Welcome to the Blank Canvas Series – An interview with an Artist. These amazing artists have offered to share their insights with the Master Oil Painting Community. Please Note: The views expressed here are those of the Featured Artist and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Master Oil Painting or Bill Inman.
TODAY’S FEATURED ARTIST: Cyrus Afsary
“I strongly believe it is important for an artist to pace the painting development because mistakes are easily made and overlooked if an artist is under pressure to get a body of work out to a gallery.” – Cyrus
Q: As someone who’s been painting since childhood, did you see yourself taking the artist’s career path even as a child? What or who influenced you to pursue an art degree?
A: My appreciation of painting was influenced by a profound vision, which I experienced walking home from school on a sunny day. I was 7 years old at the time, and my mother expected me home to help with chores. However, I had to stop and watch a man standing in the window of a shop, painting a mountain landscape, and I stood mesmerized watching him use the brush and mixing the paint colors onto the canvas.
The excitement of this propelled me home to share the experience with my mother. I wanted to be able to paint and create. My mother was supportive and did buy the colored pencils and paper for me to draw, the paints came later; it was the beginning of a life long career in art.
I have been pursuing my passions for painting since my first encounter of the artist in the window.
Q: I’ve read that you pursued your art career after moving to the United States — was emigrating a key to your success? If so, why? And, if not, why did you decide to move here?
A: My paintings of the tribal people started selling well in a gallery when I was thirteen and still in high school.
The paintings have been collected by people worldwide, this I know because the paintings have been surfacing in many countries. The collectors requesting confirmation because I signed my painting at that time ‘S Afsary’, not with the ‘C Afsary’ as I do now. Naturally, I am asked for more information on the subjects.
I boarded the plane that would take me to America with trepidation; a new path was necessary because the forth-coming political changes would make life very difficult for an artist [where I was]. I packed my brushes and paints and took off for the unknown future.
Q: Was there ever a time that you doubted whether you’d find success as an artist? If so, what did you do to overcome your doubts?
A: Overcoming doubts and fears takes courage and determination and the survival instinct becomes even stronger. It was necessary for me to sell my paintings as soon as possible in a gallery, and I worked very hard to be admitted to an excellent gallery.
The reason was because my father had become ill and was not able to work to support the family, and I needed to work and contribute to the support of our family and essentially to support myself going forward.
Q: Your skills are masterful with landscape, still life and figure paintings alike. Do you attribute your advanced abilities to your Russian realist training, or something else? What makes the Russian art schools so successful at producing painters with exquisite draftsmanship who also create stirring emotion in their works?
A: The Russian art training was developed on the fundamentals of the French school. First and foremost it is the strict training of developing the draftsman skills, understand anatomy and becoming technically proficient, often taking a year or more prior to picking up a brush to paint.
It really depends on the choices one makes, if it is to be a career or just a hobby. If it’s the career one chooses then the time and dedication needs to be invested in the various aspects such as perspective, chromatics, construction and painting. Beyond this comes the creative expression of the artist.
Q: What first attracted you to the West and even now continues to inspire your paintings? What helps you depict it so vividly?
A: The Western part was an evolutionary process of my life walking along the path I chose and not quite knowing what would happen. The driving force was the belief that I would be able to succeed if I worked hard, and also my need to paint and not give up.
Back home, while still a student, I would go to the movies with my friends, and our favorite movies were the American Westerns with the cowboys and Indian. Perhaps it was these movies that drew me to the Southwest, and to be able to experience seeing the reality of it all.
The history of the West has always been of interest especially after seeing the western movies. The journeys and the hardship endured by so many throughout the journey to the West, seeking a new life out West is certainly something that is inspiring.
Q: Your still life paintings of flowers and fruit are painted with lifelike saturated colors and deep contrasts. Do you paint from life, from photos or a combination of sources? Do you have any tips about how you achieve such rich coloration and realism?
A: The most important aspect is practice and experimenting with the colors.
I paint from both life and use photos as a reference. The coloration is certainly something that has always been enjoyable when I see it all coming together on the canvas.
There are times I look back at my early paintings, and they evoke memories of my life and the development of my work. When I left for America I had brushes and paints but no photos of my early work. It has been rewarding for me to receive photos of my early work from collectors asking for more information on the subjects. And also needing confirmation that in fact, I am the artist, because the early work was signed with an S instead of a C.
My early paintings have traveled to the four corners of the world and I am thankful that the owners have found me in Arizona.
Q: Your ‘Mission Series’ is tranquil and peaceful, and also feels very personally inspired. Can you tell us about that series and what drew you to Capistrano?
A: San Juan Capistrano is one of several Missions I have visited.
I am drawn to the architecture and the history associated with these serene and spiritual places, San Juan Capistrano is a favorite and one I would enjoy visiting more often.
Q: Many painters talk about struggling to improve their skills enough that they can capture the images they see in their minds. Is this something you feel you’ve achieved, or do you continue to push yourself toward some higher goal you have for yourself?
A: I strongly believe it is important for an artist to pace the painting development because mistakes are easily made and overlooked if an artist is under pressure to get a body of work out to a gallery. And if mistakes are made and are overlooked, where can the improvement be for the artist.
Painting images from the mind without the fundamental academic structure may cause a struggle with frustration. One must balance time when painting and that is one of the most difficult things to do with the many demands in this chosen field.
Q: Do you have any additional wisdom to share with our readers?
A: Have a passion and dedication for painting, and the chosen genera an artist wishes to paint (decided upon the completion of the necessary study and training).
You can also see his work featured in the Prix de West Show: