Leonid AfremovRussian-American PainterAfremov is a very prolific painter, he has made about 4,000 paintings since1995. His style of painting has some influence from Marc Chagall, Modigliani,Monet, Renoir, Malevitch and other 19th century impressionists.He likes to paint cityscapes, landscapes, seascapes and also he loves topaint portraits of musicians. He gets inspired by Jazz music and in fact he isa huge jazz fan.His paintings have been in exhibitions all over the world. The history of hislife has inspired several documentaries and videos that describe hispersonality, the places to where he has travelled and his anecdotes.Leonid uses palette-knife instead of regular brushes to put paint on canvas.Palette-knife itself is intended to be used for cleaning old paint from canvas.It is very rare that any artist ventures to use it as an instrument in paintingtogether with a brush, and it is even more rare that any artist uses it as hisonly instrument.
Afremov personality reflects his unusual technique which was developed andperfected many over years of hard work. His artistic style is unique and easilyrecognized.Working with palette-knife gives fantastic possibilities, but it is alsofantastically difficult to master. It took 10 years for Leonid Afremov to build uphis palette-knife handling skill up to the level that it is now.Looking at the paintings of Leonid Afremov, it is difficult to believe that allsmall details on them were literally carved out from paint with little steelblades, the smallest of which is only 1.5 inches long.His painting technique is accepted by specialists to be completely uniqueand not capable of being copied. He even does not really need to sign hisartwork, it impossible to confuse it with other painters work or to forge.By the words of the Artist, he enjoys traveling most of anything else.Traveling fills out his soul with all the energy he needs to create fabulous art.
Leonid Afremov in his own words:“I enjoy painting cityscapes, landscapes and seascapes. I also lovepainting portraits of musicians.I paint because this is what I love to do. I have been painting since I was akid and my dream was to become a well known professional artist.”The love for life and art inspires me to create the most. I also get inspiredform Jazz music. I am a huge jazz fan.In my art, I am looking to express my inner self and create a movingillusion in a painting. I like making my art so that you can feel and see theaction in the painting in motion.I have tried different techniques during my career, but I especially fell inlove with painting with oil and pallette-knife”.
“Every artwork is the result of long painting process; every canvas isborn during the creative search; every painting is full of my inner world.Each of my paintings brings different mood, colors and emotions.I love to express the beauty, harmony and spirit of this world in mypaintings. My heart is completely open to art.Thus, I enjoy creating inspired and beautiful paintings from the bottomof my soul. Each of my artworks reflects my feelings, sensitivity,passion, and the music from my soul.True art is alive and inspired by humanity. I believe that art helps us tobe free from aggression and depression.”
Group Exhibitions in the former USSR:1977 Students Anniversary Exhibition, Vitebsk1988 Exhibition of Soviet Artists Union, Vitebsk1989 Exhibition of Soviet Artists Union, Vitebsk1990 Exhibition of Soviet Artists Union, Vitebsk1989 Exhibition of Judaica-based Paintings, MoscowGroup Exhibitions in Israel:1991 Amaliya Alber Art Gallery1992 Exhibition of Judaica-based Paintings, Ramat-Gan Museum1994 Exhibition of Judaica-based Paintings, Tel-Aviv Museum1997 Anniversary Exhibition, Ashdod MuseumPersonal Exhibitions in Israel:1991 Arts Center, Ramat-Gan1993 "Gistadrut" Club, Tel-Aviv1994 "Lapid" Art Gallery, Ashdod1995 "Dilon" Art Gallery, Jaffo1996 "Dilon" Art Gallery, Jaffo1997 "Beit Opera" Art Gallery, Tel-Aviv1998 "Beit Opera" Art Gallery, Tel-Aviv1999 “Ofir" Art Gallery, Ramat-Aviv2000 Tel-Aviv Museum2001 Ashdol Museum
BiographyLeonid was born in city of Vitebsk, Belarus in 1955, the same town where MarcChagall was born. His parents were Bella and Arkadiy Afremov. They were notartists. His mother was an engineer and his father was a shoemaker.He started painting when he was seven years old in elementary school.Initially, he took painting lessons in high school and after that, he studied at the“Vitebsk Art Institute”, founded by Marc Chagall in 1918.During the soviet times in Russia, education was completely free and even aftergraduating, he was able to get a job assigned by the government.He graduated in 1979 from the Vitebsk Art School, his major was in Art Education.He was trained more to be a teacher than an artist.After that he took private lessons from local famous artist Barowski, who wasteaching art when Marc Chagall was still living in Vitebsk.During his college years and after graduating, he started working making theatricalsets and official propaganda posters
