MAIN Pictures Russion
ABOUT MYSELF AND NOT ONLY
I grew up in house number 5 on Starosadsky Lane where the Moscow Union of Artists is now. Before the revolution the parents of my mother lived in this house, and then my parents lived there. No one in our family was an artist—my mother, Tamara Gerasimovna Motchalova, was a housewife, my father, Georgy Mikhailovich Motchalov an engineer at the Ministry of Electrotechnical Industry. Before the war he was a construction worker on the first subway line from Sokolniki to Park Cultury. There is a photograph in which the parents of my mother and their neighbors and relatives are standing in front of our house. So I have tried to find the connection between the place where I grew up and my profession—someone nevertheless put me on this circle from my place of birth to the Artists Union that I am a member of.
My father was drafted into the army long before the events of 1941, and then was a soldier during the whole war, fighting all the way from Moscow to Berlin. He received two wounds, but, thank God, returned home alive. Soon after that I was born, on May 21, 1948. I remember our courtyard well. I spent much time playing with the other kids there. We made our own skates on which each one of us skated without exception. We also played soccer, and not only among ourselves, but also with the fire brigade that was nearby. When I became old enough, I went to school No. 661 on Kolpachny Lane where my courtyard friends also studied. The children who played in the courtyard were of all sorts—there were ruffians who periodically landed in prison (it was the after the war years) and also very talented children from educated families—Slava Fursov, Zhenya Grin, Misha German. One of them, my childhood friend Valey Panov who became a chemistry professor and was a member of the International Engineering Academy and advisor to the World Health organization, unfortunately died not long ago…
When a child, I liked soccer more than anything else in the world. Nevertheless, even before school I began to draw. And apparently I was fairly good at it because my father took me to the art studio of the House of Pioneers on Pokrovka Street (Chernyshevsky Street then). An old woman, Yelena Aleksandrovna Ivanova, taught art there. She must have felt I was promising and liked teaching me. I drew a huge number of cubes, balls, and made all possible plaster models, as well as did still lives, at times very boring ones. And suddenly Yelena Aledsandrova suggested I do a gouache on the theme of a fairy tale for the All Union exhibition of children’s art. I was 11 then. I have a catalog of the 1959 exhibition with my work in it. The exhibition was held in building No. 11 on Kuznetsky Most. Thus I became a participant in the first exhibition in my life.
I continued to draw after that. One fine day Yelena Aleksandrova invited my father to come to class and suggested he enroll me in the Moscow School of Art of the V.I. Surikova Institute. We applied and I was accepted, so after five years in an ordinary school, I started going there.
Many very talented students went to the art school. I was lucky to have been in such a good class. Some of my classmates became famous artists—Yevgeny Maksimov, Yury Nazarov, and Vladimir Arefyev, who are currently members of the Russian Academy of Art, Gennady Spirin, one of the best illustrators of children’s books in the world, and Yelena Kachelayeva, who is now the main artist at the theater named after Gogol. By the way, I think even now that Kachelayeva is an outstanding watercolor painter. She dreamed of becoming a theater artist and became one, but her watercolors even in school always stood out. To this day I’m sure that the world lost a talented watercolor painter in her. Sergei Volkhonsky, my school friend and friend for life, Aleksei Sysoyev, Aleksei Ganin, Viktor Sidorin, Marina Afanaceva and others became remarkable artists. In the parallel class there was Natalya Orlova, a famous cartoon artist, Viktor Volsky, a theater artist and many other talented artists. The atmosphere in the school was very conducive to creativity, we all learned from each other. At the end of the school year an exhibition of the works of the students in all classes was held, and one had a chance to take a good look and see who could do what. The students then were very individual, but all were very talented. Besides Moscuvites, kids from other cities in the Soviet Union studied at the school. They lived in a dormitory that was in the school building. The school itself was across from the Tretyakov Gallery on Lavrushinsky lane. It had been a four storey building, but a fifth story was added while I was going there. That was where the oil painting classrooms were.
I was just an average student. I was not much of an oil painter, my drawings were better. I am very grateful to almost all my teachers, and all these years I have tried to keep in touch with them. Unfortunately many have passed away. But those who are still around I see even now: Oskar Aleksandrovich Ginzburg, my literature teacher who still teaches now; two artists—Yury Sergeyevich Avdeyev who taught drawing and now works at a textile institute, and Yury Viktorovich Gusev, who teaches painting. Sometimes we get together. I am grateful to Yury Sergeyevich because it was he who taught me to feel and mould gypsum figures. And I’ll never forget how he taught us to draw. The skill of drawing that I learned from Yury Sergeyevich Avdeyev has come in handy throughout my career.
I went to the art school for 7 years after studying in the public school for five years, so I received 12 years of education in all and graduated at age 19. At the art school we spent six hours a day on special subjects—painting, drawing, composition. The rest of the time we studied subjects all students are required to know. School began at 8:30 and ended after four. During the two big breaks, each 25 minutes long, we ran over to the Tretyakov Gallery. Absolutely everyone was carried away with Vrubel then. But I also liked our classical Russian painters—Savrasov, Levitan, Surikov and Repin. Their paintings in the Tretyakov Gallery were also a ‛school‛ for me.
Once one of the boys brought an album to school and everyone immediately crowded around him to see it. I went over and the paintings I saw over their heads literally swept me off my feet. The artist was Salvador Dali. He was a prohibited artist in the Soviet Union then. The reproductions in the album were of very poor quality, but thanks to it I understood that one could see and depict things in a different way, not only like we were being taught. Before that it had never occurred to me that there could be another art. Dali’s works shook me to the core, it was if a nail had been driven into my head. I could not get this artist out of my head for a long time. Years later I got an opportunity to go to his house museum in Figeirose. I studied his works as much as I could, read books about him and watched films. I began to see him in a different light. I understood that he was an outstanding artist, but not so straightforward as it seemed. The phenomenon of Salvador Dali is a business, the ability to sell oneself and make a profit from his works.
More than once I tried to understand how it happened that I became a caricaturist and a cartoonist. I well remember how our drawing teacher, Nikolai Nikolayevich Kuznetsov gave the assignment to draw a cartoon. It was as if someone whispered to me that this was my fate—my drawing turned out, perhaps, better than those of the other students. Before that I hadn’t known about the existence of such a genre in art. After that I did better in class. Evidently, though I didn’t realize it, I had found myself.
