Artist Talk: Yulianna Kirillova on Art as a Life-Changing Experience

Yulianna Kirillova

Yulianna Kirillova turned to painting and drawing after a successful career as a photographer. Her realistic, highly detailed depictions of everyday objects and wildlife create a sense of immersion and curiosity. She is an extremely curious person herself, with a passion for life and art, which are one and the same for her. Yulianna Kirillova shared with Fine Art Shippers about her childhood dream and how she made it a reality.

Artist Talk: Yulianna Kirillova on Art as a Life-Changing Experience

You turned to art after working as a photographer. Please tell us how you started your artistic journey.

Yulianna Kirillova: From a young age, I adored drawing, but my parents were against sending me to art school, despite my persistent requests. When I grew up, I turned to photography, which became my profession around the age of nineteen. To me, photography was similar to painting in its ability to capture the world, but it felt easier as it didn’t require as many technical skills. I enthusiastically explored both film and digital techniques.

However, everything changed when I suffered an eye injury. As a result, I was no longer able to spend long hours working on the computer, editing photos as I had done before. At that time, I had already become a parent, and that was a pivotal moment that led me to reevaluate my priorities. Eager to fulfill my childhood dream, I started painting again. While taking care of the children during the day, I spent my nights studying and drawing. I was fortunate to have a close friend, a Georgian artist named Misha Restavi, who became my son’s godfather. Despite living and working in Qatar, he inspired me to explore painting and refine my artistic skills.

Yulianna Kirillova

As I noticed, your favorite mediums are oil painting and pencil drawing. What came first?

I enjoyed experimenting with various mediums and techniques, using both oil and pencils to create figurative pieces and abstractions. I took up pencil drawing during the pandemic, which coincided with my time living in Bali. As the island became empty during Covid, with little entertainment available, I found myself drawing almost the entire day. This became a form of meditative practice for me. I would post my drawings on my Instagram page, and I soon started receiving orders for them. I would then ship these drawings to buyers in Moscow.

As you mentioned, there was an initial period of “apprenticeship.” When did you realize yourself as an artist?

At first, I just drew for pleasure and learning. Then people started getting interested, asking me to teach them. I would always reply, “But I’ve never studied art formally. How can I teach? I don’t even know the terms, and I have so many questions myself… I can’t do this, I’m not a professional.” But they would just counter, “That’s the point!” These people weren’t looking to become artists; they just wanted to enjoy it as a hobby. “You can explain it in your own words because you learned it all by yourself,” they would insist. Eventually, I gave in, saying, “Alright, I’ll give it a go…” To my surprise, my teaching was a hit and gained quite a bit of popularity. I ended up teaching for up to five hours at a time, in both English and Russian.

Then, something unexpected happened. The very people who came to learn from me started asking to buy the paintings I had made for myself. I had never held an exhibition or tried to find buyers, but they were genuinely interested in my work. I would tell them those were my personal pieces, but they kept on asking. It was then that I first thought, “Am I an artist now?” Eventually, I said to myself, “Well, maybe it’s time to let go of my little creations—my paintings—and see where this journey takes me next.”

Yulianna Kirillova drawing

I’ve noticed that your portfolio includes intricate depictions of everyday items like spoons and keys, as well as birds and animals. They are all very detailed and naturalistic, with vibrant colors. What attracts you to this subject matter – daily objects and wildlife?

I’m fascinated by the technique itself. The choice of my subjects, whether they are still life objects or animals, is completely spontaneous, usually depending on my mood. It’s all about the thrill of testing my limits: Can I render rust realistically? Can I capture the delicacy of feathers? My technique is really complicated and requires a great deal of patience. Take my chameleon piece, for example. I drew over each of its scales at least ten times using different colors to make it as realistic as possible. I also have a particular fondness for black paper as it allows light to pass through, resulting in less saturated colors. I enjoy setting myself a challenge. The more difficult the task, the harder I strive. And when I hear praises like “How did you do that?”, it’s an immensely gratifying feeling

You mentioned that your transitional period occurred around the time of your children’s birth. So they’ve been growing up seeing you engaged in your creative pursuits. How has this shaped them?

It has definitely had a big impact on them. My son spends a lot of time sculpting. My elder daughter is keen on oil painting. When she was just three years old, she attempted to recreate Van Gogh’s paintings under my guidance. Now, when I look at those pictures, I always feel a sense of tenderness and pride for my little one. Recently, she’s been drawn to painting on a tablet—which is good for me as it’s less messy (laughs). Both my son and daughter deeply appreciate art and are proud that their mom is an artist. Honestly, this was an unexpected outcome, but it’s one that brings me immense joy.

Interview by Inna Logunova

Photo courtesy of Yulianna Kirillova