In conversation with Moscow-based artist Anna Tsvell.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts? You are self-taught, does that have an impact either negative or positive on your work? Or indeed both, as I’m sure there are aspects of both that are beneficial.
I was interested in drawing and was quite good in it since my childhood but I decided to make it my full-time job only in 2014 – I left my “normal” job and it was one of the best decisions in my life. I am 100% self-taught and I see more advantages than disadvantages in it – being self-taught helps you to find your personal style much more faster. Nowadays style is more important than technique (maybe it is not good but I am totally agree with it) so creating my style from an absolute zero was fast – it took me about two years. There was no rules how to draw or paint above me, I was and I am absolutely free to do it as I feel.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?
Yes sure I am using sketchbooks. I am using same sketchbooks with black hard cover for many years so I have a collection of them – like book volumes. Also I am using my iPad Pro – it’s a perfect tool for sketching and painting if you have no paper by your side. Using sketchbooks is very important for me – it is like a diary where I can remember my ideas and thoughts and it is like a time machine – I can see the progress of my technique and ideas.
Your work focusses on the female form, often in a simultaneously contorted and beautiful. Can you talk about this and how it came about as a body of work?
I am getting the question about why I am painting women only very often. Well first of all I am doing it because my style looks better on female characters – curved necks, long hands etc. But also I am a woman so I can say that I know the subject well so I can show it from different sides. I am experimenting with body shapes, anatomy – it all excite me.
Can you talk about your cubist influences?
I can’t say that it is 100% Cubism influence. Yes, Picasso is my obvious inspiration but the period when his Cubism became less sharp and more “feminine”. I love to mix body parts like Picasso but also with a little bit of Jean Arp “gentle” rounded geometric forms.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I am working everyday. The volume of my work varies of course, but yes, everyday. My studio is a part of my apartment, so I am free to paint when I want to – it is the best variant for me. Working from home never distracts me, I don’t see anything except my work while painting.
You mention that recently you have been doing more digital collaborations. While this was instigated due to COVID-19, has this opened up possibilities to your work and practice in a positive way?
I am always trying to see positive moments even in a worst situation – current situation is not an exception. It is time for collaborations, thinking over new ideas, planning and working working working because nothing distracts us now. Digital art is our future that is already here. We can create cool projects and collaborations being on the different parts of the world and it is great. Of course I am taking my chance and I will develop my digital art direction.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
Hmm interesting question. As for me I am relaxed while sketching my ideas but when I am painting on canvas or on paper I am excited, I am immersed in the process. Sometimes I am even kinda like switching off, diving into my subconscious and when I am “waking up” and see my work and its like “wow I made it?” – it is a quite often situation for me and it is therapeutic of course.