I was raised in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where I explored and enjoyed the best culture the city had to offer. I dreamed of becoming a stage designer, but I ended up getting a degree in art history and working as an educator at the Hermitage Museum. Subsequently, I moved to Europe, where I lived for many years. While living in Hamburg, Germany, I attended the Grafik Design Institut as a design major, but analog photography became my true passion. It was only a few years ago, after switching to digital photography, when I rediscovered graphic design and digital art.
It depends. Sometimes, I have a rough idea in my head, so I’ll sketch it by hand to finesse the design before I digitize it, or I work on the computer directly. During the work progression of my images, I might come to the most unexpected ideas and results. I like to try different techniques and effects, and I am continuously switching between Illustrator and Photoshop.
As I mentioned earlier, I studied graphic design in Hamburg almost thirteen years ago. Back then, we used Photoshop 5 and Freehand 8, so the new functions and tools that were introduced in the CS versions, I learned by myself.
I believe education per se is very important, but attending college and getting a degree in art is not a must for me. Of course, colleges provide support, and being “in-network” could make a young artist's life a lot easier, but there is also a risk of losing one’s originality and freshness and becoming too commercial or conventional. There are a lot of very talented, unique and visionary artists in history who were self-taught.
I started my photographic career as an architectural and interior photographer. Later on, in my process of seeking out new inspiration, I started shooting people and other objects as well. And recently; less than three years ago, after I moved to New York, I started experimenting with digital composing and conceptual photography.
Mozart inspires me a lot; there is something so special, so brilliant and powerful about his music, which I find simply divine. Also, the love of art, music, architecture and cinema continuously influence and shape my vision, but more often than not, I am inspired by seemingly ordinary fragments of every day life.
I’ve never experienced a totally blank situation yet. On the contrary, my notebooks are filled with sketches, poems, citations, ideas, and I have so many projects that I'd love to do, and sometimes it becomes quite overwhelming. This is one of the reasons why I practice yoga on a daily basis - I try to find balance and that "blank" space.
Yes, of course! Since I was very young, I've been very influenced and inspired by Russian artists who belonged to the artistic movement, "Mir iskusstva" (“World of Art”). They helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century; many of them also contributed to the "Ballets Russes" in Paris. Collectively, they had a tremendous impact on European art and fashion. In fact, I even created a collection of patterns and designs called "Sheherazade," inspired by the theatrical costumes of Leon Bakst.
My favorite photographers are, in no particular order: Richard Avedon, Édouard Boubat, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Tim Walker.
I absolutely believe it! Practice makes perfect, or as the Germans would say: “Übung macht den Meister” (“Exercise makes the master”).
Actually, I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere, though I probably would do so more often, if it wasn’t so heavy.
Yes, I do. I create them by request, and do a lot of work just for myself. I really would love to create my own design line one day. The sources for inspiration are everywhere. There are so many beautiful things around us, so it can be artwork or a piece of furniture, a design product, a movie or even music that I would listen to and visualize in my mind as shapes and colors.
Do you have any last words of advice for new artists out there?
I’ve been asked a lot: “How do you take your pictures?” or “How do you create your images?” I can’t really answer that question. It’s not only about technical skills. How could I possibly explain to people the way I see the world around me? I don't even know if we all see the same colors!
I know that many “old school” artists tend to disregard new technology. They believe that if it’s created with a computer, then it’s not unique and therefore, “everybody can do it.” But there is no magic “button” or key to press, where the computer would put together everything for you. Besides having good skills, there is a great deal of creativity behind it. And though it is possible for everyone to learn a program, not everyone has the kind of vision that makes an artist unique.
Henri Cartier-Bresson said once: “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… They are made with the eye, heart and head.” To become a true artist, one should listen to, and follow their inner voice.
My photographic works can be seen at: www.oliasaunders.com
My surface and textile design works can be seen at: www.design.oliasaunders.com
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