I recalled something else. After I had already started going to the art school, I went up into the attic of our house on Starosadsky Lane one time. There was junk, glass, rats, broken bikes and pigeons flying around. Nevertheless there were many valuable things in the attic of the old merchant’s house. In the dark and dust I noticed a stack of magazines. They were issues of the magazine Krokodil that had come out before the war. As a child I had loved to collect all osrts of junk. Walking around the courtyard I would pick up screws and bolts, stones, glass—all that I saw under my feet. So I brought home the stack of magazines, dusted them off and began looking through them. To my surprise, I was absolutely taken by the drawing in the magazine. It was then that I first became familiar with the works of outstanding artists whom I could only dream of meeting personally: Boris Yefimov, the Kukryniksy, Aminadav Kanevsky, Ivan Semenov, Mikhail Cheremnykh, Konstantin Rotov, Yuliy Ganf, Boris Prorokov, Lev Borodaty…They were already well known then! Yefimov was born in the year 1900, the Kukryniksy—Krylov in 1902, Kupriyanov and Sokolov in 1903, so in 1955 they were already recognized artists. I liked the illustrations in the magazines so much that I began to simply redraw them in a notebook. Probably that was what sparked my interest in cartoons and caricatures. I well remember the cartoon on Soviet composers—D. Kabalevsky, S Prokofyev and others. I redrew them and hung them on the wall. It was my home exhibition.
After a while I lost my fascination with them. It surfaced again only the last year in art school when I was given the assignment of drawing a cartoon. It all came back to me. But this time I already could draw-- I had mastered forms, dimension, space, and proportions, so the cartoon came out quite well.
I had graduated from school. Now the question was what to do next. I don’t know how it happened, but for some reason my teachers of painting in school thought that oil painting would never be my forte. Well, after not touching oil paints for 35 years, from 1967 to 2002, I suddenly got the confidence to do oil paintings. Before that I was simply afraid to open a tube, I had a complex—I thought I could never do a good oil painting…As a result, when I had to choose a profession, I decided to be an etcher. I did not even think about enrolling in the Surikovsky Institute. I decided to enroll in the polygraphic institute and be a student in the book graphics department. I didn’t manage to pass the exams either for the day or evening divisions. I remembered that an article had just been published in the Komsomol Truth newspaper with the heading ‛30 Silvers‛. It was about the teachers at the typographic institute--they took bribes. I got into the polygraphic institute only four years later.
One of my friends worked at the factory Goznak as layout artist and suggested I get a job at the factory as an engraver for the press. After school this seemed terribly interesting to me. The main artist at Goznak then was Ivan Ivanovich Dubasov, who was well known as the person who did the sketches for almost all Soviet paper money and one of the artists who worked on the emblem of the USSR.He was already 70 then. I took my school drawing to Goznak and they hired me at once. So I became a student of engraving in the printed form.
I finished a three year training course in two and a half years. I went to Goznak like to work each day and was paid 60 sixty rubles a month. I was taught to engrave by the production teacher there, Tatyana Mikhailovna Nikitina. I am still friends with her, her husband Valentin and son Vladimir and the artists who also worked at the factory. Later Vladimir became the senior artist at Goznak. So I began to work in the style of classical ????? engraving. I don’t know how it is now, but then the young workers at the factory learned from the best examples of world engraving. The library at Goznak was excellent and I never tired of looking at the great art of German, English, French and, of course, Russian engravers.
I got really carried away with engraving, but I never stopped thinking about my further education. However, I managed to get into the institute only in 1970, the evening division at that. Meanwhile I finished the training course at Goznak and began working as an engraver in the printed form: I engraved stamps in metal—I did four of them. I worked not as an artist, but as an engraver, i,e, I did the stamp according to another’s artist’s sketch.
I think one needs to be a certain kind of person to work as an engraver—one has to have incredible patience and assiduity to spend three to four months creating one stamp! How is one made? In order to make one point on the steel plate out of the many which later make up the picture on the future stamp, the place for the future point must first be cut at a certain angle on the other side of the plate. Then this same place must be cut from the front side so that the cut already takes the proper shape. And when the paint falls into it, you get a point there. If I cut the place for the point at the wrong angle, then the paint won’t end up there. It is incredibly painstaking and technically difficult work!
In order to make many copies of the original of the stamp, electrotype must be poured over it. So a form has to be made. When you place it on the drawing, it must strictly correspond to each point of the picture, otherwise it will simply pull it off. The drawing itself, as I said earlier is done on steel, but the form on copper. So one must not make any mistakes.
You take the plate, polish it till it shines like a mirror and put the outline of the whole drawing on it. Each line you first draw with a pin—it can still be polished away if you make a mistake. That is not so after using the graver. And only when you’ve done a line with the pin, do you begin to do it with a graver. All lines must be put on it at a 45 degree angle. Otherwise it won’t turn out well.
While making the line one doesn’t dare breath. Then one does the trial print. In some places one sees it is necessary to deepen the lines. The main thing is not to overdo it, because there is no correcting that. One time there was a real catastrophe while I was working with the graver. I have never forgotten it. The tip of the graver broke off and the grave shifted, cutting through the face depicted. I had to begin the whole thing over again. Engraving is very serious work.
While I was working at Goznak I went to classes at the studio perfecting my skills. I did still lifes and landscapes. Everything seemed all right—interesting work, a favorite hobby. But at this very time I got a stronger and stronger desire to break free, I felt like a slave at Goznak. The work fascinated me, but evidently that was not enough for me. I began to sour on it. Accidentally, I read in a newspaper that they were selecting students for the studio of the magazine Krokodil, It was the fall of 1969.
The newspaper invited all wishing to apply to send works of theirs to the editorial office of the magazine at the address Bumazhny Proyezd, 14. I gather all my cartoons and caricatures and sent them to the editorial office. I found out later that my letter and the drawings never got there. I didn’t know that then and anxiously awaited a letter or telephone call saying I had been accepted, but never got one. I was terribly disappointed. I thought that probably such talented people study at the studio that I just wasn’t good enough. Then my friend Igor Seleznev in a conversation with me boosted that he had sent his drawings to Krokodil and he had been accepted into the magazines studio. I was dumbfounded: he had been accepted, but not me! He told me how Shukayev Yevgeny Aleksandrovich, the senior artist at Krokodil conducted the classes. And his colleague Andrei Porfirevich Krylov was the son of one of the Kukryniks. He said that there were about 40 students and that the classes were super interesting… This information bowled me over, and I admitted that I had also tried to get in, but they hadn’t even answered me. What my friend told me sparked my interest in Krokodil even more and I asked him to take me to class with him to simply watch. After all Krokodil was the temple of caricature for me!
We came to class together. So I first found myself at Krokodil in the fall of 1969. I was struck by what I saw there: the large hall was packed with people, but it was very quiet. One could only hear the loud voice of one person who I didn’t even see. I understood that this was the main person here, but he was criticizing someone’s drawing at that moment. He made such killing remarks and was so sarcastic that suddenly the absolute silence was broken by laughter. At that moment all the people stepped aside a bit and HE, it was Yevgeny Shukayev, saw a stranger, that is me. He stopped and asked sternly: ‛And who are you?‛ I said that I had come for the first time and that I had graduated from the Moscow Grade School for Artists, hoping to present myself in the best light. But Shukayev screwed his eyes and sarcastically noted: ‛Oh, the school of gifted parents!‛ What could I say-- that my father was an engineer? Yevgeny Aleksandrovich told me to bring my drawings next time.
