PoetsArtists 5 Artist Interviews: A Tribe to Call Your Own

When I first became aware of PoetsArtists I didn’t know a lot about the community and platform. I have come to realise that it is a very strong and inclusive ‘tribe’ of hard working, focused and dedicated artists who come together to learn about each other, support each other and exhibit alongside each other. Every one of the artists and curators I have worked with in writing monthly articles about their exhibitions have been the most extraordinarily lovely people… humble, polite and helpful, and from all those I’ve encountered it is a wonderful ‘tribe’ to be part of. I thought it might be time to explore that tribe and get a little insight into it through the eyes of Didi Menendez, founder, and five of its talented members.

Didi Mendendez – Founder

PoetsArtists is a publication. The first issue was published in February of 2008. Previously to that, I was publishing poetry. We won a few awards including a Pushcart Prize. From the first day I started publishing online in 1998, I have been creating communities. It started with the poets and then it grew into an artist community. The community is who I published. We started calling it a tribe when it became a popular term socially to describe a specific and unique group. Recently within the last two years I realised that we did not have a formal page for the group and that I could be offering many services to them besides just publishing and exhibiting so I opened up a Patreon account to help with the expenses. By having a Patreon, I am able to offer the group many options so my role changes depending on what project we are working on. When I am publishing them, I am their designer. When I am selling their work, I am their art dealer. When I am marketing them, I am their ad agency. When I am exhibiting them, I am their curator, and so on and so forth.  We are constantly growing and expanding our reach. We are also an experimental platform, which other communities and publications are watching and learning from. We test out new practices which are later emulated by other organisations and we set the ground for new policies and practices. It has always been that way. I am one of the first online poetry publishers and considered a pioneer.

The most important aspect of becoming a member of the tribe is the community; meeting others not only online but in person. Our exhibitions allow our members to meet not only in the USA but also abroad. I curated a show earlier this year in Barcelona and we had another show in Ireland and we are showing in Australia next spring. Becoming part of the community is what makes us thrive not only in our respective careers, but it is also a support group for those who work in isolation and need help getting their artwork out into the world.

Membership is open to visual artists, poets, art collectors, writers, galleries, and other art aficionados. Use the membership to network with other members, participate in conversations, and learn about the various spectrums of the art world by being part of what goes on behind the scenes. We are a publishing house, promoter, art dealer, curator, marketing and ad agency combined. We work with various art collectors, galleries, and museums throughout the year to place our artists into collections and exhibitions so they may broaden their reach and increase their exposure and sales.

Alexandra Manukyan

Alexandra Manukyan was born and raised in Armenia,where her parents enrolled her in after school programs including art school. It was at that young age that her creative spirit was ignited. After art school, she graduated from Fine Art College and subsequently State Pedagogical University where I majored in Teaching Fine Arts.Upon immigrating to Los Angeles in 1990 she worked in the fashion industry and the entertainment industry and found the experiences she gained in her professional career helped to enhance the constant in her life, of painting and drawing. In 2012 she left the fashion and entertainment industries and returned my focus to my own fine arts. It was at this time she also began teaching classes in my studio, which I continue to this day. “From each experience in my life, I have gained tools to express myself, my passions, and my beliefs through the art you see today.”

Alexandra Manukyan - Blazon realistic painting of woman with jewellery and tattoo

Blazon – Alexandra Manukyan


Could you explain a little of your current artistic practice so our audience can get to know what you are most recently exploring in your painting.

Many know my work by the environmental conservation themes. Last year, I started working on several new series’ where I explore emotional landscapes of interpersonal relationships and inner human conditions. In one of the series I imitated textures, and the sepia look of the old daguerreotype photography, with oils on linen.  In another series, I created very elaborate backgrounds which wrap over the heroin’s skin making her a part of her environment (like in my painting ‘Blazon’).

Tell me about your painting ‘Blazon’.

“Blazon” is one of the four 12”x12” pieces of my latest series. In this particular painting the girl personifies the allegory of heritage. Blazon in French means ‘Coat of Arms’. I painted it with oils on Belgian linen. It will be showing this September at the Group Exhibition LAX / ORD II, curated by Thinkspace Projects Gallery, at Vertical Gallery in Chicago.

You are a well established and highly regarded artist. How does membership of PoetsArtists assist you in your career?

