Elena Chetverik

Moscow, Russia
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{dich}Lena Chetverik is an illustrator from Moscow, graduate from British higher school of art and design, participant of Tipatzeha creative band. She is sharing of what is important in drawing and telling why happiness is not in natural-born talent.{/dich}
Lena, could you introduce yourself to the audience? How would you define yourself?

I am an artist. I also try to be a story-teller in my works. A story is very important for me. But the more I think about it the more I understand that story by itself is a very wide concept. It could be quite abstract and out of time frames. But nevertheless every time I start working I think about the story. 

Why did you choose illustration? Is it an effect of illustrated books for children or something else?

As a matter of fact I’ve spent a lot of time being in search. From the very beginning I thought I was a story-teller. So I graduated from philological department. But there were always two directions inside me: one pulled me to creation, another tried to say “no”, wait, and let’s find something that could be applied. So I got a diploma of journalist at philological department. For some time I went for in journalism but then I understood that it was not the very way of story-telling I needed. Then I worked at a cinema festival and thought that experience would help me to understand the process better. But film-making is very involved in other people beside director, and the way from idea to its realization is very long. At the same time I took a great interest in children’s illustrated books. In Paris I visited a flea market where I found a lot of them. So I started collecting of children’s books and brought them from every journey. When you are deeply interested in something, you eager to begin making the same stuff by yourself. I do like to study, so I decided once to enter British higher school of art and design. It turned out to be that drawing matched with my spirit, due to it I manage to convey what I want. 


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{dich}Mood seems to me to be the most important. It is hard when you can’t find it for a long time, and then everything bothers you. Your seat bothers you, order or disorder bothers you. Your mood is inside you, but not in surrounding things. {/dich}
Well, is illustration a kind of fusion of all arts that exist around you?

No, I don’t think so. Illustration is just what matches with me. More likely my life experience leaded me to the situation that illustration turned out to be the most comfortable way to express my ideas. The term “illustration” has also gone through its deformation. Today I prefer the term “artist” though it is abstract a bit: we can name artist any creative person. But it contains more freedom.

What and who inspires you?

Many things inspire me. I think that the most inspirable things happen in some adjoining spheres but not in your professional sphere. For example, when I made my diploma project, theatre performances became an inspiration for me. On that very time Pina Bausch and Philippe Genty were my favorite ones. Inspiration is a quite odd thing when I make one picture from another. Of course I can look at other artist’s technique, but I have my own, and I find it strangely to be inspired with other’s creation. So adjoining spheres of art are great inspiration for me. They could be photography or books, contemporary painting, sculpture and others. When I got accurate image of forthcoming work I can watch colleagues’ works that are close to mine by theme to determine borders of permitted-forbidden.


You told about things that help you in your work. Are there any moments when something bothers you or goes wrong?

Mood seems to me to be the most important. It is hard when you can’t find it for a long time, and then everything bothers you. Your seat bothers you, order or disorder bothers you. But your mood is inside you, not in surrounding things. Sometimes I am bothered because I can't decide what to draw. To overcome it I usually begin to draw a lot to create a clear vision of what I want to have as a result. Then I can forget about the idea and let my hands continue the work. When huge part of work is done your hands can easily rule the process of drawing.

Do you draw every day? Are there any days when you loathe looking at the paper?

I draw every day. My conscience does not give me any chance to relax. Sometimes I even meet my friends, especially those who draw too and we all sit together and begin to draw each other. But there are different types of drawing: intelligent, when I'm working on a project and I know exactly what I want to see as a result, and some kind of recreational drawing. For example this summer I discovered that I enjoy drawing landscapes. I was drawing it using oil pastels and they were very bright and still abstract comparing with my old b&w works but I enjoyed that so much! In fact I had a long searching process and now I feel that I have to use every single minute. Maybe this feeling controls my everyday drawings and sketches. So when I feel uncertainty approaching me I have a very serious conversation with it. Actually, I do my best to draw every day. It is an essential part of me.

Landscapes from rest

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{dich}When I’m drawing a little picture or a portrait I need this feeling of the whole. And till I have found it I return to drawing. Feeling of emptiness may be caused only by my incomprehension what the whole is.{/dich}
Do you feel tired and emptiness inside sometimes? How do you manage with it?

It doesn’t happen to be due to tiredness only but more likely due to themes that are developing in you till some moment and once they could occur to be finished. For example, it concerns my diploma; I think everything that I dealt with for the last year leaded me to it. And when I finished it I felt that I had said everything I wanted to say. And I am searching for further way. I recently knew that there was such important concept as “the feeling of entirety” (or the whole) in Michael Chekhov’s actor technique. This feeling seems to me to be important for every sphere of occupation. When I’m drawing a little picture or a portrait I need this feeling of the whole. And till I have found it I return to drawing. Feeling of emptiness may be caused only by my incomprehension what the whole is. I think that the most important thing in this situation is to continue doing something, not to get stuck, to keep collecting impressions and let them pass through you.

Do you draw as you feel? Or did somebody teach you? Could you tell us about your style?

I haven’t graduated from any Academy of Arts. I draw as I feel, but I am studying in the process of course. But style is seems to me to be an eliminated concept. I think that style is a mentality. And I am for sincerity in this context. If I feel I am doing something insincere I do my best not to permit it. I draw in pencil and charcoal mostly, and sometimes I want to take watercolor or crayon. It could bring me to brand-new style but I stay the same as I was. And the same I still make the very thing that I always do. So people working in a certain exact style seem to limit themselves within it because shift to something new can affect their work. And when your style is your way of thinking you obtain flexibility. You are not a slave of your material but a man who makes honest and sincere things. And these things will be always apprehended.