And I brought the caricatures that I had made of my colleagues at Goznak. Let me back up. It all began with the caricature of the foreman of our workshop Papken Armenakovich Lyuledzhan. That fine specialist and expert in his field possessed such a nose that it was impossible not to do a caricature of him. Everyone was afraid of him. Lyuledzhan was known for his silent severity. But behind his back all made fun of him: hairs stuck out of his nose and ears, his eyes bulged, and I have already mentioned his nose—it was huge. The finishing touch on his face was a mustache. And he spoke with a strong Armenian accent. I did the caricature of Lyuledzhan for myself, not for the public, so I did it, as they say now, ‛from the heart‛. But the artist Sasha Tkachenko piped up: ‛Give it here.‛ And immediately showed the drawing to the senior artist Sergei Akomovich Pomansky. In those days the engravers and artists at Goznak worked in one room where each was busy with his own work, but the senior artist had a small separate office. Imagine the atmosphere in which all this happened: Pomansky is sitting in a dark room with light falling only on the table where he is drawing either a flag or the head of state. All is strict, quiet and serious. And suddenly Tkachenko slips my drawing on the table and says: Sergei Akimovich! Look what Mochalov has drawn! Pomansky was up in years and slightly deaf, but he reacted to the drawing. In the funereal silence his squeaky old man’s voice was heard chuckling. Then he let out a peal of laughter and all began to laugh till they split their sides. This caricature, without doubt, played a role in how my co-workers related to me. Such a reaction meant that I considered a real artist.
This episode became a sort of milestone on my road to becoming a caricaturist. Later I drew many caricatures of my colleagues. I liked the wit which any caricature required. I liked peering into a person’s soul, hitting his weak spot, monsterizing him, taking him apart…There is such a sin. Of course, I can simply do a portrait, but that is boring. Somehow I want all the time to shake off the dullness and vapidness that surrounds me, and with caricatures life is brighter and more fun!
Meanwhile, I was accepted in the Krokodil studio. I found out then that the editorial office had never received the folder with my drawings that I had sent them. Classes were held once a week. We drew not only in the classroom, but went outdoors together with Shukayev. It was interesting. When summer came, I went to the Crimea with the assignment to draw. I returned with a folder full of various works—landscapes, compositions, sketches, satirical drawings, and of course, caricatures and cartoons. They praised me some. Now I just wanted to leave my dull job at Goznak that was not at all compatible with my character. It was hard coping with both studying at Krokodil and my job as an engraver and I only thought about how to leave the factory.
As it often happens, what you long dream of happens very suddenly. On Constitution Day in 1971, which was celebrated on December 5 in Soviet times, Krokodil sent a group of its students to Tallinn. Upon returning to Moscow I was late to work by almost two hours! At Goznak we had time cards and punched in and out. The young specialist, a Komsomolets…was late! It was a violation of work discipline. I was ‛given hell‛ by the secretary of the party bureau,, by the Komsomol and by the local party committee. They ‛gave me so much hell‛ so much that I wrote a declaration that I was quitting.
I had been offended by the way they treated me. However they didn’t accept my declaration. They told me first to finish the stamp I was working on, and then return to the question. There was no refusing. Having signed a document about finishing the stamp, I again wrote a declaration that I was quitting. The reason I gave was that the work wasn’t satisfying—now I saw that I was an artist, not an engraver. But what happened next was very strange: instead of letting me go, I was suddenly summoned by the senior engineer and director of the factory who was over about 5,000 people. They tried to persuade me to stay and asked me to take back my declaration about quitting. They said that I, as a student of the Typographic Institute, had a very promising future at Goznak, but couldn’t tell me everything. They hinted that they had big plans for me. There was no changing my mind, though. Then they tried to call my father at the ministry where he worked then. My father didn’t know anything about my affairs, and luckily he wasn’t at his desk then… For me that all was very nerve-wracking, I didn’t understand anything. A week later they again pressed me to stay, but I refused to give in and in February I quit. Only when I had left they told me that they had been planning to make me the senior artist at Goznak. But I don’t regret leaving to this day.
One has to make choices about one’s life’s path. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t made that decision then. I studied at the institute, and, as before, went to classes at the studio of Krokodil. I understood that I had found myself. I had to work somewhere, and at first I got a job as a typesetter at the movie theater Metropol, and then in the design bureau at VDNKH . Meanwhile, in 1973, a work of mine was published in Krokodil for the first time. I remember it well. Then I had begun to work together with Valery Mokhovy. He thought up the subject of the drawing, and I drew it. I don’t want to remember the subject—it was an ordinary one, but the drawing was a success. It was on the next to the last page and quite big. I saw it accidentally after I had come out of the Kashirskaya subway station. It was raining and there were deep puddles all around. I had to leap from one high spot to another. In doing so, I stumbled and my foot slipped on a piece of paper sticking up in the puddle. I don’t know why, but I looked and saw that I was standing on a page from Krokodil magazine, on my very own drawing… Someone had been reading the magazine, looked at my drawing, then tossed it, and I, the person who drew it, stepped on it. That amazed me. Thus began my successful career at Krokodil.
In 1974 I was drafted into the army for two years. While serving in the army, I continued studying and graduated from the institute in the correspondence department. It is difficult to believe that, but it is the truth. I think that I was just lucky. I drew all the time in the army and an exhibition of my works was held in the club of our military unit. Later they found out that I was studying at the institute. Everyone was nice to me, and one intelligent fellow, lieutenant colonel Mikhail Koxachenko, said: ‛Why don’t you finish the institute while in the army?‛ So I decided to try. I was serving in Noginsk and was often in Moscow. On one of my trips home I went to the institute and found out what tests I had to take. I did the 4th and 5th years that way. I did art in the army in special conditions: the commander of the battalion, lieutenant colonel Vitaly Borulya gave me a workshop…the lieu and told me to do the portrait of the new minister of defense, Ustinov. So I did the portrait of the minister in the lieu.
Then I began doing portraits of soldiers for the honor board and did a ‛demob‛ album that showed in great detail how soldiers lived, their day to day life. The soldiers liked getting as a memento an album with drawings full of humor about life in the army: the rats and mice and how they report to some commander… It made the guys laugh and I also got pleasure from such ‛work‛. I sent some of the drawings to Krokodil and they got published in the magazine.
The soldiers in a unit come from all walks of life. For example, boys with a university education like my friend Mikhail Gorbanevsky, now a professor and Ph.D., and those who couldn’t even tell the time of day served in one unit. One of them, whom I did the first album ‛Day by day‛ for, was my army buddy Sergei Ovchinnikov, who later became my best friend. Actually I made many friends in the army—Boris Kornikov, Oleg Alita, Yevgeny Markitanto,Viktor Protas, Yura Salman and others.
