Shadows & Magic: An Interview With Kremena Chipilova

Exclusive Interview With Kremena Chipilova, 2nd Prize Winner of the RAYMAR Traditional Art Award, 2022 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize conducted by Samantha Dexter

Jet black hair cascades like a waterfall down the women’s shoulders. Strands of her long locks trickle down twirling into delicate curls to meet the folds of her creamy white dress. Lustrous pearls decorate her shoulders framing her slender figure. There is an air of mystery about her as her soft eyes meet the gaze of a small fantastical creature wrapped around her wrist. The creature looks back at her with curiosity, its two winged friends framing her other arm with gleeful and equally curious expressions. Their bodies intertwine as the creatures find peace and comfort within the delicate caress of this ethereal beauty. Envelop yourself in the mysterious yet tranquil atmosphere of Kremena Chipilova’s “Her Shadows Caress Me”.

“Her Shadows Caress Me”
2nd Prize Winner 
RAYMAR Traditional Art Award Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize 2022
Medium & Dimensions:
Oil on panel, 40cm x 30cm

To me this painting is about the emotions and feelings it can invoke, in addition to “just” aesthetic value. It is about memory, acceptance and serenity.

Kremena Chipilova has mastered the art of fantasy and magical realism within her oil paintings. Each piece of work she creates possesses a soft, feminine sweetness that is complimented with a darker, more haunting magical quality. Her paintings are heavily influenced by her love of nature, fairy tales and her own personal life experiences which when combined together showcase the magical realm she has built for herself as an artist.

The Bulgarian artist has had her fair share of experience in the creative field over the years and has dipped her toes into a number of artistic endeavors. Such endeavors include working as a caricaturist, designing book covers for self-published authors as well as working in the gaming and publishing industry with companies such as Kobold Press, Dragon Phoenix Games and Paizo Inc.

However, while Kremena has explored many different avenues, her most current venture, a journey which she began in 2020, is that of the fine artist. Two years later, in 2022, Kremena found herself submitting one of her paintings titled “Her Shadows Caress Me” to the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize where she would go on to become the second prize winner for the RAYMAR Traditional Art Award.

Exclusive Interview With Kremena Chipilova

A huge congratulations to you in your success in the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize! To start this interview off, I’d love to hear more about “Her Shadows Caress Me”.  What was the initial inspiration for this piece?

Thank you! As with most of my paintings, the initial inspiration came while I was sketching little thumbnails in a sketchbook. I think it started off as a random idea – it was not inspired by a specific event or concept, but symbols, meanings and little stories about it started piling in while I was working on it. When I had something that I liked enough, I continued to develop it further to an actual painting.

How did you decide that this was the piece you wanted to submit for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize?

It was the painting of mine that I liked best at the time, from the last body of work I had made. So, I hoped it would have the best chance of getting ahead.

What was the process for creating “Her Shadows Caress Me” like? Did you find yourself facing any challenges when working on this piece?

Strangely, this was probably one of the easiest pieces I made that year. It flowed through different stages very easily. I first made a thumbnail with the basic elements like the pose that I wanted, how I wanted the hair to fall and I knew it would be a relatively simple composition with a figure in front of simple background.

I had made this photo of a gloomy field at dusk and the colour and mood it had just fit perfectly with what I wanted in the painting, so the background was surprisingly easy that way. Then I took photos of myself trying to capture the body language and expression from the thumbnail as closely as I could. And then I made the final sketch in which I explored the details like creatures and dress design, and interpreted the photos and thumbnail to the finish I wanted.

As I said earlier, the colours for the background came from the photo, and from the beginning, I knew that her hair would be black, and her dress white. That is also why I chose the muted colour scheme for the creatures instead of something bright and vibrant.

Hair is definitely something I enjoy painting very much, but it could also be symbolic in the sense that I interpret such long hair as a trait that makes the character and the painting overall more romantic.

I know your work is heavily inspired by fairy tales, myths and legends, which stories do you particularly enjoy and take inspiration from?

I think, from the beginning, it was mainly fairy tales and legends, even when I was younger, and nowadays I still tend to read a lot of fiction works – fantasy, sci-fi, classics and mystery novels, and poems, and a little horror. While I paint, I tend to listen to crime/mystery/thriller/detective books, which often have a similar feel in many ways.

