Studio Mysteries

July 31, 2010

A piece about waiting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 3:01 pm

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do work that captures everyday people, but somehow shows the intense, heart-breaking beauty I see in them. But when I encounter people in a day-to-day setting, they are not posing – they are moving and as difficult to pin down as a school of fish. For a while I tried sketching, but there is simply too much information to record this way. So, reluctantly, I turned to photography as an aid.

This is the first complete piece I have done that uses photo references. I took pictures at bus stops, sometimes on the ground and sometimes from the window of a bus.

Before, I have always drawn from imagination or from direct observation, so it took me a long time to figure out how to work with photos. Printouts didn’t work – I found them flat and drained of the beauty I was trying to capture. But I noticed that looking at the photos on a computer monitor preserved their life, maybe because a monitor image is composed of light itself. Now I just keep the photo open in Photoshop as I draw.

I also made sure that I didn’t simply copy the photos. It’s far more interesting to interpret, and to use the photos as a starting point, but then reinvent the people so they are truly my own. Now, I know how to do that successfully.

This piece is 22.5″ tall and 19.5″ wide. It’s graphite and colour pencil on paper. It took about 60 hours to do, and I spent half of that time working out the structural geometry of the feet belonging to the Pink Tights woman. Bulky sneakers hide and distort so much that it’s very easy to end up drawing two left feet.

March 13, 2010

Anya’s Children: #1

Filed under: child images, Drawing — Tags: , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 6:38 pm

I have been mulling over the fact that I draw children a lot. I don’t set out all, “I shall now interrogate the image of the child as a signifier and site upon which the situational socio-political constructs can be acted upon as well as acted out”. I invite people to show up on the sheet, and a lot of them turn out to be children.

But I might as well admit that they are a recurring theme and roll with it – draw children deliberately rather than accidentally.

Just for fun, though, I am running a small retrospective: Anya’s Children, Thus Far.

Well, if I had babies, I’d be forcing you to look at their photos, so be grateful I don’t.

February 7, 2010


Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 10:08 pm

My camera has the vapours, and I cannot show, but only tell for the moment. But what I have to tell is that after MONTHS of work, my big drawing (see posts below) is just about done. It’s amazing how little there is left to do. It’s that moment when you round the corner of the track and you see the finish ribbon flapping in the wind.

It’s amazing how good it feels and how much it felt like this moment is never going to come. I must have put in no less than 400 hours and probably more like 600 into this drawing. I pushed pencil as far as it can go. It’s probably the biggest size that I will ever work in pencil and my subsequent works will probably be a bit smaller, in the 3-4 foot range rather than in the 5 foot range. But I am glad I went there.

The figures emerge out of velvety texture like ghosts. I was going to call the drawing Friends and Family, but now I have rechristened it Formal Occasion.

November 21, 2009

Goals For The Next Stage

Filed under: Being a Professional Artist — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 1:23 pm

I remember reading somewhere that being an artist is sort of like crossing a river one stone at a time. You only see as far ahead as the next rock. Sometimes, you don’t see ahead at all, but that’s usually due to the looker’s vision, not to lack of available stepping stones.

The last stone I saw in front of me was the necessity to plug my technical skill gaps, by studying academic drawing, painting and artistic anatomy. I can’t say I am done learning, because that would be silly, but I do know that I accomplished my goal of focused study at a world-class atelier for several months. (I would have preferred several years, but several months are still absolutely and utterly invaluable).

Now it’s time to set new goals. Broadly speaking, they are:
– cement and apply my recent learning via creating a new substantial body of work (paintings and drawings).
– take steps to move my professional practice forward, by generating new teaching and exhibiting opportunities.

Here are specific steps I am going to take in order to accomplish these goals.
Body of work
1. Produce a series of small paintings on the theme of beach, water and people.
2. Complete the three large multifigure drawings currently in my “in progress” pile, improving them with the techniques I learned.
3. Begin composing one new large multifigure drawing.