At that time the pre diploma internship began. My advisor at the institute was the famous book illustrator Andrei Dmitriyevich Goncharov. I needed 30 days to do it. The army only allowed 7 days leave. What was I to do? The officers in the unit liked me—I say this without false modesty. The commander of the battalion stuck out his neck and allowed me to go on leave four times! In that time I managed to do the illustrations to Saltykov-Schedrin’s book ‛The Story of One City‛ and defend my thesis.
Incredibly, when I returned at night to my unit after defending my thesis, lieutenant colonel Borulya met me, he had been specially waiting for me in his office. His first question was: ‛How’d it go?‛ When I said that it had gone well, he gave me a big hug. But his next words were: ‛Will you leave?‛ The matter was that I had graduated in February, while my stint in the army was to end only in November. But now that I was a soldier with a higher education I need not serve two years , but just one. And the commander was afraid that I might leave, not having served till the end of my original stint. But that thought never entered my head. Everyone looked at me as if I were some phenomena—I defended my diploma while in the army.
Thanks to the army I got a chance to try doing different kinds of art. First I did stained glass windows in the army. The unit had ordered glass for the buildings on the base and I made the windows according to my own sketches. Then I tried doing engraving and even did the image of Lenin this way. I also did inlays. There was a furniture factory near our unit and I did portraits of soldiers from different kinds of wood. I continued, as before, to draw cartoons and they were published in Krokodil. In my military unit I already had a helper, Sasha Lytsenko, who helped cut according to my sketches. He and I did huge compositions on military patriotic themes on metal sheets that were placed all around the territory of the unit. We did that as well as the huge information boards on the square with visual instructions for soldiers—how to march, to do exercises, etc. In general, I didn’t lose any time in the army and several exhibitions of my works were held. By the way, in spite of my mainly doing artwork, the officers entrusted me with carrying the regiment’s banner during the parades in the city of Noginsk, going on patrol and standing guard at post No.1.
When I returned to Moscow, I had to think about getting a job—I hadn’t yet been invited to work at Krokodil, and there was no vacancy there. I got a job doing layouts at a repair factory in the only vacant position—a decorator of the 5th rank. After working there about a year, I suddenly learned from a friend that the publishing house Physical Education and Sport needed an art editor. I was very happy , the more so because this position completely corresponded to the degree I had gotten: art editor and graphic artist. So in 1978 I went to work in my specialty and was very satisfied. But I worked at the publishing house just two months. I was made a very flattering offer—to be the assistant to the senior artist of the magazine Krokodil. After that my whole professional career was connected with Krokodil.
At Krokodil I was met rather coldly, though most of the people on the editorial board had voted to hire me. Nevertheless the artists who worked at Krokodil were decidedly against me. Of course not as many cartoons of mine had been published in the magazine as those by the artists who were older then me and had worked for a long time there. Probably they had wanted to see one of their own in the position of assistant to the senior artist. When I first walked in, I was met with an icy silence. So I immediately understood that I had landed in a clearly hostile group, that I must be on guard and be careful what I say and do. I must try not to offend anyone with whom I worked at Krokodil.
Svyatoslav Spassky, who, unfortunately passed away recently, became my best friend at Krokodil later. He was the closest to me in his understanding of what a caricature was, what humor was and what a satirical magazine was. But at the very beginning, not knowing me, he was my first and main enemy. Later our relationship cardinally changed to the most friendly, the closest, but in the beginning…
Though I had been given the position of assistant to the senior artist, I actually began working as the technical editor of Krokodil. Spassky was the head of the art technical department. When they made me his assistant against his will—as the assistant to the senior artist I was directly under Spassky in my job, he showed me how to do a dummy of the magazine in just 5 minutes the first day. When I just stood there clearly confused, Spassky said that explanation would have to do, because he was going on vacation for a month. He closed his briefcase, got up and demonstratively left, parting with me with an accentuated polite smile. Formally he had told me everything… in five minutes and put me in a real pickle of a situation.
I didn’t know what typesetting was or what he meant by rough copy, nonpareil, pica or brevier. I didn’t know the rudiments of making a mock up of a magazine, but I had to answer for the dummy and hand it over to the printers. Each issue of the magazine had to be handed in strictly according to the time table. And usually we were working on not one issue but three—Krokodil came out three times a month, each ten days. One issue was sent to typesetting, the second was being imposed,, and the third draft needed to be looked at. Besides that I was to work with the artists, which in itself was difficult. For I had to discuss each drawing brought by the artist, noting its merits and flaws in a weighty and rational way. Because of the flood of information my head was spinning. The artists came when they had to—to the editorial meetings—and when they just felt like it to talk and tell jokes, and these people were so interesting that I couldn’t tear myself away. Moreover, I, as a person with a job now, came in contact with top notch artists, with those who had been of unquestionable authority for me, for the first time. I can‘t say that I worked with them like an editor—there was little I could tell them, the more so make some comments, but I had to answer for the quality of their drawings. At that time the senior artist at Krokodil was Andrei Krylov. He often went away on business and wasn’t in the editorial office much, so all the main and the dirty work gradually became my responsibility. But I didn’t complain. When I first stepped across the threshold of Krokodil as a student, I understood that if I had been asked ‛Would you like to work at Krokodil as a janitor?‛ I’d have agreed without stopping to think. Anything to enter the editorial office, be in its walls, see the people who worked here… Krokodil was so dear to me, holy and loved that I even said to myself: ‛I don’t want to be anything else in life, only an artist at the magazine Krokodil‛. I didn’t even dream of becoming the head artists. But if suddenly they offered me that position, then I wouldn’t have even wanted to be the minister of culture or the senior artist of the Soviet Union, just the senior artist at the magazine Krokodil! For me that was my whole life, my fate and my love.
Nevertheless, all that had happened stumped me: on one hand the work was incredibly fascinating and interesting, on the other, I had come to understand that to work normally and do what was required of me—prepare the dummy and rough copy on time and give them to the printers—was impossible! That was the situation I found myself in. Only after all the conversations, anecdotes, and debates and all had gone home could I get down to work. I came home at around midnight. Once I left the editorial office at 12: 40 and came to the office at six in the morning because only then, when there was no one there, could I concentrate and do the complex technical work which was boring and dull such as counting the lines and fitting the text onto the pages of the mockup, etc. Every time after handing over the typesetting I received calls and letters from the printers that I hadn’t handed over the dummy on time, that there were many mistakes in it, that it didn’t correspond, etc. I had to keep all sorts of details in my head, if any of them was overlooked all the mistakes could appear in the issue when the magazine came out. For instance, one time I mixed up the last name of the artists Kukryniks with Boris Yefimov: I hadn’t checked the name in the draft because I had run out of time and the issue came out with the mistake.
