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old bios, artist statements, ramblings

ARTIST'S STATEMENT, 2009

My earliest memories are of lying under my mom’s easel with a drawing pad of my own.  At age thirteen I began private lessons with one of the leading portrait painters in the US to learn the techniques of the old masters.  The next ten years instilled in me a love of the more traditional styles of art, but there was another side of art that had always fascinated me: the surreal, the melancholic, the blissfully flawed... During church my dad used to draw surreal pictures for me, and as I grew older I started doodling my own.  My drawings on paper somehow always seemed unfinished, like a sketch for something bigger, but the spontaneity of the drawings never carried over very well into paintings.  So I skimmed across the tops of a lot of different styles and mediums, focusing on learning techniques rather than a particular style or subject.
Although I have utilized many styles and mediums over the years, my current work is primarily coloured pencil on thin sheets of birch veneer.  In 2006 I started working on birch and simply fell in love with it. Even a simple pencil drawing takes on a warm and inviting glow when drawn on wood.  I experimented with using different materials, paints, markers, even a wood-burning tool, before settling on coloured pencil.  The waxiness of the coloured pencil on the wood grain creates the most creamy, delicious, rich, velvety texture. The coloured pencil sits on the top of the wood grain, using the texture to give it a natural depth, sometimes even creating an almost holographic image.  The picture seems to move as you move past it; different colours fade in and out, shadows deepen, highlights vanish and then reappear. If you look at some pieces straight on they may look dull and flat, but take one step to either side and suddenly there's a face bursting out of the wood at you.
I strive to bring a natural element into my work, sometimes staining or colouring the wood to accentuate the grain. The movement of the wood grain is utilized in the arrangement the composition, to make it part of the piece and accentuate the organic flow of my work.
My aim is to create art that transforms the darkness of life into something beautiful, that displays its scarred black underbelly yet still somehow evokes feelings of serenity and utter contentment, to combine the elements of sacred symbolism with the imperfections of modern life to portray in a beautiful and physical rendering that which transcends and might inspire us to go beyond what we accept as reality. Some of my inspirations come from classical art, Norse and Celtic mythology, the symbolist and surrealist movements of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the psychedelic art of the 1960’s, and the illustrations in classic children’s books for their ethereal idealism and the way they stir the imagination.  Working with birch veneer, I’m not so concerned with a particular subject or style; my goal is to create work that invites the viewer to look more deeply, into the image, into themselves…
A friend once asked me why I was an artist. The best answer I could come up with was a combination of genetic predisposition, a lifetime of conditioning, and to stay alive... It had never occurred to me that I could be anything else.  If I go without creating something for too long, I get this overwhelming feeling that everything is not okay, that I'm missing a giant part of myself by not painting/drawing/sculpting... It's another way to express what's inside my head, a language that I seem to be more fluent in than English...

OPEN STUDIO BIO, 2008

Else Olava was born into an artistic family.  She began her studies of art at a young age, visiting art museums and galleries, spending time in local artist’s studios, even attending and participating in her mother’s college art classes at the age of five.
Her formal art training began at the age of fourteen under the guidance of one of the leading portrait artists in the United States  She later continued with this interest at a local university as well as at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  After college she moved back to California, settling in Sonoma County in 2005.
Although formally trained in the classical realism style of painting, Else was also heavily influenced by the surreal doodles her father drew to entertain her.  This led to an interest in the symbolist and surrealist movements of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the psychedelic art of the 1960’s.
“I can’t remember a time when I have not loved the creative arts, especially the surreal, the melancholic, the blissfully flawed.  I am drawn to the illustrations in classic children’s books for their ethereal idealism and the way they inspire the imagination.
I appreciate art that can transform the darkness of life into something beautiful, something that displays the artist’s scarred black underbelly yet still somehow evokes feelings of serenity and utter contentment, art that combines the elements of sacred symbolism with the imperfections of modern life to portray in a beautiful and physical rendering that which transcends and might inspire us to go beyond what we accept as reality."