Life and career in Soviet Russia from 1976 to 1990In 1975 Afremov met his wife to be, Inessa Kagan, who he married the followingyear. In 1977 his first son Dmitry was born. The young family lived in a 2 roomapartment together with Inessa’s parents, grandmother and sister.In 1982 they bought their own home where they lived until 1990. After graduatingfrom college, Afremov worked as a label designer in a local beer and liquorfactory. Then he briefly worked in a local theater as a set designer.In the early 1980’s he started doing free lance work for communal farms andschools, designing and making various propaganda posters, themed rooms andwalls for certain communist events and holidays.He was also doing template sculptures of Lenin from plaster. He had a very goodreputation in that field and was invited back by many farms and schools. Thistype of work was available only during the summer and spring. In November1984 his second son Boris was born.During the cold Russian winter, Afremov stayed at home painting. He was notallowed to participate in government exhibitions because of his Jewish roots andwas not allowed to be a member of the local art associations.
His early work was sold privately via family and friends and was not seen by manypeople. A lot of his work in the 1980’s was just given away for free. He did notkeep records of his work then and not much of it survived. He currently does nothave pictures of anything before 1990.In 1986 the Chernobyl disaster happened. Vitebsk was only a few hundredkilometers from Chernobyl, close enough for radiation to travel with the wind andrain. The ecological situation in the area worsened, local crops and waterbecoming contaminated with radioactive fallout.Small children were affected strongly, including Afremovs two year old son. At thesame time Leonid Afremov was experiencing serious problems due to his Jewishheritage.The liberal politics of Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Jewish soviet citizens to migrateto Israel in the late 1980s. Due to anti-semitism and problems caused by radiation,Leonid decided to move to Israel, as soon as the doors were opened.On May 14th, 1990 the Afremov family left by train from Minsk to Warsaw wherethey stayed in a hostel for 3 days. Then on May 17th, 1990 they took a flight toIsrael provided by the Israeli immigration authorities.
Life and career in Israel from 1990 to 2002On May 17th, 1990 the Afremov family entered Israel at Ben Gurion InternationalAirport. They had to give up their Soviet citizenship in favor of Israeli. To this day,Leonid Afremov and his family are citizens of Israel only.Leonid Afremov found a job in an advertisement agency making signs and posters.After working in an advertisement agency, he worked in a gallery shop where helearned to make frames and he was introduced to the palette knife for the first time.Because he was a recent Russian immigrant, the locals considered his work ashaving little value. Galleries took his paintings for 15 US$ but then they werereselling them for 150 to 1500 US$.He tried to sell his paints at street fairs and exhibitions in local social clubs.However, it was difficult because of the social stigma of Russian immigrants. Hiswife was forced to take a low-paying job in a textile factory.During the early 1990s, Leonid Afremov was mainly working with watercolors andacrylic. He was experimenting very little with usage of the palette knife. He waspainting what people were buying, with very little artistic freedom.
In 1994, his 16-year-old son Dmitry tried to sell Leonid’s paintings door to dooraround the neighborhood, This practice proved itself very effective, and Afremovsuddenly started selling many pieces he painted and was getting slightly bettermoney than from selling directly to galleries.Dmitry proved himself to be a good door-to-door salesman. He was sellingLeonid’s paintings in the new neighborhoods where recent Russian Immigrantswere living. In 1995, Leonid acquired enough funds to open his own gallery andframe shop in Ashdod. The gallery was not popular among local Israelis; it wasmainly visited by fellow Russian immigrants.The gallery was vandalized and broken into on several occasions. The localIsraeli newspapers were refusing to publish advertisements for AfremovsGallery, and he was mainly advertising via Russian immigrant press and radiostation. However, artistic freedom could not be achieved completely.During the late 1990s, Leonid was constantly holding exhibitions in Russiancommunity centers around Israel.