Didi Menendez does incredible work in organizing, curating, publishing, and creating great opportunities for the PoetsArtist’s members to participate in various shows in the US and abroad. My work has shown in ‘Vision of Venus’ in Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, ‘Adorn Me’ online exhibition curated by Carol Hodes and Didi Menendez, ‘Painting Today’ at the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Spain, ‘I Observe’ at Rehs Contemporary Gallery in New York, ‘Secondary Meanings: Figural Diptychs’ at ZhouB Art Center in Chicago, ‘Painting the Figure Now’ at Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art. And the same exhibition will also show at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago.

Has being a member of PoetsArtists made you aware of artists whose work you didn’t know, but now admire?

Absolutely!  I discovered so many amazingly talented artists that I had never heard of. I am very pleased at how Didi Melendez was able to attract and bring together a community of exceptionally talented figurative painters; especially in the current world and genres of art, which overlook, and undermine figurative art. Her effort of uniting very talented and skilled figurative artists gives us a strong and important presence in the art world. At the same time, she brings everyone together, creates opportunities to showcase our creativity and skills, and gives us a platform to inspire and push each other to our limits.


Anastasiya Chybireva

Anastasiya Chybireva was born in Ukraine and immigrated with her parents to US when she was 14. She started drawing and painting in her earliest childhood and received figure-based atelier training growing up. Anastasyia began her artistic education with Bachelors and Masters degrees in Architecture from Cooper Union and University of Texas. Over that last years she has received additional training studying with established realist painters she admires privately and in workshops. Anastasiya’s work is found in private collections across United States as well as Germany, Russia and Ukraine. She has been recognised by National Portrait Society, Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists and others; her work is featured in the PoetsArtists’ publication. Currently Anastasiya teaches design and drawing studios at University of Texas in Arlington and paints fervently in her studio in Dallas. The artist’s portraiture explores the human soul looking to capture the idiosyncratic mystery of each individual she paints.

Anastasiya Chybireva - Proverb realistic portrait painting

Proverb – Anastasiya Chybireva


Explain a little of your current artistic practice so our audience can get to know you as an artist.

I draw and paint people that possess answers. Currently, I focus on womanhood in search of defining the role of tradition and the extent of personal choice that women actually have in the current age. Secretly, I hope to absorb and never let go of the forces that I behold when I paint my beautiful subjects. Realism is my preferred style because I choose to maintain as much integrity to the visual appearance of my subjects as I can. Why? Because I believe that there is a profound interlink between the external and the internal. I believe that an individual deserves every wrinkle on her face. I think that being very curious and very attentive earns you the right to judge a book by its cover. I stare into the eyes of my subjects for many hours and at some point I think I understand them. Maybe I’m delusional, but I enjoy this belief.

Currently, I paint in my studio in Dallas and teach private classes and workshops. Capturing people that I find interesting is, and always was, a passion of mine. I guess you can call it an obsession. I concentrate my attention on depicting inner emotional states and idiosyncrasies of my sitters’ character. I aim to achieve a visceral reaction from my gut to my very own canvas. I want my portraits to breathe and be real; I want them be the people I paint. Recently, I started incorporating imaginary elements in my otherwise realist work. I am working on finding a balance of tangible and real, yet not constrained by reality.

I don’t use grids or projection devices; all my work begins with a freehand charcoal underdrawing where I find composition and begin depicting likeness of my characters, then I move to paint. I like working from life when given the opportunity. But not all my subjects are ready to sit, c’est la vie.

Tell me about your painting ‘Proverb’.

I like reading Proverbs 31- it talks about multifaceted job of a woman. Sometimes I find myself doing so many things at once that it just doesn’t make sense. Some days I would be working on a painting, stop to feed the kids, teach a class, write a lesson plan, drive for a photo shoot, paint more, and forget about cleaning and laundry and ordering brushes from England on time … back and forth all day long. Instead of going crazy I like to contemplate Proverb 31. It makes me perceive the overwhelming rhythm of life with thousand different things erupting all at once as a mean for personal growth — as a way to become that glorious woman from proverb 31. I awarded myself many jewels in this self-portrait for the unseen and relentless daily effort… the type of effort that gets no trophies in real life. It might seem a bit narcissistic, but in a way I painted myself to represent women in general. Many women I know perform heroic tasks on the daily basis; I wish I could paint them all.

