Olga Levina is a very talented and educated, Fine “Armitage” Artist. Her striking use of color and light can instill a gasp, or even bring a tear, upon first sight. Her subjects seem to glow from within – their focus often riveting, even in their own self-reflection.
In her travels, Levina has explored much to feed her fascination with, and passion for, Gothic Medieval and Renaissance art – particularly Spanish – including architecture and lore. Her art clearly reflects such influences, with additional admiration for the works of Tolkien and Shakespeare.
She generously talked on the nuances in her creativity, along with the details of her inspiration by one of her favorite muses, Richard Armitage.
Not only is she passionate about her work, Levina is also very free to share it. Along with her overall process, she discussed her work at length, including on that of her creation of a soon to be completed, stunning calendar project.
CC: Tell us about where you live?
OL: I was born in Russia, in St. Petersburg. Our city is considered to be the cultural capital of Russia.
CC: Are you self-taught or where did you further your education as an Artist?
There are a lot of colleges and academies for artists [in Russia] , so when I started drawing I had a lot of learning opportunities. I have loved drawing since the age of five, and soon this hobby became my profession. I graduated from Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art and Design in 2011 as an illustrator. In addition to the education, I am self-trained to draw using a Tablet where I started painting in Photoshop. After 11 years of classical drawing I have opened up new opportunities for creativity. CG Art brings me a lot of ways for self-development and improvement. This is an incredibly exciting and rapidly developing art form. So I can say that I am self-taught and a professional artist at the same time.
CC: I first saw your work on Tumblr. When did you first decide to start publishing your work on DeviantArt and other social networks?
OL: I took part in the fan art contest for the Russian version of MMORPGs “Perfect World” last year and noticed that many artists put a link on DeviantArt gallery in their profiles. So I started visiting DeviantArt frequently and realized that this is a very convenient way to accommodate my paintings, communicate with other artists and make self-promotion. In addition, paintings by other artists inspire me a lot and have helped me to continue my own work. You cannot be lazy seeing so many talented artists around you.
The other social networks I use only in order to keep up with world news and receive news of my favorite fandoms. Perhaps my most favorite network is Tumblr, because every day I can find something interesting there. But for the publication of new drawings and paintings I use DeviantArt gallery only. Sometimes other users put my pictures on their blogs. That’s the way my pictures appear in the other social networks. I think it’s great.
CC: What art “mediums” do you use?
OL: Over the last couple of years I’ve tried different software and graphics tablets, but now I use a Wacom Intuos 5. It is very comfortable and easy to use. (I hope this doesn’t look like a Wacom ad?). And among the programs I prefer Adobe Photoshop because it seems to be the most convenient and functional. I tried many other programs, but has not been able to get used to them.
My favorite traditional drawing technique is watercolor and ink pen. I prefer graphical techniques, linear drawing and clear silhouettes in the paintings. Perhaps because I am passionate about the art of portrait miniatures of the Middle ages and prints by artists such as Durer and Rembrandt. So I try to get closer to the level of skill of my favorite [artists].
CC: How did you come to be inspired by Richard Armitage?
OL: Oh, how difficult it is to answer this question and not to look completely starstruck.
I had a difficult period in life and work some time ago. Perhaps it can be called a kind of “artistic crisis”. And then I saw “The Hobbit” movie. I was just amazed. It was incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Characters in the movie were not similar to the storybook characters, but they were so charming and expressive, and their appearance incredibly beautiful and ingeniously created, so that I fell in love with them at first sight and of course wanted to draw them. So I have become interested in Richard Armitage’s personality since I saw him in the role of Thorin Oakenshield. His performance as Thorin was so unusual, not identical with the book version of this hero, but it was incredibly interesting and ambiguous character. His exterior was so majestic, beautifully designed and full of interesting details, that I immediately wished to paint him.
For me, painting is the best way to express my respect and admiration for anything and anyone, so I started drawing Thorin and other dwarves. Sometimes I depict them similar to how they look in the cinema, and sometimes I add something of my own. And, of course, I wondered how the King of the Dwarves looks in real life. I was amazed that a man with such a non-standard, slightly sinister beauty can be so different and so charming in any role of his. Richard is a wonderful person, very unusual and very expressive. He cannot be called a classically handsome guy, but his face, facial expressions, and movements reflect every thought, every emotion and every sentence. Probably that’s why I’m so keen to draw him and his characters. They are all so charming, and there is a mystery in each and every one of them, some very special and attractive feature, inspiring me to make new and new portraits.
CC: What would you say is your favorite piece that you have done so far and which Richard Armitage character is your favorite?
OL: I have no favorite picture at all. They can only be more or less successful. Any picture seems to be absolutely disastrous after some time. Because, at first, there is continuous improvement of your artistic skills and gradually you start to see technical errors, bad parts, incorrect lines and proportions. And secondly, all the time that I’ve been drawing, I never managed to complete the picture under the initial idea.
This is especially painful when you’re drawing portraits of celebrities, because you cannot attain similarity with the original. And even if the figure seems successful, once you look at any photo of Richard it appears that again a sketch turned out to be not as I’d wanted. But I think that for now the best of my Richard’s portraits is the painting “The King”. I hope, compared to the rest of my drawings, this portrait of Thorin conveys his controversial experiences and unexpressed grief better than others.
Actually, Thorin Oakenshield is artistically the most bright and interesting object to create paintings. This character is not only a wonderful acting masterpiece, but also as a beautiful object for decorative work on the hair, weapons, ornaments of clothes and other small details.
