Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Estonia, I grew up in Israel, and moved to Toronto, Canada at age 11 where I live now. I’m now 26. I’ve been working in photography since graduating from Ryerson University. Aside from my art photography, I do commercial photography projects in fashion and editorial work, I Blog, I teach Photoshop, and I am currently starting my own retouching company. I love techno and house music, and when it gets chilly in Canada you can find my traveling to warm and beautiful places as much as I can, either for my art or for fun.
Tell us about the style of your artwork
I started to draw and paint at a young age, and took painting classes throughout my childhood and teenage years. I started playing around with Photoshop in high school, and picked up a camera in the last year of high school. I quickly saw that I could make the kinds of surreal images I wanted by merging photography and Photoshop, by painting and manipulating the photographs. This hyper-real look stayed with me, and I’ve been perfecting it for close to 10 years.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges regarding being an artist / being a creative?
One of the challenges I’m passionate about is the finances challenges that artists face and the myth that art is not a “real career”. I always knew what I wanted to do, but what was stopping me was this voice that that was telling me that I will “never make any money” from a system confined to the traditional path of going to school, getting a job, followed by retirement. I continue to meet many artists who feel that they need a daytime job and can’t support themselves with their creativity alone. I broke out of this system when I made the decision to become a freelancer and started brainstorming innovative ways of selling my art and generating different sources of income to have a more flexible lifestyle in which I play by my own rules. I recently started a Blog catered to creatives with tips and tricks on how to kick start their own creative career.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I’m the only one who can do it. What I mean by that is once the idea is there, I’m the only one that knows about it, and if it’s a good idea it will take over me and have to come to life. Once this kind of project idea is generated there’s really no stopping it, I can’t say no to it, and all other factors such as time and money will have to step aside until it’s done.
Who are some of your favourite artists?
Walk us through your creative process – from concept to canvas – what does this look like for you?
I start by generating ideas, which come from different sources. Books, podcasts, traveling, art galleries, talking, laughing, sitting doing nothing, are all potential sources. The complete artistic concept doesn’t come spontaneously, and never in front of a blank page titled “ideas”. In reality, half ideas merge with something else in the future to create something innovative. I also make myself write 10 Ideas a day to generate ideas. I keep an inspiration images folder with art I like and I always have a list of visual ideas I want to try, (e.g, certain lighting) that I keep written down in Evernote. I then take this stem and proceed to do the necessary research, which varies with each project but always with the intention of developing the story and a clear concept behind the work. All the pieces of information would stew in my project soup until it’s clear what I’m trying to do. Next step is doing some sketches and tests of the idea to see if it will work. I often use paintings as inspiration for my art, and the conversation to photography can be harder than you’d think. I will do a quick photo-manipulation with images, see what I need to add, change, subtract.
Next I’ll do a day of location scouting, and go to different potential locations to see if any of them are good for my artwork, take some photos, go home and review. The models I choose are also very specific to each project and need to be carefully picked to fit the concept. Next I do a test shoot, and then the actual shoot, where I book the model, hair, makeup, and whoever else is needed. After the shoot I bring the images into Photoshop. I select the best images from the shoot, followed by some quick composites, and then I will start working on the real thing. There usually is a lot of image compositing and photo-manipulation involved, which could take days, weeks or months to do. After I finish working on a piece I will have to put it away and take a break from it for a few days to a week, coming back to it with a fresh eye to do any final fixes. After I’ve put a finished label on it I make decisions about sizes, editions, paper, framing, and presentation before I finally put it on a wall.
What are some unique challenges with your style of artwork?
One of the challenges I face with photography is merging the real (photography) with the unreal (visual concept). I use a lot of painting for inspiration and generate ideas that don’t always exist in real life, or don’t transfer the exact way I had them in my head. I go through a process of testing the visual concept and then often simplification and reworking to get the kind of look I’m going for. This merging of visual concept and the real is where the hyper-real look comes from in my work.
What are some of the thoughts that go into your (subject, composition, colour palette, materials? - pick one)
I use models for most of my projects, and the ones I select are very carefully hand picked. I first outline specifically what I’m looking for. The model is really important in photography because different looks and different body types and styling will communicate different ideas to the viewer. For the Goddess Almighty series, I needed a dancer. But not just any dancer, I needed someone who had a normal women’s body to support my vision, and not look like a small ballerina, which might make it look like a fashion shoot. I use sources like model agencies, model mayhem, friends, and Facebook to look for my perfect model.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your career so far?
There have been so many rewarding experiences along the way. I remember my first sale, (I think it was a small print going for $40) and there have been endless positive experiences since. I try to celebrate even small successes and acknowledge all rewarding experiences even though I have big goals. A publication in a Korean Magazine, fan mail from overseas, or an invitation to talk about my art are all great experiences which I feel honored to continue to be a part of.
What can we expect to see from you next? (this is a great opportunity to talk about upcoming shows, or series)
I’m currently working on a series of hair portraits. I’ve been craving doing an art project centered around hair for a couple of years, and It’s finally coming together. It will be worked on this winter and will first be released in the next Artist Project Art Fair in February, 2016.