Ekaterina Popova: Honoring the Muse of Radical Reinvention


The celestial muses that guard the art world’s exalted gates don’t just hand golden tickets to anyone. Our book cover-judging sources expressly state that recipients like Ekaterina Popova must first be easy on the eyes and wear cool clothes. Additionally, they must effectively convey to their ardent followers that they are living their best life. A shimmering star is added to the file of those, like Ekaterina, who also possess legitimate artistic skill.

Huh-boy. Since when were off-the-record rumormongers ever reliable? An art world gatekeeper didn’t actually pull Ekaterina Popova aside one sunny day while she was joyfully slurping on a malted milkshake at Ye Olde Soda Shoppe. That same raspy-voiced individual never proclaimed, “Hey kid – ya got the right look, so here’s a lifetime V.I.P. art star pass!” No golden child status was bestowed upon Ekaterina for merely just showing up to the party.

Wait a minute. Ekaterina Popova – who has already achieved so many successes in her thirtysomething years – didn’t receive a leg up? Nope, she sure didn’t! No one even lifted her big toe. The creator of kaleidoscopically zen oil paintings actually put her nose to the grindstone. In the process of manifesting her art world goals, she scuffed her schnoz and sustained plenty of other wounds, too.

When gatekeepers said, “Hell to the no!”, the founder of Create! Magazine and Art Queens figured out how to entirely circumvent the art world’s nebulous rule book. Repeatedly. You’re going to learn a lot of surprising things about the creative coach, author, and podcast host. Factoids that will help you to see Ekaterina Popova in an entirely new light. Not only as a rule-breaker and opportunity maker but also as a ballsy artrepreneur who makes it rain by creating her own form of art world currency. Yeah…she really is that cool.

I want to continue growing as an artist. I also want to feel excited and even surprise myself. I never want my studio time to feel like a formulaic process. 

How long did it take you to realize that achieving success as an artist isn’t necessarily contingent upon engaging with gatekeepers? 

I was painting, submitting, and building my career for close to five years before it began to sink in! There is nothing wrong with partnering with galleries and organizations to maximize visibility as an artist. However, it blew my mind when I realized that I could be personally responsible for my own success rather than relying on others and waiting to be “saved”.

Do you think that the art world is persnickety about who it hands backstage passes to? Is there any real rhyme or reason behind why one artist is given a shot over another?

I honestly still don’t understand quite how the art world works. There doesn’t appear to be any method to the madness, nor a straightforward career ladder. That makes it hard to judge what’s fair and what’s not. These issues persist in other fields, as well.

I see a lot of artists getting further ahead in their careers even though they aren’t necessarily as skilled as others. Of course, I’m happy for their success. One thing I’m reminded of, though, is that everything is still possible in this world. I address this topic in my coaching. You have to believe in your work and make it visible in order to increase your chances of receiving recognition. 


Are those who create their own rules (yet still end up achieving success) relegated to the “other” pile by the art establishment or are they actually respected more? 

I consistently make my own rules. Fortunately, I have been able to work with supportive galleries. Additionally, I’ve had traditional opportunities and augmented those with my own experiments. The more I create my own opportunities, though, the less interested I become in gaining outside approval.

Do DIY artists have access to as many mainstream opportunities as those who play the game?

In the seven years that I have been doing this, I have received a lot of opportunities and have actually declined many of them. I think there are unlimited ways to be an artist. The key is to not become obsessed with a specific entity or gallery. 

I hate being put in a box. If it were up to me, I would live in a world with no labels at all.


When life says, “Nope…not so fast. I want you to jump through a bunch of hoops first!”, is it your nature to machete your own path toward goal fulfillment? Or, did you surprise yourself by donning so many entrepreneurial hats?

I definitely tumbled, fell, and crawled my way here. I found the strength to show up for myself even when no one else did. All of my projects stem from a pain point or a powerful lesson that I’ve learned. Create! Magazine was born out of the need to offer something to artists like me that wasn’t around at the time. My coaching emerged from an inner-well of self-empowerment.

Has your multi-tasking, go-with-the-flow personality made working on your magazine, artist coaching, podcast recording, and personal art career endeavors seem more like a walk in the park?

Yes. On a human design chart, I am a manifesting generator. That means that I am constantly churning out new ideas, plus I move through things quickly. All of my projects support artists and are connected to each other on various levels. I love sharing my journey on the podcast, supporting/providing opportunities through the magazine, and sharing what works with my coaching clients. 

If you repeatedly heard “yes” throughout your early emerging artist years, would you still be the artrepreneur that you are today?

I think so! I get bored very easily. Even though painting will always be a part of my day, I am curious about many other things, including building community and empowering others. If I didn’t love it, I think I would have given it up a long time ago. 

Is your intent to establish yourself as a Martha Stewart-like resource for creatives?

Haha, that would be pretty sweet, wouldn’t it? My favorite part of everything I do is making others feel like it’s possible for them. I think it will always be part of my soul’s calling to be a resource to others, whether I continue writing, coaching, speaking to artists, or I find another way to encourage them.

I consistently make my own rules.

Making art a priority in the midst of your typically busy work week sounds like it could be tricky. Is there really such a thing as ‘down time’ in the world that you’ve designed?

I work on my business pretty efficiently, so I always have time for painting. I’m actually transitioning to a new body of work, so my studio time is a massive experiment.

I consistently take one day off a week without working. I don’t even paint. My daily routine also includes activities such as running, hiking, and taking my Pomeranian Kolibri on walks, all of which help me to feel grounded. 

Is engaging in an abbreviated painting session just as meditative as painting without any time constraints?

