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Wildlife Artist Irina Pushkareva: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

An Interview with Ming Zhao

Before you will hear a desired “Yes,” you will hear many “No.” Failures are real! This is how we learn and grow. Instead of feeling sad, victimizing yourself, embrace them! Failures show you the right path for you. You just don’t see it yet, because of the intense emotional response that you have at the moment. Calm down, and see failure as something you can grow from.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Irina Pushkareva.

Irina Pushkareva is a wildlife artist who is on a mission to bring a sense of joy and serenity to people through her art. Pushkareva began to draw and paint as soon as she could hold a pencil at the age of 1 and half. In her teenage years, she was trained in traditional ways of painting and drawing, but found it restricting and wanted to break free from traditional art. In 2016, while studying in Parsons, Pushkareva developed her own contemporary oil painting style, which allowed her to create “moving, wave-like lines” of oil paint, instead of blending all the shades together like seen in traditional art forms. Since graduating in 2018 from Parsons with BFA in Fine Art, Pushkareva has been creating and showing her work in the United States.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Hello. My name is Irina Pushkareva, and I am a wildlife artist based in Miami, FL. I was born in Russia in a small town called Kurgan, and spent much time on my grandparents’ farm. Very soon, I found out that I am the happiest when I am around nature, animals, and when I am creating something. I don’t remember how I started to draw, but my Mother told me that it happened as soon as I could hold a pencil at the age of 1 and a half. Apparently, I never stopped since then.

I moved to the US at the age of 15, and lived in boarding school for a year. Back then I didn’t speak English very well, so all my friends were Russian-speaking. After a few months of studying in the new school I realized that most of the people I called my friends were not my friends at all. There was lots of bullying within the Russian-speaking group I was a part of, so one day I decided to walk away. I literally disappeared, and was on my own. I didn’t speak English, so I had no other friends. I was alone. This was the time when I remembered that there is one thing that makes me happy, and this is creating art. I took 2 art classes at the same time, and began working very hard in both of them. It brought me peace and joy I craved so much. And after 2 months my drawing was chosen for a competition, and I won first place in the show. This drawing was then sent to Washington DC to represent the district of Boca Raton, and it was never seen since then. The drawing was lost or stolen. We never found out.

Throughout my childhood I always noticed that when I was creating art, everything in my life was in balance, in harmony. Now, this is how I live. When I create, I can give so much to people. It makes me happy too!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Part of this story I mentioned in the previous answer.

It was an inner understanding that when I create, everything in my life falls into balance. Since the age of 15, I have known that I want to make a living from my art somehow. I just didn’t know how yet.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There was a moment when I asked myself what is the purpose of what I am creating. What does it bring to people? People don’t just buy a painting. They either buy status, or an idea or feeling. My art does not fall into the “status” category, so it has to be the 2nd one.

I was brainstorming for weeks! All my past experiences and lessons that I learned in life are essential parts of my art. By looking back at my past, I came up with the idea that through my art I wish to inspire people to do what they love by bringing them a sense of serenity, joy, and faith.

The day when I came up with this idea I was at the art exhibition, and I was showing my latest painting of an orca that was poking its head out of water. I was anxious and was doubting my idea so much that I literally decided to ask God for a sign that my idea is the right one for me. Fifteen minutes later, a young woman walked towards my orca painting, and she was in awe of it! I decided to ask her — “What do you feel by looking at this painting?” She replied — “I feel that I am as big and strong as this killer whale. I can do whatever I want in this water. Go wherever I want. The water will always be the water, and it will do its own thing. It will give me challenges, but I remember, I am strong as this whale, and I can do what I love no matter what water does to me.”

Here was the sign I asked for! Since then I am doing my best to inspire people to do what they love by bringing them the sense of peace, joy, and faith through my art.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am focusing on Florida native species in my work right now, and I am amazed how beautiful and abundant this ecosystem is. Florida is a very fast developing state right now, and this development often causes destruction of the natural resources. Unity with nature is essential for a sustainable society.

With my Florida Natives series I wish to bring this understanding to people, and inspire proper action to preserve this beautiful ecosystem. I partnered up with the Florida Wildlife Federation. It is the statewide, non-profit citizens’ organization with a mission to connect and restore remaining wildlife habitats in a rapidly developing state, and address ongoing climate change through education, advocacy, and science-based stewardship. 20% from the sale of every print I have on my website goes to support the efforts of the FWF.

