Interview with Ukrainian soul - Nataliya Tyaglo.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself: where were you born, where did you spend your childhood, your education, what influenced your choice of profession, what materials do you use for creating your paintings?
I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine when it was still under the Soviet Union. I began drawing at a very young age. My mother tells me that when I was a baby I would draw on walls, but instead of erasing and washing away what I had scribbled, she taped all the walls in our apartment with paper and let me express myself. After Chernobyl nuclear accident I spend my childhood with my grandparents in Lviv. My grandfather was a great inspiration - he encouraged my interest in art and brought me materials whenever possible. By school age I returned to Kyiv where I started school and began to attend art classes. Art materials, or any kind of materials, were not easily available when I was growing up. We used cardboard from boxes as paper for my landscape paintings and when I did not have white paint, I used toothpaste. By 1994, life got quite rough in Ukraine and my family moved to California. Upon arrival, I used my art as a way to communicate and make friends while I was learning to speak English. In 1998, I was accepted to School of the Arts, (SOTA) in San Francisco- an art high school that was focused on developing youth in creative disciplines and accepted a limited amount of students based on portfolio, exams, interview and auditions. Upon graduation, I had multiple offers of scholarships to various art programs and art academies, but I had decided to take a different route. I wanted to explore and develop my academic skills and my family wanted to make sure I get a great education in this new country - the path of on artist, as to any normal parent, appeared shaky and unstable. With the experience of growing up in several cultures and acquiring new languages along the way (Ukrainian, Russian, English, Spanish) I grew interested in how language structure influences though and formation of culture and societies. I discovered a program of Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley, through which I studied Psycholinguistics. Graduating with honors, some of my first jobs where teaching English to foreign students, consultation and analysis project on corporate cultures for various companies, which led to a managment position to one of the Virgin companies. But after a few years, I realized that I was not living up to my potential and I was disconnecting from my Ukrainian heritage. In 2009, economy also crashed and I saw this as an opportunity to build a fuller life with more rewarding work. In 2010, I left my job and began to study and collaborate with other artists and also began an exploration of Ukrainian culture. I had started a project called “Ukrainian Traces” in which I interviewed people of Ukrainian heritage about their memories of Ukraine and made drawings based on descriptions of their memories.. Often they told me stories about a particular place. These interviews motivated my second trip to Ukraine in which I explored various places and regions that I learned about in these interviews.
I primarily work with traditional materials. Pencil and paper are easy to bring almost anywhere, and I often do -whether I go to the top of Hoverla or the top of Mt Whitney in California. Watercolors are also a very easy medium to carry with. In my studio, for planned compositions I prefer to work with oil paint. For live paintings, I prefer to work with acrylic.
What inspired you to create: “Ukrainian Soul”? What did you want to express/say with this artwork?
I was driven by a desire to preserve, revive and share the rich abundance and the wisdom from my native Ukrainian heritage and traditions. My aim was to explore Ukrainian roots, show a colorful diversity that makes up the fabric of our culture and also inspire a universal connection. As people we are all different and unique, but in the source, deep down, we are all connected. Ukrainian rituals and traditions carry a very interesting and harmonious approach to life, that in my opinion are worth exploring and can be also beneficial to new generations. Ukrainian culture is more than borsh and embroidered shirts, there is a lot of meaning and symbolism coded in our traditions and rituals - I hope my paintings would inspire the new generations and people from other cultures to explore the code of our culture and to build a stronger future. From my psycholinguistic studies and my corporate experience, I have learned that culture will always develop, but its up to the people to manage it direction. I hope that my exhibit inspires people to contribute to the development of a positive, strong, and healthy Ukrainian culture.
Tell us about your art plans for for the future: How do you envision your path and development?
I strive to to use art as a vehicle to connect, heal, and inspire people to live life to the fullest -with more love and consciousness. I am open to opportunities that fulfill my mission. Within these parameters, I am also dedicated to continue to develop my Live Painting performances at weddings, concerts and fundraisers - live painting is a unique form of expression of visual and performance art and it can make a strong impact when done skillfully. I hope the exhibit “Ukrainian Soul” will give people a more positive image of Ukraine and I hope that it will open opportunities to work with other Ukrainian artists and people that would help contribute to the positive development of Ukrainian culture. Whether it would be workshops, exhibits, live painting at charity concerts, or improvements of museums and spaces that preserve culture. There are many projects I envision, and I hope that I will have enough time and energy in my life to fulfill them.
