Discover Ilya Shkipin Artboost gallery here:

Who are you?

I am a painter and illustrator living in Hayward, California. Originally I am from Russia, but I've been living in USA most of my life now. Currently I am focusing on painting, using traditional mediums such as oils and acrylics. 


How did you get interested in art?

Art has always been around me. Ever since I was a child I was exposed to art through my grandfather, who was a landscape painter. He was my first teacher. My interest in contemporary art started around the time I enrolled in Art Academy of San-Francisco. I was also exposed to a lot of great contemporary artists through my teacher, Pavel Tayber, an artist from Ukraine, who lived in Palo Alto at the time.


How would you describe your style?

I think the most accurate description would be figurative abstract expressionism, but I'm not set on anything. I think words are helpful for a viewer to organize such chaotic world, that is art world, but for artists they can be limiting. I tend to like to distort my figures, stretch their anatomy and obscure their faces. Most of my art is focused on figures dissolving in their background, absorbed by it, which reflects an emotion they are experiencing. My figures are slaves of their emotions, they are trying to escape it, but feel trapped by it. 

What are your sources of inspiration?

Most importantly constantly looking at variety of art and artists, checking out new exhibitions happening in town, always on a lookout for new and old artists. I think it's important for any artist to know what is happening around them and what happened before in the art world, to absorb it all. Then comes nature and my own thoughts. There is no single source of
inspiration that I stick to, I always try to diversify. Some of the paintings are born from the quick observational sketches that I do in public transportation and cafes and some are born out of intrusive thoughts and images that pop in my head; some are spontaneous improvisations, a common method of abstract expressionism: throwing random marks on a canvas and trying to see images come out that way. Every method has its upsides and its downsides and I always try to mix up things. 


How is the creation process for you?

I would be lying if I say everything comes easy. Creation process for me is a constant struggle with oneself, every canvas is a battle to be won. I go through versions, do digital variations of compositions. Very often I overpaint something - until it comes out from the other side looking good again. I full-heartedly felt the Arshile Gorky's saying "paintings are never finished, they are just stopped worked on". There is a moment when painting is the most resolved; and part of the struggle is recognizing that moment. Sometimes that moment comes in a very early stage of a
sketchy gestural underpainting and then if I continue working it sleeps away and comes back after I put hours of work. I try to always view critically whatever I do. There is always this feeling - to leave the painting as is or not. It's sort of a discipline. Sometimes it's worth ruining a good painting in attempt to make it better than leaving it in a "good enough" stage. 


What are your favourite materials to work with?

For awhile I used to paint only digitally. I learned to imitate effects of oil painting in Photoshop, which saved me a lot of money on art supplies when I was just learning techniques - later I learned to apply them to traditional methods. Right now I mostly use Photoshop for sketching ideas, color palettes and variations of compositions, but my prime focus is to paint on canvas using acrylics and oils.

Who are your favourite artist?

Some of my favorite artists include Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira, Basquiat. I don't have one favorite. I think the key in finding your own style is not focusing on one single artist, but many. If I have to select one though I would go with Francis Bacon, which seems almost cliche now, but his art truly is otherworldly. 


What do you do besides being an artist?

I work as an art teacher and I also play bass/sing in a weird post-punk/indie band The Laytcomers. Often I would take breaks from art and just focus on music: there are a lot of similarities in the creation process. Taking breaks is important from anything you do, but there is a danger of getting too comfortable. 

What are the best advice given to you as an artist?

Look at more art and do a lot of master copies. At some point in my life I was copying a lot of Egon Schiele's drawings, which helped me to get through the wall. Also don't rely on teachers and instructors: if you don't put your own effort into learning not much will happen, unless you are really gifted. Also before enrolling into expensive education really think if your career path would lend you a steady job (like in film, game or animation industry). Most things can be learned more effectively by yourself through books, workshops, online courses. That was my experience anyway and a lot of people I knew.

To see more from lya Shkipin, you can find his Artboost gallery here: