To get better at painting, I took up reading books of famous watercolor artists. I'd turn through the pages, every now and again pausing to take in one that I liked, maybe even bookmark one that I wanted to see again. I was leafing through endless landscapes, boats, flowers, abstracts, and all the other boring things that watercolor artists paint, when suddenly I stopped on a painting that was so unique, so clever. The artist was doing something different than the others were doing. I had to break down what was going on here.
This episode is about a Russian watercolorist named Misha Lenn. He's an international award-winning artist and fashion designer (check out his website at www.mishalenn.com). Here's why he's the coolest artist I'm into right now.
Let's start with the themes he paints. As I look at all his work, it immediately makes me think of high society. Two examples I love are "Yellow woman with fan" and "Corsair." The thing is that it's not exactly the kind of high society that some one says with their nose turned up, glaring at you behind their spectacles. It's the kind of extravagance and elegance that you dream of as a little kid, like the kind that draws you into Disney movies. It's the kind that seems so fantastic that it makes you think fancy people just live to be fancy and do fancy things all day long.
The next thing that you can't miss are these diamonds. They're a running theme through all his work, like Misha's signature. Sometimes they're subtle, like in the painting "Holiday on State Street/Boston Impressions." Sometimes they're loud and ostentatious, like in "White Nights- St. Petersburg." Peek back at the other photos, they're in there too.
I can't imagine the amount of planning and pre-sketching he does to put together such an intricate work of art. I admire the hard work, but I also think they're just the most clever artistic tool. He's using geometry to suggest a mood and add depth, like his own take on impressionism.
In addition to the loose, impressionistic feel you get from the paintings, you've also got a consistent motif of light. He's focusing on a special kind of light though - the kind that flashes and then is gone in an instant. The light reflects off some surface - maybe it's a flashy diamond necklace on a woman, maybe it's a streetlamp reflecting off the damp road. It's the light that you routinely overlook because it's gone so fast. But a painting is like a snapshot - you take a moment that moves, and freeze it in place. It's then, inside that snapshot...you can't help but notice it's everywhere. It's the spark that gives a scene life.
I'll leave you with one more thought about Misha Lenn. This is the painting that made me stop what I was doing and dive head-first into the artist's entire work: "Park Avenue Red". We see a lady all dressed up walking a fleet of dogs. The style of painting is loose, almost abstract. The diamonds and the flashing lights make it look like it's going to all come apart at any minute. It's got all of those things that I talked about and that I love Misha Lenn's style. But the kicker here, what made me laugh out loud, was that an internationally-renown artist chose to paint tuxedos on the dogs.
Dogs wearing tuxedos.
I love that with all the attention to detail, all the effort to create a fantasy world of decadence and high society, he chose dogs with tuxedos as the glue between the parts. He's taking a minute to play around, and I love that. Even in this world he's created, the dogs get to be fancy too.