I am very excited to continue expanding the Florida Native series, and inspire people to take proper action on a personal level to preserve nature around them.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Once I had dinner with the multi-billionaire and his family, and I honestly had no idea that he was one! I won’t say any names here, because I want to keep things private.

The fact that I didn’t know that it was him made things much more interesting. We had a great conversation, and even played chess on his phone. I was amazed to learn his net worth after the dinner and who he really was. But what surprised me the most is that so far he was one of the most humble people I have ever met! It is hard to imagine based on what he has in life, but his humbleness is truly admirable and desirable.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

I want to say that I copy the best artist that has ever existed, and this is nature.

I love to take a walk in nature or swim in the ocean, and this is where most of my inspiration comes from. It is not about the scenery as much as the feelings of peace and joy that I get when I am outside. Then, I just find ways to pass on these feelings to others through my art.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Recently, I started to talk more with people about my art. It might sound skeptical, but it does magic.

I was always told — “Let your art speak for itself,” and I listened. But I always had an urge to say something to the people alongside my art. When I realized that the driving force behind what I do is to inspire people to do what they love by bringing them the feeling of peace, joy, and faith, I understood that I have to speak. I have to be next to my art, and not only connect with people through it, but also connect with people on a purely physical human level in order to pass my idea to them. It required some courage for me to do, but it is well worth it! I constantly keep learning new things, so I can share them with others alongside my art.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I will say things that are very common, but I go through them nearly every day. I wish someone told me about them in the beginning, and like many of us, I was forced to learn them through the process.

  1. Competition kills creativity. We can spend so much time comparing ourselves to other artists, and we don’t realize how much energy we waste on that. It is much better to invest this energy into creating art, and sharing it with the world. Remember that every time you compare yourself with someone.
  2. Before you will hear a desired “Yes,” you will hear many “No.” Failures are real! This is how we learn and grow. Instead of feeling sad, victimizing yourself, embrace them! Failures show you the right path for you. You just don’t see it yet, because of the intense emotional response that you have at the moment. Calm down, and see failure as something you can grow from.
  3. Build diplomatic relationships with all people. All opportunities in life come to us from others. One way or another, but it always happens through people. Focus on trying your best to build diplomatic relationships with others. The more such relationships you have, the more opportunities you have in life.
  4. Have a business plan. When I ventured out to become a full time artist, I had no plan and I failed. I simply did not know what to do. Having a plan eliminates that fear of not knowing what to do. As soon as I sat down and created a plan, things went much more smoothly.
  5. Your life is the only thing that has value for you. I learned it when I understood that the material world can be lost in a blink of an eye. What I will be left with are my skills and knowledge, that no one and nothing can ever take away from me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Any revolutionary movement is a force that will always meet the counterforce. It will always meet resistance. Yes, the changes are made this way, but this is often a slow, gradual process with lots of wasted energy.

Instead, I would like to inspire people to take full responsibility for their lives. We hear this concept everywhere now, but only few people are actually doing it. Taking responsibility for one’s life is essential for a happy, fulfilled and sustainable life. Person who takes responsibility for her life can create wonders in this world, and change many minds for the best.

Let’s take an example; Nowadays, protecting the environment is an important topic. We all understand that our children can face serious problems in the near future. But many people live with the belief that there are smart scientists who will do something to fix this problem. Yes, this is partly true, but it does not take away your responsibility. What can you do in your daily life to protect the natural environment? Can you start bringing reusable bags with you instead of taking the plastic ones from the store? Can you stop using plastic straws? Can you have your own reusable coffee cup? Can you do such small steps in your daily life?

This is just an example, but this is what I mean by taking responsibility. It also has a lot to do with understanding your own individual importance in this world. It is an understanding that your individual actions have effects on your life, the lives of others, and the environment around you.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

Richard Branson.

I would love to ask him about his approach to life. He seems so playful, happy, funny, and easy going. I am very curious if he is truly happy (which I think he is).

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My Instagram is @ipushkareva_art.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Ming S. Zhao

Ming S. Zhao

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Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.