I have been drawing since I can remember. The artistic abilities run in the family. Later in life I got tough artistic training in an Art school, a training which from the perspective of time I appreciate more and more. My artistic subjects have not changed since I was 2 years old – animals - technically speaking mammals -and mostly LIONS. But I was most fascinated by the works of the artists who were depicting extinct animals and their environments – for me they were windows, through which I was able to look into worlds that were no more – names like Georgii Nikolskii, Ruben Varshamov, Konstantin Flerov and later Zdenek Burian formed the direction I follow in art.
So along with lions and elephants I began to draw smilodon and mammoths. But questions appeared - should the smilodn be depicted with lion-like coloration and if so why, should the mammoth be brown and if yes why and many similar questions like those, so I followed a path that I was hopping would help me to get the answers to those and other questions.
By education and training I am a zoologist. My interests are in the evolution of the mammalian external traits – coloration, manes, dewlaps, horns and so forth, their variation, development, inheritance and relations with the environment.
I am trying to answer questions such: why the lion has a mane, the tiger stripes, the uninatheres has 3 pairs of horns etc. Questions such those turned out to be extremely complex, as well as complex are their answers, hard to find and define, and some times quite unexpected. But in any case when (very rarely) some answer emerges instead of leading to a closure it opens more and more new questions.
In order to keep the scientific accuracy in check , in my practice as a scientific illustrator, I usually try to work with particular specimens and to avoid generalization when possible. But the goal I pursue when I draw animals is to make them to look alive. In this respect my work as a scientific illustrator depicting newly discovered species is very similar to the process of reconstruction of extinct animals since the specimens I use as models are skins or pickled.
The process of depicting extinct species (which are known only by fossil remains) as live animals has its own specific challenges. We all have some core ideas about those animals (including their size) often associated with one or another living species, but often our approach is an "average" approach ( I called it a Field guide approach since in the Field guides as a rule there is a single illustration which should be representative of the all of the individuals of a respective species). For example the idea of the size of the large form of Eusmilus is that it was about the size of a leopard, but what leopard - there are adult leopards that are twice larger than others. So my approach to the animals, which I am including in my artwork is based on average parameters, but included within some frame of variation based of what is known of the variations of the living species (related philogentically, ecologically or both). Often it is not much but whatever it is. Also the goal is to make those scenes to look real, to show the animals in action, to bring the feeling that they are alive, so here is where the artistry is coming handy - so instead to focus on keeping clear some particular metric parameters I try to use everything that the entire arsenal of the artistry offers - increasing / decreasing of the linear and air perspective, acute viewpoints, foreshortenings , whatever one can think of, with the sole goal, the viewer to be able to immerse within the time and the event with its atmosphere and animals.