Elena Zhuravskaya, an amateur artist from Kiev, Ukraine, uses fish bones, scales and even their boiled eyes to assemble amazing paintings on velvet canvases. Although her work is virtually unknown outside her native country, I hope this article changes that.
I found photos of Elena’s works on a wonderful-yet-obscure blog called Viola, and after doing some “digging” I was able to find more info on this wonderful artist and her unique trade. Ms Zhuravskaya, who works as an architect in Kiev, has a very interesting hobby – she likes to use fish leftovers (bones, scales, eyes) to create detailed ivory-like paintings on dark velvet canvases. The self-taught artist has invented a number of bone-processing techniques which allow her to manipulate the fine medium into whatever shape she desires, although she admits working with such delicate materials is a painstaking process. So far, her fishy artworks have been displayed in various galleries around Kiev, leaving art-enthusiasts in awe of both her bizarre medium choice and amazing attention to detail.
Elena began working with fish bones and scales seven years ago, after meeting a girl artist whose works also incorporated fish parts. After seeing some of her works, she felt inspired to use the strange material to create her own original art. It was a good thing both the artist and her husband were avid fishermen and thus able to catch their own work material, instead of buying fish from the market. She likes to think that the whole family is involved in the creative process, even the cat, who nibbles on the bones clearing any leftover meat. They all love meat dishes and that means there’s always material to be found in their refrigerator. Even her neighbors and friends help out by bringing her all kinds of new fish, some with really nicely-shaped bones.
As you can imagine, creating this kind of detailed paintings requires mountains of patience, but Elena Zhuravskaya doesn’t mind spending time doing what she loves. Asked how long it takes to finish one of her beautiful artworks, she said it depends on the complexity of the project. It can take anywhere from one night to a whole year. In the seven years since she began working with fish parts, her skill has constantly evolved, and she continues to find new ways of using the unique medium to create more complex compositions. For example, she was recently working on a piece called “a girl walking on waves” and spent a long time pondering on how to give a wave volume using just fish bones, scales and eyes. Finally she discovered finely chopped scales make great waves. Elena says most people ask her how she bends the bones, and she always answers that she has yet to see a perfectly straight fish bone. The artist uses naturally curved bones, but her real talent lies in arranging them perfectly on the velvet canvas, a skill required by her profession as an architect. Imagination also plays a crucial role, as using boiled fish eyes and scales in artistic way doesn’t exactly come natural to everyone.
To create her beautiful paintings, Zhuravskaya uses a small hammer, a nail file, scissors, a simple toothpick and a brush to clear the dust off the velvet. She also unses nail polish to preserve the fish parts and PVA glue to make them stick to the canvas.
video in Ukrainian