It’s definitely more luxurious to paint without looking at the clock. Showing up – even for a small bit of painting, though – always makes me feel better. I engage in a good mix of brief and extended art-making sessions. I try to make sure that a few days a week, I have no serious schedule interruptions. That helps with flow.

I definitely tumbled, fell, and crawled my way here. I found the strength to show up for myself even when no one else did.

Does the end result of many micro painting sessions still yield a work of art that is just as aesthetically pleasing to you?

It’s hit or miss. Sometimes I’ve ended up with a lovely little piece whereas at other times, I’ve learned that it’s best to scrap it. The process is what counts for me. 

If you had the opportunity to be Katerina Popova, Painter! rather than multi-hyphenate Katerina Popova (who is also a painter), wouldn’t you prefer the former? Isn’t there a part of you that longs to paint from dusk until dawn amid sips of absinthe and heated conversations about the stupidity of Vantablack?

If it were up to me, I would live in a world with no labels at all. As a child, I was criticized for going back and forth between piano classes and art school. I was pressured to pick one. Embracing various pursuits may seem fragmented, but I’ll never be the type of person who is content with just one title. I am a multi-passionate individual and can’t change the way my brain works. I need to move freely and express myself creatively, whether through painting or business.

The choices I’ve made haven’t always felt like sunshine and butterflies, but I’m still proud of them.

You’ve referred to your new painting chapter as a mystical and magical opportunity for rebirth. How did you know that it was time to bid your ongoing interior series adieu? 

It felt really heavy to show up at the studio. I could barely pick up a paintbrush. I kept trying for months and months. I actually produced some lovely paintings during that time, but my heart needed a change. I also kept seeing works by other artists that inspired me, and they all seemed to have figurative or natural elements in them.

The palettes that you’ve used throughout the years have given the beholder an invigorating yet emotionally calming refuge from reality. Have they had a similar effect on you?

I think most of my work from the past decade has been based on a need to heal and escape. During the creation process, the colors definitely had a healing and meditative effect on me. 


The more I create my own opportunities, though, the less interested I become in gaining outside approval.

Even though you’re curious to see how the muse manifests in your new creative endeavors, have you been going through color withdrawal? Surely there’s some muscle memory that keeps intervening. How do you steer clear of the urge to saturate?

Absolutely. Occasionally, I’ve still binged on color. Working with a monochromatic palette has been an excellent exercise. Still, for a color lover like me, it has been challenging!

Nothing about your new artistic pathway brings to mind the artist formerly known as Katerina Popova. Your latest creative experiments make me think that you’re now fluent in Klingon, you brush your teeth with popcorn, and your favorite new décor accent is repurposed cicada carcasses. How exhilaratingly scary is this process?

It’s definitely exciting and liberating. I hate being put in a box. Exploring this more nature-loving, spiritual, and even dark side of me has been an exciting break from what I created in the past. From alla prima plein air sketches and clay studies to watercolor explorations, we will see where this new path leads me!

Do you feel as though this radical creative move is akin to learning how to create art with your non-dominant hand? 

Something like that! It’s awkward. There’s an instinct to revert to your former style or just give up. Shaking things up has been really satisfying, though.

It almost seems as though you’re using yourself as a laboratory rat. If you’re able to achieve comparable artistic success using a radically different aesthetic, will that form the foundation of one of your upcoming workshops?

Probably :) 


It blew my mind when I realized that I could be personally responsible for my own success rather than relying on others and waiting to be “saved”.

How did Anne Siems get involved in the new chapter of your art exploration? What does her coaching process entail? 

Anne has been an amazing mentor for a few years now. We meet virtually every few weeks. I’ve been working with her on a deeper level, and her guidance helps me to uncover lost parts of myself. For now, my main focus has been on the content of my art rather than the color. I’ll see where my heart takes me next.

The much darker, earthy aesthetic that you’ve been tapping into already looks well-formed. Nonetheless, do you feel as though you’re having an artistic exorcism? 

Absolutely. That’s exactly what it feels like. 

Abandoning the artistic lane that you’ve taken for so long must make you feel insanely empowered. Of the various riskier endeavors that you’ve dared to pursue, which one makes you feel the proudest of yourself?

I’m most proud of quitting my day job five years ago. Attending multiple artist residencies before I was even sure that I could afford them also gives me great pride. Choosing my own path is way up there, too (even though there is often no guidance, and I feel lonely and crazy at times). The choices I’ve made haven’t always felt like sunshine and butterflies, but I’m still proud of them.

Offering yourself up to an entirely unfamiliar muse could trigger the development of new neural pathways, which could amplify your creativity. Are there a few other reasons why you are fully committed to this journey?

I want to continue growing as an artist. I also want to feel excited and even surprise myself. I never want my studio time to feel like a formulaic process. 

At this moment in your art exploration, what kind of emotions does a blank page stir within you?

Uncertainty, magic, excitement, possibility, and the deep dark unknown. 

What is the most surprising thing about working in tones of sepia, black, and grey?

How much you can still say using barely any color. Don’t get me wrong, though – I’m aching to get back to color! 

Does walking into the great artistic unknown feel warm and inviting, cold and terrifying, or is it a hybrid beast with massive shiny teeth?

All of the above! It feels like everything is still possible! 


Ekaterina Popova Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook

Create! Magazine Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook  | Twitter

Art Queens Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About Author

Longtime eco-journalist, art wordsmith and creativity connoisseur. Anything that hovers in the right-brained spectrum or is born out of unbridled imagination elevates my spirit. I probably revere mother nature's ever-changing shazaamy brush strokes more than the average humanoid. Technicolor art supplies make me weak in the knees, as do wet-nosed luvvies.


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