What drew you to becoming a member of PoetsArtists? What benefits does belonging to the ‘tribe’ have for you? Have you ‘met’ other artists through PoetsArtists or even just become aware of artists whose work you like?

I joined PoetsArtists because I was searching for a community of like-minded people. Being a part of this tribe is a life changing experience. It opened up opportunities for me to publish my work. It connected me with new collectors. It has propelled me to think more intensely about the meaning and content of what I produce. It turned me into a better critical thinker. One of the biggest ways in which being a part of this tribe has influenced my life is the fact that now I have a tribe. As easel artists, we often find ourselves a bit isolated, well… not if you got a tribe. I have met quite a few artists personally and established friendships with many others across the globe online. The upcoming Muse exhibit became a great way for us to meet each other. I am painting two artists from Austin, it was a fascinating experience to get to know them, visit their studio. I take a lot of inspiration from other artists in PA. The overall level of craft is very high so it provides a healthy sense of competition and propels me to push my technical level and be selective and intentional in crafting my personal style. I am a part of many other associations and societies but I cannot compare PA to any other — it is a form of an art family — one of those things that money can’t buy.


Viktoria Savenkova

Viktoria Savenkova was born in 1979 in Belarus. Her artistic journey began in childhood in an art studio and continued art school including college and the Academy of Art (Minsk, Belarus). After a period as an Art Director at the national film studio “Belarusfilm”, she worked as a tattoo artist. In 2014 she went back to painting working primarily in large formats. Her work centers on psychological portraits, sensuous landscapes, figure studies in realistic style. She has participated in local and international exhibitions and competitions (Italy, Spain, United States) and been published in various catalogues and publications (PoetsArtists, Leonardo Art Guide 2017, 2018).

She has been a finalist of the 4th and 6th Concurso ModPortrait, the 11th International Arte Laguna Prize, the 13th and 14th International ARC Salon Competition (The Art Renewal Center), Figurativas Painting & Sculpture Competition 2019, Publisher’s choice award PoetsArtists 2018. Two artworks of the artist are in the permanent collection of MEAM – Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (Barcelona).

Viktoria Savenkova is currently based in Minsk, Belarus.

Viktoria Savenkova - Drop painting blonde girl realistic painting

Drop – Viktoria Savenkova


Explain a little of your current artistic practice so our audience can get to know you as an artist.

I am inspired by everything that I see around, my daily life. I find inspiration not in dreams or fantasies, but in every moment of everyday life. I like to hold dialogue with the audience. But most of the time I just sit down and work. I do not wait for inspiration. I believe that the artist should not seek inspiration, but inspiration is waiting for the artist to start working. Looking at a work of art, the viewer sees a reflection of his own inner world, not mine. If it elicits similar emotional response, the work catches the viewer.

Tell me about your painting ‘Drop’.

‘Drop’ is a work about freedom. Freedom of internal and external, freedom of choice, and our attendant upsurges, and of course the falls. This painting won the Publisher Choice Award, cover Prize of February 2018. Such recognition by professional publishing means a lot to me!

 In what ways does PoetsArtists assist in getting their work seen by a wider audience?

I have been a member of PoetsArtists tribe since 2017. For me as the artist it is very important to show my work, to be exhibited. PoetsArtists gives artists great opportunities to participate in various publications and collective exhibitions in famous museums and galleries. This is such a good incentive and encourages creative drive!


Mark Heine

Mark Heine attended art school on scholarship starting in 1980, at age 19. He discovered his aptitudes and early passions – mostly by accident, through random divergent opportunities that presented themselves while he earned a living and raised a family. Those opportunities included illustration, graphic design, architectural rendering, mural painting, commercial sculpture, animation and more. The artist has actually painted 42 postage stamps for various countries around the world.  Mark put in 22 years as a freelance applied artist, building a strong portfolio and working his way up to international clientele such as Disney, Sony, Starbucks and Microsoft, represented by agents in Vancouver, Philadelphia, and eventually New York.  Finally, 13 years ago he turned to a life of fine art and galleries.

The artist has spent six years sailing a boat across the Pacific Ocean, writing a book. This adventure has inspired his ‘Sirens’ series. To date he has painted 75 “Sirens” paintings. Many are life size or larger. They are currently exhibited in galleries and shows around the world.

