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Artist Profile: Elena Markelova

Although you might not recognize her name, you’ve probably seen her work. Elena Markelova is a Russian-born Vancouver-based artist, known for her double exposure animal watercolours and her detailed city maps. In fact, her gorgeous Map of Vancouver mural was featured at last year’s Home + Design Show, and is now on display at the Museum of Vancouver.

On Thursday, April 27, MOV is hosting a live Paint-In with Elena. Guests will have the chance to watch her paint and talk to her about her watercolour techniques. This event is free/by donation and open to all ages.

After seeing much of Elena’s artwork, I wanted to know more about her and what inspired her beautiful pieces. I had the opportunity to ask Elena those questions; read her captivating responses below.

Nicki Merz: You mention being inspired by the beauty of cities, nature, and the inhabiting creatures. Are there any particular artists that also inspire you? Or have inspired your work in the past?

Elena Markelova: Recently, I found myself crushed on two Australian creators, both based in Melbourne - Laura Blythman and Paula Mills. I guess Aussies take some coloured supplements daily, because these ladies' artworks are incredibly bright and rich in color. I love that they are not afraid to experiment and what they have achieved with their creations!

NM: When were you first encouraged to pick up the brush and start creating?

EM: I remember myself painting and drawing from the very little age - in kindergarten. I was 4 or 5 years old when I was painting my first real artworks, I think my parents still keep some of them. Then, I was never a very outgoing child; I would rather read a book or spend a few hours with my crayons or paints instead of running around with other neighbourhood kids. So one summer day during the school holidays (I was ten at that time) my mom came into my room. I was painting by myself, as usual, and she looked at me suspiciously and said: "Common, get dressed. We are going to sign you up for the art school!" This is how it all officially started.

NM: Where do you think your creativity comes from?

EM: My dad says it comes from him, because he was creative and artistic when he was young. I somehow believe it comes from both experience/skills and daily dose of inspiration from the outside – walk in the woods or just a glance over a freshly blooming flower. I professionally studied art and design for more than 13 years, and expect that my brain already started to interpret everything through some sort of artistic lens.

NM: Do you have any rituals or routines you like to complete before sitting down and starting an art project?

EM: I do lots of pre-work before starting any project. If I’m starting to work on a map, for example, first I read the history, do my research on monuments and attractions, then go sightseeing and sketching before transferring everything on a larger scale. Also I need to go through all the steps of painting beforehand, especially if I’m working with watercolours. And of course I need to find a perfect playlist for one or the other artwork. It helps me to get into the right mood.

NM: Do you have a piece you’re most proud of in your art collection?

EM: At the moment it is my largest piece of all – the map of Vancouver that hangs at the MOV. I spent so many hours on it and love every inch of this massive artwork.

NM: What is the biggest message you are trying to communicate with your art?

EM: I’m trying to deliver the beauty of the world. Hope that my creations could open the eyes of people who are stuck with everyday work routine or just stuck on one spot in life and don’t see any light, so then they would stop and look around – it’s so beautiful here! Or stop and smell the roses! There are so many colours in our world and I hope to bring those colours and cheer people up with my creations!

More information about the Elena Merkelova Live Paint-In event can be found on here.

Elena’s artwork is available for purchase in the MOV Gift Shop at the Museum of Vancouver, or at her Etsy store online.

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