Monday, November 10, 2014

Feature in Jazz Colours Magazine (Italian)

I was contacted by Marco Maimeri from the Italian jazz publication "Jazz Colours" to give an interview about my music drawings. The questions he asked were really great, and I enjoyed answering them. Marco selected which images to feature. He equally represented both digital and paper drawings. I answered in English, but the actual feature is in Italian. My favorite part is the last sentence of Marco's intro, which reads: "the mentality is jazz."

You can read the English version below, along with my translation of Marco's intro.
Grazie, Marco and Jazz Colours!

by Marco Maimeri

"She is a young designer who loves new technology: iPad and iPhone to create works; to find groups to listen to; Instagram, Flickr and Twitter to convey her work. And above all, loves jazz, going to concerts, drawing musicians. Here is a digital native, especially as many are still using analog instruments, but the mentality is jazz."

1. You are Russian-born but living in New York, can you tell us where  your formative path developed and if there is any link to Europe?

Yes, I was born and raised in Moscow. From the age of 5 I studied piano with a teacher at home, till I was about 14.  Then I told my parents that I  am not interested in becoming a pianist, and would much rather draw. We  had this beautiful old brown “Neugebauer” piano, German-made, with ivory keys and carved wooden panels. It was the hardest thing to leave behind when we immigrated to America two years later. The piano was sold with  the apartment. But I did bring all the piano notes with me. My favorite  pieces to play were “Georgia On My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael and  “Ragtime” by Scott Joplin. I was kind of a slacker when it came to  practicing piano, but those few jazzy pieces that I enjoyed hearing the  most-those I played a lot. This is where my love for jazz comes from.

2. What did your masters mainly teach you in terms of expression and do  you find your artworks have any of their influence or not?

The three art professors whom I met at Parsons School of Design in New York  were so crucial to my life that I don’t know where I’d be right now,  have I not met them. I studied with late Dave Passalacqua and his two  students Veronica Lawlor and Margaret Hurst, who are my mentors and  friends to this day. I joined their private school. It’s now called  Dalvero Academy. Their philosophy is that drawing from direct  observation on location is the foundation and a way to discover  individual artistic voice. It’s also a way to train oneself and use it  to solve creative problems. They equate drawing from observation for an  artist to playing scales for a musician.

3. Is there any master of the past that has influenced you as an artist and also is there any one that you like particularly?

My mentors have introduced me to a great array of artists over the years.  Thanks to them, I fell in love with Picasso and Matisse, learned to  understand various art movements and how those movements communicate  different ideas and feelings through design, graphics and storytelling. I always look at artists in order to expand my visual vocabulary, but who I’m looking at changes as I change. However, Picasso and Matisse remain the two constants.

4. What instead can you say about your  discovery of music and especially jazz? Who is your favorite musician  and for which reason?

Jazz I discovered while learning to play piano. Then during college years I went to many concerts with my  musician friends in New York. We would go see "Medeski Martin and Wood"  quite often… It’s hard to name ONE favorite musician. Music is feeling,  and feelings change, so I tend to explore. I love Chet Baker and Bill  Evans. I love Miles Davies’ “Sketches of Spain” and “On The Corner”.   It’s funny: some of contemporary “abstract” jazz music I can only enjoy  during a live show, but can’t listen to in a recording.

5. While working, what musical genre do you listen to and in which way does this kind of music help your creativity?

While I do design work on computer, I prefer the kind of minimal techno music without words  that I call “wallpaper”. It provides the background beat for my heart to synch up with, and at the same time doesn’t distract  the mind. Sometimes, I like more abstract jazz, because it provokes  ideas. “Helps me think”, as Sherlock Holmes said to Watson about his  cacophonic violin-playing. And other times, I put on Bill Evans, Stan  Getz, Dave Holland…I like to discover more obscure European contemporary jazz bands via That’s how I found the music of Skalpel  (Polish), Contemporary Noise Quintet (Polish), Portico Quartet  (British), and many others.

6. In what time of your life and for what reason did you decide to realize music drawings?

I killed a lot of time in my early twenties in a basement studio of my  musician friends. They had a jazz-rock band, and I loved sitting in on  their rehearsals. I kept drawing them. Sometimes I’d get behind the drum set and jam with them. Eventually, I found myself drawing at concerts,  because it was my way of participating in the music. It’s like drawing  makes me hear and understand the music better. I walk away remembering  the music and how it felt.

7. You have your own distinctive  style in your music drawings series and you use different means of  expression, mainly mixed techniques: is there any specific reason for  this?

Since drawing on location is so immediate, there is no  time to filter what goes down on the page. It’s honest. I bring all  kinds of art supplies with me, because each medium creates different  graphics and communicates different feelings. So I hope that my various  “styles” are driven by either music or the event, and not by any  technique.

8. Furthermore, in some of these works, why do you  choose to watercolor only part of the settings rather than the whole  picture and why instead, when you use other techniques, color is  distributed more uniformly?

I sometimes draw on the iPad and iPhone.They have options to fill the whole screen with color in one click. So  the whole dynamic of drawing changes if I use digital tools, and the end result might look very different from the “analogue” drawings on paper. Sometimes I use color to represent the intangible: intensity, mood.  Most of these artistic decisions bypass the logical brain and just come  out the way they come out. I find it difficult to explain them after the fact.

9. Sometimes you sketch the figures directly with  color, making them unique, how much does creating the artworks during  the concerts influence your artistic expression?

It’s usually dark in the audience during shows, making it hard to see what’s on the  page. Sometimes I draw almost “blindly”. It’s great, because I don’t get to immediately see and judge what I’m drawing, which helps to shut down the critical brain, and JUST DRAW. Mindset greatly influences the  outcomes. It’s best not to judge your own work while drawing, allowing  images to arrive on the page as they may. It’s like a musical jam: in  the chaos of free-form exploration, you discover new patterns and  phrases. So this discovery of new graphic expressions adds up to my  visual vocabulary.

10. Generally, what do you try to capture  and depict of the scenes you are seeing when attending the concerts,  and, more specifically, in which way do you try to picture and represent  that music?

I aspire to capture the music itself, and not the musicians’ likeness. Easier said than done! Of course, it’s good to have portraits of great musicians, but the real meaning to me lies in those  drawings, where I discover new abstractions. I love looking at  Kandinsky’s music paintings, and hope to arrive at my own visual music  vocabulary at some point.

11. In all this, how much and in which way does new technology develop and/or enrich your live drawing  style and your choice of techniques, and particularly which ones are you attracted by?

Technology is awesome. It opens up possibilities.  For example, I can have an entire painting studio in  one iPad app at a  concert. No juggling of water cups, pastels and pencils in a crowd. At  the same time, technology requires more “work” in order to bring those  drawings to life, because pixels themselves don’t transmit feeling as  much as real materials can.  I also draw on my iPhone during the subway  commute, and since everyone is on their smart phones these days, people  don’t really notice that I’m drawing them, which is great. I am an early adapter when it comes to technology. I welcome it as an opportunity for growth.

12. Finally, what was the best concert or performance you attended, and why did you find it so interesting and  stimulating to see, listen and then draw? Furthermore, what jazz giant  of the past would you have liked to see and listen live for then drawing him/her?

I don’t think it’s fair to single out performances, they were all amazing one way or another. Usually, I walk away happy if I was in the front row and if musicians on stage gave their best. When musicians are “in the moment”, that puts me “in the moment”, and the  energy just flows back and forth. As for which giant of the past I’d like draw…I’ll take either one or all of them: Chet Baker, Miles Davies  and Bill Evans.


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