30 June 2023
My name is Elena Zima. I'm an artist. I live in Moscow. My mother dreamed that I would learn to draw. So through me she tried to realize what she herself was not available in childhood. She sent me to an art studio at the age of 6. I was good at it. Perhaps painting is the only thing that I was good at as a child and brought only positive emotions.
As a teenager, I studied with the best artists. But at the same time, it was considered impossible to "become an artist" in the family and in
society. This is not a profession, but condemning yourself to a poor life. So I went to study and work in a completely different direction. I graduated from the Faculty of History and Philology and went to work in the media.
But wherever I was, I was always drawing. People noticed this and often asked to draw something for them. Orders began to appear, then I realized that I could earn more by painting than by
working in a magazine. As a result, I quit and began to look for my own style in painting and develop as an artist.
I paint in the classical realism and in the style of magical realism. I use magical realism to show the secret life of nature and objects.
Every painting has an additional artistic layer: different reality, other life of objects and their history. Just like in childhood, looking at clouds, we saw different shapes. The same way the shadows in the foliage of the trees could fold into a shape of a person. The purpose of my art is not just to depict the outer shell of things but to reveal the inner world and personal history of objects.
I have not big family: myself, my husband, our ten-year-old daughter Anna and a cat. My family is my main characters in my paintings and they often serve as models for my future artworks. They help me and inspire me. Well, except for those moments when they complain that I like painting more than them.
My workday at the moment looks like this: I get up at 6:30 in the morning, see my daughter off to school, spend about an hour on myself (breakfast, checking email and social media), then I go up to my studio (I'm lucky - my studio is on the third floor of my house) and work on a painting until about 2 pm. I have lunch. If it;s not a busy day, I might go out for a walk. Then my students come into the studio and I give lessons. In the evening I help my daughter with her homework; we talk, do something about house, and have dinner as a family. Of course, this is an example of a perfect schedule where everything goes according to plan. But quite often the schedule changes: we have to take a painting to an exhibition or go to a colleague's exhibition opening in the evening, the child or I may fall ill and then the whole routine changes. To be honest, I have a hard time dealing with the sudden change in schedule. If I don't get to work on a painting in a day, I get very anxious. I'm just learning to let myself rest from the daily grind.
And of course it wasn't always like this. I was able to work fully only when Anna went to kindergarten. Now my daughter is big enough to go to exhibitions with me. Of course, she does not always have the patience to endure a long event, but at least she is very interested in what her mother does. My husband helps me build an optimal daily routine - he often picks up my daughter from school, helps me prepare lunch or dinner, and I have extra time to work or rest.
"I believe that my art will teach my daughter humanism, a humanistic view of the world. It will teach her to respect her vocation and her interests, regardless of finances or society's opinion. It is important to be yourself and to love yourself."
I have many artist friends who also have to combine art and family. Some of them had to stop their creative work for a long time and work at another job to raise a child. But then they came back to art anyway. It helped me to stop being afraid that if I interrupted my artistic work for a while, I wouldnt be able to go back. I realized that sometimes artists (both men and women) can pause to solve their
problems and then paint again and be fully in the art profession.
Being a mum The birth of my daughter played a huge role in my development as an artist. If before the birth of Anna painting was more of a hobby for me (I did not participate in exhibitions, I painted mostly only to order), then after the birth of daughter, I realized that I need to find my own style of painting, to formulate what I want to
convey to the viewer through my art. I must take part in exhibitions. I need to evolve. To become better and cooler, to make my daughter proud of her mother.
While my daughter was baby and couldn't get along without me, I felt terrible because I really wanted to get myself back as a person as soon as possible, to stop being an "app"; to serving the child and to get back to being creative as soon as possible. I was in a big hurry and felt guilty that I was a bad mother and could not fully immerse myself in my child's life.
When Anna was about two years old, we had a babysitter come over three times a week for three hours at a time. Those nine hours a week became my salvation. I was slowly getting myself back on track. I realized that I would only be a good mom if I had the opportunity to do what I loved. I learned how to leave for a few hours without “mum guilt”, to completely immerse myself in my world for that time, and then return to my child energized and ready to spend full and sincere time with my daughter.
