We are so pleased to share an interview this week from Ekaterina Popova, fine artist and the founder of Create! Magazine. We had such fun answering an interview about ourselves and COTFA for her website last month, and we wanted the chance to dig in to her fascinating creative journey as well! Thank you for sharing with us, Kat.
Please tell us about yourself and your journey as an artist. Were you a creative child? What did this look like?
I was definitely a creative child. I have to thank my mom for taking the time to introduce to me to fine art, theatre, and music. I grew up in Russia, so most of the year was not outdoor activity friendly. You could find me sketching and coloring. I would make up my own worlds filled with characters. I used to love making items for my dolls (one time I even brought a giant lump of snow for them indoors and kept it in the freezer all year). I would always get so excited when I learned to make something new! I think that feeling of being able to create something out of nothing still lights me up.
How did the idea of a magazine go from a fleeting idea to a full-fledged publication with a team?
It's been quite a journey. My first publication, FreshPaintMagazine, was born in 2013. Since then, I had a vision for something bigger that involved more types of makers and creatives. I realized that focusing on just the painting medium (even though it was my first love) was no longer enough or true for me as an individual. Luckily, I have developed an incredible artist community over the years, so launching Create! was really fun and engaging.
I am insanely thankful to work with a freelance designer Shelby McFadden from Maple Projects. She has been an amazing support and helps me bring my aesthetic vision to life. We also have a few amazing contributing writers and an intern to help move the process along smoothly. Everyone works remotely and not all of us have met yet, but the chemistry is there and we are getting a wonderful response. The highlight of the year was getting featured by Apartment Therapy!
Your paintings are gorgeous, we love the bright colors. What are you working on now that is exciting you?
Thank you so much! Right now, I am working on a new body of work for my solo exhibition at Eckhaus Gallery in Kutztown, PA. Funny story: I used to be a student director at the gallery when I was getting my BFA, and it feels like a full circle to now exhibit there. I feel really free to push the subject of interiors. I am also excited to connect with a few of my former professors and mentors. It's a little bittersweet, because I am also celebrating my 29th birthday around the same time, and it feels like a new chapter is about to open.
What advice would you give to others who are looking for tips to improve their own work and connect with the right people and communities?
What helped me personally was volunteering and attending local events. I have been very introverted and shy my entire life, but forcing myself to go out and meet people in any way possible helped me get exposed to new and exciting artwork that inspired my own, helped me feel like part of my community, and eventually led to some exhibition opportunities! I can honestly say that a good fraction of all the shows I participated in were invitations from people I connected with or helped out at some point. Showing others you care about their work is good karma.
These days, Instagram is my best friend. I met some amazing artists through my magazine that support me and my work and I just adore them. It feels like a safe space to get vulnerable and personal and it's now easier than ever to find your people.
What upcoming events or future collaborations are you looking forward to?
I am super excited about the Miami edition of Create! Magazine. We are partnering with Sarah Potter of SP Projects and are a media partner of Art Miami Fairs in December. I love the overwhelming art scene and energy during Art Basel Week and am so honored to be a part of it through our magazine.
In terms of my own work, in January I am participating in a month long residency in Iceland through NES. I have dreamt about visiting this country since I was in high school, and getting to make art and experiencing the country for that long seems surreal!
From our end, doing passion projects can have ebbs and flows. What energizes you about publishing your magazine and how do you stay motivated?
It gets really exhausting sometimes and burnout is really real. Some weeks it seems like nothing gets accomplished. The thing that keeps me going is working on my "why" and developing a larger vision for my life based on what I care about.
It helps me ask the right questions to get me motivated: "What do the artists in my community benefit from?", "What are they missing?", "What can I do today to help someone, even in the smallest way?".
It helps to have a creative business and your own studio practice, because I never run out of things to do. I just switch my activities based on my mood.
In terms of mental health, I live by running outside, naps and wine. Oh, and I definitely go through a pot of coffee before 9 am. :)
Any goals you have for this year?!
I would really love to give back more. We started a small grant to help artists fulfill an exhibition or a project idea, but we need to do more. There is so much turbulence in our society and politics, and I think art is a great tool to bring people together and find ways of giving to those who need it.