What were you doing during that day?

AG: Well, if this is art-related, I do have one story. I was working on a rather complex painting in hopes of including it in an exhibition I had coming up.  The painting took me longer than expected, so the day before I had to bring my work to the gallery, I was still working on it.  As the hours wore on, I started to realize I was going to have to stay up to finish.  I was exhausted, so I drank two Diet Cokes (which I never have caffeine, so these had a strong effect on me) in order to stay awake and paint until 3am. Then I went to sleep for about four hours, got up and finished the painting a matter of hours before going to the gallery. Luckily they are acrylic, which dries quickly.  My paintbrushes were in horrible shape by the time I finished.

MR: Do you do sketches?  If you do, What kind of notebooks or special paper do you prefer for that?

AG: I do a lot of thumbnail sketches, which are roughly 1-inch square sketches giving the basic idea of a concept with just a few lines and shapes, no detail.  I tend to do these types of sketches as an idea comes to mind, so some of them are done on scraps of paper, while others are in a journal or a standard sketchbook.  I will sketch on anything in order to remember my ideas at the time.  When I do larger sketches, I like to use newsprint paper because it’s cheap and also tracing paper.  The tracing paper is useful because I sometimes only want to change one thing in my sketch, so I trace what I’ve already drawn, minus the part I want to change.  Then I can compare the two and see what I like best. Sometimes I may have to draw the same sketch three or four more times because of all the changes.

MR: Thank you very much. Спасибо.