Among the rest of Richard’s work in movies and serials my favorite characters are Lucas North in the TV series “MI5”, John Thornton in the drama “North and South” and Harry Kennedy in the sitcom “The Vicar of Dibley”. Each of them is incredibly attractive and beautiful, but I prefer to draw fantasy or medieval characters.
CC: I am both moved and fascinated by the light that seems to eminate from beneath the skin, as well as the intimately detailed work on the hair, in your subjects. Where do you begin when painting facial tone and other details?
OL: My working over digital portraits always begins with a simple pencil sketch. It helps to find the required view, pose an interesting character and determine the proportions of the picture. Then, already in Photoshop, I divide a figure by color spots, then set the general tone for skin, hair, clothing, and eyes.
You must find common shades of light and shadow in the picture. Then you must scale the image. It is then more convenient to start the detailed work using the smallest soft or wet brushes. To work with skin first, I form the surface of the large strokes, facial folds, shadows, wrinkles, highlights, and then I make skin surface smooth using adjustment layers. At the final stage, working on skin, a texture is overlaid on top of all other layers with a special blend mode. By the way, you can sometimes use texture of stone or tissue for skin painting. It composes a very interesting effect. And making a hair texture just takes a very long time to draw each strand of hair and whiskers, and then flatten them with adjustment layers of light and shadow.
CC: Yes, I can see that “stone” texture you speak of in several images. That’s an interesting tool for such a subtle effect. So, do you you work on commission or is the work you do on DeviantArt just for pleasure?
OS: I have great problems with working [on orders]. Every order entails many obligations in terms of discharge, subject and style. I’m busy with this type of work for most of the time, as it takes almost 9 hours every day. And this is the kind of work that has a lot of limitations and customer requirements, that’s why in my free time I prefer full freedom in creativity. After all, if I delay execution of an order, or its quality is lower because of haste, fatigue, or laziness, it will turn out that I don’t fulfill promises. It would be unprofessional. In my Gallery [on DeviantArt] there are several works I made for friends, just as a gift, free from any responsibility. Everything I do [in my Gallery], I do for fun. I get letters with requests to draw something on commission quite often, and it’s very flattering, but unfortunately there is no possibility to take such a work.
CC: Have you traveled outside of Russia? If so, what part of the world has been inspiring to you?
OL: I haven’t traveled much in my life. A few years ago I didn’t have enough finances for frequent traveling, and now I don’t have enough free time. So, basically, I travel around the Western part of Russia and Finland. Here we have lots of interesting towns with fascinating history and beautiful medieval fortresses.
When I was 11, I made a trip to USA. I spent some time in California, near Los Angeles. I was too young to appreciate all the opportunities of this journey, so most of the time I spend near the ocean, in natural reserves and zoos. There’s just amazing climate and nature and it would be great to know this place better. I think, there is still a lot of interesting things.
About a year ago, I visited Spain, and I was absolutely fascinated by this country. I visited Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona. It was such an interesting place and I had great fun. There are the a lot of museums in these cities, it was simply impossible to visit them in just two weeks! And finally I visited the Prado and saw paintings by Velazquez and El Greco, which I have seen before only as reproductions in books. The Picasso Museum, the Barrio Gotico Barcelona, Park Guell, “Guernica“, exhibition of etchings by Goya, Guggenheim Museum, Thyssen Bornemisza… all of it just struck me – it is very essential experience for an artist. For me were particularly inspiring collection of Gothic medieval and Renaissance art. This is my favorite periods of world art, and to see it with my own eyes was very, very exciting. I think I could spend all my life in Spanish museums. And I hope to return there someday.
CC: Tell me about your work on The Calendar?
OL: Project “Geek Calendar 2014” began with drawing a portrait of Loki from the “Thor” movie. He seemed a bit like a calendar sheet and I decided that it can be quite amusing piece of art. I could not find an interesting calendar for next year for a long time; most calendars are dedicated to Chinese zodiac symbol of a coming year, and it’s so ordinary. So I decided to work out an idea of a “portrait calendar”. So I turned Loki’s portrait into the February calendar sheet, and started to look for ways to make the rest of the sheets. The original theme was a calendar that consists of portraits of the most unusual and most beautiful men. But that would be too monotonous, and besides, I’ve wanted to draw Helena Bonham Carter for a long time. So in the end I decided that it would be “Infernal” calendar that includes the most “dark, evil, and melancholic” movie characters.
Furthermore I got an idea to add quotes that reveal characters’ mood and attitudes. For me, this work is interesting because it combines traditional drawing and digital art and design. I think I’ll continue to do similar projects in the future.
CC: Is the Calendar going to be published for sale by any chance?
OL: People often ask about distribution and sale of “Geek Calendar” but I used popular and recognizable images from modern movies and TV, so I guess that profit from selling fanart is unethical and illegal. I would be very glad to print and distribute it, free of charge, but I need to have the sufficient financing for this. When this project began gaining popularity, I decided that it would be something like a New Year gift for my followers. So in my DeviantArt gallery anyone can find and download Calendar for free, and print it on their own. I’ll try my best to finish the project in time.All this is a great honor for me. Thank you for your interest in my work, it is very important for me.
- The King’s New Coat or A Different Circus Question (crystalchandlyre.wordpress.com)
- El Greco (jbeltran4.wordpress.com)
- Richard Armitage – The Ultimate Collection: The Desolation of Smaug Postage Stamp is here! (crystalchandlyre.wordpress.com)
- The Pervasiveness of Armitage Art: Thorin as Muse to Korean Artist, Evankart/ (crystalchandlyre.wordpress.com)
- Historical Context : Velázquez Las Meninas (creategoatham.wordpress.com)
- New Mega Banner For THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (comicbookmovie.com)