With work that sells for thousands of dollars, Olesya Ianovitch has come a long way from her beginnings in a small town in Kazakhstan. We catch up with the painter as she prepares to launch an exhibition in collaboration with the Russian tennis sensation, Maria Sharapova.

Olesya Ianovitch has a simple approach to the role of an artist. She said that she makes her work in order, “To make people happy.” Given that she earns her living partly by working with brands and taking commissions from collectors, this crowd pleasing attitude is a good fit.

Ianovitch - Painting happinessOlesya Ianovitch – Artist, entrepreneur and candy

Ianovitch trained as an oil painter while at art college before landing a job as a graphic designer at HBO. She said, “The competitive design career path helped me evolve as a creative. The maturity level and experiences I acquired during my career in graphics and art direction, just naturally led me to be a successful business owner of my artistry.” This business-like approach to art has resulted in Ianovitch working with tennis star, Maria Sharapova, to help publicize her sweet brand, Sugarpova. She described the work she has done for Sugarpova as, “Fun sculptures of giant lips, hearts, flowers, made out of Sugarpova candy,” You can follow the project on instagram @artbyolesya and @sugarpova. She will be displaying these sculptures along with other artworks as part of her upcoming Candy Shop exhibition. The sweet based work will be in a room alongside similarly themed paintings and with free Sugarpova sweets. Subjects for the paintings include hearts, lollipops and Martini glasses. The room will also be filled with smell of cake to complete an immersive, vividly coloured, confectionery based experience.

Ianovitch - Painting happinessKazakhstan & gold

The world that Ianovitch inhabits now seems like a far cry from the small town in what is now Kazakhstan, where she was born. Of her birthplace, Maikain, which was then in the USSR, the artist said, “It’s a town only known for its abundant source of gold. Probably that’s why I use so much gold in my paintings. Sometimes overload of 24k gold paints. Maybe before I was born, I already knew I will paint the world in gold and all the happiest colors.”

Ianovitch - Painting happinessLuxury paintings: material possessions

When talking about her paintings it’s hard not to escape the feeling that she sees them as luxury products, not unlike a handbag or an expensive table lamp. She explains,

“The size range goes from 5×5 cm to 60×40 cm. My smallest mini canvases, I call them hot cakes, they look like little yummy cakes, and they fly out the door for about $100 a piece. Then it goes up exponentially depending on the size and material I use. Some of the mid size 24x24cm are under $1000. And some of the 36x36cm are over $3000 because of hundreds of Swarovski crystals and pearls and all the embroidery which is done by hand.”

Olesya IanovitchCreativity: a process of passion

When undertaking commissions, Ianovitch usually visits her customer’s home to take photographs of the room where it will be displayed. Of the process she said, “I can match colors, to be on point with everything in the room. I love seeing the living space, it gives me a glance into the people’s lives. It helps me understand their likes and dislikes, their essence and their spirit.”

Whatever the commercial realities surrounding Ianovitch’s work, there is little doubt that she is committed to her art. She said,

“There is so much work that goes into creating each piece. I work hard, sometimes 24 hour days on and on with occasional naps. But I am driven by passion. When an artist puts soul and all the energy into work, its priceless in reality. There are so many moving parts behind being an artist.”

Ianovitch’s paintings take days to create. She builds up multiple layers of paint, waiting for each to dry, before adding in carefully chosen textiles and textures. A layer of gloss is then applied before a final protective anti-UV coating is laid down to protect the painting. Ianovitch wire hangs the painting herself and then writes the story behind the piece on the back before signing the finished work.

Olesya Ianovitch - Painting HappinessIanovitch’s role models and the future

While she prizes the uniqueness and originality of her own work, Ianovitch cites a shifting range of artists that she admires. She says of her current favorites, “Right now, I find Picasso’s work striking in person, my admiration for him started when I saw his work at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Gustav Klimt’s earlier works, I love. Harrison Howard’s work is stunning.”

Unusually, it is not an artist, or friend or family member that she picks when asked who she considers to be her role model. Instead, her choice is a little more eyebrow raising. She says, “President Putin. The man proves everything is possible.”

Admiration for authoritarian world leaders aside, Olesya Ianovitch has a distinctly capitalist approach to her work, combined with a strong personal work ethic. Her future plans involve taking her work on tour. She says, “I plan to bring Candy Shop Art Pop UPs experience to all the major cities in the US this year. So everyone can come see, feel and taste the art! New York, LA, Miami coming soon! I am big on brand collaborations, and would love to work with brands on fusing the fine art concept and creating beautiful stories!”