On the evening of September 29th, 2018, our LAAFA alumnus Nikita Budkov had his first solo show with us here at LAAFA! His show was titled “Nikita: The Song Book”, and it exhibited collections of current portraits and landscapes named for songs that fill Nikita’s life. Below are some images of the event and a Q&A with Nikita, detailing his experience of the show.

Q: Overall, how did you feel about your solo show?

A: I felt wonderful about my solo show! We had more than 70 people show up and I think it was a great success. That night was full of smiles, positive spirit, and laughs. We had some serious art discussions happening too. I enjoyed the space LAAFA provided me, it was a one of a kind experience. I could not ask for a better solo exhibition.

Q: What did you learn about having your first solo show and what would you tell others who want to do the same?

A: I learned that the day after the solo exhibition one feels very exhausted, but accomplished too. I would recommend artists to brace themselves and to have answers for all the countless questions awaiting during the show! Other than that, I felt like we did an excellent job on organizing the space, so there were no flaws.

Q: What is next for you now? What are your plans for the future?

A: I am in the process of applying for my so-called artist visa to stay in US longer because I am going to have exhibitions almost every upcoming month and I cannot miss them! Then there is also a major next Gold Medal show somewhere in the Summer. Contests, grants, I will try to do all of them!



“Nikita Budkov: The Song Book” was on display at the LAAFA Gallery space on September 29th, 2018 from 7pm-9pm.



For this blog post I have decided to feature an amazing portrait artist that has worked with LAAFA for many years now, Christina Ramos. Christina specializes in figurative realism and her work has been shown in places like the Santa Paula Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of the Living Artist, and many more galleries and museums throughout the United States. This fall quarter, Christina will be teaching a Still Life and Portraiture Painting class in acrylics. Normally these types of classes are done with oil paints, but it wasn’t until I was having a conversation with one of Christina’s former students who was looking to sign up for her class that I realized how much of a big deal it was that Christina was using acrylics for the class. Even though the main reason may be because of its affordability, the manipulation of textures that are created in her artworks with a fast-drying type of paint is what fascinates us the most.

“The Critic,” 2017,.

Below is a set of interview questions that I have asked Christina so that we can dive deeper into her creative mind and techniques:

Tell us a bit about yourself, when did you first know you wanted to become an artist?

When I was five, and painted in my kindergarten class. They only allowed us to use only one color, mine was yellow. I painted a sun. I was horribly disappointed in my lack of color selection. I always wanted to be an artist, however, I always compared my skill, or perceived lack thereof, to everyone around me. When I was young I was I felt I was pretty good but by the time I reached High School, I felt inferior to those around me, and began to concentrate on drafting instead.

What is your preferred method or medium?

I never picked up a paint brush until I was 30 years old and at home raising my four children. In high school and college, I only drew. Once I started painting, I knew I had found my passion. Drawing was always so tedious for me. Using such a small tool was so time consuming and results were slow. With painting I could cover so much ground in such a short period of time and quickly see if my concept was going to work.

“Chingona,” 2016, acrylic on canvas.

You will be teaching a class with us this Fall Quarter titled, “Still Life and Portraiture Painting in Acrylics.” Why did you choose acrylics as opposed to oil paints?

In the beginning, it was a matter of convenience and affordability. It is much less of a financial commitment to just buy paint and not have to invest in the mediums and solvents that oil painting required. It was also a lot less intimidating to just use paint and water. But now, I choose them because I have become so accustomed to their fast-drying time and have learned to manipulate the medium to look and feel like oil without long drying times. I can literally finish a painting and have it varnished and framed two days later. I always tell my students the thing you either love or hate about acrylics is the fast-drying time. Now however, companies like Golden have created slower drying acrylics that can give you up to a four-hour working time instead of the usually three or four minutes. It’s a great alternative for people transitioning from oil to acrylic.

What role does imagination and creativity play when you approach a new figurative art project?

Although I paint what I see when it comes to my models, I usually like to transform the environment using my imagination, or inspiration from other sources. Although there is no comparison to working from life, my models rarely have time for more than a session or two so I use photography in conjunction with life, to bring my paintings to their completed stage. I like to use natural light, so often my model is sitting on the air conditioning unit in my backyard, where the lighting is best. I have transformed that unit to everything from shipping containers in train stations, to peaks in the High Sierras. New costumes options also play a big role in creating the perfect look, as well as inspiration for the painting itself.

