Five Q's: Natalya Bilmes

We interviewed watercolor artist Natalya Bilmes about her work and her upcoming show at Mar Vista Art Dept! RSVP and get access to the exclusive collector's preview. 

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What has been your biggest inspiration in pursuing art as a career?

I come from a family of artists. My father established a fine art school where I studied and taught for years, and my brother is also a very talented painter, and my mom designed fashion for many years. My decision to purse art as my career path was always supported and highly encouraged by my family, and they constantly inspire me.

How did living abroad influence your choices in subject matter and technique?

I was fortunate enough to spend parts of my childhood overseas and which exposed me to diversity and culture from a young age. Traveling and living abroad really gave me a renewed approach to using color and texture to create moods, themes and the overall aesthetics for my pieces and projects. Traveling really forces you out of your comfort zone, which is a great place to draw inspiration from.

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Watercolor is your main medium, but are there any other materials you like to work with?

At my father’s school and my own I studied oil painting, but I’ve always preferred watercolor. It’s an extremely fluid medium, and I’m drawn to its transparency. I also do most of my preliminary work, sketches and ideas in graphite.

We have a few of your portrait pieces here at MVAD with characters who feel almost mythical! Where do you find references and inspiration for those?

Inspiration can really come from anywhere, but I find for me, a lot of it comes from the people I meet. I’ve been fortunate to cross paths and grow relationships with some very intriguing people. The great thing about humans is that beauty is rarely entirely superficial, and I try to capture that in my portraits.

Some people cringe at the sight of an insect, but your Creatures series brings out their beauty. What sort of reactions have you gotten to pieces in this series?

The response to my recent body of work has been amazing! Everyone has been supportive and encouraging, and I’m very excited to showcase at MVAD. I’ve been fascinated with insects since I was a child but there is something about them that can make people feel uncomfortable. When I was first starting this project, I had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to place the subjects on the page so that they didn’t give off a eerie feeling while you looked at the art. The sizing was a big factor in that process. Insects are very complex little creatures with so much natural beauty, capturing all their detail and color was an energizing process.

Monique Boileau