During this time he already worked mainly with a palette knife and oils, hebegan establishing a unique artistic identity, however it was difficult to paintwhat he wanted because of the financial obligations and the picky customers.Around 1999, Leonid became friend of Russian-speaking Israeli jazz musicianLeonid Ptashka, who inspired Afremov to paint a collection of portraits ofpopular jazz musicians and helped him secure a successful exhibition in theInternational Jazz Festival in Ashdod.Since then, Leonid Afremov has painted dozens of his favorite musicians.In March 2001, Afremovs gallery was completely vandalized. Dozens ofpaintings were destroyed, the artistic equipment stolen and the facility turnedinto rubble.Then Leonid decided it was time to move somewhere else where he could betreated with deserved respect, eventually He moved to the USA in January2002.
Life and career in USA from 2002 to 2010Leonid Afremov was preparing his move to USA very carefully. For severalmonths he did not sell any paintings, everything he painted he sent to his sister inBrooklyn. When he arrived in the USA in January 2002, he had more than onehundred paintings at his disposal.Leonid and his son were systematically going from one gallery to another in NewYork. They found galleries that liked and purchased paintings, however they onlytook jewish themes and musician portraits. Afremov found himself forced to paintonly limited themes and subjects for living.Leonid had good opportunities in New York but the cold climate affected hishealth. He was constantly struggling with arthritis and muscular pain caused bydrastic temperature changes. Thus he moved to Fort Lauderdale in April 2002,The rest of the family joined him a few months later. In Florida, Afremov faced thesame changeless like in New York, selling only certain themes and subjects thatthe galleries wanted and were able to sell.
In 2004, after graduating high school, Leonid’s son Boris was introduced to e-Bayby his friends. They tried to sell a couple of paintings by auction and immediatelyreceived positive approval. Paintings were sold for hundreds and sometimesthousands of dollars and everything sold without exception.For the first time Afremov was given the opportunity to paint what he reallywanted. At this point the real artistic journey began. He began painting what hereally wanted from his personal inspirations and finally was able to explore hisartistic vision and abilities all the way.The exposure on e-Bay gave him opportunities for commission orders and accessto different galleries. However, because of negative experiences with galleries,Leonid preferred to sell directly to the collector. Thanks to the internet exposure,Afremov participated in various local TV shows around the USA.His art was declared very relaxing and calm by notable psychologists andpsychiatrists who make use of his painting in various psychological andpsychiatric therapy procedures. Afremovs paintings were published not only in artmagazines but also in various medical and health magazines as examples ofstress reducing paintings.
In 2005 following a successful year, the Afremov family moved to Boca Raton. Inthe same year, they started taking their first family vacations in Cancun and Playadel Carmen.In 2007 with the help of his sons Leonid lunched his own personal site where hebegan selling prints and original painting, eventually moving all the business andattention to his personal site. Two years later Leonid underwent heart bypassprocedures. The doctors recommended Leonid to stay away from managing abusiness, keep a calm lifestyle and ultimately retire. Since then his sons Borisand Dmitry have been handling his sales and business aspects like customerservice and shipping.Recent life and career in MexicoIn 2005 Leonid Afremov vacationed in Playa del Carmen and Cancun for the firsttime. Since then he was visiting the Mexican Caribbean two to three times a yearand completely fell in love with the area.Eventually in March 2010 Leonid decided to take an early retirementrecommended by his doctors and He moved to Playa del Carmen, a popularresort town near Cancun.
His children were involved in his business to the point that they had to move toMexico as well. His children manage his virtual gallery and shipping office in Playadel Carmen.The Afremov’s also have locations in Cancun and Cozumel where they sell artduring the busy tourist season in the winter. Leonid found Caribbean Mexico veryrelaxing and stress free to spend his time painting.In 2011 Leonid sponsored the construction of his own personal ranch near PuertoMorelos (Cancun) where he spends much of his time. He also opened there an“Art School and Resort”, where he teaches his painting experience and creativity tomany students attending his courses.The permanent southern sun filled with colors and brightness has made Leonidspaintings positive and joyous. The artist himself is a convinced optimist and this canbe easily seen in his creative artworks. His paintings make viewers feel lighter andmore positive.“I am currently living in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. I love theCaribbean sea, and all my life I dreamt of living on the coast of this sea.”
At the entrance of “Quinta Leonid Afremov”, his ranch near Cancun, México Teaching at his Art School