“The Lookout,” 2017.

What are some projects that you are currently working on?

For the last twenty years I have always utilized my kids as my models. As they are now getting older and are less available to model for me, I have recently started painting my 84 year old mother. I became my Moms caregiver three years ago after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I think it’s important to “bloom where you are planted” and as my life and circumstances have changed, I have had to learn to adapt. I want to portray her in fun and whimsical ways. She gets bored during the day, and after we started dressing her up for her modeling session, she has found a new sense of purpose and joy. The first in this series is currently on my easel. I am also working on a series of paintings of my youngest son. Sidelined from a promising career in football after a concussion, I recently submitted the portrait I did of him to the Outwin Boochever Prize addressing “Post Concussion Syndrome”. I think it’s important for us as artists to use our art to not only create beauty, but to reflect our own reality. Inspiration is all around us, we just need a way to express it.

Has there ever been any challenges for you in the figurative art world?

Every day is a challenge. You cannot be in this business for any other reason but that you absolutely love art, love creating, and would do it even if you never made a single dollar. There are so many obstacles in this profession. It is not a straight path.   Discouragement and self-doubt are the constant companion of the artist, yet with each small success you continue to move forward. You could wallpaper my house with the rejection letters I have received over the years but I think it’s important for our failures to motivate us to dust ourselves off and try again. It’s important to not take rejection personally. Art is subjective, and what one person may dislike, another person may love. Many people think that you have to be talented to be an artist. On the contrary, I think what you need is to be a hard worker, and to not give up. In my class I always say that my favorite art book is Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers”. In fact, this book has nothing to do with art, but it does have to do with various paths to success. There is a chapter called the 10,000 hour rule. It says that anything you put 10,000 hours into, you will be good at. I think that is the key, as artists we need to put in the hours.

What advice do you have for current or future students of LAAFA looking to make it into the art world?

Art is a solitary profession. Most of us are locked on our studio 15 hours a day, and don’t have a lot of interaction with the outside world, but now with social media, that is no longer the case. It used to be you had to have a good gallery to represent you and get your art in front of the right audience. Now with the internet we can be our own PR person. We can have hundreds if not thousands of people seeing our art without ever setting foot into a gallery. Networking both on the internet, and on a personal level is your greatest asset when trying to get your work “out there”. Patience and tenacity is the key though. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will believe in you. Continue to hone your craft and take risks, both with your art, and with yourself.


“Going to California”

As I am sure many of you have heard (and if you have not, then I am jealous that you have been hiding under a rock, curled up and well-rested), last week Mr. Banksy managed to pull a new one on us.

Sotheby’s employees pose with ‘Love is in the Bin’ (later renamed by Sotheby’s) by British artist Banksy during a media preview at Sotheby’s auction house on October 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Shortly after the hammer came down on the item for the final bidding of $1.2 millions dollars, the canvas of “Girl With Balloon” by famous anonymous artist, Banksy, began to pass through a shredder installed in the frame. The alarms went off, the staff took away the painting in panic and now a week later, the painting’s value raises another million dollars and the woman who bid on the painting decided to keep it, half shredded and all.

Since his Tate Gallery stunt of 2003, this guy (or girl, because everything is possible nowadays), has been in the headlines for years after. Never before had something like that been attempted in reputable museums. In 2013 he came back with his Better Out Than In exhibit, where he made all of New York his museum institution that housed his artworks. Then in 2015, he produced the unhappiest place on earth, Dismaland, where he gathered a group of fellow street artists and created a (literal) theme park filled with themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism, and pointed social critiques on celebrity culture, immigration, and law enforcement. Lastly in 2017 with his Walled off Hotel experience in Bethlehem, West Bank where he constructed a hotel with the “worst view in the world” across an alley from the 26-foot wall that separates Israelis from Palestinians.

Many criticisms of his work revolve around its being inherently negative, critical, derivative, only interesting to dumb people (looking at you, Shailee Koranne from HuffPost), annoying, and commenting on all too obvious social and political events. It is abundantly clear that some people just do not want to see that sort of art form and therefore do not find it interesting. Many people who I have asked if they are a fan either give me a shrug or have no idea who I am talking about. 

As for me, Banksy is and always will be one of the most important artists in the history of art.

Banksy wore a disguise to sneak a painting into Tate Britain in 2003. He managed to hang and display at least 20 of his art works around the museum and took the staff a couple of hours to realize what had happened.