Professional practice
1. Become a member of a coop gallery.
2. Design and produce a website dedicated strictly to my art portfolio and practice, and enabling people to buy my work and associated merchandise online.
3. Prepare a course outline and materials to teach a course entitled Artistic Anatomy 101.
4. Apply to participate in the following annual art festivals: Riverdale Art Walk, Queen West Art Crawl, Toronto Annual Outdoor Exhibition.
5. Create an exhibition proposal and distribute it to publically funded venues.

Man, I’m excited.

November 18, 2009

Empty Panels, Full of Promise

Filed under: Painting — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 11:25 pm

I am at a particularly delicious moment in my studio life. For the past 8 months, I have been doing nothing but classroom studies and the never-ending, all-consuming Big Ass Drawing. The drawing is on the verge of being finished! (I can’t believe I am saying these words). And so I am beginning something new! Something painting! Something small and spontaneous that I can do lots of quickly!

The first step is to prime some boards. It’s a palate cleanser, kind of like eating sliced ginger between different types of sushi. I can’t wait to mark these boards all to hell. The eggshell surface of a freshly sanded panel is just begging for something to break it up.

Movable… Something

Filed under: Being a Professional Artist — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 11:16 pm

I strongly recommend avoiding life crises and extreme change to anyone who wants to do art. Crises, both personal and international, are a huge interference with regular art-making.

My journey to LA turned into a series of scary misadventures, forcing me to return to Canada in a hurry and under a lot of stress. Nevertheless, I am proud to say that I had this drawing up on the wall and got in front of it in no more than 72 hours after the flight. My cat and I are couch-surfing (or rather, guest-bedroom-surfing) in a kind friend’s home, but I refused to let this situation interrupt me any more than was absolutely necessary. Luckily, my friend was willing to share a dining nook with what I will loosely call a movable feast.

Sometimes the studio isn’t even a physical place. But it travels with you. So long as you are willing to cross the threshold, the threshold is wherever you are. It’s that simple.

November 2, 2009

5 Things To Make My (And Your) Art Seen & Bought By More People

Filed under: Being a Professional Artist — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 2:38 am

I posed this question to myself and the universe at large recently, and here are some things I have come up with!

1. Research coop galleries in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal and apply for membership to galleries on the resulting list.
Coop galleries are a good way to get exhibitions and your work in front of people independently of the commercial gallery market.

While commercial galleries can be a good thing, I struggle with them on a couple of fronts: I have not had any good responses from them to date, and I also find that the work they show tends to be totally poisoned by the need to be The Next Hot Thing, which in turn is dictated by the need to sell. While I wish to have my professionalism and the caliber of my work recognized and paid for, I am not in the business of making wallpaper and I refuse to be anything less than authentic in the images I make. The way I understand and approach art seems to be at odds with the world of hipsters and being-seen people. I deal in matters of the soul, they sell art the same way they sell jeans.

Coop galleries are a great antidote to anyone at violent odds with commercial galleries, and they work thusly: you apply, and if the selection committee likes your stuff, or at least doesn’t hate it, you pay a monthly membership, may do some volunteer work, and get to participate in group shows and have a solo show once in a blue-ish moon. I like the idea. The members split expenses and get to run the show instead of kissing curator ass. I am terrible at kissing ass, and I like to run the show.

2. Research publically funded art festivals and fairs where self-representing artists can participate, and apply to the ones on the resulting list.
I already know of two excellent shows in Toronto, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and the Queen West Art Crawl. TOAE draws literally thousands of people. QWAC draws hundreds. All those folks come very hungry for art, appreciate the hell out of it, and buy it. At my booth during QWAC, I received the most gratifying thing an artist can have, and that is people tearing up in front of the artwork. I am not kidding. People responded so strongly and put so much mental energy and heart into engaging with the work that even if I never get a single line of print reviews or a single commercial gallery show, I have still done what I wanted to do as an artist and truly reached people.