Is art your main source of income, or is it your your favorite activity which also brings income?
Creating art is now my main source of income and it has always been one of my favorite activities. It took my a wheel to figure out how to make a living as an artist, but once I connected with who I am, what I enjoy creating and how I can bring value to people, things began to flow easier. Income ts not always predictable, and I do sometimes go through rough periods, but I have decided that its worth the pursuit. Doing art full time, requires me to truly focus on my life’s mission and listen to my community and my clients. It challenges me and pushes me to be a better artist and a more conscious human being.
How do ideas about your paintings come to you? What is the process of ideas? How long does it take you to create a painting? How much time to you allocate to creating on a daily basis?
Ideas come at different times, stages and from various sources. But for this series, most ideas came from a observation, reflection, and inquiry about Ukrainian culture. The painting “Kupalo Radiance” for example, came from an experience of celebrating Kupalo in the woods with the Ukrainian Diaspora in northern California. Witnessing young ladies braid wreaths from fresh California flowers to recreate the traditional Ukrainian ritual and to bond, inspired me to learn and explore more about the roots of this tradition.
Painting process time varies, sometimes a painting can take a few years to fully develop and sometimes only a couple of weeks. The paintings in this series take me longer mainly because of preparation and research that I do before starting a painting. Because each painting has an intention, I want to make sure that my intention is fulfilled and felt once the painting is completed. I explore my ideas in my sketchbook journal. I read and take visual notes; I make symbols for things that matter and give birth to visual ideas from what I read. I go out in the field, to witness and sketch people in their natural environment. For example for the creation of “Celebration of a Blessed Soul” I went to a local lounge in Lviv, under the Lviv opera and sketch live musicians that were performing that night.
Once I have all the “information” I need for my painting, I then I try to get in touch with the source feeling that motivates the idea. I often use music to get in touch with this source feeling. Dancing is very powerful, it embodies that what I feel and it influences the movement of my pencil and brush strokes. Once the ideas are clear, drawing is a dance of my hands. Later I explore the drawing and explore various versions to see if there is a way to make the composition stronger while preserving the dance of my hands. After I refine my drawing, I explore various color possibilities in watercolor drafts. Once I am satisfied with my color choices I begin the painting on canvas or a wood panel. I prepare the canvas with a layer of gesso and molding paste. In a way, I sculpt the form of my drawing. After the sculpting process is complete, I lay thin layers of oil color preserving the lights of the canvas where I feel it is is needed. Some of my favorite colors to use in this series are Mars Orange, Sky Blue, and Indian Yellow. Mars Orange is very earthy, deep and rich. It reminds me of Ukrainian soil and and the richness of Ukrainian culture. A little bit goes a long way and when moved across a canvas it reveals a wide range of beautiful tones.
The painting, “Glory” (Slava), for example, took a long time to develop. I did not want to jsut react to the circumstances and the chaos that is happening in Ukraine, I wanted to make sense of it and to create a painting that could in some way help remedy, strengthen, or inspire out people. “Glory” took a over a year to develop, but once it was clear the painting process flowed easily.
To address the question about how much time do I allocate on a painting, the answer is as much as possible. I try to sketch or paint something everyday and watercolor is my favorite medium to record fresh ideas in the field. But to create a finished project I to allocate seasons or time frames for my projects without any distractions. Once I am pulled into a project I can paint for several days and nights in a row. I turn off my phone and try to get rid of any distractions including email, social media, and socializing. In these days I paint from 10-16 hrs a day. Once I complete a project I take a break for a couple of days, or I dive into a new project right away while the ideas from the previous one are fresh.
Is there a painting that you love the most with which it would be difficult to part?
I don’t have one single painting that I love the most: all of my paintings were created with love for Ukrainian culture and love for the painting process. Each painting captures a different energy, tells a slightly different story and expresses a different reflection about what it means to celebrate and greet life in a Ukrainian way. It's hard to part with all of them. They are all connected and they influenced the development of each other. The process of one painting often gave birth to the idea forf the next painting. The paintings are like brothers and sisters - related, but all unique and have their own mission to carry out to people.
You all are invited to the "Ukrainian Soul" Art Exhibit at the Ukrainian National museum September 4-27, 2015
Location: Ukrainian National Museum
Address: 2249 W Superior St, Chicago, IL 60612