One painting was recently selected from 4,300 entries for the Haynes Galleries award at the 14th ARC Salon. “Labyrinth” (30”x40” oil on canvas), will tour for the next year with other ARC Salon winners, first to the MeAM in Barcelona for a show, then back to another show at Sotheby’s in New York. The prize for the Haynes award is a group show this October – my work, along with others selected – at the Haynes Galleries near Nashville.

Mark Heine - Cipher underwater female siren painting

Cipher- Mark Heine


Explain a little of your current artistic practice so our audience can get to know you as an artist. Particularly your interest in painting the female figure under water…

Writing has long been a big part of my creative process, and I’ve come to realise that I’m a storyteller.  By connecting that inner vision to painting, I can create a world in detail beyond the written word. My stories are metaphors of the human condition, with my message woven through. Sirens is a story about the ocean. It’s also a fusion of ancient Greek mythology and the rich and mysterious spoken mythologies of the Coast Salish First Nations people of the Canadian west coast who have deep and ages-long connections to the ocean.

In the genre of magical realism, Sirens is a story of our ambiguous and destructive relationship with ourselves. It’s very much a commentary on the suicidal juggernaut we ride toward the destruction of the natural world that sustains us. The key figures in the story are a modern reinterpretation of the Sirens or sea nymphs of Greek mythology made infamous in Homer’s Odyssey.

Tell me about your painting ‘Cipher’.

The Sirens story is set on the west coast of Canada, one of the last remaining pristine, remote and undisturbed locations in the world. The Indigenous people here are the direct descendants of the first people to set foot in North America. Thirty thousand years ago, humans crossed over the frozen land bridge from Siberia during the ice age and travelled down this coast, settling on the food-rich shores.

In this land of great forests, civilization was built from wood, so little remains from the ancient inhabitants. There are middens here and there, and the occasional stone weir, but their dwellings and possessions returned to the soil to feed the next generation of life, as is the cycle. In “Cipher,” one of my principal Sirens characters, Aerica, discovers some of the rare stone petroglyphs that dot the coast of B.C. They carry a message from long ago – a message so important that it was set in stone. But she has no idea how to read the petroglyphs. What she doesn’t understand is that what they say is only half of the mystery.

Why did you join PoetsArtists? What do you feel emerging artists would gain from becoming a member?

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the PoetsArtists edition of “50 Memorable Painters of 2015.” From there, I was featured in several other PoetsArtists publications before I was a member, and became familiar with Didi Menendez and her inexhaustible work ethic.

I joined PoetsArtists because there are many opportunities to show in the various PoetsArtists calls, and the chance to meet and interact with so many accomplished artists in new locations is huge. Another big advantage is that this is a group of peers with similar challenges and concerns. The forums are a great sounding board for all kinds of advice.

PoetsArtists has been a boost to my career and sales. In fact, I just sold a large painting in the PoetsArtists show “Go Wild” in Dublin, Ireland. There is no way that I would have been there on my own.

I would say to emerging artists that it doesn’t matter what you do, if no one sees it. There are so many talented artists out there that you need all of the advantages and opportunities you can get, to be recognised. PoetsArtists gets it seen… that and all of the above.

You have been selected for a number of PoetsArtists exhibitions. Can you tell us a little about how you approach the submission process?

When a new call is announced and there is a particular theme, I’ll look through my available inventory to see if I have a painting that relates. If it’s a commercial gallery, I’ll also look up the venue location and review the gallery’s resident artists. I like to find out what kind of work the gallery patrons are familiar with. It’s the same process I use when I am researching galleries for representation, and it’s a good way to tell if the fit is right. I’ll do the same when considering entering a non- PoetsArtists competition. A quick review of past winners and current judges can go a long way to telling me if it’s worth risking the entry fee.

If it’s a PoetsArtists call for “new” work – meaning art created specifically for the call – I’ll keep that theme in mind when I’m composing new paintings. I don’t compromise my vision of my art, but if it does fit the call, all the better.  I also find that the extra element of a call’s theme swimming around in my head can lead me in new directions that fit with or even expand on my vision for “Sirens.”

What advice would you give to artists considering submitting to a PoetsArtists call out?

