Artist, No, Not Me.

I Didn't Think of Myself As An Artist, Until a Serendipitous Visit To a Local Art Store, Changed That

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I’ve always thought Artists were born with a unique gene.

Walking into an art store, I would handle the art supplies, as if they were precious, purchasing notebooks, pens, and paints in a myriad of colors. When I arrived home, I would sit on the floor in my living room surrounded by my treasures, without ever using them to create art.

I created in other ways, but the ache to paint and draw was always there, waiting, until one day…

I walked into a local art supply store, and while looking through the book section, I remembered a book I’ve been wanting to buy. The manager said she didn’t have one in stock but would order it. ”Give me a few minutes, but while you’re waiting, check out the gallery.” With that, she left. I poked around the store for a few minutes, then a flash of color caught my eye coming from her gallery space.

I walked over to view the exhibit, admiring the vivid colors in the paintings, the subject matter uniquely drawn and fresh, I stood there mesmerized.

When she returned, she said, “What do you think of the paintings?” “They’re beautiful, I responded, staring at the work in front of me.”

“Did you read the small bios under each painting?” Looking down from the paintings, I noticed the ages of each painter, five years, eight, and twelve years of age. “No, that’s not possible, young children painted these?” She smiled. “Yes, they’re all under twelve years of age.”

Who instructed them, I asked? The teacher’s name is Natasha Piskunova; She and her husband Vitaliy Romanenko own an art school nearby. They both studied at the prestigious “State Academy of Art and Design” in St. Petersburg. there’s a flyer on the table. “Take one with you, it has all her contact information.”

I called her the next day to meet for my first lesson. I arrived to find she had set up a still life of dried flowers in a vase. She sat next to me at another easel and said, “Let’s draw together.” I looked at her wide-eyed. “Natasha, I’ve never drawn a still life?” “She turned to me and with a smile she said, ‘You will learn.”

Natasha was right. Under her tutelage, I learned faster than I could have imagined. Months later, looking at my first completed painting, drying on the easel, I glowed, it felt as if a puzzle piece clicked into place over my heart. I could almost hear the sound.

This journey has taught me, whether you are born with an artists edge or not, everyone can create art. The more effort you apply, the better the result. There is no silver bullet.

My creative journey continued, and my most recent teacher was the brilliant painter, Karachaby Levni Sinanoglu.

A friend came to visit me at my shop and while there we began talking about painting, she asked me how my painting was going. “Watercolor is beautiful, I said, but I’d love to learn to paint in oil.” Levni was at the shop having coffee with his friend and mine, Steve DiGiovanni, who is also a fine painter. He approached the counter, ‘ you want to learn to paint in oil, Lu. Would you like me to teach you?” Looking at him in disbelief, I said, “Really, Lev, I'd love it, when do we start?”

From the very first lesson, he made painting exciting showing me the relationship between symbolism, spirituality and the metaphysical. These lessons were magical. There were also days my lessons were more challenging when Levni’s brain halves fought to synch but even during those difficult days, his excitement to teach always came through. He’d always ask what my feelings were, because what I thought was important to him.

One class stands out in my memory.

For our next class, he decided we would have a lesson at the Yale Art Gallery. My excitement was palpable, thrilled to walk through the gallery with Levni, a treasure trove of art history knowledge. It would be an extraordinary lesson, standing in front of the art and learning about it, in real time.

When we arrived at the gallery, he asked me to view the two Morandi paintings while he walked over to the Picasso. He returned five minutes later and asked me what I thought of the paintings, naively I said, “They’re nice.” With a pained expression he motioned for me to follow him back to the Morandi, “Let me tell you about Morandi.” We spent over an hour in front of the two paintings. A blissful hour that flew by in a flash, by the time he finished his lesson, I’d fallen in love with Morandi.



I don't look at art supplies as treasures anymore. When I pick them up now I see them as tools taking me from one creative place to another.

When Levni came to my house for our first lesson, he went from one room to another excitedly pointing to the things he loved. When we started our lesson he turned to me and said, “you asked me to teach you to become an artist, Lulu, you already are.”

Are you an artist? Everyone can create art. Just begin <3

Levni left this earth in the summer of 2016.   

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