Elena Doronkina’s artist statement.
Dostoyevsky said that beauty would save the world. I thought that was just a romantic idea, but now I know that when you see the beauty in the simple things, you appreciate life more. With my art, I want to show that everything and everyone is beautiful. When I do portraits of children or animals I’m painting their souls. I believe that fine art is communication, and I want the viewer to feel what I’m feeling when I’m creating. When the viewer has a good feeling, that’s when I’m done with my painting.
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 told 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.
Now I am an award-winning artist who is exhibiting in galleries. My paintings are in private collections all around the world. I am an associate member of American Women Artists and Program Director at The Alamo Danville Artists’ Society (ADAS)
“Elena Doronkina: Bringing Good Energy to the Art World”
December 13, 2017
By Jared Karol
If you see Elena Doronkina sitting in a cafe sipping tea looking out the window, don’t bother her. She’s working. “I’m not looking at the view,” Elena says, “I’m looking at the tone and shapes of the buildings.” Don’t be unnerved when she’s staring at you. She’s just looking at an intriguing shadow on your shirt or a specific feature of your face. This is the life of an artist––always observing the small things to find inherent beauty. So she can paint it.
For Elena, painting is on par with air and water––in short, painting is life. In her view, art helps us see something new; art is an opportunity for personal transformation. When we take the time to stop and look at something beautiful, we begin to realize that everything is connected. All art––poetry, theatre, music, painting––allows each of us to see the same thing from our own unique perspective.
Elena learned these lessons early in her career when the distinguished painter, David Leffel, mentored her. Eight students painted the same live model, and when they were finished, each painting showed a different expression––calmness, anger, boredom, and other varied emotions. “It reflected the feeling that was inside each painter,” Elena said. “Every painting needs to resonate with feeling because painting is communication.” One looks at Elena’s art, and it becomes clear that she is communicating something unique and powerful.
For Elena, art is a lifestyle choice, and everything she paints brings a certain energy. “What kind of energy do you bring to this world?” she asks. “You can bring good energy or bad, and we can feel it in our society.” When you become a master painter like Elena, there is no separation between you and your painting––it’s as if you are one thing. You are no longer just drawing, and you’ve moved beyond merely expressing yourself through your painting. It’s something deeper––a true transformation.
And to reach that level takes dedication and commitment to routines. Elena wakes up every morning at 6:00 am and meditates for twenty to thirty minutes. Sometimes she may swim or do yoga. She puts on light music to clear her head and be relaxed––to get her in the right mood to begin painting. She gives herself the freedom to choose which painting in progress to work on each day. And how does she know she’s done? “It’s a feeling,” she says. “There is always room for improvement, but at some point, you have to feel the completeness of your work.”
“God is the best artist,” Elena says. “And you can find beauty in everything: in a stranger’s face, in a teapot, in flower. That’s why I paint .” Portraits require a higher level of skill, though an expert painter like Elena has much more than just technical skill. It’s about bringing emotion to the painting––which is a skill in and of itself. A beautiful painting is an indication that the artist has totally immersed herself in her creation, that she’s transported herself to someplace else. That’s where the inspiration comes from––that unknown place both inside and outside of herself, the inspiration that comes from routine. The writer W. Somerset Maugham captured it well when he said, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”