I have followed Italian Lowbrow artist, Ania Tomicka for a number of years and developed a deep admiration not only for her artwork, but also her artistic practice. Ania, interviewed by Allie Schaitel for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine in 2016, has been steadily building a very successful career, with a calendar of exhibition engagements that grows each year. This means she is always very busy producing finished pieces for upcoming shows. But despite these time consuming commitments, Ania works tirelessly through drawing and experimentation to develop her skills and ideas. I think Ania must draw in her sleep to be able to find the time!

She documents her artistic journey and development as an artist through her social media pages demonstrating her love of experimentation and study. Here, she often posts glimpses of her investigations into a wide variety of media and her sketches, explaining her thoughts and process, and giving her followers an insight into how an artist works.

“Sketching is such an important part of my artistic path (and I hope I can inspire some other artists to do the same) because it helps so much with developing ideas and skills. I also have a lot of sketchbooks that I don’t show to anyone. The ones with rough ideas, annotations and compositions are not appealing enough to be shared but are very important to me. When I am uninspired I can browse one of those sketchbooks and elaborate on something I already have and never painted.”

Ania likens learning to ‘leveling up’ in a videogame (and she really likes video games). “You have no idea how much I love to experiment and learn new things. If I have to imagine what a dream life looks like, this is it: a nice home in the Tuscany countryside, a big studio, tons of artistic materials to try out and huge canvases to paint on. And plenty of time to experiment everything with all the ideas that come to my mind. Oh, and a lot of talented friends to paint with and stay inspired together. I believe that I share the same dream with a lot of artists!”

Over time, her work has gradually moved away from a highly stylized pop surrealist aesthetic to a more classical, realist style. For Ania, change is a constant. That need to evolve, mutate and find something new in what she does is a driving force. “From 2013, I started to like more realistic work from other artists, instead of the pop surreal paintings. My taste changed a lot in these 4 years and my paintings tried to follow my lead, but it wasn’t something conscious. I always need to paint and draw something I really want to do, something that I can like and relate to that particular moment in my life.” Ania admits that she doesn’t plan ahead the majority of the elements in her artworks, because she knows that they will change a lot during the process. “I make a lot of preliminary sketches, but only for the overall composition.”

Often, in the last year or so, her figures have had part or all of their faces obscured. Sometimes it’s just the mouth, other times the entire face is blacked out. This, while quite unsettling, adds an element of mystery and intrigue. It’s hard to ‘read’ the figure without the eyes or mouth for expression. It is as if the figure has been ‘silenced’. This has combined with an element of darkness underpinning recent works, giving them greater complexity.

Ania felt this came out of a really bad moment in her life. “Frustration, insomnia, sadness and confusion were the leitmotif of my days and I am not surprised that my paintings started to show unsettling characteristics. I have to say that I liked a lot of the black figures, and even when I started feeling better, I continued on this path. I didn’t wanted to do realistic figures, but I didn’t wanted stylized ones either, so this seemed to me a good compromise. It was also a challenge (and still is) on how to make a painting and the figure in it emotional, without showing the face. Maybe sometimes it’s just a figure who doesn’t want to reveal her real self to the world. I think everyone has a little bit of darkness inside. I am just trying to accept it and to work through lot myself. Also, once again, I am changing in my taste and the artworks in my inspiration folder are quite dark I have to say.”

The expressions on Ania’s faces, when they are not obscured are very engaging and quite poignant. She is adept at capturing expression, in the tilt of a face, the angle and luminosity of an eye, and in a gesture. “The expression is something that comes naturally, it is the figure in the painting that decides, not me!!! The eyes are one of the most enjoyable features to make in a painting, I believe a lot of artists can relate! This is why I focus a lot on painting them.”

In the coming months, Ania has upcoming shows with WOWxWOW Magazine, Jiro Miura Gallery, Modern Eden Gallery, Flower Pepper Gallery, Future Gallery, and Weswal Gallery,and later in the year, a feature show with Arch Enemy. She has just completed the illustrations for a book written by Joel Ackerman that will be available on Kickstarter soon. Ania admits that the illustrations she made were completely out of her comfort zone, but that made the project even more enjoyable. Besides all that, she plans to sketch and study even more.

“This weekend I am attending a Roberto Ferri workshop. His flesh tones are amazing!”

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