“The Sirens of the Lambs” truck that traveled around New York during his Better Out Than In “exhibition” in 2013 where he unveiled at least one work of art daily, documenting it on both a dedicated website and an Instagram account.

A view of the rundown castle from the anti happiest place on earth – Dismaland theme park in 2015.

The reason I believe he is important is not only through the messages he/she/they portrays (now I am assuming it is a collective group of people), but the way that those messages are portrayed. Banksy’s art has long been rife with political overtones, as he once told his friend, the author Tristan Manco, that he likes “the political edge” of his work. “All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history,” he said. “They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.”

Indeed, Banksy seems to be mounting his own revolution against the social politics of the world. But even though politics and activism are frequently referenced by artists (both little-known and famous), the immediacy and accessibility of Banksy’s politically-inspired work makes it especially potent. “All art is political in some way, but Banksy always has that quick response,” Rachel Campbell Johnston, the London Times art critic, told The Daily Beast. “It’s prominent because it’s in the moment and visible to the public. He uses art as a weapon. I think many artists use politics in order to get into galleries, whereas Banksy does the opposite.”

While some art critics think Banksy’s art is too obvious, others think his on-the-nose political one-liners are genius. It is very sharp, almost like a political cartoonist joke that you find in newspaper columns with a punchline.

Another thing that makes Banksy one of the most important figures in art history is that even though his artwork fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction without his consent, Banksy gives it away for free. He/she/they isn’t/aren’t represented by galleries (that we know of), and as a result, he’s/she’s/they’re entirely in control of his/her/their own narrative.

At the moment, the value of his artwork is skyrocketing by the second. Already his famous shredding has been adapted into pop culture by McDonalds, Perrier, and even IKEA.

I personally cannot wait for the next time we get Banksy’d… AGAIN.

Even though the nights switch from warm to chilly in September, a really nice way for me to say “Adios” to summer was celebrating the Los Angeles Philharmonic‘s 100th birthday on September 28th, 2018. On this night from 7:30pm-11:30pm, the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborated with media artist Refik Anadol to create “WDCH Dreams,” a breathtaking, three-dimensional projection onto the steel exterior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

WDCH Dreams, renderings by Refik Anadol Studio

By using machine learning algorithms, Anadol and his team developed a unique machine intelligence approach to the LA Phil digital archives – 45 terabytes of data:

To make Walt Disney Concert Hall “dream,” Anadol utilized a creative, computerized “mind” to mimic how humans dream – by processing memories to form a new combination of images and ideas. To accomplish this, Anadol worked with the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google Arts and Culture and researcher Parag K. Mital to apply machine intelligence to the orchestra’s digital archives – nearly 45 terabytes of data – 587,763 image files, 1,880 video files, 1,483 metadata files, and 17,773 audio files (the equivalent of 40,000 hours of audio from 16,471 performances). The files were parsed into millions of data points that were then categorized by hundreds of attributes, by deep neural networks with the capacity to both remember the totality of the LA Phil’s “memories” and create new connections between them. This “data universe” is Anadol’s material, and machine intelligence is his artistic collaborator. Together, they create something new in image and sound by awakening the metaphorical “consciousness” of Walt Disney Concert Hall. The result is a radical visualization of the organization’s first century and an exploration of synergies between art and technology, and architecture and institutional memory.

To actualize this vision, Anadol is employing 42 large scale projectors, with 50K visual resolution, 8-channel sound, and 1.2M luminance in total. The resulting patterns, or “data sculptures” formed by the machine’s interpretation of the archives will be displayed directly onto the undulating stainless-steel exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

WDCH Dreams, renderings by Refik Anadol Studio

The Los Angeles Philharmonic was founded by William Andrews Clark, Jr., a millionaire and amateur musician, who established the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra in 1919. Walter Henry Rothwell became its first Music Director, serving until 1927; since then, ten renowned conductors have served in that capacity: Georg Schnéevoigt (1927-1929); Artur Rodzinski (1929-1933); Otto Klemperer (1933-1939); Alfred Wallenstein (1943-1956); Eduard van Beinum (1956-1959); Zubin Mehta (1962-1978); Carlo Maria Giulini (1978-1984); André Previn (1985-1989); Esa-Pekka Salonen (1992-2009); and Gustavo Dudamel (2009-present).

Check out the video below composed by Google Arts & Culture detailing some artworks: