you to see in the painting how I see the world or how I feel it.
Happy Strokes for All Folks
T H E A F F OR DA B L E A RT WOR K OF L E ON I D A F R E M OV
text: LEONID AFREMOV
photography: LEONID AFREMOV
Artist Leonid Afremov gleans inspiration from his travels, nature, and scenery to create
masterpieces lit up with color and bold strokes of paint.
What first made you want to become an
I started drawing at an early age in school.
My first drawings were of trees, parks, and
cars—things that a nine-year-old would
draw. I remember that I was always attracted
to drawing and painting. I was very interested
in the art classes in school. Something inside
me pushed me to that direction—something
What is your motivation for creating?
I just love painting. I cannot live one day
without holding a palette knife or a brush.
I honestly start feeling depressed if I don’t
paint something in a week; it keeps me happy. At this point in my life, memories inspire
me to create more than anything. I have lived
through a lot, and every significant experience and moment was transferred onto a canvas. I still have many things to share though.
Love for nature inspired me to depict scenery
in my own way. It’s hard to say what I hope
to accomplish at this point. I never wanted to
be very famous or have my posters hanging
in every house. I’m a modest person. I think
a good accomplishment would be that the
viewer feels what I feel after looking at
How would you describe your artistic
I consider myself an impressionist or postimpressionist, if you will. My style is not
abstract, but at the same time, it’s not realism. I do not distort or manipulate reality;
everything I paint exists in the world, but it’s
depicted in a way only I can see. I want you
to see in the painting how I see the world or
how I feel it.
TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE IN YOUR COLOR
PALETTE AND MOOD:
I started painting vibrant paintings after I
moved to Israel in 1990. In Russia, I was very
busy making decorations for schools, kindergartens, and communal farms. It paid my
bills well, but I could not exhibit my work due
to anti-Semitism. My Jewish heritage prevented me from going to a fancy college and
from being a member of the artist unions.
Without being a member of the union, I
could not participate in any exhibitions. This
was a depressing fact that did not inspire me
to create anything happy. My work back then
was darker and colder. When I moved to Israel, I started feeling artistic freedom; I had
an opportunity to exhibit, so I expressed my
happiness by using a lot of bright colors like
reds and yellows.
Talk about your process of creating an
The painting first starts with a story or inspiration. For example, I went to visit Madrid
recently, and I took some nice pictures of
the historic downtown. When I came back,
I selected the photo I liked the most to paint.
I consider myself a professional artist, and
I take a very professional approach. I work
Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in
my studio. Having free time for the family is
very important. I always start painting in the
morning. First I enlarge the photo on the canvas with a pencil, or make a drawing if I paint
What inspires the subjects of your
How do you continue to challenge
Talk about your interests outside of
yourself as an artist?
Everything I love and like inspires the subjects. I like nature, so I paint landscapes and
seascapes. I like traveling, so I paint places I
visit. I like music, so I paint portraits of my
favorite musicians. Sometimes I go to see
concerts, and I want to paint the whole band.
I always try to push myself to create something more detailed or technical. I always
push myself outside my comfort zone.
I’m a history buff; I spend much of my free
time reading different history books. I actually spend a lot of my free time reading fiction or nonfiction. I like movies so much
that I made myself a personal theater with
a projector, surround sound system, and a
comfortable chair in one of the bedrooms. I
like traveling as much as I can. I also spend a
considerable amount of my free time playing
with my baby grandson.
What has been the most valuable lesson
learned from other artists?
I took a lot of influence from the nineteenthcentury French impressionists and artists like
Monet. I’m from the same city where Marc
Chagall is from originally, so I took some
influence from him as well. My main lesson
from other artists was not to be political.
When your art does not offend anyone or
send strong messages, you give yourself room
for absolutely everybody to like it.
Talk about your interest in keeping the
I never wanted to be famous or rich. I’m a
modest person. I feel that everyone has a
right to enjoy good art in their home regardless of their financial abilities. I always felt
bad for people who really appreciate and support art but cannot afford anything besides
a poster. Good artists always become egoistic and bump up their prices. It seems like
money is their main inspiration. I’m not after
the big money, so I can offer deals as long as
the people who buy would sincerely enjoy
AL :: www.afremov.com
What type of reaction do you hope to
The reaction I’m trying to get is different in
every painting. Sometimes I want you to feel
happy or sad or sometimes angry. It’s hard to
say if I’m achieving the right reactions because everyone always reacts the same way
by saying it’s absolutely beautiful.
Tell us about a moment within your career
that you will never forget:
My paintings are like
puzzles or mosaics.
They are made from
big strokes. When you
look at them up close,
you see little pieces.
When you move farther
away, you discover a
something else besides a specific city scene.
Then I work on the painting by sections. I use
a palette knife mainly and oil paints. I also
use a lot of toilet paper in the process. In order to achieve clean colors, I have to wipe the
palette knife clean after almost every stroke.
What is the most fulfilling part about
When the painting is ready, I feel very happy;
every painting is like my child. I must say
that I enjoy the process of painting more
than the final result.
Why do you prefer to use a palette knife
How would you say your style differs
rather than a brush to create your work?
from other contemporary artists?
I prefer using a palette knife because it allows
me to have very clean colors. I can easily wipe
off the knife with tissue, and the previous color won’t be there to mix with the new color. If
I use a brush, I have to wash it with water, and
it creates dirt that I don’t like on the canvas. I
discovered the palette knife in college. It was
introduced in classes. I experimented with
the instrument and made it my own.
My paintings are very bright and colorful.
Most of the artists think that using too many
bright colors is cheesy. I make it work. My
paintings are like puzzles or mosaics. They
are made from big strokes. When you look at
them up close, you see little pieces. When you
move farther away, you discover a complete
picture. I have not seen many artists exploring this visual effect.
A couple years ago, someone stopped me on
the street and asked for an autograph and
a photo with them. That’s never happened
to me before and has never happened after.
Ironically, it was the only time.
As an artist, what do you hope to
accomplish through your work?
I hope to accomplish peace and harmony.
My paintings are very peaceful in their nature. They are not political and do not send
Describe for us the atmosphere when you
are at work:
My studio is very neat. I cover the floor with
paper to protect it from paint. It’s very organized. I listen to talk radio in Russian over
the Internet or audio books. Sometimes
I listen to jazz or classic rock. It’s a very