Artist Statement

portrait of Yelena Shabrova, the fine artist

When I was young, drawing was my favorite activity, and I can’t even remember when it all started. To this day, I remember family gatherings and classes at school by what I was drawing at that time (and by consequences if it was at school). I was copying illustrations and works of old masters, drawing characters of books I was reading, and just sketching what was in front of me a lot. The joy of creating something from nothing meant more than a subject or a choice of medium.

My drawings express personal feelings in response to subjects that fascinate me. What attracts me most when looking for subjects to draw is character and mood. People and animals are an obvious choice, but trees and rocks, buildings and places offer plenty of both too. Capturing that is more interesting for me than rendering the appearance. I leave it to the viewers to interpret my creations as they see them and am always interested to hear their stories.

My all-time favorite subjects are horses. Everything else comes after them: animals and the natural world in general, people, everyday items. Funny how preferences change. At one time, it was all people, specifically portraits, and it felt like a choice for life. I used to ride horses then, but eventually riding came to an end, and drawing became the next best way to feel connected to those wonderful creatures.

Photos and sketches serve me as a reference, and sometimes I use plenty of them for a single piece. I work with many layers of color all over the paper, adding and blending strokes wherever I feel they are necessary until the whole piece is nearing completion. It’s easier to start working than to stop, but when I feel that the drawing is breathing, I only make a few more small adjustments and then leave it as is. 

I start all my pieces as a loose drawing on sketch paper. The flimsy paper that does not leave much room for going back and forth helps to focus, or I would keep fidgeting with a sketch forever. As soon as all parts of the drawing look right, I transfer the drawing to the final piece of paper, canvas, or wood and build the drawing up from there. It works for all media I use now – from colored pencil and graphite to mixed media.

When I began to seriously pursue art, my media of choice were at first graphite and charcoal, then sanguine and sauces, and later, soft pastel. I did try to make friends with various paints, but none of that felt like “my” kind of medium. For a while I used a bit of everything in each piece. Instead of mastering a single medium for the full range of subjects and techniques, I would do aerial parts in watercolor, use tempera and gouache to define trees, grasses, or rocks, and then add finer texture with charcoal or pastel. That got the job done but again, didn’t feel quite right.

Soon after I moved from Russia to the USA I discovered professional colored pencils. They were so different from anything I used before that for the next few years I was fully immersed in this new (for me) medium. To this day, colored pencils are my favorite drawing tools, nothing can beat them. This wonderful medium allows me to draw practically anywhere, in any interval of time, and requires almost for setup or cleaning. 

Pen and ink is another medium that came into my life rather unexpectedly. At one point, I found myself without any drawing tools except for a felt pen and an odd block of paper. So I started doodling with a pen, somehow moved from really short lines to dots, and liked the result so much I decided to stick with those dots. Weeks later I learned that it’s an actual technique with a name – pointillism, a.k.a stippling. I still love lines as a form of creative expression, so my artworks with pen and ink marks feature a combination of pointillism and line drawing. Pen and ink is also responsible for my interest in experiments with textured backgrounds with tissue paper and eventually expanding into mixed media.

I also enjoy working with China markers, charcoal, pastel pencil, oil pastel, and will gladly try any other dry medium or at least something that does not involve constraints of drying time. Each one has its own unique qualities. But no matter what I use, the creative process itself and numerous opportunities to catch fleeting beauty keep me forever fascinated.

I love diversity; it keeps creative blocks away.

I was born in Germany, lived for more than 30 years in Russia, then moved to California, and now reside in the Portland area.