Letter to Children at the Preparatory Art School in Russia from Igor V. Babailov
Teachers wrote to Igor V. Babailov
( translated from Russian )
Hello Igor Valeryvich!
We are the teachers of the Children’s Art School in Glazov. On behalf of the children (students of our school) we send you our best wishes, and pass their request to share a little about yourself and your life. It’s been almost 5 years, since your last visit to our school, however we remember you with affection. Children are looking up to you and they are asking about you often.
We are awaiting for your return, and we hope that, like in the old days, you would come to visit our school with an interesting lecture for students. We will be utmost thankful and your visit will be SO important, especially these days, when the appreciation for art is unfortunately changing.
From the bottom of our heart we wish you happiness and success in everything!
Teachers of the Children’s Art School,
Letter-answer from Igor V. Babailov
Dear Teachers and Students,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter. It was very touching to read.
Everyone’s life and career has its beginnings. It happened that my personal life and artistic career have always been in parallel to one another. The very first lessons I received on traditional values, those which have kept the world going for centuries, came from my parents. They taught me how to recognize the difference between right and wrong, to be true to myself and to avoid the ‘gray’ zone, the place of doubt and indecision, and of course, to strive for perfection.
I was exposed to visual arts ever since I was a kid, at the suggestion of my father, Valery V. Babailov, who was one of the founders, as well as the Assistant Principal, of the very first Fine Arts School in Glazov. That is where I began my formal art education and it is the very same school where you now study. It was at the Fine Arts School of Glazov, where I was first introduced to the immortal and perfect values of Realistic Art - the Art of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Repin. As in everyday life, visual art must have its values, its lights and darks and rights and wrongs. Otherwise, visual art is a meaningless splash of paint or deformed piece of clay which has nothing in common with our life and its beauty and would not require any knowledge or skill to produce.
The art of the Masters requires essential knowledge and skill which can only be achieved and learned in the traditional academic school. Glazov’s Fine Arts School introduces you to that knowledge and skills, as it teaches you the alphabet of the rich language of the Masters and provides you with a valuable foundation for you to become a Master.
Today, I am proud to say that all my teachers at Glazov’s Fine Arts School namely Babailov, Semakin, Shikalova, Malih, Kondratiev, Mordvin, Batalov, and others, were my very first teachers who contributed to what I know today and hence the artist that I have become.
Let me share a secret with you. If you have a gift to draw, then you should not take it for granted. Treasure it. Your beloved teachers are dedicated to enrich your talents with knowledge and skills. The more you work, the greater your skill will develop. If you love to draw and are willing to invest the time and effort into your ambitions, nothing should stand in your way to prevent you from making your dreams come true.
Upon my completion of the full four-year program of Glazov's Fine Art School in 1978, I successfully passed the entry exams and was accepted to advance my studies at the prestigious Surikov (currently Tomskiy) Lyceum under the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow. I graduated in 1983 with honors and received Recommendation from the art professors to continue on further to The Surikov Academy, the highest level in art education. In 1990, after my graduation from the Surikov, I left for North America and I now live in the United States.
I enjoy working in different genres of painting, but I do prefer figurative work and portrait painting. In fact, I always have, ever since I studied at the Fine Arts School of Glazov. It is probably because portraiture and people are the most challenging forms of art and that is what interests me the most.
I travel extensively across the U.S. and around the world, and often to the cities in the east coast such as New York, Boston, and Washington, because the east coast of the U.S. has historically embraced traditional portraiture in fine art as it goes back to the country’s first settlers in the 17th century.
Through my incredibly exciting profession as a fine artist-portraitist, I have met and painted many interesting people such as world leaders, celebrities, and people from all walks of life, including of course my Russian country-men, such as the legendary Mikhail Kalashnikov and others. You can see my portraits and other works on my website www.Babailov.com
I also teach and conduct workshops which I love doing. I am sure I inherited this passion from my parents. Just like my teachers in Russia, I keep no secrets from my students and share my knowledge with them completely. I always remember the famous saying by Leonardo Da Vinci, Poor is the student, if he doesn’t become as good or better then his teacher and I myself believe this to be true.
I have taught in many art schools and venues, including the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. It is fascinating to see just how many people around the world and outside of Russia are literally starving to learn Classical Art. After being suppressed by modernistic movements for decades, the traditional principles and methods in art education, nurtured by the Masters for centuries, are now left exhausted from neglect and brutally abused by mediocre artists and their loud-mouth media propagandists and supporters, so called 'art critics', who can't draw either but surely can talk.... As a result, we now starting to witness a counter movement ... For example, educational art magazines in American bookstores, are now attempting to bring back and teach what was almost lost - the science of great realism and the academically structured school. This of course is quite a challenge today as substantial damage has already been done and the system is caught up in-between two extremes of inability and inadequacy: abstractionism which does not require skill and can be painted or sculpted with your eyes closed and also photorealism which is basically a copy of a photograph.
Historically, Russia was fortunate to keep its traditional art education intact and on the highest level, because in modern times, during the period of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, Russia’s fine art curriculum in their art schools and universities was not affected or influenced in any way by modernism. I recall a comment made by a Canadian art academy professor, to one of my Russian professors, while his Canadian delegation toured the Surikov academy in 1988. He declared, What the Russian art students have now, we Canadian art universities lost years ago.
My client and great friend, Ambassador Michael Novak, from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. once told me, One good thing came out of the Iron Curtain - the superb art education in Russia. The Russian borders have now been finally opened and the world is becoming smaller and hopefully a safer place to live, but the Russian School of Art has unfortunately become vulnerable to outside ideas and influences of so-called free expression in art, which sadly may now negatively affect traditional academic values and produce fewer skilled artists. We hope that will not happen and that the world renowned famous traditional Russian school of art will remain strong and steadfast.
Russia’s historical influence and impact on the art world had it all. There were classicists like Briullov and Kiprensky, itinerants like Kramskoy and Repin, Moscow magnates such as Shchukin and Morozov whose influence gave birth to French Impressionists, and even pioneers of the world's modern art movement like Kandinsky and Malevich, also came out of the Russian fine art school. Visual art education was obviously broad ranged, but yet it remained loyal to the best traditions of the famous art academies.
The Children’s Art School is a jewel which Glazov can be so proud of. Just like you, at the age of nine, I was directed and mentored by wonderful artists and teachers and it was there, in their loving care when I took my first steps towards becoming a professional artist. I remember them throughout my life and career.
And I will leave you with one last thought, as many talented artists today struggle with making a career choice to be a visual artist, abandoning their artistic dreams and ambitions for more seemingly secure professions in technology, science and business. Stay focused on your dream and do not let it go. In today’s information highway and globally connected world, there are so many abundant opportunities for you as an artist to acquire and develop your business and marketing networks, knowledge and skills necessary to become a successful visual artist - successful in personal fulfillment as an artist and as an art professional, whether in your own marketplace or anywhere in the world. I am proud of your fine and hard work. You must remember to keep the traditions alive and treasure the fine heritage of your art education, to keep true to its integrity and to maintain the highest standards, for your generation and for generations to come.
Again, thank you so much for your letter. Next time when I am in Glazov, I will certainly come and visit you all.
Very best wishes,
Igor V. Babailov
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