An interview with Aleksandr Petrunin by Rebecca Weiner

Aleksandr PetruninAleksandr Petrunin has been creating art since the age of 8, and has been a full-time artist for the past 12 years. Aleksandr was born in Russia and relocated in Lithuania where he still resides. He employs painting, illustration and watercolors within his works. His drawings establish a link between the reality and that imagined by its viewer. The artist also known for his visual narratives realized through elaborate and intricate pen-and-ink drawings.

His works appear as dreamlike images in which fantasy and reality meet, and past and present always play a key role. In his personal art, Aleksandr frequently uses illustration style techniques. Petrunin has traveled and shown in countries such as Russia, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Lithuania. His work has illustrated some magazines and they are featured in private and public collections throughout the world.

Today, he creates stunning, even inspiring artworks meant to trigger emotions and memories for each and every viewer, and says that his greatest accomplishment as an artist is his ability to practice his art on a regular basis.

 

What’s your background? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
No! Even though I loved art, as a young man emerging from school, I believed that that you could never make a living from it and so went into a “safe” job – in the sales sector and then onto the journalism sector. I studied at the Art School named after V.V. Fedorov, Volgograd and received my BA from Ryazan State University in 1998.
But art never left me though. I think, like with anything that is born in you, such as writing and music, it never leaves you – even if you do not physically practice it, you still see the world through a writer’s or musician’s, or in my case, an artists’ eyes.
Art slowly crept back into my life, starting as painting for pleasure or giving sketches away as presents.
Eventually, now I am lucky enough to make a living by painting.

 

Why did you choose ink as your medium?
Actually I use several different mediums. I just happen to favor ink at this particular point in time. I find I can use a very wide range of different mediums with a single system. For me, this translates into working with more freedom and less preoccupation with technical issues.

 

You tend to build up your paintings by drawing in layers of color, rather than using a single layer of black color. How do you feel this impacts your paintings?

In the end, my drawings have a sense of depth and translucency that unfortunately only truly comes across when seeing the drawing in real life. There’s a real harmony of effect because all of the colors have been influenced by an underlying tonal structure. This comes through the many layers of color.

 

It has been said that your “drawings have a stillness that reveals the timeless character of place.” Can you tell us more about this?

There’s a contrast between my drawings being very time-specific- for instance the light is often invoking a particular effect or time of day, versus being non-specific – for example I rarely have any kind of human activity or event taking place. This is a way for me to express a place that you know and see, but it’s not as if you’re there in the moment, rather it feels like a memory with your own filter of how you felt about it.
I like keeping the drawings open enough that a viewer can put some of themselves in it and experience their own interpretation.

 

What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?

The most important thing for me in coming up with good composition is considering as many options as possible. That’s why I like to spend a lot of time sketching different versions of a subject to keep looking for new possibilities. I’m aware of a lot of the conventional approaches to composition, and I while I find they can be very helpful, I like to avoid being overly systematic and leave room for intuition.

 

What was your lucky break?

I have had lots of lucky breaks as my career has progressed. All which have kept me going forward in the right direction.
It is very easy to get despondent as a struggling new artist. You may have an exhibition where you sell nothing, or organise an event that no one turns up to. All of that sort of thing can really knock your confidence and your resolve.
As an artist, I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to affiliate myself to great organisations such as Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, International Association of Art (IAA), affiliated to UNESCO and many more. Each group has given me so much support in raising my artistic profile, and this has been incredibly important in publicising my work.
As time goes by, the groups that show interest in you go from local to national, even to international, on occasion, and then you start to get swept along on this wonderful tide that has its own natural momentum.

 

How do you price your work?

As an artist, I just do the obvious thing: draw what I imagine or see, and sell my art. How much does my art cost? Context is important when answering this question. For an investor you’d answer in terms of appreciable value, title, authenticity, condition etc. For a lover of visual art you’d answer well in terms of value of joy in your life. For a casual observer you’d answer well in terms of someone’s time, background story, what someone may be willing to pay, etc. While “expensive” to one person may be “reasonable” to another and vice versa.
I think the art is worth whatever it’s worth to you. Do you like it? If you like this artwork that’s the main thing. Pay what you feel, pay what you want and get it.

 

Can you describe a typical working day for you?

A typical working day for me is usually split between my studio and my computer, both of which are at home…so the commute is no problem!
Unless I have an immediate deadline to meet, I usually look at emails. When you have a number of projects on the go, it is really important that you keep up to date with communication. As well as producing marketable art, people also need to know that they can rely on you to be organised and prompt on the business side of things. It’s imperative that you can be relied upon to deliver.
I might then update my blog or put a new post onto my website, if there is something relevant and new to say.
Once that is done, I can get on with my painting. I have a lovely little sunny room in the house and it’s a place where I can easily slip into artistic mode. It is also a place where I can make a mess!

 

Where can we see your work featured?

My work is featured primarily on my website. This is where I give details about all of my latest work, paintings and collaborations and so on. I also have my Instagram, which gives a more informal and chatty view of my work.
I sell a selection of my paintings through auctions such as Live Auctioneers, Catawiki, Daily Paintworks etc. and I’m a feature artist for an art agency set up to supply the market with illustrations for publications needing top quality artwork.

 

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Three things:
1. Be true to what you want to do. Don’t necessarily listen to those around you who offer you advice about what to paint. You will know in your heart that you are onto a good thing – I stuck to my bugs, and it’s been worth it.
2. Never give up. Unless you are going bankrupt trying to break into the market, never give up.
3. Always be professional. Be known as a good artist, but it is just as important to be known as a reliable, efficient and pleasant artist too. Remember you are your own ambassador.

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