On the topic of inspiration, who are some of the artists who have inspired you and your work?

It is difficult to narrow down to just a few, but maybe some of those I follow on Instagram. Maybe (in no particular order, and definitely not an exhaustive list) Van Gogh, Kay Nielsen, Harry Clarke, Edmund Dulac, Angela Barrett, Ivan Bilibin, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Olga and Andrei Dugin, Kinuko Y. Craft, Michael Parks, Marc Burckhardt, Aron Wiesenfeld. I love the Golden Age of Illustration, the Symbolism art movement, the Pre-Raphaelite, Botticelli and the entire Renaissance; there are so many and they change over time, and they are so different from each other, that usually I don’t know who inspired or inspires me the most.

I love the small creatures featured in “Her Shadows Caress Me”. They are so sweet and have such character to them. Upon closer inspection, they appear to be a hybrid of birds, dragons and serpents. How would you describe these adorable little creatures? Do they have names?

While I was planning the painting, I knew that the female figure would be some kind of otherworldly being and I decided to emphasize that by having the creatures around her be otherworldly too. So, I had to think of them as fantastical creatures, but I did not want them to be well-known ones like, say, dragons. So, I mixed several things that combined well in my mind. I wanted them to be a little different from each other so they have different heads, but I also wanted the interaction between them to be natural and intimate, so they could not be too dissimilar.

Overall, the moment that I wanted to capture is one of peace and serenity, of a gentle reunion with a tinge of nostalgia, a little bit of sadness, a little bit of mystery. While painting, the relationships between them changed a few times and in the end, especially when the painting’s name came into my mind, I decided that they would be the “shadows” (while “her” in the title is left open). So, that is one way of interpreting them and the title.

Long, flowing, wavy locks are a signature theme in your artwork, is hair a symbolic theme in your paintings or is it simply something you enjoy painting?

Hair is definitely something I enjoy painting very much, but it could also be symbolic in the sense that I interpret such long hair as a trait that makes the character and the painting overall more romantic. I think it makes it look more like it happened “once upon a time” and adds an air of mystery to the painting.

I read that you like for people to be able to see and interpret your work however they like. However, if possible I’d love to know what “Her Shadows Caress Me” means to you as an individual?

To me this painting is about the emotions and feelings it can invoke, in addition to “just” aesthetic value. It is about memory, acceptance and serenity.

I read on your website that you enjoy reading books in your free time, what have you been reading lately? Any good books you can recommend?

I’m usually reading a few books at the same time. Just recently I discovered Karl Edward Wagner, and I am reading a compilation of short horror stories of his “Why Not You And I?”. Some of the stories in it are about the fears writers face, and so they can feel very relevant to other artists and creators too, I think. I find them very enjoyable and thought provoking. Before that, I read the first book of “The Fionavar Tapestry” trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay and can’t wait to read the next two. These are the two authors I have discovered recently and whose writing I loved, and I want to read more of.

Overall, the moment that I wanted to capture is one of peace and serenity, of a gentle reunion with a tinge of nostalgia, a little bit of sadness, a little bit of mystery.

Alongside reading, you also love spending time in nature. Do you have a favourite place to visit and/or a favourite type of scenery you like to surround yourself with? E.g. forests, the mountains, the ocean, etc.

I would say forests and fields resonate most with me. I like the quiet such places can have. I find being in nature soothing and calming, and it can make me forget about the busy everyday life. For an introverted artist, this can be a very needed respite from civilization and people, a chance to slow down and recharge your brain. I like going for long hikes, which is also a great physical activity.

Finally, do you have any exciting projects or plans for 2023 that you can share with our readers?

I have a few group shows coming up this year in wonderful galleries that will feature lineups of amazing artists. You can check them out on my website where I list all my future and past exhibitions. At the moment, the list is:

  • “Secret Longings“, group exhibition curated by Beautiful Bizarre magazine, at Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, March 2023
  • “House of Many Tales”, group exhibition at WOW x WOW Gallery (online), April 2023
  • “Memory Hive”, group exhibition at WOW x WOW Gallery (online), June 2023
  • “Small Works 2023“, group exhibition at Beinart Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, September 2023
  • “Serendipity“, group exhibition curated by Beautiful Bizarre magazine, at Haven Gallery, New York, USA, November 2023

Kremena Chipilova Social Media Accounts

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