A Cheerful Santa stretched over a billboard. Stalin rising from a coffin. A choir with Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Roman Abramovich, Albert Einstein, and Batman. A mosquito with a condom on his nose… What do these things have in common? All of them were created by Andrey Grodeev.
His exquisite satire and authentic drawing style made me very curious about this visual artist. I sent him an email and we scheduled a skype talk on December 8th. Both of us are originally from Russia, and we chatted in our native language.
Andrey currently lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand. His clients include Y&R NY, TBWA/RAAD Dubai, Ogilvy Frankfurt, LOWE Viethnam, LOWE Russia, Saatchi&Saatchi Russia, BBDO Columbia, Butter Berlin, GQ Russia, and Newsweek Russia. His work won multiple international awards. Yet, he is a very laid-back, approachable, and friendly guy.
He studied formal drawing and figurative work when he was a student on the Architecture faculty in his home town Khabarovsk. Nevertheless, most of his drawing and computer skills are self-taught. He cultivated his unique style by practicing drawing every night when he would come home from work.
Andrey has always been aspired to do creative and thought-provoking work, and he strived to surround himself with like-minded people. His ideas rarely found support in his home town. He often felt discouraged and misunderstood in his local community. However, as he started to post his work online, websites with his illustrations began to generate hundreds thousands of views in a trice. The internet gave him the right exposure and agencies and clients from all over the world began to offer him contracts. Now he charges thousands of dollars for each gig; yet, he still remembers the time when a hundred bucks felt like a lot of money…
Andrey said that he finally found his passion. He enjoys being an artist and has never regretted about not becoming an architect. Andrey said “It is a tragedy that young people in Russia have to go to college and stick to the chosen career at such young age. When you are seventeen, what have you seen in your life? How do you know what you like and what you want to do in your life? Usually, you are too green to make this kind of decision at that time, and if you want to change your course, you’ll be stigmatized as “a college dropout.” Andrey added, “I enjoy what I do, and I value my freedom. Now I want to see the world and find a place where I feel comfortable and inspired.”
When I found Kerstin’s work with white models and rainbow hair on the internet, my first thought was “Wow! This is amazing!” Then I wished I have thought of this idea myself. It was brilliant, beautiful and so well done!
Kerstin is a professional photographer from Berlin. I wrote her an email and we scheduled a Skype talk shortly after. Kerstin charmed me right away.
When Kerstin was a child, everyone was telling her that she was an artist. The artistic vision came naturally to her, and when it was a time to choose college, she picked The Folkwang University of the Arts, one of the best academies for creative folks in Europe. She also studied design in London and Los Angeles.
She started as a painter but when she discovered color photography, she never touched brushes and paints again. She was a rebellious student. Eventually, some professors promised to give her a good grade if she vowed to never touch a camera again. Fortunately, it didn’t happen, and Kerstin has now become an accomplished, internationally-recognized photographer.
Kerstin is one of those rare people who follow their passion. In exchange for such boldness, life lays down lucrative opportunities before people who listen to their guts. Thus, the same professors who criticized her work in the beginning offered her a job before she even graduated college! Since then, Kerstin had been swamped by exciting assignments including advertising gigs, editorial shoots, and international travel.
Speaking about international travel… Kerstin started a series of work called Self Service. She takes a picture of herself wherever she goes while she wears a Dirndl, a traditional October Fest dress. Kerstin joked about October Fest testing my knowledge of German traditions, “It is where half-Australia gets drunk every year in Munich.” Self Service series started as a picture of her in a diving suit and a Dirndl dress in her living room, more as a joke to invite some bavarian friends for a visit.
Then she took a picture with an Elvis impersonator as a joke for a travelmagazine, and the editors liked it so much that they printed it in the magazine. In fact, they were more excited about her picture in October Fest dress than the actual shots for the story. Now she has an ample collection of 75 pictures of Fräulein Zu Pan visiting remote places around the globe. Hopefully, we will see a full collection of her traveling photos in a book some day.
We also discussed a few business questions with Kerstin.
Kerstin has an agent who arranges work for her worldwide. As a truly creative person she admits, “I am not the biggest fan of the business side of my job. I don’t like to sell myself. I like to take pictures.”
I asked Kerstin about her creative process and whether she has a favorite work. She said, “I love and hate them (her photo projects) equally.” She added, “I am a person who tends to see everything in black and white, never grey.” Kerstin also mentioned that she doesn’t like compromises. She is aware that not everyone likes what she is doing: “What kind of nightmare would we live in if everyone had the same taste?”
I asked Kerstin if she ever panicked about the bad economy and potential lack of paid assignments." I know many creative professions are quite vulnerable when the market goes down", Kerstin said, “I had that when I was studying. I think you need to have a positive attitude and I think everything will lead its way. Everything will be fine. There will be times when one feels like shit and nothing will work out, but everything happens for a reason. I have been working for such a long time, and as freaky as it seems sometimes, things happen for a reason. There is no such thing as a mistake. You are just taking a step to another path that leads you somewhere else. I would say for everybody who is in a creative business, don’t panic, just be diligent and follow your gut and passion, and you will be all right. Sometimes, I also have to remind myself of that.”
I always wanted to know why some artists had wide success and recognition while other talented people were left behind the curve, starving, or working unwanted jobs to meet their survival needs. No one art book or an autobiography I’ve read so far answered this question. Therefore, I began my journey of finding talented people I respect and admire and asking them to share their stories with me.
In this blog I am going to tell you about artists, gallery owners, art curators, museum directors and other art professionals and share their stories of failures and success.