Artem Shubin, a “Wild” artist

Crimean impressionism… Sounds romantic, right? Artem is its brightest representative, and he most often does his work while hiking in the mountains. We talked with him about how he makes his paintings in the mountains and about the most dangerous adventures .

Anastasia: You learned to be a graphic designer — was this the only way to get an art education at that time, or vice versa the most appropriate option?

Artem: Before that I graduated from art school, and somehow in 4 years I was so tired of it, I did not see myself as an artist anymore. I wanted to become programmer, at that time computers just appeared — it was fashionable. And then the design faculty appeared. I thought: it’s creative, but it’s also connected with computers. I got this education. Again, this is still an art education: we studied drawing and painting.

By the fourth year, I started to work as a designer in the company, to create graphics for programs and computer games for customers from the USA. I worked for a year. Then, freelance appeared, I tried it and switched to this form of work. Still doing freelance design – this is one of the main sources of income.

Anastasia: How did you return to painting?

Artem: About three years ago. I divorced my wife and while cleaning the house found a box of paints from university times. My daughter asked what was there and asked to draw something. I agreed. There was only one canvas left from the univursity, all covered in dust. I rubbed it. When I made the first smear with a palette knife, I realized that this was something that I had been missing for a long time. Recently, there has been no creative component in design, you can’t get high on it. I bought new paints and canvases, and the process began.

Anastasia: Where did the idea come from to paint pictures while “hiking”, and not in a comfortable studio or even at home?

Artem: I have a lot of hobbies: hiking, traveling, fishing… There is not much free time, so I try to combine them. We went fishing in Karelia, on the Kola Peninsula, in Astrakhan. After I reopened art, I began to combine hobbies in a different way: hiking and paint. I like to go somewhere, spend the night there, meet the sunset and dawn. A kind of meditation, an escape from city life.

Anastasia: Probably, you have found a company for “art hikings”?

Artem: Usually I go alone. Trips happen spontaneously: even on Friday I can think that I won’t go anywhere this weekend, and on Saturday morning everything will be decided in the opposite direction.

Anastasia: As I understand it, the idea of organizing plein airs with Irina Pivkina, the founder of LukasGallery and art dealer from Moscow Maria Bogatyreva comes from your “art hiking”?

Artem: Yes. In the Crimea region, the largest concentration of beautiful places within walking distance. Any, even the most unprepared person can climb to some peak, albeit not high.

When I post on social media about my paintings with photographs of real places, many people message me: “I would also like to do that or to climb there.” But they do not understand what lies behind it. I usually go with an overnight stay, I take a sleeping bag with me, a light tent in case of rain, food, a lot of water, canvases and paints. And not everyone can lie down and sleep in the open air.

Artem: At the previous plein air, we went to the lavender field — you don’t even have to go anywhere and climb. In the evening, I decided to take our team to Alimova beam, near Kachi-Kalon, where, according to legend, the local Robin Hood — Alim — was hiding. People complained about why they were going somewhere. Yes, it was hard, but not deadly. And they still did not understand what they would see. And so they climbed and climbed… A huge rock, in the middle of it there was a cleft. This beam can only be reached through a small cave. Getting into this beam, you find yourself in the “Lost World” — a feeling that dinosaurs lived there. The plein air participants were stunned when they saw this beauty. From there we went up to the very top, from where the view is much more beautiful than from Kachi Kalon itself.

Anastasia: It’s hard, but not deadly dangerous… Have there been such cases in your life?

Artem: Yes, I went down from the Ai-Petri. The main walking trail is interesting, passes over rocks that look like a layered cake from limestone. I chose another path — from it more interesting perspective opens up — I went along it and drew something. I looked at the time, it was time to go back — I needed to catch the bus in order to get home. And the path goes down, well, I went along it. The trail led me to dry waterfalls, I was walking joyfully along the old channel — it had a beautiful view. A small plumb line appeared in front of me, I jumped and continiued calmly my way. Then — a waterfall about three meters high. And I thought: returning to the mountain will take about four hours, it will be too late. I jumped off somehow, went out onto the road. If a higher  waterfall appeared on my way, only a helicopter would save me.

There was another interesting case, but already on Demerdzhi. I arranged a halt for night in a forest hollow, around rocky slopes. The sky was clear, the sun was shining. Suddenly clouds and fog descended, it started to rain — I could not see my hands. I understand that all around the slope and in a single flat place where you can spend the night, a puddle has formed. I had to wait until the water was absorbed, and paved the remaining dirt with grass and coniferous branches, created an elevation on which I slept. Then I took two canvases with him: on the first day I did nothing – just sat in the rain, but at night I painted under a flashlight, for the first time in my life. On the second day I climbed to the southern peak of Demerdzhi. The heat was colossal, the sky was blue, the sun was burning. I look, from afar, again, thunderclouds were piling up, but it seemed that they wouldn’t go to Demerzhi. But no! There was rain for about an hour. I already layed everything out and was painting. There was no place to pull the tent: I covered the canvas with a garbage bag, and stood in the rain.

By the way, Demerdzhi is also called the Valley of Ghosts. According to the first version, when the fog descends, small mountains, in columns such, look like ghosts. According to another version, at sunrise and sunset these mountains cast shadows, which they call ghosts. And I witnessed another interpretation: the heat heated the rocks and the forest, after the rain, evaporation began in small fluffy clouds, two meters each. They flew by me hot as from a Russian bath-house! As they rose up from the forest, they carried a coniferous aroma with them. An incredible feeling — there is no hope of seeing this again.

Anastasia: What insanely beautiful and scary stories! Abroad, I hope, there are fewer extreme situations.

Artem: In Turkey all inclusive. (laughs)

Anastasia: What about India?

Artem: I was travelling with a large company of my friends, I have long wanted to visit India. Brother’s girlfriend lovesIndia, has long been engaged in Indian dancing and believes that this country immediately causes either love or disgust. After the trip, I think that India is the first country where the artist should go. There were enough adventures, but this is a great story for a separate interview. (laughs)

Anastasia: Now I will say two alternatives, and you need to quickly choose only one option. Let’s start! West or East?

Artem: East.

Anastasia: Landscape or still life?

Artem: Landscape.

Anastasia: Elitism or mass in art?

Artem: Elitism.

Anastasia: Art for art or art for PR/money?

Artem: Art for art.

Anastasia: Inspiration or hard work?

Artem: I try to write just in a good mood. I believe that work carries energy. Therefore, my option is mood.

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