Brady Walker: How do you think about your own creative license in a collaboration like this?
David Cheifetz: I have the same sense of creative freedom that I feel for any other painting I make. However, years ago, my answer would have been different—I would have felt the weight of perceived constraints. But time and experience has taught me that making art is always the same basic process.
BW: How did the process of painting the work change your perception of Olga’s photo?
DC: Painting from reference of any kind involves a kind of close observation that I might describe as love. Not in a romantic sense, but in a knowing sense. Objects, people, landscapes—Every aspect of the subject becomes so familiar that you temporarily become one with it, which leads to appreciation. So, this process gave me great appreciation for Olga’s photo!
BW: Did you feel pushed out of your creative comfort zone with this collaboration? If so, how? If not, why?
DC: Every painting pushes me out of my creative comfort zone. At some point in the creative process, there will always be discomfort: a problem to solve, a new challenge to overcome. For me, that is the nature of being an artist. Without that crucial component, I would be a craftsman, not an artist.
BW: Can you describe the process of adapting this photo to a painting? Did you take the prompt literally? Were you entertaining any directions that you ended up not taking?
DC: As an oil painter who often paints everyday objects, my typical challenge is to find the beauty and drama within the ordinary. But when the source material is already extraordinary, as it was in this case, the challenge of painting is a different beast entirely.
My desire was to focus on the essence of the image, to simplify and break it down to its emotional core. Much of my effort on this painting was spent adjusting the visual balance between the two portraits until I thought it was just right. I hope viewers can feel that balance, and place themselves within the scene as a result.
BW: How would you advise artists entering their first collaboration?
DC: Let go of any need to control what other people are doing. Just concentrate on what YOU can do to make this a successful collaboration. Listen. Let your collaborators shine. Embrace new ideas and also be true to yourself.