What do you find the most valuable beside honesty and sincerity in illustration?

I esteem how the work is running, the process by itself. I understand when I am watching at other people’s works I always try to see process in their works. It is about temperament mostly. If I don’t see it in a work of artist, I don’t understand what an artist it is. Temperament can be quite different, it can be calm or nervous, but I want to feel it anyway.

Are you working at something at the moment? Or do you have any plans for projects?

At the moment I am working at few projects. First of all, there are projects concerning Tipatzeh community. We are making new book for Boomfest (International festival of illustrated stories, it is taking place from the 17th of September till the 11th of October in Saint Petersburg, http://boomfest.ru/). They hold fair where artists can sell their zins (small-circulation designer books). This fair is called “Ponyatno” (“Ponyatno” is clear, understandable from Russian). Recently we made “Bumazhno” magazine that will come out every three months. (“Bumazhno” is papery from Russian). I also wanted to finish the book that I made for diploma, and I hope I could publish edition. Secondly, I am working at customized T-shorts series. And I like this project because I like do something that let picture go out of paper. Just a picture and picture become clothes are quite different things. There are many ideas in my head, but in general I prefer projects challenging long and hard working. Making of one picture is boring for me. My brain asks for many tasks. For example, I can solve all of them within a book. There is a story, design, and rhythm in it. So I would like to work at stage design of a play, from idea to its embodiment.

You often mention your diploma. Could you tell something about it?

That book was about a woman. The woman becomes a heroine of a trick with magic box. While trick they disassemble her and then reassemble in a wrong way: the head occurs under the body, the legs are under the head. And every time when parts are put in the wrong place this woman remembers a life story related with this part. The plays were my main sources of inspiration, so my aim was to make this book similar to a play. There are no words in the book, they appear only in the chapter about head, because words are born in our heads, but in my view they are clear stream of consciousness. For example, there are almost no words in dancing performances, the director talks with you through performers’ bodies, movements and light. When you watch such a performance, you feel something, but if don’t have a theatre programme, you don’t know if you feel what was intended, or something absolutely different, yours own. I wanted to make such book, so a person would experience dance sensation, would visit performance while reading or rather leafing through.

Returning to Tipatzeh community you four met at British higher school of art and design. Why did you decide to unite? Kristina (Kristina Kolesnikova – the illustrator from Tipatzeh) told that every artist needed dialog and company where you found support. How do you think if there is something else excepting dialog?

Artist is a person who stays alone in the workshop, does something and then shows the result. He or she can work with a customer or a designer, but anyway stay alone. It is a kind of personality, and it is good in a way. But it is difficult to make big cool projects being alone because of team-work lacking. And actually it is very important. In our community everybody has its own thoughts, views, life experience. And it is kind of crime not to use all of these. Yes, everybody of us is engaged in its personal cool projects. But what we do all together is more interesting because everybody of four brings something new to the project. The opportunity to work in the team but out of the office is a great luck. All of us have had luck because we understand and complement each other well being so different. It is a big luck.

Works in collaboration with Tipatzeh community

You post illustrations on different subjects on your Facebook page. How do you choose themes? Are they some key problems or occasional ideas?

From the very beginning we planned to post fifty-fifty: half is to news for all, half is about what four of us are doing. We choose a theme very easy, just sit down and suggest versions, and then choose the most attractive for all. It is not the thing that we should arrange consultation. They are just sketches that let us draw constantly and share them while big projects are in progress. 

You don’t go in for drawing only, do you? I watched few of your clips, for example, one that is about an ideal woman.

We got the idea that we would shoot a promo by each new publication of “Bumazhno”, I have mentioned it earlier. As the first number was devoted to women we shot the clip that revealed what men thought about an ideal woman. However we are interested in adjoining spheres and we are opened to all offers. 

Interview Tipatzeha from Tipatzeha on Vimeo.

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{dich}Recently I thought there were some things that happened in the world and touched me but I wouldn’t draw them. In other words creation is not a constant that allows me to talk about everything. And it is quite subtle to aware of what is interesting to draw and what is not. {/dich}
Could you define the leading idea that is most frequent in your works? Is there a theme that you steadily return to?

Probably, there isn’t. At least I don’t state it. In my head I have clear understanding of what is interesting to me, and what is not. And everything I do directly concerns me. It is not revealed in certain theme but in spirit mostly that appears while working. Beside that I esteem emotions. Recently I thought there were some things that happened in the world and touched me but I wouldn’t draw them. In other words creation is not a constant that allows me to talk about everything. And it is quite subtle to aware of what is interesting to draw and what is not.

How do you think if everybody can learn to draw, or natural-born talent is needed?

I think many people don’t go in for creation just because there is a stereotype that creation and particularly drawing are given by nature. I think that nature gives other qualities that either let you go in for creation or not.  One of these qualities is attentiveness. Drawing displays how much you are attentive to the world around, and how much it is important for you to let it pass through you. For example, autists are known to draw well. They have another level of attentiveness. They notice much more objects and manage to remember and reproduce them. In other words ability to draw does not look like creative work of thought at all. I think it is important to be attentive and to analyze what you see. Sense of color and composition are abilities that can be developed. You always should think how to beat your inabilities.

What could you advise beginner artists?

Be attentive and draw a lot. There are no more secrets.

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