I had to learn from my failures. While Spassky was absent, I was at the editorial office practically around the clock, and he fell sick after his vacation so that in all he was gone for about 40 days. In that time I was just beginning to understand something about the technical aspect of the magazine. Every day they summoned me to the printers, made humiliating remarks and pointed out how stupid I was. But all the time I thought about drawing, came up with new ideas for them—for me art was more important than anything else. My fantasy hindered my doing the technical work. Those around me looked on me in silence, sadly,--see where you have landed, and they brought a kind of uncertainty into my life all the time. Only thanks to my youth and incredible desire to work I managed to overcome all this.
Spassky returned to the editorial office, happy and rested. I silently sat at the desk and did my work. I greeted him coldly. He evidently thought that they had already fired me. He came over to me and silently watched. Then said: ‛How’s it going?‛ ‛Well‛, I answered. ‛Can I help you with anything?‛ ‛No, nothing! I managed all by myself?‛
Svyatoslav Sergeyevich’s face showed open amazement that I could handle all this myself, and for the first time I could see from his eyes that his attitude to me had changed to respect. Later he and I became friends, worked very well together, doing issues in turns—he one, I one. We made suggestions and helped each other. I even benevolently gave him advice on how to draw and he put even more trust me.
At the end of the1970s and the beginning of the 1980s the senior artist of Krokodil, as I have already said, was Andrei Krylov. Everyone knew that Krylov went abroad on business trips all the time and was seldom at the editorial office. Frankly he neglected his duties as senior artist. Svyatoslav Spassky stood out for his principles and when he considered something important, he said so to a person’s face no matter the position of the person. Moreover, he was the secretary of the party organization, i.e. he had a right to speak. And he said what he thought. Spassky was loved and respected in the group for his openness, honesty and principles. He never hid his head in the sand from the administrators, but stood up for the interests of his fellow workers. As a result he brought heart attacks and strokes on himself. Krylov left the editorial office and in 1984 I was made the senior artist at Krokodil. My candidature was confirmed by the Central Commitee of the KPSS, though I had already been carrying out the duties of senior artist.
When I officially occupied this position, they told me to attract new young artists. I began to look for new ones not only in Moscow, but also in the provinces. I would talk to them on the phone and wrote to them. They came and we published their drawings on a competitive basis. They sent a lot of drawings and it became more interesting to work. We started a new rubric ‛For the First Time in Krokoldil‛ where we gave the biography of the young artist and showed his drawing. That was stimulus for other artists in their work and they too strove to get on the pages of the magazine. Those artists works that earlier had not been printed for some reason or other, also began to work with Krokodil.
Doing the job of the senior artist of the magazine when I still hadn’t been made it served me well. I had had to conduct the editorial meetings and learned then how to talk to people, to evaluate the situation and to react properly. The main thing, of course, was to speak because most artists aren’t articulate, yet I had to speak at the meetings and give the reasons why I accepted or didn’t accept a drawing, and to settle arguments and conflicts that were often personal. The circle hostile to me immediately widened. Their number grew even more when I was made the senior artist after Krylov left. The number of toadies grew also. I had to learn all sorts of diplomatic tricks in order not to offend an artist if I didn’t accept his drawing. So for me it was a school of diplomacy. After all, I worked with people whose drawings had been published for forty years in Krokodil. Any of them could be easily offended by something I carelessly said. But I managed to talk to the artists in such a way as to get them to redo their work. So though I had plenty of enemies, I was also respected. After all I myself did drawings and they were also published.
Perestroika began, and with it the first trips abroad. I especially remember my first trip to the United States in 1987 when a group from Krokodil went to America as part of an exchange with American humorists who then came to our country. The first day of our stay in Washington there was a press conference in the national club of the press. So many people came that there was nowhere for an apple to fall! In our group there was Aleksei Pyanov, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Krokodil, Valentin Prokhorov from the newspaper Pravda, Aramais Saakyan from the Armianian humoristic magazine Vozni, Andrei Benyukh, the editor of the international department of Krokodil, and I, the senior artist of the magazine. It wasn’t easy for us, the questions were pointed and we were afraid that the Central Committee would have our heads when we returned home… They put an easel in front of me, an artist, while Pyanov answered questions about burning issues. I began to draw cartoons. The press conference got bogged down with the dry communist style answers. Suddenly a red-faced bald man came up to me and said in Russian with a heavy accent: ‛Young man, if you lived here you could make good money‛. I looked around and in turn asked: ‛Excuse me, who are you‛? He introduced himself: I’m Victor Frantsuzov. ‛The Voice of America.‛ And I didn’t believe my ears, but it was his voice, the voice of Frantsuzov, that I listened to in the evenings! But this is an aside. The Americans were interested in something else. The very first day we were asked if we drew caricatures of our general secretary Gorbachev.
Here I must explain how things were with cartoons during the Soviet regime. Now it seems hard to believe, but right after Krokodil began coming out in 1922, a caricature of Lenin and other leaders of the party and the country appeared on its pages. It was later, in the 1930s that the party told the press, including the magazine Krokodil, which with time had become a publication of the newspaper Pravda, to only make barbs at those no higher than the boot. It is clear whose boot they had in mind. So political caricature in Soviet times was in no way directed against the government. Those who were no longer in power were ridiculed mercilessly. But nothing more.
When perestroika began in 1985-86 and Mikhail Gorbachev became the general secretary of the Central Committee of the KPSS, I proposed publishing a cartoon on him in Krokodil at the board meeting. I said it would raise the prestige of the magazine if we did that and there would be increased interest in it. After all, the mass media publish cartoons of their leaders all over the world and it only evokes a smile, nothing else. Charles de Gaul had become almost a classical example: many caricatures were drawn of him almost every day. And if suddenly he didn’t find them in the morning papers, he said: ‛There are no caricatures of me in the papers today, my popularity is falling…‛ After wavering, the editor-in-chief of Krokodil said to me: ‛You draw one, and then we’ll decide whether to publish it or not.‛ I drew one. At that time the talks between Gorbachev and Reigan on arms reduction were going on and I drew a not at all biting caricature, but a friendly cartoon: Gorbachev and Regan at the talks. Nothing more. All that took place at the end of 1986. In a few months we were going to America and it would be great to print such a cartoon and take the magazine with us to the States. Surely they would ask us if we publish cartoons on our leaders, and we wouldn’t be able to answer. Aleksei Pyanov took my cartoon to the propaganda Politbureau where they say A.A. Gromyko looked at it. When I asked when we would know the reaction ‛at the top‛, they told me in two weeks. Later Pyanov came to me in my office, threw the drawing on the table and said: ‛They recommended ‛to refrain‛. From what? ‛It’s not the time yet…‛ was the answer.