First, before the calls, I think one of the most important things you can do as an artist is to document your work properly, professionally, and in as high a resolution as you can afford. Once you have a master file that is properly colour balanced, you can create copies sized to the specific requirements of the call. PoetsArtists calls are usually standard, but occasionally they are linked to an outside show with different submission demands. You also need high-resolution files for magazine covers, articles, show posters and print ads.

Turning back to being a member of PoetsArtists… as a member, there are many opportunities to submit to calls that fit with your work, and most are at no cost. So do it! It can’t hurt, and the upside is terrific if your work is selected. PoetsArtists also does a lot of show promotion, both online and in leading magazines (like Beautiful Bizarre!), so you may be lucky enough to be selected for the show ad, which gets you even more great exposure.

There is a standard PoetsArtists submission form available online. Be sure to follow the guidelines, especially for things like file size and image title requirements.



Anne-Christine Roda

Anne-Christine Roda graduated in painting restoration in 1997. She worked for ten years for collectors, museums antique dealers. In 2001 Christine started teaching at an art school in France.  Finally she decided to stop restoration in 2013 to devote myself to painting.  The artist has participated in Contemporary art Fair ( Mac Paris, St’art Strasbourg, Yia Paris …) and exhibitions in Art Centres.  In 2015, she participated to the BP Portrait Award at the national Portrait Gallery of London, Edimburgh and the Ulster Museum in Belfast.  In 2017 Anne-Christine was selected by the ARC.  This year has seen her participation in two important group exhibitions, “painting today” at the Meam in Barcelona, and “painting the figure now” at the Wausau Museum in Wmoca.

Anne-Christine’s collectors come from France, England, Germany, United States, Hong Kong.  She is also part of the Ibex collection and currently represented in galleries in Europe.

Anne-Christine Roda - Gaelle 111 figurative painting of legs of a girl in wet white dress

Gaelle 111 – Anne-Christine Roda


Explain a little of your current artistic practice so our audience can get to know you as an artist.

My personal work is obviously marked by my years spent with the old masters, with them I have kept some old technique. I define a highly original interpretation of the portrait; in my work, the painting is entirely subjugated to the portrayal of man’s fragility.  My paintings, in terms of the choice of pose for my models, and often the neutral treatment of their backgrounds, are as rooted in tradition, as my subjects are sourced unequivocally from our contemporary era.  My choice of subject speaks directly to our everyday lives.

Tell me about your painting ‘Gaelle 111’.

When I choose a model, their personality will be decisive, I never anticipate my shooting, I let myself be guided by the encounter, by what the model will give me about it and that I will try to fix. There is something almost magical, a mood, an emotion, a state of mind, all this will happen during the session and then give me something to paint.

With Gaelle, exceptionally we had been outdoors, it was terribly hot and we were doing body details in the water, legs, and hands. She loves water and felt good in this fresh water. While I was changing lenses she laid down completely in the water… it’s that moment I finally chose, she didn’t even see me take a picture of her at that moment.

How did you hear about PoetsArtists? What do you enjoy most about belonging to the ‘tribe’?

In 2017, a Facebook post mentioned a publication on “the new nude”. At that time, I was working mainly on nudes. I had made a whole series of women of all ages and obviously this post looked like evidence. It is difficult to show naked figures today; it is in my opinion, a real regression and I was very happy to be chosen to defend this genre.  Then the publications followed one another and this year I had the pleasure of being chosen for two exhibitions, one in Barcelona and the other in Wmoca.  Didi Menendez is incredible; I think this woman never sleeps. She offers so many exciting projects, and is adept at reconciling her different proposals with the gallery exhibitions in Europe. Figurative painting is still not well represented in France and it is really very stimulating to belong to this community. PoetsArtists offers so many opportunities to exhibit all over the world which is especially important to me since I would really like to work more in the United States.

You exhibited in ‘Painting Today’ a PoetsArtists curated exhibition. Can you tell us a little about that experience for you?

I knew the Meam as I knew the National Portrait Gallery in London. When I started painting, I visited these museums, dreaming, without believing in it, of one day exhibiting there. Of course, Didi’s proposal to participate in this exhibition was incredible, and discovering three of my paintings hung among all these incredible artists, whose works I was seeing for the first time remains one of my most beautiful memories.


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