Artist Q&A: Painter Andrew Osta

Featured painter Andrew Osta, born in the Ukraine, discovered his passion for painting while finishing up his degree in Philosophy and Computer Science at the University of Toronto.  It wasn’t long before he began to paint professionally with a focus on the world of dreams,  imaginations and inner exploration.  He now finds inspiration in the beauty around him, from his fiance to the colors of San Miguel de Allende.

I met Andrew at an art walk in San Miguel de Allende last year.  His paintings were displayed at the beginning of the walk and really stood out.  I was instantly impressed with his work and struck up a conversation.  I’m thrilled that Andrew agreed to showcase some of his work here at Artprintstopia.  I asked Andrew a few questions ….

How and when did you get started painting?

I started to draw and sketch when I was in my last year of university. This drawing was different from the few drawings I did in my childhood and youth in that I was now drawing as a means of expression, not copying anything I saw.  During that time, I felt flooded by emotion, and needed an outlet with which to make sense of my feelings. My interest in drawing resulted from a necessity to express powerful inner states, and the search for a more complete expression naturally led me to the use of color several months later.

Did you have any formal training or is it something that came naturally for you?

I didn’t have any art training whatsoever, not even in high school (I took music). From the very beginning, I had my own distinct style, which is the direct result of expressing something of my inner self through art. I did read some art books and the biographies of the masters, but most of what I do came naturally from experimentation.

Who/What inspires you when you’re painting?

Up to 2008 or so, I was inspired mostly by psychedelic experiences and their memories, seeking to paint the world of dreams and imaginations. After 2009, my style shifted and I found more inspiration in the people, places, and things around me. I think I’ve always painted spiritual images, but now, I am more interested in the non-sensational spirituality expressed in the faces and actions of ordinary people. My fiance has always been a big influence as well – the beauty of the female body and spirit. Finally, the color and light of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I now live and work, has changed my palette to warmer and happier tones.

What materials do you prefer to work with and why?

I prefer to use every material available to me, always seeking a more complete expression. I want my paintings to be more than just images. I want to impart life to my work, and I find that using a variety of materials helps me with that.  For large works, I naturally prefer oil on canvas, although I always begin with acrylics and finish with oil. This allows me to easily modify the painting while I’m using acrylics and then add the finish I like with oils. I find that oils have a depth and tone far superior to acrylics. For smaller works, I enjoy using wooden panels rather than canvas, since this medium is much more tactile and I can put away the paintbrush and use colored pencils or the backs of brushes to scratch through the paint. I often use a carving tool to add more depth, and I also nail or glue objects to the painting, adding another dimension. I enjoy working with wood for the solidity it provides.

Are you someone who consistently finds the passion to paint or do you go long stretches without painting?

Most of the time, I can keep painting pretty consistently. Sometimes it’s difficult to begin a new large canvas, but once I start, I always complete the work. Sometimes, I feel inspired to write or to compose music instead of painting, in which case, I may go a few weeks without painting, since all my energy would go into whatever I am doing. For example, when I feel musically inspired, I may play, mix and record for 12 hours a day for two weeks at a stretch, which leaves no room for painting, but I consider painting my biggest talent, so I always get back to it sooner or later. Painting is also physically tiring for me (I tend to move a lot and constantly bend over, crouch, etc etc), so I may also take a break for a while to rest, doing something else instead.

How would you say your style has evolved over the years?

My style started of as complex and confused, secretive, open to interpretation, and also somewhat dark. I think I found safety in putting so many different elements into the painting that there was no single theme. It was psychoanalytic, free-association, automatic painting. I think that to some degree, my initial paintings were a sort of self-therapy, and I was painting only for myself, not concerned with my audience. My early works were not easy to understand. And I think it was a sort of a challenge to the audience, to put in the effort to really look past all the confusion and understand something about themselves in the process. As I developed my style, it naturally shifted away from confusion and complexity to something much more simple. During this last year, I find my color becoming localized to certain areas – an area of green, an area of blue, etc – instead of being scattered all over the canvas. I also find that my recent art has a much wider appeal. Before, I was only focused on myself and my mind, but now, I am expressing the feelings and emotions of other people as well as my own. I think this kind of shift away from self-focus to other-awareness is essential to all great art, and makes it possible to create truly universal work.

If you weren’t painting for a living what do you think you’d be doing?

I teach well, and I have a lot of abilities for any kind of work, but I do not like to be taking orders, so it would have to be something where I can be my own boss. Teaching appeals to me to some extent, since it allows to shape the lives of the kids. It is easier to say what I could not see myself doing – being locked in a sterile room with fluorescent lights… Drilling people’s teeth… Doing anything that goes against my moral principles or which I believe to be trite or useless… Or doing jobs that are dangerous, like operating table saws – because I could get distracted by an idea and cut my arm off.

Thanks Andrew for your thoughtful responses!

Would you like to have Andrew’s work in your home?  Here at Artprintstopia we’ll create a gallery quality piece of art by printing and mounting his work to acrylic, bamboo or dibond (aluminum composite).   You can see Andrew’s featured work along with pricing here.  His “Guitar Player” painting is currently being featured at 15% off.  Don’t miss it!


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