So, the answer to my question is in part “do what has already worked wonders” and that is, participate in art festivals and fairs. Incidentally, I have sold work every time I have done so, at the price I wanted, and paid 0% commissions on the sale.

3. Write an exhibition proposal and submit it to artist-run centres in every Canadian province.
Artist-run centres are not quite the same beast as coop galleries – the centre administrators don’t exhibit there, if I understand correctly, they simply curate. So basically, artist-run centres are actually curator-run centres, but are not commercial in purpose and usually publically funded. The nice thing about those is that they often pay the artists to show there, as opposed to the artist paying to be shown. (A nice reversal, that! Imagine if actors had to pay to be in a movie or a play, or athletes paid out of their own pocket to compete at elite sports events – the fact that it works this way in the artworld is a thing that is Wrong and Should Not Be).

The less nice thing about artist-run centres is that they consider viewers coming from something as plebeian as the general public beneath their notice. They are designed to impress other curators, which means that everyone is knee-deep in art matter that cannot be understood without an accompanying essay, which must be no thinner than 3 inches and must use no fewer than five of each of the following terms: “strategy”, “interrogation”, “anthropomorphic”, “codifying” and “to critique”. When you mention things like “soul” and “emotion” and “heart”, these folks put a bag over your head and duct-tape a bell to your hand so that people can flee from you whenever they hear you approach.

It’s still worth trying, simply because they have to come up with something year-round, and have spaces that must be filled. I’ll just have to run my proposal through the artspeak generator until I can no longer understand it myself.

4. Complete an art portfolio website that doesn’t have to scrounge for space from my design portfolio site. Enable an ecommerce function while I am at it.

5. Compile a list of public galleries and submit the exhibition proposal to them as well.
Public galleries are yet a third type of beast. They are regional art and cultural centres, library galleries, local museums that exhibit contemporary work and so forth. They are funded by tax dollars as opposed to grants, and have both a higher visibility to the public than artist-run centres (every opening I went to at an artist-run centre was attended only and strictly by other artists, and was depressing), and also higher accountability, because if utter bullshit is on display, someone is likely to complain.

Well. I have some work to do, don’t I?

Actual Size

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 2:05 am


Sometimes it’s fun to put things into visual context. It’s not quite actual size, er, actually, because I am standing a couple of feet in front of the painting, which makes it look smaller in relation to me. It’s the same visual trick they used to make hobbits look smaller in Lord of The Rings, where the camera flattens the perspective so that a person standing some feet behind someone looks to be standing next to them but small-sized. If you know what I mean. Basically, I am saying that this drawing is really effing huge.

October 26, 2009

A Studio Dialog, Of Sorts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 1:39 am

Dear BigAss Drawing,
Just because I don’t have workable fixative, doesn’t mean I don’t love you.



October 25, 2009

Big Group Portrait, State 3

Filed under: Drawing — Tags: , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 11:28 pm

I have spent the past month going to class and trying to beat this drawing into coherence. That’s it. It’s easier to reconcile myself to leaving LA because if all I do is scrath at this drawing, I can do so anywhere, even in Alaska. There is really no point to all this beach if I would rather be in front of my easel anyway!

(There, that seems to be working).

The thing I learned since the last time I posted about this drawing is that  sharp vs. diffuse edges make almost as much of a difference in the composition as value. I kept reducing value in certain areas until I noticed that edge contrast has an equal amount of power and focus as value contrast. Now if I want something to shut up, my first step is to examine edges rather than how light or dark something is in relation to everything else.

It’s been a beast of a project, some kind of a dark abyss that sucks in labour hours and bends the laws of physics, but it’s amazing how much I have learned from it. (But it will be a while before I no longer hate its guts).

I am still a bit away from finishing, but the drawing is starting to be a lot less of a din, which is all I want from it at this point.


I cannot, for the life of me, take a good photo of a graphite drawing.

Side-by-side comparison of the previous state I posted (the right side of the drawing looks brighter in #2, but only because there is a lamp right next to it):


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