Probably the hardest situation was when my husband and I had to fly out to another country for a week for an exhibition, and left my daughter with her grandmother. She was too small to take with us. But my priority at the time was to develop my career as an artist. I don’t regret that I didn’t give up this trip, because then a year later there was a pandemic, problems with flights, obtaining visas, etc. And if I hadn’t taken advantage of this opportunity then, I still wouldn’t have had the experience of a foreign exhibition. What about Anna - she had a wonderful time with her beloved grandmother. There were no tears or heartache. She knows that her mum goes to exhibitions, it’s her job. And she always proudly tells her friends
I feel much more “mum guilt” when I do chores (washing dishes, cooking, cleaning) instead of spending time with my daughter. It really is a waste of time - no fun for me and no attention for the child! Fortunately, she;s old enough now that we can, for example, cook something delicious together.
When a baby is first born, the first year (and more) a woman is completely devoted to her baby. Breastfeeding, caring for the baby, walking, sleeping - all this fills a woman's life completely. It is really hard to find time for yourself. And it's hard to believe that there will ever be time for yourself. You don't feel like a separate person, but like an infant's attendant. It was a really difficult period for me. I was
used to a multi-faceted life - painting, equestrian, work, meeting with friends. All that had to be forgotten for a while. And then to return slowly back into my life. To choose what is most important and what to wait for, or what to give up.
Of course, with the baby, life will never be the same again. Now there was the most important thing in it - a new life, for which you are responsible. But my life has not become more boring or monotonous. Now, 10 years later, I can definitely say that with the
birth of a child, I have more things in my life, I just learned how to combine them all.
And I also realized that only by my own example I can show my daughter what it means to live a full life. Do I want Anna, when she grows up, to devote her life to housekeeping? Absolutely not. I want my daughter to live an interesting and fulfilling life. And only from me she can learn how multifaceted a woman's life is. Not from my stories, but from the way I live. Because children are educated not by words, but by what happens before their eyes.
"While my daughter was baby and couldn't get along without me, I felt terrible because I really wanted to get myself back as a person as soon as possible, to stop serving the child and to get back to being creative as soon as possible. I was in a big hurry and felt guilty that I was a bad mother and could not fully immerse myself in my child's life. "
To be an artist is not to have a steady income. Of course, this is very damaging to one;s ego. When there are a lot of successful, well earning peers around, and your sales are down, or your online account is closed because of the political situation, you feel worthless, as if you've achieved nothing in life. Every time you fall down, you have to get back up and move on. But I believe that my art will teach my daughter humanism, a humanistic view of the world. It will teach her to respect her vocation and her interests, regardless of finances or society's opinion. It is important to be yourself and to love yourself.
My mother's fate and her actions greatly influenced my character and attitudes. In my childhood in Russia it was not customary to divorce, it was considered shameful. But a man could simply leave a woman with children and not help them. But for a woman to file for divorce herself - that was rare. So my mother divorced twice, ecause she did not agree to tolerate bad treatment of herself. She was always very different from ordinary people. She was able to build a brilliant career as a lawyer on her own and she is still working today. Everyone admires her now, but few people shared her views then. She is strong and independent. Apparently that;s why it's important for me to be financially independent, too. It;s true that with the profession of an artist, this is hard to achieve in my country.
Now I started two new series of artworks. The first is portraits painted on uncoated canvas. The lack of a background allows focusing as much attention as possible on the subject of the image.
The hero of painting is captured in the process of working or interacting with the world around him. It is important to catch the character, or rather, one important detail through which the whole image is revealed.
And the second is about the inner world of man. This inner world is not constant. It changes depending on our moods and the moods of the people around us. A person;s inner space can be very different from the outer space. This resonance of the internal feeling and the external environment is the main theme of the new series of paintings, in which silhouettes of people are filled by the second background, reflecting the general mood.