I “met” the artist Anna Abramzon when she followed me on Twitter recently. I took one look at her Twitter background (good reason to spend time on one’s Twitter background, especially if you are in a design/graphic/visual profession), and I thought, oh, this is lovely line work and color! So I clicked on her website, enjoyed her portfolio, and here she is, agreeing to an interview on my blog.
1) When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t really remember a time before wanting to be an artist, it was always just kind of a given. My earliest childhood memories are of turning on my parents’ record player (that’s what we had in the Soviet Union in the 80’s!) and spending every morning listening to records and drawing for hours before the rest of the family woke up. Throughout my childhood my parents really encouraged and fostered my love for art. They saw that this was definitely my calling, so they sent me to classes, found me private tutors and exposed me to amazing artists from a young age. It was a natural progression from that to where I am now. When I was graduating high school I didn’t even apply to regular universities, only art schools, there was no doubt in my mind.
2) How have you used social media (Facebook, blog, Twitter) to promote your art?
I love social media! It has really changed my day to day life in an amazing way. I am totally fascinated by the new dialogues and relationships that social media opens and I am constantly discovering new sources of inspiration online. There are all these new channels open to artists now, it’s such an exciting time. I post new art on my facebook page (facebook.com/AnnaAbramzonStudio) and I share things on twitter (@AAartStudio) and my website (www.AnnaAbramzon.com) all the time. I also occasionally have free art giveaways and special discounts for my FB fans and Twitter followers.
3) When did you start doing Jewish art? Ketubot?
I was always an artist and a very proud, active Jew, but I had a hard time merging the two identities. As an artist I longed to paint about my passions, including my love for Israel and my Jewish identity, but painting scenes of Tel Aviv or Jews praying at the kotel just didn’t excite me. I struggled a lot with this in art school. While I wanted my art to speak honestly about who I am, I was also wary of becoming cliché or cheesy. After college I moved to Israel where I lived for four years. In Israel I found myself drenched in “Jewishness” every single day. In Israel being a Jew is so easy and inherent that you no longer really have to think about it. Ironically it was this immersion which finally allowed me to gain enough distance and perspective to be able to paint about being Jewish while staying away from overplayed, obvious imagery. It was also there in Israel that I met and married my husband. We had one of those uber intense, passionate love stories that would have made cynical art student Anna gag a few years prior. Naturally I wanted to channel all these new found lovey dovey romantic feelings into art as well. That’s how I got the idea to paint our ketubah, our wedding invitation and pretty much everything else that could possibly be painted for a wedding. After our wedding, other people started asking me to create ketubot for them. I found that people were coming to me specifically because I was not a typical ketubah artist. My work always was and remains quite figurative, which is not what people usually expect from Judaica and I think that was the appeal… that I came from a different background with a different vision, which allows me to create a contemporary, modern twist while maintaining the beauty, colors and and symbolism of traditional of Judaica. Be sure to visit Anna’s new site of ketubot.
4) What is your favorite part of being an artist?
I am never bored.
5) Where do you look for inspiration?
I have so many artists who inspire me! Some of my favorites are: Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Francesco Clemente, Goya, and Noshitomo Nara and I am often inspired by my favorite authors as well, I am a huge book nerd.
6) What are the hard parts of being an artist?
It never stops… it’s a job you can’t leave at the studio. Sometimes I’ll be having coffee with a girlfriend and I’ll think “Oh man, if I could just focus on this moment and stop drawing her in my head!!!!”
7) Can you talk a little about Valley of the Ghosts – it seems to be a comic strip about life in the Ukraine for a Jew. Is this autobiographical?
Valley of the Ghosts is a work in progress… it’s a very long term project that I have been coming back to for a few years now. It’s a graphic novel about a group of new immigrants in Israel. It’s a compilation of stories based on actual people I knew, and it is partly autobiographical as well. The title “Valley of the Ghosts” is a translation of “Emek Refaim” in Hebrew, which is the name of the street I lived on in Jerusalem.
8) You do a variety of artwork, from comics to caricatures to paintings – what is your favorite medium or style?
That’s a hard question… it would definitely be between figure/portrait painting in watercolor and comics. They are just so different… figure paintings and portraits allow me to express emotions really organically, while comics allow me to articulate thoughts in a much more tangent way. It’s really two different languages but there is quite a bit of overlap as well, because it’s two parallel ways of creating a narrative… I think I need to keep mixing things up and developing all my different styles in order to grow as an artist.
Thank you so much, Anna, for this wonderful interview.
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