Since all my coworkers in the office heard the conversation, all were upset. We all wanted very much to make a breakthrough. For no cartoons or caricatures on the leaders of the USSR had been printed since 1922. Officially it is said that the main source of all misfortunes in our country is the bureaucrat. In a pinch--the nameless bureaucrat. It is very convenient—and the leaders pretend that they have had nothing to do with it, and the author isn’t repressed.
In the USA, of course, we were asked: ‛Do you draw caricatures of your general secretary Gorgachev?‛ Aleksei Pyanov answered: ‛Gorbachev shouldn’t be criticized, but supported.‛ This answer took the wind out of the sails of the American journalists and artists. They endlessly published caricatures and cartoons on their leaders, including the president, but they are told ‛You shouldn’t draw, but support!‛ As if a drawing isn’t support! The journalists looked at each other with a smile. What else could they do? As a result the press conference got bogged down. They peppered us with questions. Why didn’t we draw cartoons and caricatures of the general secretary. We sat red and sweaty. We mumbled, groaned, sat silent, looked away, and tried to change the subject.
Who then would have known that with such support there would be neither Gorbachev nor the Soviet regime itself four years later. Though, that whole process might have gone faster without it.
I must say that the whole time we were in the States a group of American documentary film makers accompanied us. They even lived together with us in the hotels during our trips around the country and filmed our every movement. And they, when they understood that they weren’t getting anywhere with us, dragged me alone to a press conference. It took place in Philadelphia. They invited the translator and I to sit down at a separate table. A famous American correspondent who was present introduced me. I foresaw that it was going to be a real nightmare for me, after all, I was a party member and I would have to answer for every word I said here when I got back to Moscow. The famous American caricaturist Tony Oft took part in the press conference. They asked us both to draw the American eagle and gave us several minutes to do it. I began drawing, glancing at my watch from time to time. After that they asked us to draw a bear. It was immediately clear what they were getting at. So I drew a Russian bear in bast sandals playing a balalaika. My rival drew a bear with bombs and weapons. All was being videotaped. Then we were asked to draw President Regan. I could already guess what they would ask next—to draw Gorbachev. I bowed out saying that I had never seen Regan and didn’t know how he looked. Tony Oft sat and drew. Then they said to me: ‛Draw Gorbachev‛. I answered that I had not seen him either, so I couldn’t draw him. That ended my press conference. All were disappointed since they understood that they couldn’t get anywhere with me.
My caricature of Regan and Gorbachev never did get published. It was not the custom to speak about the leaders with humor. When you are shown your physiognomy in a crooked mirror, I stress YOUR OWN, you see signs of real flaws in your character, in your conduct, in your appearance. But one doesn’t want to admit these flaws. There have been times when my caricatures made people furious and they literally tore them up into little pieces.
Often I am asked, can a caricature have an impact on events in our lives. No doubt it can. Caricatures keep the government on its toes. A caricature pricks the government. A caricaturist’s talent lies in seeing all phenomena from a different angle with the help of his humor. He finds some unusual way to show them. Looking on the world from a point of view other than the official one is interesting to the viewers. And a caricature is always an unofficial point of view. It is always personal, created through one’s own trails, one’s own thoughts, one’s owns appraisal of something. That means each artist approaches it differently. The more talented the artist, the further his works are from the official point of view and the more interesting they are. So a caricature is an attempt to see the world from another angle, inside out. You look at mankind and society from another side.
Why have caricatures always been like a thorn in the side of the government? Because it looks at the actions of the government from another side that is unpleasant for it. And there are always people ready to laugh at the government. The caricaturist helps people draw back and see the shortcomings of the government, no matter how hard it tries to powder itself up and make itself look good. A caricaturist takes an opportunity to undress the government, lay it bare and show its worst traits. That is why caricature is very popular everywhere. There will be caricature and satire as long as there are governments.
Caricature need not be only political, it can be of a general nature. It can, for example, touch on such themes as wealth, poverty, greed, etc. Why is caricature so popular? Why was the comedian Arkady Raikin so incredibly popular? Why did his story about the coat on which the buttons were sewn so well, but the coat itself wore out become immortal? Because the language of satire is very graphic, while the language of caricature is the language of protest, it is a chance to look at the world not like the rest of the people, not like the government makes the majority look at it.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the attitude of the authorities to political caricature and cartoons in our country changed a bit. One could draw and publish almost any caricature of Boris Yeltsin. My caricatures of him and other politicians were actively published in the papers Izvestiya and Moscow Pravda. But that didn’t last for long, just a year and a half.
In 1993, I, while in America, sent a caricature depicting Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clintin to the White House. When I returned to Moscow, I was amazed to find a letter with words of gratitude from President Clintin in my mailbox.
Why are we in Russia afraid to laugh? Why already Gogol said: ‛Even one who fears nothing, fears laughter‛. A caricature must hit not the target, but the bullseye. It must sting to the quick—that is its affect. If a caricature pats one on the head, like I mainly did while working for the Soviet Krokodil, not making the sharp corners stand out, but smoothing them over as was required then, then it loses its essence and all meaning. It was not without reason that foreign critics in the era of the USSR coined the term ‛positive satire‛ to express their admiration for our caricaturists.
I worked at Krokodil until it closed, though I left for a short time in 1988. At that time my former assistant and close friend Svyatoslav Sergeyevich Spassky was made the senior artist of Krokodil and he remained in that position about a year. More than once he asked me to return to the pages of the magazine, and at some moment he persuaded me. I gradually began to do my drawings for Krokodil. Suddenly Spassky fell ill and my coworkers came to me and asked me to help out. So I began to work as before as the senior artist. Spassky was sick for a long time. When he got well, I left for Switzerland for half a year. After I had returned to Moscow, I dropped by the editorial office and—with a fresh eye criticized the works of the artists. The editor-in-chief Aleksei Pyanov asked me to return and work in my former position.
But Krokodil was already coming to the end of its days. Each year the cost of raw materials, delivery, and paper went up in the country. And the employees were leaving to find a job that paid enough money to live on. The magazine ran into trouble financially and we had to turn to a bank for help. The bank made their own man the editor-in-chief and he turned the whole concept of the magazine upside down. He, in essence, left the old name of the publication for his new magazine. Articles about movie stars, interviews with famous people, and the schedule of TV programs appeared in the magazine, while the caricatures and satires disappeared. That did it! The magazine with that content lasted exactly two months. This time the bankers themselves were losing money on it and officially closed the magazine.
Only after that it came to me that we should put out our own alternative Krokodil. Four of us former coworkers gathered in my workshop and registered the magazine under the name New Krokodil. We put it out for one and a half years. Yury Parfenov and I actually put it out at our own expense, without royalties. Then we found a sponsor whom we sold part of the stock to. Soon he sold his stock to someone else. We worked another year and a half and then left. New Krokodil is not published now.
