Monday, 14 March 2011


Moors by Diana Davydova

As an artist I always thought that a landscape will be the last genre that I’d I paint, just because it seemed so easy - because so many people do it and because it is almost unavoidable to hear someone say “hmm, I think I've seen something similar before..”. But recently I was requested to produce some local Devon landscapes so I gave it a go.

While working on the set of paintings I have been so surprised by positive comments regarding the appeal of trees in paintings, which got me thinking more about the popularity of landscape painting in general and what makes them appeal to so many?
Perhaps, this love is unconscious, our ancestors used to live in forests for many generations and maybe we all long for our natural habitat - especially in the UK where it is so difficult to find a virgin forest.

Pines of Haldon Forest near Exeter by Diana Davydova

I don’t think beauty is the reason. Still life and flowers can be beautiful but they do not appeal to as many as, it appears, landscapes do. Landscapes can draw the viewer in and stir the imagination – evoke a longing that the viewer wasn’t aware existed. The feeling of the forest - something internal and stable in contrast to the ever-changing contemporary lifestyle is quite captivating.
There is something very personal for everybody in a landscape painting. Landscapes bring up associations with time spent in woods and parks. Perhaps it is not the painting people see but their memories...
Greenway by Diana Davydova

Monday, 31 January 2011

Paintings of the Mountain Ash: a little excursus into Russian folklore tree symbolism

Last week I completed 2 paintings picturing autumn Mountain Ash.

I was walking around Oxford in search of a pretty autumn scene, and found the beautiful Mountain Ash tree and I was fascinated with the play of light and shadow between the carved leaves. I was lucky to take these lovely photographs, as I have found it very difficult to get a proper subject, time and a sunny day all together.

Mountain Ash, oil on canvas, 40x60 cm by Diana Davydova

Ash Berries, oil on canvas, 40x40cm by Diana Davydova

 I did not have any special thoughts in my mind – I just knew that this tree has been used widely in Russian art, so I decided to do a little bit of research on this subject and found some very interesting information.
I do not see lots of Mountain ash trees in the UK, they seem to be unpopular, but in Russia it is almost a national tree. 
In folklore art and poetry you can find lots of references to Mountain Ash, which has always been a symbol of femininity or women fate. Probably the structure of the tree, being very slim with the fine twigs, bending down under the weight of berries gives associations with the unfortunate life, broken promises of love and the bitter sorrow like the taste of berries. The sincere orphanhood and eternal loneliness so often the destiny of Russian women, who despite the struggle, retain a cheerful and bright character.

More paintings by this artist

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Poppies: the story behind the painting.

Poppies were my first painting, when I discovered a new level of myself as an artist.
I was focused on research of the darker sides of plants and obviously could not miss the opium Poppy. My eye caught a photograph of young girls sleeping after smoking drugs. I told myself ... the way they look is so wrong - they looked like they had broken necks which, to me, equated to broken blossoms

At this point I started to play with associations and metaphors about how I imagine broken blossoms and what I feel about them.

I came up with the drawings and a first red and white sketch made in Photoshop. I was not satisfied with how the painting looked on canvas for three reasons: the colour did not work; the composition was week; and the most important element of painting was missing – the source of light.

It is easy to paint from a photograph, but when it comes to painting from your imagination it seems absolutely impossible to guess how the shadows will appear. 
It is very important not to be lazy at this stage, so I decided to create a 3D model of my poppy buds in Maya, with 3 spot lighting. It took a while, taking into account that I did not knew the program, but the result was worth the effort.

 More works by Diana Davydova

Unrequited love ‘the story of the painting’

The basis of this painting is the Peace Lilly pistil.

Upon closer, detailed inspection - the shape and structure provokes in me a thought of something alive and growing with the surface resembling soft skin. I wanted to draw parallels between the structure of the pistil and the breasts of a woman, denoting the sensitive and fragile part of a body.

Red spots increase this impression because blood denotes that the object is alive
The concept could be considered to be love without requite or hope. It is like the continual weeping of your soul, it is like you have been rejected but are still in love. 
I imagine a woman with no milk and no baby to feed and weeping with red tears. 

