Plein air landscapes -
Vitaly Makarov, “Shadows on the Ancient Mountains,” oil on canvas, 39 x 35 in.

Today we spotlight Russian artist Vitaly Makarov and his brilliantly colored plein air landscapes. I had the pleasure of having a Q&A with Makarov, in which he tells us about his artistic development, use of color, and more.

Cherie Dawn Haas: How long have you been painting, and what inspired you to begin?
Vitaly Makarov: I’ve loved to draw since childhood. My parents encouraged me to do this and took me to a children’s art school for 10 years. (In Russia there is a system of children’s art, music, and athletic schools that work in parallel with the main school.) In this school I was immediately taken to the second class. I had a very good teacher, an artist. I was lucky. After finishing the children’s art school, I entered the collegiate art school in Ukraine, in the city of Kharkiv. At that time there was still the USSR; it was all one country. Ukraine was like a neighboring state in the US.

Kharkiv College was very good! I plunged into the atmosphere of creativity. I lived in a hostel for students. After the day classes (from 9:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.) we came home and continued to draw. We painted still lifes, we painted each other, we read books about artists, we went to an art museum, exhibitions, etc. It was a good time (from 1988 to 1992).

By the end of my training the USSR collapsed. I found myself in another country — Ukraine. I returned home to Yessentuki (this is the Stavropol Territory, in southern Russia). And that’s when my independent creative life began. Unfortunately, because of the collapse of the country at that time, I was unable to continue my studies at the Academy of Arts or at another higher educational institution. It’s just that at that time I did not have the money for this. But I continued to study on my own. I began painting en plein air with masters of painting.

Plein air oil paintings -
Oil landscape painting by Vitaly Makarov

CDH: How has your art changed over the years?
VM: My first teacher told me, “In their youth, people make many mistakes. Young people do not appreciate time, but usually from the age of 30 begins the understanding that in life there is the main thing and what is secondary.”

I can say that with me it was so, approximately. I had a great desire to become an artist in my youth. From 20 to 30 years I was a frivolous young man. 🙂 But after I turned 30, somehow everything changed inside me. I simultaneously became serious and realized that it is necessary to keep within myself the child’s perception of the world — to be a child, that is, to have a clean worldview. I began to learn a lot from nature; I rediscovered the beauty of this beautiful world. I have a family, children. I try to communicate with many of my artist colleagues. And my artwork … let art critics and many of my viewers judge this.

Plein air oil paintings -
Oil landscape painting by Vitaly Makarov

CDH: How do you think living in Ukraine has inspired your art?
VM: About my life and study in Ukraine I can say that these are wonderful people, beautiful places and cities. My grandfather was born in Ukraine. Many people in Russia have relatives in Ukraine. There’s a good school of painting. I do not separate the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. This is one people and one nationality, the same roots.

Plein air oil paintings -
Oil landscape painting by Vitaly Makarov

CDH: Please tell us about your palette and how you make color choices.
VM: You know, I try not to use a very large number of colors; it’s the whole secret of painting in tonal and color relations — not in specific colors. By itself, any single color means something only when it’s next to other colors. The most important thing is to find a general tone. This means that in the morning, in the afternoon, in sunny or overcast weather, in the evening, at dusk, there will always be a different general tone.

We do not have the materials to do exactly as in nature. There is no such paint as the light of the sun, for example. Therefore, all we do is a conventional artistic language. And the tone in painting is even more important than color. And, of course, the most important thing is the composition. This is the most difficult. If the composition is interesting, then I can later tell more about the color and tone in the painting.

Plein air oil paintings -
Oil landscape painting by Vitaly Makarov

CDH: Anything else you’d like to add?
VM: The most important thing in art is to be honest and have a living perception of life. To have impressions, to be able to feel, to have a living soul and a warm heart, that is, to be human. You do not just copy what you see, but you must try to create poetry, music on canvas. The technique of painting is important, of course, but the highest manifestation of art is when the viewer does not see the technique, but he sees the music.

Plein air oil paintings -
Oil landscape painting by Vitaly Makarov

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  1. A friend of mine sent me a link to a painting called” Snow, Frost, And Winter Evening ” by Vitaly Makarov…It was the first time I had ever been so overwhelmed with the beauty of a painting that I was moved to tears…Vitaly’s work is powerful and inspiring…He is an artist, artist and I hope someday I can convey that same life in my work…


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