USED TO BE

this is not an 'artists statement'. i have several that I wrote during college, but they are either grossly inadequate or lost somewhere on my dead computer, so until I get a real one, this will have to do.

i am a bit of an odd girl and have a corresponding odd sense of humor, which often oozes from my pores in a form that some have mistaken for art. i spend a great deal of time fighting the entropic dust bunnies lying in wait under the bed (they crave human flesh and the war is waged daily for supremacy) as well as ridding third-world countries of those oh-so-troublesome mutant crawdads that keep popping up. In spite of this eternal quest, i still manage to find the time to create art regularly.

i am part 'Art School dropout' (the white/blue hair is long gone, but the uncontrollable urge to create stuck around), part hippy/organic/sustainable-living wannabe, part computer/networking nerd and gadget geek(ette), part something else that has yet to be discovered by modern science... i like to find the fun in whatever i do, whether it's playing Scrabble, lurking in the corners at gallery openings, gallavanting in the moonlight down deserted city streets or just watching a movie on the couch with friends. i am a sporadic cyclist and hiker, but don't seem to actually do a lot of either unless i have someone to join me.

i was born and raised in the wilds of southwestern Michigan, spent my days running through the woods, climbing trees, damming (damning?) streams, building forts, digging in the mud...

But the west coast was calling, so in 2001 i moved west to be a nanny. Three years later i moved north to escape the southern California smog, traffic, dead grass and people... i discovered that as much as i wanted to be a city girl, i need to bury my feet in mud every once in a while..
i moved to Sonoma County in 2006, got a 'real' job (woohoo! health insurance!) and moved into the coolest little hole in the wall studio in Sebastopol with my Manx cat, Thora. I love going down to the city whenever possible, which is not nearly as often as I'd like... Work is still taking up an unseemly amount of my time and energy and most likely will for the rest of my life.

School: i went to college for a few years straight out of high school, just because i didn't realize i had a choice in the matter. i ended up ditching all my regular classes and only going to the art classes. After a semester at the Art Institute of Chicago, i took some time off, and have never really gone back, aside from the odd class here and there. i keep telling myself that someday i will actually finish. i didn't really learn much from the art classes i took, i got most of my art-learnin' from looking at my parents art books, frequent trips to art museums and galleries, and from 10 years of studying the drawing and painting techniques of the old masters with one of the leading portrait artists in the US. It didn't hurt that both parents, one grandfather, two great grandparents and a couple distant ancestors were artists, something must have trickled down the bloodlines ...

Why do i paint? Genetic predisposition, a lifetime of conditioning, to stay alive... If i go without creating something for too long, i get this overwhelming compulsion, this feeling that everything is not okay, that i'm missing a giant part of myself by not painting/drawing/sculpting... It's another way to express what's inside my head, a language that i seem to be more fluent in than English...

Influences: More than i can count, most you've never heard of, not all of them artists. Actually, very little doesn't influence me. i once wrote a rambling essay on where i get ideas from. Someday i'll edit it down into something usable.

i guess there are two art movements that have influenced me more than others. Oddly enough, one was a direct rebellion against the other. i like classical realism/naturalism and symbolist/surrealist art from the late 18/early 1900's. Jan Toorop, Gustav Klimt, Harry Clarke, Kay Nielsen, and Arthur Rackham are a few favorites...

Frequent trips to art museums and galleries while I was growing up exposed me to many different styles of art. A little too many, perhaps. The styles I choose to work in now are... eclectic?? i go back and forth between doing the very traditional, realistic still-lifes, landscapes and portraits i was trained in and the more surreal stuff that i doodle all the time, on every scrap of paper i can find. i couldn't really transition those drawings onto canvas as well as I wanted to, so i mostly stuck with traditional paintings and just drawing on paper. But recently i discovered birch veneer. !!!! Can you see the big grin on my face? It is so gorgeous! i can still draw, just like on paper, and it has the most creamy delicious velvety texture you can imagine. And i have a thing for woodgrain, so that helps.

i like to think that i'm always evolving and growing as an artist, and that is why my styles are so eclectic/scattered... Probably a bit closer to the truth is the fact that i'd get bored if i only stuck to one style or subject. When i have room for a studio, maybe i'll go back to painting, but i just don't have the space right now...