In Soviet times, the works of the artists of Krokodil were published in satirical publications of the countries of peoples’ democracy. Our works were usually made very small on the magazine’s pages, but had the artist’s name. In the 1980s, I went to East Germany, Rumania, and Poland exchanging experience and doing works for foreign magazines. As is know, at that time it was considered dangerous for a Soviet citizen to publish in foreign publications. It meant that you could receive a royalty in hard currency. And some in the USSR didn’t get such a royalty and the consequences of publishing such works could be very lamentable for the artist. It was considered that since you published THERE, that meant you didn’t live well in the USSR, that you were chasing after big money in the West, etc. That was welcomed only with the permission of the Central Committee of the KPSS.
When we went to America in 1987, my drawings were published in local newspapers. They weren’t political caricatures—I would have had to do either pro-Soviet or anti-American ones, but simply cartoons on our travels. During perestroika in 1991, my works were published in Belgium, France, Japan, Turkey and other countries. Soon I became acquainted with the president of the American Syndicate of Caricaturists and Writers, Jerry Robinson, who invited all the artists at Krokodil to send him their drawings. Just as now, the Syndicate worked with three of the largest magazines and newspapers in the world. It sent them drawings from its ‛portfolio‛. Thanks mostly to the syndicate, my caricatures appear in the largest newspapers in the world to this day. My works were first published in such well-known magazines as Time (a caricature of Yeltsin) and Newsweek (a caricature on the theme of how state property is being pilfered in Russia) in 1993.
I worked with the French magazine Courier International for many years and did some works for the Japanese Courier International Japan. I even worked in Stambul in 1991 on the invitation of a the Turkish businessman and publisher who put out two of his own satirical publications—a newspaper and a magazine and was trying to make them competitive. We three artists—Valery Mokhov, Slava Polukhin and I—who had been invited from the editorial office of Krokodil, lived and worked in Stambul for several months. With our help the businessman managed to raise the level of his publication—our experience at Krokodil stood us in good stead even in Turkey. Our works even appeared in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Switzerland… The Internet makes it possible to work with many publications at the same time, without leaving one’s workshop.
In August 1991, I was invited to Japan by a professor of caricature, Yasuo Yoshitomi in Kyoto. My drawings appeared in Japanese newspapers and a big article was written about me in a Japanese magazine. Parallel to that works of mine were also put in Australian newspapers. Soon I was again invited to Japan, this time as one of the judges at an international contest of caricatures. Earlier I had received the Excellence Prize at it and an exhibition of my works had been held.
Let me take the opportunity to note the following. There is no such thing as a ‛professor of caricatures‛ here, since we don’t have that discipline at our institutions of higher learning. In Japan there is a caricature department in the arts at the university. Around 30 students are in the department in Japan and I was asked to give a lecture. In Moscow, I prepared a 8-10 page text for my lecture. The theme was ‛The Place of Russian Caricature in the World‛. I translated it into English and read it myself at the lecture in Japan. I saw the students nodding off as I gave the lecture which was translated into Japanese for them. As soon as I had finished speaking, I was immediately asked to draw some cartoons—the more interesting part of the lecture. And here the students perked up. Finding the cartoons very funny, they broke out laughing and shouted their approval.
In Russia caricature is not taught. There is not a single institute that has a department of caricature, but I think the time has come to create such a department. The matter is that Russian caricature occupies a significant place in the world. Our artists attained an especially high level of caricature in Soviet times. Being in a closed society, many of them didn’t have a chance to publish their works in Krokodil since it was an ideological magazine, and far from all had that bent while others couldn’t draw well but had great ideas. That was also the case with a great many Russian amateur caricaturists, those who weren’t artists by profession, but worked as engineers, builders, doctors, etc. and didn’t have a chance to express their attitude to Soviet life other than through caricatures. No caricature in the full sense of the word could be published in Pravda, Izvestiya, or even in Krokodil. And caricaturists remained outside official art, at best they could take part in small exhibitions somewhere on the outskirts of Moscow. These unofficial exhibitions were not always written up in the press and rarely was the assessment positive. However they got a great response abroad.
Our caricaturists tried to send their caricatures with all their truths and untruths to contests and festivals of caricature in the West through friends and accidental people. They began to receive recognition there and very prestigious awards. Twenty years ago, the prize money at such contests was very big. For instance, Vladimir Kazanevsky from Kiev won a contest of caricatures in Japan and got around 12,000 dollars. The theme of the contest was ecology and he drew a monkey hanging from an imaginary tree—the tree itself had died. Getting such high awards made the totally obscure caricaturists in Russia and the Unkraine suddenly world famous and spurred other artists to take part in international contests. Our caricaturists constantly won them. Evidently the closed society taught people to think and look on Soviet life critically, and through caricature and its language which is allegoric and laconic, depict the surrounding reality in an original way, at times paradoxal. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the first prizes at international contests for caricaturists went to emigrants from the Soviet republics for many years. They managed to come up with a language and viewpoint unlike the language of other caricaturists and achieved indisputable recognition at international exhibitions. Among them were Mikhail Zlatkovsky, Valentin Rozantsev, Igor Smirnov, Yury Kosobukin, Valentin Dryzhinin, Viktor Skrylyev, Sergei Tyunin, Viktor Bogorad, Vladimir Kazanevsky and many others.
What is a ‛caricature‛? In our Russian understanding it is a drawing of some situation. It is a subject drawing with or without words where the elements can be conditional or realistic. That is a ‛caricature‛ as we understand it. There is also such a concept of a caricature as a portrait caricature. It is satirical and humorous. In the English language the word caricature means only a portrait. So in translation into Russian, a caricature is really a ‛sharzh‛. So the concept of caricature is only one facet of this genre. A cartoon is the surrounding situation, the understanding of some phenomena, so when you depict some situation—say war, money, love—with a pencil or pen, it is a cartoon. In our Russian understanding, a caricature is a cartoon, while in the west the exact translation of the word caricature is only a humorous portrait.
I didn’t take part in cartoon contests because I had no chance and no time to, though I was one of the judges at three such contests—in Cuba, in Yugoslavia and in Japan. Besides, in Soviet times we artists didn’t ever see the prize money, it settled, I think, somewhere in the Department of Propaganda of the Central Committee of the CPSU. At that time we couldn’t independently submit an application to take part in an international contest—it had to be done through the Central Committee or the magazine where I worked. All that only increased the contrast between the open western society and the closed Soviet Union. Only in 1991, when the USSR collapsed, could artists independently and openly send their drawings and take part in international contests.
Every year, several dozen international contests, exhibitions, festivals of caricatures take place that are of various levels and importance. place. It is impossible to take part in all of them. I didn’t take part in them very often also because I was tied hands and feet to the work at Krokodil. I recall with pleasure how I took part, for example in the international festival of caricatures in the city of St. Estev in the south of France in the year 2000. For several days there many famous artists did caricatures of all wishing one. My colleagues unanimously chose me as the best of the best. I was awarded the Grand Prix. They even weighed me and it turned out I weighed a whole 14 boxes of fine French wine! In 2003, I also got first prize in the Gold Hat contest in Surgut.
