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Interview by Nora Rampinelli

vineta cook

 

What did you study (from high school to university and special courses attended, if any)?


I graduated from Vilnius Pedagogical University and got a BA degree in Art and Technology. I also studied drawing and painting privately one year before entering University.


Which courses/modules did you study at university, what were your favorite ones and why?


A lot of modules I did not want to learn like Mechanics, Math, Electronics, Physics, and many others. I just never was good at it. But.. somehow I managed to pass the exams and in some, I did pretty good. It taught me to do things I don’t want to do in order to succeed. Drawing and Painting were my favorite ones. Because Art was the main thing for me.


If you had to describe/label your work and style from when you started until now, which phases did you go through?


I went through a mixed-media stage in childhood. Around 17 I started to draw scary faces. It did not last long as I understood that I wanted to give people good, relaxing experiences rather than shocking and scary ones. Around 25 I started to paint impressionistic landscapes. One year later I started to dabble in photography and since then photography is influencing my painting and painting is influencing my photography.


Let’s focus on your development. Can you share some of the work you have done?


I did mixed-media before university. When I was young I would go around the house and I would collect the craziest items in the house and make an artwork out of them. I often glued items like fabric, glass, grain, strings to the cardboard and would paint over them. I did that because art supplies were limited in the house, I lived in a very small village. The art supply store was in another town. So when I had some inspiration I would grab whatever I had in the house. I would draw with make-up, nail polish too. Sometimes I still glue fabric to the canvases. All the household items ideas I still explore with my photography. I take what we have in the house and make art out of it in an inventive way. The item becomes something else and nobody even can tell what it was. Now I just do not overpaint it- I take picture of it.

 

You also mentioned a phase of scary faces paintings, could you share a couple of pictures? I’d love to see them!


After high school, I started to draw faces with a pencil. A lot of them were scary. My roommates were scared of them and were asking to take them down from the walls of the college. It was realistic but scary. You would not want to meet those people in the middle of the night for sure :) I think I liked it because it was realistic and believable. Drawings showed people sins like greed, gluttony and so on. So it showed my skill as an artist and that I was able to do realistic drawings. A picture below shows my work right after the graduation of University. For a year after graduation, I kept painting and drawing scary faces. I started to paint with oils and learned various techniques.

 

Who inspired you in the making of those faces and what was the idea behind them? What did you like about them and what did you want to achieve?


When I look back I think I wanted to impress people with painting skills. At that point, I was learning and still developing as an Artist. After a while I figured out that was not the path I wanted to go: “To impress people in a scary way”, to get their attention. After coming to the USA my style changed and I started to paint abstract landscapes. My husband’s aunt died that year and I was thinking deeply about my values. I think Artists need to come to terms with their own death and ask themselves a question: how I want to be remembered as an Artist? Do I want to be remembered as a scary stuff painter which disturbed people or do I want to be remembered as an Artist which uplifted, gave serenity and joyful feelings to the viewers? Once I answered these question I did not want to continue on the path of “scary faces”. I wanted to create happy, peaceful, colorful paintings to uplift people, not scare them. I wanted beauty. I saw a lot of ugly things on the news and around and I wanted to make the world a more beautiful place. I outgrew the teenage years phase.


How did the abstract photography phase start? When did you take the first abstract pic that made it to your website/TV show?


I think it was 2007. I got my first camera and I started to look around what to take pictures of. I tried different things until I came across what I liked and I just kept developing it. It took years to develop the subject and techniques. I think 5 photos which made into the first TV show were taken in 2008. My first client ever for photography were the Warner Brothers. They bought 5 photos in 2011.


Can you name 3 things that they did not teach you at university and are fundamental for your job?


1. Marketing is the number one. At University, they were preparing Art and Technology Teachers, not Business People. 2. Photography 3. Creativity, to develop an individual voice in Art


What are your favorite artists and why?


M.Rothko- He is a genius of using color and affecting people emotionally. Van Gogh- He had an amazing life journey which was not easy. I love his paintings and his own Artistic Voice. You can tell right away it’s his paintings. M.K. Ciurlionis- He is a Lithuanian Artist. And he uses a lot of symbolism in his art. I love his color combinations. He influenced me a lot when I was a child and wanted to pursue Art.

Which artists, movements or schools influenced your work? How and why?


Expressionism and Impressionism are number one. In my work, I try to capture emotions of the Day and express them quickly. If I don’t do that- the emotion is gone and is not captured. Minimalism: sometimes less is more.


You mentioned Van Gogh, can you elaborate on why you like him?


I like his choice of colors and textures. My early landscapes were definitely influenced by him. I also like his personal story- not understood in his time.

As for Rothko, what are the similarities between your and his art? How did he influence you?


I think in the beginning of my career I thought that Rotho was too simple. But the more I grow older the more I appreciate his creations. “Sometimes less is more”. The same with my art: with years it’s getting more simple and minimalistic.


Did you go to see any of his paintings? What did you feel?


I saw some of his paintings in Toledo Art Museum, OH, USA. I think the bigger the painting- the bigger is the impression too. I definitely felt good emotions while viewing his art. I wanted to look at it again and again.


We were talking about similarities, same question for Ciurlionis.