I like the double meaning effect of this painting and that you could not decide whether these stains and marks from the running paint are painted because they are real and a part of the painting concept or are they simply a media/technical effect and the pistil is not weeping at all.

While I was painting I changed the look of the painting significantly from the initial composition and colour. I think it was a direct influence of my feelings about the subject.

The first version was looking like an exotic fruit, cheerful and sweet. So I washed that out and focused on more gentle colours. 

Drosera: the story of creation

In August 2009 I visited Kew Gardens in London, and I was fascinated by Sundew plants. They lure, capture, and digest insects using stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf’s surface. The insects are used to supplement the poor mineral nutrition that sundews are able to obtain from the soil in which they grow.

I find this plant full of dark sexuality...seduce the object with the honey drops and then digest it...It reminds me of a girl’s behaviour when she seduces a man with her sweetness but her purpose is to get money to support herself.

In reality drosera has transparent liquid drops, but I changed them to crimson to give a more dramatic look and provide the audience with the sexy lolly pop symbolism.

After the concept was clear I began looking for a proper photograph, but unfortunately could not find any. Making virtual 3D modelling could take weeks, if you are not professional. I did my model from... pins and cherry jam J

After adding a little bit of Photoshop, a perfect image to paint from was in my hands.

I reused the canvas with my, not very successful, original poppy painting for the Drosera. On my opinion it adds some charm to a painting when there is something underneath that you can see only little shadow off.

More paintings by Diana Davydova on

Fantazy Mural painted with kids of Pennycross Primary School in Plymouth

Past summer I had a great opportunity to try something I never did before, but always wanted to try: paint the mural.
Initially project sounded quite abstract:  paint something nice at the back fence of the school yard and get kids involved. I am sure anybody on my place would not expect to see the great result if the 4 years old kids will paint the mural.

The solution was easy: kids will do the sketches and I will finish it nicely and tidy. Referring to my previous experience working with children I was sure that the group paintings united with the subject is the best option. Kids were supposed to invent fantasy animals that do not exist in the real world.   As an example I prepared a few sketches to give them a better Idea what I expect to see.

I was surprised with the excellent results, I got so many interesting creatures, some of them truly aliens, others - amazingly abstracted real animals (the black-orange Stripy supposed to be the tiger)

After I had all sketches on hand it was a time for me as for artist to bring them all to the harmonical conclusion in terms of composition, shapes, colours and general style.

The surface of the fence is very uneven, with the cross beams. Initially I imagined my creatures seating on them like on the tree branches, but I rejected this idea on a later stage because I did not want horizontal beams to be even more visible. Finally I picked up the style, slightly angular and awkward, but perfectly disguising imperfectness of the surface.

I had 2 working days (16 hours) to complete the painting and cover it with varnish. I found this timetable very tight. Enormous amount of time, I would say about 3 hours I spent on cleaning the surface of the fence with sand paper from the layers of green moss. You keep it in mind when planning work, but do not expect how long it really can take and how physically tiring it would be.

For my mural I picked up small paint testers for internal works, blue background paint for outside works and the transparent varnish to cover the completed painting. Be careful then buying varnish, make sure it is getting touch dry within 20-30 min; otherwise you are risking getting lots of dust stuck to your mural!

More works by artist Diana Davydova on

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Love Virus: the story of the painting

The basis of the painting is the close-up pistil of an Anthurium flower I was inspired by.

Closer look at the deep red colour, shape, form and dynamic of the Anthurium have awakened my fantasy and feelings in a similar way to how I feel when I am in love and gave me a series of associations. The structure is full of movement, action and power that engulfs you and is in need of release.

The Anthurium is poisonous and I feel that Love is a similar feeling to being poisoned, or maybe to be ill. You have a fever, a sickness, thirst and one’s body aches, like a virus it is growing inside you as though in your blood, in every cell of your body.

I also tried to express how love is like being caressed by a snake - it's embrace can be so tight that you can't breathe, then it is so difficult to breath normally that you can only just sigh. Black thorns denote jealousy and scratch the fragile, sensitive soul. I made the knot a bit tighter to prevent that though....