I grew up in Russia. When I was eight years old, a famous artist came to my school to teach art. She showed us how to use acrylics and watercolors, and played classical music to help us feel what we were creating. I enjoyed it and started taking private lessons with her, but stopped going after a while. One day I overheard my teacher telling my mom that I was wasting my talent by missing my art classes. I didn’t know I was any good.
In seventh grade, my family moved to Uzbekistan. I was still taking art classes and was getting better, but my parents were very career oriented. When I said I wanted to study art in college, they said the artist’s’ life was not suitable for a girl––too bohemian, full of drugs and naked pictures. My dad made it clear there would be “no starving artists in our family.” I studied world literature instead. After college, I got a teaching job, but I kept painting in my spare time. I told myself I would be an artist when I retired.
In 1999 I came to America with my husband and two kids. Moving to America gave me new opportunities and allowed me to look at my life differently. My husband encouraged me to follow my dream and become a professional artist. I studied with the famous artists David Lafell and Sherrie McGraw, and I went to Paris to study portraiture with Michael Siegel. Like all famous painters, these teachers taught me using the apprenticeship model.