M.K. Ciurlionis simplifies the subject in his paintings and leaves emotion to speak. I could see his influence in my work because I also simplified my subjects.

 

What are the stages in the process that you use to get your pictures? Is it always the same process? Has your process changed over the years, perhaps with advances in technology?


I make my own mini-sets. It’s always different. I would get bored if it would be the same all the time. I think about the color first, then I decide which materials I will use and what I would like to see in the pictures. It takes planning, but I also leave room for accidents to happen. Over the years I got more inventive. I would draw the set ups and then would try them out. Advances in technology for me means I can get a better camera for photography.


Which camera do you use and why?


I like Canon. I bought it and it worked great for me.


Which post production programs do you use and why?


Sometimes Photoshop to correct contrast and saturation.


How much post-production is there in your pics? When I look at them it seems you blend several images together, is that true?


I would say that about 5% of all photography has some blending of layers. Others are untouched.


Let’s have a look at your color palette. You use very delicate colors, that blends in nicely. How do you choose them?


I think I’m naturally drawn to that type of colors. I choose what is pleasing to me. There are hundreds of photos which I did not like because of color and I did not include on my website. Probably someone else would have loved them! :)


Was there any cultural, social, political and economic factor that influenced you? How?


I would say Art influenced me. Practicing it from childhood, I understood that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It made me feel good no matter what life circumstance I was in.


Being from Lithuania and living in the USA, was it difficult to grow and get success in a foreign country?


I would say no. It would be more difficult for me to succeed in Lithuania without proper connections I think. I felt blessed to start from zero in another country and make my career what I want it to be. I felt more free in USA.

 

Was being a woman ever a problem for your work?


No, not really. At least I did not experience any rejection because I’m a woman.


What would you be now if you were not a photographer but had the same education or a similar one?


Probably teacher.


Apart from being a freelancer, do you have another job?


No, I’m also a home stay mom.


Why did you decide to become a freelancer? Can you name 3 pros and 3 cons?


Pros:

You can make your own schedule and be a home stay mom at the same time

You are your boss

You decide what’s the plan for the day


Cons:

Sometimes you can feel lonely

Sometimes you would like to get advice from other professional

Work doesn’t end at 5pm. You are working 24/7


Between paintings and pictures, I assume the most appreciated ones are the prints Why is that, in your opinion?


I think photographs, in general, are better sellers online. With original paintings there is always the risk that the picture is not accurate color wise. Shades of the painting change depending on if you take the picture of it outside or inside. It is also hard to see texture and craftsmanship online. I think people prefer more to see original paintings in a gallery setting. My business is mainly online. There are two separate markets for paintings and photography. For my lifestyle right now I focus more on online presence rather than finding places to display my original paintings.


Your works have appeared everywhere on TV (commercials and TV shows). Can you tell me something about that part of your job? How is collaborating with TV networks?


I actually have an interview about that online: https://www.artsyshark.com/2016/06/23/ how-i-got-my-art-placed-on-tv-and-movie-sets/


Have you ever worked on commission? If so, can you describe in detail a commission project that went well and one which did not?


I do not do commissions. Usually, interior designers choose from what I have or they want custom sizes.


Have you ever collaborated with an artist? If not, why? If yes, can you say something about it?


I like to work by myself. I never did well working in group because I would do all work by myself :) I like to have full control of things.


Looking at others’ work, is there any contemporary photographer that makes you say to yourself “I wish I did that”?


I like Kim Kiever. He builds sets in an aquarium. https://kimkeever.com/

I like Ysabel LeMay for her long hours spent on production and beautiful created “worlds” https://www.saatchiart.com/ysabellemay

I would not change my ways of doing things, I just admire their skill in their particular area. It’s truly outstanding and unique work.


Can you name 3 qualities that every photographer/artist should have and what are in your opinion the ingredients for success?


1. Persistence is number one. As Artists we are very sensitive people. If someone rejects you - exhibition proposal, contest, not answered e-mail and so on- you still don’t quit. Quitters are the people who don’t make it. I probably connected with 1000 people before I got my Art on TV Shows. If I had quit after the first rejection, my Art would not be on TV.

2. Work hard. Show up at the Studio even if you don’t want it. You need to develop healthy habits of working. Make Art- lots of it. You get better not only after 10 paintings. Could be hundreds of crappy ones. Do not quit- keep working at it.

3. Don’t let other people negativity affect you. Surround yourself with positive people.

4. I have number 4 :) Do not delay things if you can do them now.

What of the future? Do you have an idea as to where you might like to go next with your work?


I would love to have a large studio where I could store large format photographs and paintings. I also would love to have large format photography exhibition in the near future.


Is there anything art/career related that you have not done so far and you would like to do?


I would like to make a short video where I talk about my inspirations and art for the website visitors. As you mentioned, there is very little to find where I talk about my work. At first, I thought that I didn’t want to force people to see what they “need” to see in photographs. I want to give them that freedom. But on the other hand maybe people are really interested in my interpretation of things and what I’m trying to do.


If you were asked to say thanks to something or somebody, what would you say?


I would thank my first Art Teacher who kept inspiring me and giving me freedom to do what I wanted to do. She was not boring. She would say “do anything you want on that empty peace of paper- just don’t leave blank spots. That’s it!”



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