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It is a widely known fact that art does not exist separately from its environment since it is a reflection of certain events, ideas, or feelings that are relevant for the artist. Modern art is no exception to this fact. In the present époque of post-modernism, the characteristic feature of life on the whole and art, in particular, is the quality of intertextuality, a special alloying of the cultural achievements of the past in the artistic creations of the present.
The new works of art are as if woven from what has already been produced. In this context, perceiving and understanding the diverse art of Olga Belyaeva becomes especially captivating when one traces the multiple connections to her personal and professional background in her artwork.
Initially born in Russia, Olga Belyaeva obtained an education as a fashion designer in Italy and consequently moved to Germany where she now works as a freelance artist (Belyaeva, “Olga Belyaeva: Artwork Portfolio”). The scope of her work includes cover designs for various European gothic and rock bands, as well as book illustrations. Her style is characterized by an intricate combination of traditional and surreal art, with a definite interest in anime and manga comic genre.
Style of Drawing: Tradition versus Surrealism
Tracing Belyaeva’s artistic style it appears that this graphic artist can demonstrate certain flexibility and work both in traditional and modern styles and techniques. On the one hand, some images in Belyaeva’s gallery feature a style of traditional art. Such are, for example, the works “Thousand Miles Away” and “The Goddess of Creativity” (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). The subject of “Thousand Miles Away” is the figure of a mysterious king who seems to have been banished from his possessions and survives in an exile.
The realistic details include the crown, the sword, and a once-luxurious cloak with a pattern reminding of traditional knight armor. “The Goddess of Creativity” features a graceful lady, whose unearthly nature is prompted by a pair of golden wings on her back. The image of this muse appears to be generalized from many époques, since the lyre in her hands and the way her golden hair is done reminds of the Ancient Greek traditions, while the lace and draperies of her dress resemble the intricate fashion of the rococo period.
In addition to historical styles, the inspiration for the sumptuous dresses of Belyaeva’s characters can be traced in her fashion designer education and particularly in the Christian Dior Haute Couture collections, as well as in clothes by Christian Lacroix. In this respect, it is particularly worth noticing two images, “Queen of Haute Couture” and “Queen of Spades” (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”).
Both dresses reflect the great designers’ vision of a woman as a queen who has to be dressed in an ultrafeminine style: a silhouette featuring a tiny waist, a full, long skirt, and rounded lines. Belyaeva’s passion for detail is obvious in the way she designs individual clothes for each of her characters. A symbolic representation of her painstaking designer work and love of clothes can be found in “High Fashion Tailors” featuring the process of creating a fancy dress.
Another tendency observed in Olga Belyaeva’s works is surrealism, which — according to her statement — has been inspired by works of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Although Kahlo herself never openly admitted painting in a surrealistic style, some of her works have been labeled so by the prominent French surrealist André Breton (Brookes). The kind of surrealism found in Kahlo’s paintings — the symbolic imagery expressing pain and anguish — can also be discovered in the works by Olga Belyaeva.
For example, “The Place Where the World Ends” is a surrealistic depiction of a reality discontinuity (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). The paradox of this image is that it features the image of an enormous gate which does not lead to anywhere since the world ends behind it. The spectator is lost wondering whether this is a dead end or there is yet another world after the world ends. Another example of Belyaeva’s surrealism can be found in “Chess” (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”).
The inspiration for this painting was drawn from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, with the two queens depicted facing each other in a moment of conflict. Belyaeva skillfully uses the symbolism of colors and — although the White Queen is confronted by a figure in black, as in the standard game of chess — emphasizes the superiority of the Red Queen by the prevalence of red color in the picture.
Comics as a Prevailing Graphic Medium
Up to the present moment, Olga Belyaeva has created an impressive gallery that features over 500 images (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). Among them, one can find samples of canvas art that tend to depict abstract feelings and emotions.