In 2002, after a 35 year break, I, completely unexpectedly for myself, returned to painting. It happened the following way. My close friend Igor Kozlov turned to a coworker at the studio, the artist Vanya Zagurnoy, and asked him to paint a landscape for him. Vanya took about half a year to do it, and my friend was not very happy with it to boot. All that happened before my eyes, and I, seeing that, offered to touch up the landscape. At that time, I didn’t even have any paints in my studio. I don’t know what moved me to make such an offer, but I had, so all I could do was go ahead with it. The result inspired me, and after that I couldn’t tear myself away from the oil paints on the palette—I did countless bouquets of flowers, landscapes, compositions, still lives and, of course, portraits. Even here I returned to my favorite genre—caricature and cartoons, but already with paint…
In two years, in May 2004, more than 300 paintings, many of which were portraits, were displayed in the Museum of Contemporary Art for the public to see and judge. I did portraits of people who had influenced world history in the twentieth century and the history of Russia whether it was their intent to do so or involuntarily. I have always been interested in politics. Through politics I better see and understand my country. I love and study history, I try to comprehend it, and caricature gives me a chance to express my attitude to what has happened and what is happening, to the past and to the present. Of course, historical figures who one way or another influenced the course of the history of Russia interested me first of all—Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Gorbachev, Yeltsin. And the ‛demons‛ of Russia too—Beria, Trotsky, Vyshinsky, Rasputin. Moreover, I think no one has ever done their portraits. With the help of my paintings I tried to find the answers to questions about the economic and spiritual backwardness of my country. Besides political figures, famous people in whatever profession they were—artists, sportsmen, writers, actors, movie directors--fell into my field of view.
I think that creating such an extensive gallery of portraits, from Lenin to Gorbachev, from Ronaldo to Solzhenitsyn, from Mikhalkov to Clinton helped my inborn curiosity. I am infinitely interested in a person’s character. Through it I try to enter his world. What is the hidden meaning of the words of a politician? What is inferred in the cinematographic images of Charlie Chaplin? What lies behind the pictures of Salvador Dali? I peer into the face of each person like under a microscope and always see when the person is lying or is saying what he thinks.
I still tend to concentrate on public figures. For several years now I have been working on a graphic series titled ‛Outstanding People in the World‛. And the people I do are from all times and all nations. They have never left me indifferent. I have already done many caricatures in this series. I don’t even know how many. There are several folders full, but I continue to draw them. The reason for it is the attention that these people get. Judging by the interest in those works, I see that I am not alone in studying public figures.
It is not in vain they say that we often go in circles. I say that because I again became interested in illustrations. After getting out of the army, beginning about 1976, I worked with the magazine Yunost, one of the most read magazines from 1960 to 1980, as an artist illustrator for 15 years. At first when Boris Polev was the editor-in-chief, and then when Andre Demetyev was. I did the illustrations for the stories in every issue. In those days it was a great honor and very prestigious to be published in Yunost. For many years I also worked with the magazine Farm Youth and around 20 years with the magazine New Times. For a while I did caricatures for the magazine TV Park, and recently I have been working as a caricaturist for the newspaper New Russian Word. I did the illustrations to the animated cartoon Vitus Bering (Diafilm), and the illustrations for children’s books like Peter Pan by James Barry, Tim Talyer by James Cruise, Mary Poppins by Pamela Trevers, the Flying Wolf by Gregory Oster, and In the Cold Sea by Anatoly Mityayev. That is not counting all the other books of different publishers, first of all the books of the Library of Krokodil. In that series, collections of authors were published in a pocket book format in addition to the magazine. These little books came out 24 times a year and had a print run of 75,000 copies. I illustrated about two dozen books in that series. In 1987, a book with my works came out in the series Soviet Caricaturists put out by the publishing house Soviet Artists. Several times the award for the artist who had done the ‛best work of the year‛ was conferred on me at Krokodil. In 1989, my childhood dream came true—I took part in creating the animated cartoon Ballad of a Bureaucrat together with the director, myclose friend Valery Tokmakov, at the TV studio Ekran.
Now I am thoroughly enjoying doing the illustrations to the fairy tales by Charles Perrault.
Why? The excitement. In an orchestra each musician plays his own instrument—the violin, the trombone, the drum, etc. But the musicians are all subordinate to the director and therefore make up a single orchestra. However, the violinist, for example, can also play the piano, the violoncello…He has an ear for music, a knowledge of it, and all the rest is just a matter of technique. It is also that way in art. Moreover, if a person does one and the same thing all the time, he can come to a dead end. And caricature helps me in doing paintings, painting in doing illustrations, and illustrations in doing caricatures.
My skills acquired more than 30 years ago at the plant Goznak have also come in handy. I’ll repeat, I did classical engraving there and I was taught there specially to make lines. Making lines when engraving required a special approach. I try to embody those principles of work in my book illustrations.
I don’t know why, but when still a child I dreamed of doing the illustrations for the fairy tale of Charles Perrault, Hop o’my Thumb. It is amazing how deeply and long that dream lived in me! When I was. asked to do the illustrations to some fairy tale, I’d blurt out, for Hop o’my Thumb? Why? Probably the fairy tale greatly affected me as a child. After all, the fairy tale is very frightening, especially the image of the cannibal in it. He left a permanent mark on me. I will never forget how I felt as I read about how the cannibal was chasing the little children and wanted to eat them. However, the cannibal was conquered and all ended well.
A person can’t eat spicy food or one and the same cake every day. I have been to the North and seen people who ate a bowl of red caviar every day as well as lots of the kind of fish that is delivered to the Kremlin, but they dream of eating a piece of meat. But in Russia there are places where people eat meat all the time and rarely see fish. How dull! One can’t eat one and the same food, listen to one and the same music, watch one and the same films—a person needs variety. Drawing brings me one kind of pleasure, painting another kind, doing water colors still a different kind of pleasure… Lately I have been trying to go out into nature more. The water color is an inspiration for me because I don’t paint the landscape itself, but put my impressions of it on paper. I like to do oil paintings of landscapes. I have especially been doing them lately since I feel that my hidden unutilized reserves of talent lie in this direction. For some reason I haven’t used them. I would also love to do sculptures if I knew how. Once I made a caricature from clay and plaster, but a sculpture is a complicated technique which I haven’t mastered yet…
Never think that one kind of art excludes another. For me, different kinds of art are symbiotic. When I am doing one kind, I am resting from another and at the same time after such a break I get new ideas. Of course it happens that when you are painting a landscape, suddenly the hand reaches for the pencil and you whip out a caricature simply for yourself. You are feeling mischievous!
In 2007 I became a member of the Russian Academy of the Arts.