We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Leo Kovsky a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Leo, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today One of the toughest things about progressing in your creative career is that there are almost always unexpected problems that come up – problems that you often can’t read about in advance, can’t prepare for, etc. Have you had such and experience and if so, can you tell us the story of one of those unexpected problems you’ve encountered?
I’m a painter/sculptor. One of the big problems for me is when I have a creative block. That’s when everything stops and I start worrying: is it forever? What to do about it? Another big problem is an opposite of the first – when I have a feeling of being on a roll- everything seems going super easy and well. Very deceptive feeling. That’s when a lot of crap being created.
But the biggest problem is when I lose criteria and suddenly can’t tell good art from bad. That’s a disaster.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
The roots of my art is in caricature. With a heavy humorous streak, with love for simplification of life realities, issues and problems. With a healthy dose of surrealism (it’s a must to have, it’s like freshly ground black pepper). And finally with reliance on folk sayings, proverbs and aphorisms. Psychological incompatibility is also a deep well I draw from. To put it simply I get inspiration wherever I can find it. Just look carefully….
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This is the story that illustrates my resilience (or something like it). When I was 14 years old I studied art in Kiev, at art school. Society was very poor and we, young artists, had very simple tools and materials to work with.
We couldn’t get oil paints, canvases, good brushes – everything was rationed and available only to the members of the Painters Union.
We had to be satisfied with the inferior things.
One day I saw a bunch of brand new easels which was just delivered to school. They were really good – large, sturdy, made of solid wood. I wanted one of them so badly that I stealthily looked around, made sure there was nobody around, picked up one of those easels and walked away with it.
I walked with this easel on my back and enthusiastically thought about how wonderful will be my life with it! How easily I would be able to work on large canvases, creating real great paintings which people will admire!
After some time I started noticing the weight of my new and illegal acquisition but my rainbowy thoughts were still with me.
A mile later the damn thing started weighing on me so heavily that I stopped thinking of greatness in the field of art and started thinking about what to do.
There were still about 7 miles to go.
I couldn’t use public transportation, I couldn’t use any transportation because it was not available and even if it was I had no money.
The only thing to be done was to clench my teeth and keep walking.
I started making frequent stops during which, breathing heavily I thought that I probably should leave it right there, take a bus and go home. But there was something inside telling me that leaving the easel on the street is not an option.
And I’d pick it up again and again and again and carry it on.
I’m a small guy and at age 14 was small and skinny beyond belief.
People on the streets probably were very surprised to see a teenager carrying a wooden thing slightly larger than himself but I didn’t notice anything around me.
I was going berserk with my idea to bring it home. That’s what propelled me forward.
I don’t know how many hours I walked but I finally made it home. I collapsed on the floor and was shaking violently (no idea why).
My parents picked me up, undressed and brought to my bed. They gave me some hot broth.
This criminal trip didn’t go unpunished- much later I developed varicose veins and all my life suffered from bad small back.
But there is larger conclusion for me – it’s a parable describing my relationship with art – it’s too hard for me to carry on but I can’t leave it either.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
As someone once said about being an artist – you get to do a fun stuff and you’re being paid for it too! This essentially means that the reward of being an artist is … being an artist. That is something you picked, you can do it, you’re willing to do it, the freedom is yours and if in addition to doing what you’re happy to do you’re also being paid that’s the best of both worlds!
Plus from time to time you hear niceties from strangers. Which is good too!
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All images are intellectual property of Leonid Khodorkovsky The titles of uploaded paintings are in the order of upload: 1.CIRCUS ARTISTS 2. MY MUG 3. BEACH BATTLE 4. FOLK DANCE 5. STARGAZERS 6. THE ONLY DAUGHTER SNATCHED BY A CHANCE PLUMBER 7. ONE LOSER AND THREE WINNERS 8. OUR FEARLESS LEADER 9. SELF-TAUGHT ARTIST 10. GRANDPA WRITING A WILL