Such are, for example, two canvas paintings “Chaos” and “Euphoria”: both performed in landscape format, they consist of colorful strokes of paint — a similarity that prompts calling them a series. Indeed, they are connected not only through their visual features but also through the emotional contrast. While “Chaos” is an embodiment of inner hatred, “Euphoria” brings forth overall harmony and love (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”).
Apart from canvas painting, Belyaeva has created a series of designs that rather remind of fashion sketches (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). Bearing in mind Belyaeva’s education as a fashion designer, this is no surprise: in her designs, the artist uses a standard set of characters and develops various dresses for them. Also, working on projects for fantasy games results in developing several concepts for epic armor.
However, both the canvas art and the design gallery feature characters that are recurrent for Olga Belyaeva’s art and constantly appear in a series of comics. The interest for the genre of comics, as well as for anime and manga style, is obvious not only in the three comics series by Belyaeva — including “Brangelina’s Comic”, “Hell Comic”, and “Victoria Comic” — but also in separate drawings and sketches (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”).
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Together with “Bring It On,” “Action Sketch” can serve as an excellent example of anime style in Belyaeva’s art: it depicts the elongated proportions in limbs and hair, as well as big eyes typical to the Japanese animation.
The influence of Japanese graphic art is also obvious in the way Olga Belyaeva makes her comic books. Striking by their visual dynamism, Belyaeva’s comics pages are filled with rapid zooms from distance to close-ups and back, thus creating an illusion of constant motion and an almost cinematographic vividness.
Similar to the Japanese manga, Belyaeva’s comics feature super-heroines who join together in groups fighting against each other or a common enemy. In addition to anime and manga, Belyaeva draws inspiration for her comics from a Japanese surrealistic film “Survive Style 5+”, filled with symbolism and allegory that combine in most bizarre ways.
Main Comic Characters
Olga Belyaeva takes a personal interest in each of her comic characters since she has created a separate gallery with a personalized description for every image (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). In her comic books, Belyaeva creates several universes, populating each with a certain set of characters. And although the individual features of the character become apparent already in the comics stories, the way the artist lovingly describes them herself allows systematizing their diversity.
The main male character of Belyaeva’s comic books is Arei, the “king of the Dark Galaxy and the right hand of God” (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). A natural lady-killer, Arei loves partying and arranges his birthday reception as often as twice a month. Since Arei is very rich, it is difficult to please him with a present less than a whole planet. He also possesses extensive knowledge of script languages which he uses almost subconsciously.
A most stunning female character in the comics is Sofia, a “deadly cyborg with a sense of beauty” (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). This is an introvert personality, the paradox of which lies in the fact that her solitude is a way of not escaping but rather reconsidering the reality and entering it in a qualitatively new way. Highly educated in philosophy and natural sciences, Sofia is a creative nature who once attempted at realizing her talents in painting.
However, her art has appeared to be so dreadful that it killed people. Infuriated at such unacceptance of her creative ideas, Sofia sets up her mind on making a new world and new reality based on her ideas. Meanwhile, she often plays the role of death and dresses in black to mourn for the people who died after seeing her art.
An embodiment of a promiscuous woman can be found even in the fantasy world, and in Olga Belyaeva comic books it is Amina. Led by an ambitious dream of becoming the queen of all universes, Amina uses her stunning looks and revealing dresses to make useful friends. Such shameless careerism using own attractiveness does not find Amina many friends. Most of those who know her think low of her; however, Arei keeps her as escort girl since she is quite amusing to him.
While some earn their living easily, there is somebody who has to struggle for it. A mother of nine children, Spadey Spades is an example of a real fighter and a SWAT woman (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”).
A bodyguard, an interpreter, and Arei’s maid — this is just a short list of the jobs she has taken to maintain her children after her husband left her. Barely ever sleeping, Spadey Spades is also known as a pharmacy keeper, where one can buy various poisons. In spite of her constant business, Spadey Spade also finds the time for playing in a death metal band.
A hilarious character from Olga Belyaeva’s comics is Simbah, a lion who owns a chain of McSimbah’s restaurants and is known as the main drug dealer in one of the universes. Relaxed and cheerful by nature — and through drug abuse as well — Simbah aims at pleasing everyone he can by distributing marijuana, LSD, and methyl alcohol for free (Belyaeva, “amihedgehog’s Gallery”). An idol to most of the other characters, Simbah is the symbol of undarkened happiness.
Upon looking through Olga Belyaeva’s galleries, it becomes obvious that she is an artist struggling between the light and the dark sides of life. “Angels and Demons” is one of the themes that reflects this struggle (Belyaeva, “Olga Belyaeva: Artwork Portfolio”). Filled with images of both dark and light creatures, this gallery demonstrates the paradox of the artist’s inner world: while basing in light, she is obsessed with darkness.
A vivid example is an image of “Guardian Demon,” as opposed to the protective idea of the traditional guardian angel. The resolution for this conflict can be found in “Dark Moments,” a gallery featuring mostly images of the darkness triumphing after a battle. The contrast of light and dark stuns the observer with its sharpness and emphasizes the dismal atmosphere of destruction.
The world of Belyaeva’s surrealism opens up in “Wonderland” gallery (Belyaeva, “Olga Belyaeva: Artwork Portfolio”). Apart from “The Place Where the World Ends” and “Chess,” it contains a striking image of “Industrial City.” The breathtaking panorama of a modern industrialized world is rendered through a variety of square and rounded lines that twist and turn in their everlasting stillness. Another gallery, called “Fantasy” is a collection of images both traditional and surrealistic.
Thus, for example, one finds here the realistic paintings featuring Ancient Greek characters: “Muse,” “Hera,” and “Ares.” On the other hand, “Unknown Nature” represents a purely surrealistic image, with figures twisted, turned, and entwined in a dance that enthralls and puzzles rather than explains.
A collection of royal images is found in “Royal Blood,” a gallery filled with portraits of kings and queens in stunning clothes. Belyaeva individualizes each image using costume and color, adding a touch of personality to them. For example, “Exiled Queen of Nothing” appears as a fallen angel with sparse wings and in a ragged black dress.
In the images from “Emotional” gallery, whole dramas take place, since the drawings prompt some tragic events preceding the action. “Duel” is one of the most significant images in this gallery: it features two angels opposing each other on a railway bed, an image suggesting loose associations with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
Drawing Development and Media
Characteristically, Olga Belyaeva employs the widest range of media in her art and mixes various materials boldly. As a rule, an initial outline is made in a dark ink or gel pen, with details emphasized further by pens of different colors. Step by step, the outline is filled in with different colors, one color at a time.
In comics, Belyaeva employs TRIA and Pantone markers that provide bright, striking colors; and she often uses watercolors and crayons for filling in the background. The special glistering effects are reached by using glitter gouache and glitter gel pens. But the most striking visual effects are achieved through play of light and contrasting colors, for example, through contraposition of shades of black, red, and white.
Belyaeva’s artworks are characterized by especial attention to details: every little detail, from interior trifles to decoration of the dresses, is well thought-through and performed with great accuracy. Such precision is made possible through the employment of multiple lines that twist and turn by the artist’s plan. Before coating her images with color, Belyaeva outlines all the details in a distinct dark color, so that the final picture impresses by the high quality of definition.
Olga Belyaeva’s art can be called synthetic in the sense that it combines a vide range of styles, themes, and media. In her detail-filled images, Belyaeva reflects on the eternal struggle between the dark and the light and develops the possible ways of its development in a series of comics. Due to the skillful treatment of multiple media, the artist manages to render her message of pain and emotional conflict.
Belyaeva, Olga. “amihedgehog’s Gallery.” deviantART.com. 2010. Web.
—. “Olga Belyaeva: Artwork Portfolio.” ArtWanted.com. 2010. Web.
Brookes, Mike. “About Frida Kahlo’s Art”. FriedaKahloFans.com. 2008. Web.