mixed media

The Great Idea: An Interview with Painter Leanna Litvinenko

An Art World Expo Spotlight

by Alyssa Laube

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Before her attendance at Emily Carr, Leanna Litvinenko’s artwork was all about realism. During her high school years, she spent her time copying photographs “and getting them to look as realistic as possible.” This natural inclination sprouted from the presence of Classical Realism throughout her childhood and resulted in a colourful collection of oil paintings featuring bold, detailed faces. In fact, this practice was what initially brought Litvinenko to Emily Carr. Yet, strangely enough, it is also where her art strayed from the concrete and into the abstract. After some personal reflection at the university, Litvinenko began to focus on “a great idea behind something” for the first time. Today, it is a part of her everyday work.

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“I was asked to question everything, including myself, my intentions, and whether my art has the ability to impact the world in any way,” said Leanna, about how Emily Carr inspired her current pieces. “I see a lot of parallels between the way I live my life and the way I handle my abstract paintings. In my current work, there are many layers. The process is quite chaotic but the result is harmonious, kind of like my personality. That brings me satisfaction because it confirms that I am staying true to myself and, therefore, am on the right track.”

While her time in school did push Livinenko to ask the bigger questions, travelling abroad greatly influenced her artistry as well. After visiting Northern India in 2013, she was “taken by the culture, the vastness of Himalayan mountains, and the freedom [she] felt.” In Europe, she studied the great works of the Renaissance and improved her understanding of human anatomy. New York’s Museum of Modern Art introduced her to abstract impressionism and sent her on a “learning frenzy” about the genre. Finally, growing up in Ukraine, specifically, left its impression on the artist with its vibrant culture. Specifically, Leanna adored Ukrain’s many street artists. “Those artists are who I looked up to growing up, and I am still in awe of their technical abilities.,” she happily recalled. “I could not find a way to express the impact it all had on my psyche with realistic paintings,” said Litvinenko, about her globetrotting. Thus, her abstract work was born.

The work itself is multi-media; the paintings are created using a combination of chalk pastels, ink, watercolour, spray paint, acrylic paint, and gels. In terms of process, Leanna likes to demonstrate her “great idea” of chance. The work revolves around “lucky mistakes” or, as put by Litvenenko, “unexpected turning points in the process, conceived by the paint itself, that take the work in a whole new direction.” She sees herself as nothing more than a “necessary active agent”, despite constructing everything from the canvas to the piece itself.

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“Normally, I begin the painting near the centre by drawing with pastels and mixing it with liquefied acrylic, followed by a spill of water. After, I spray the wet surface with spray paint. The chemical reaction between these two mediums creates an interesting design. I repeat those actions until I see something I like,” Litvenko explained, about her artistic process. “I can’t get too attached to anything I make in the process, as the next layer might cover it completely. If I get too attached to something in the piece, I treat is as a precious object and the painting stays incomplete. One of my professors told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to kill your babies’, referring to the destruction of unsuccessful creations that inhibit the ability to move forward. Now, I work by that mantra, and it has been a wonderful ride so far.”


Leanna will be exhibiting at this years Art World Expo in Vancouver.

Buy tickets to the event here or visit Leanna’s site to learn more about her or purchase a piece.


Big Eyes, Pouty Lips An Interview with Nicci Battilana (a.k.a. Nicci Dot C A)


by Aly Laube

About: Nicci Battilana, also known as Nicci Dot C A, is a mixed media artist who creates colourful and playful portraits of what she calls her “Girlz”. The Girlz are doll-like characters with bold features, and each has their own quirky (and sometimes outlandish) personality. Nicci’s work can be seen on greeting cards, prints, clothing, bags, mailboxes, doors, and more! For this reason, she calls her work “functional art”. You can see or purchase some of Nicci’s functional art at this year’s Art World Expo!


When did you first start doodling what would eventually become your “My Girlz” collection?

I have dabbled in doodling pretty much since I could clutch onto a crayon, but the focus on “My Girlz” began in the very expressive mid-to-late eighties. They started out as very simplistic and angular, and were expressed in dark, earthy colours (due to the available art supplies at the time). It was nothing like my curvy Spring-coloured Girlz of today!


Why did you choose to sell your products as prints and greeting cards? 

I used to paint on stretched canvases all the time, but they began to take over our home a couple of years ago. My good friend and fellow artist, Violette Clark, suggested that I begin working out of an art journal. This was a great way for me to experiment and expand my work, besides saving space in my home! However, I missed sharing my work with others, so I started making prints & greeting cards of my favourite journal paintings. What better way to share art with your loved ones than with a fun, cheerful, cheeky card from a local artist?

How do you create separate personalities for each of your “Girlz”? 

They tell me what and who they want to be. I never plan my work, as my Girlz are meant to evolve from within. I just begin with light and pencil-drawn circles and somehow see them peeking out at me. Imagine looking into a mirror that is foggy from the shower steam. Staring into that mirror as the fog clears, you slowly see your own face emerge in the frame. That is similar to how my Girlz introduce themselves to me.

Your work is slightly reminiscent of childhood toys such as Barbies and Bratz. What inspired you in your childhood that might’ve lead to your art today?

I loved Jim Henson’s Muppets as a child (and still do!) because of the idea that grown adults could “play” for a living. Carrying some of the best aspects of childhood throughout our lives while making others happy; Who wouldn’t want that? I was also inspired by the band Duran Duran’s RIO cover when I was a teenager. It was a famous art portrait by Nagel, and the female face really pulled me in. To me, the eyes are the key!

As for toys, I remember when Bratz first hit the shelves. I was so happy! I thought, “Wow, someone else out there speaks my language” (big eyes, full, pouty lips,  and heads a little too big for their britches)!

What’s your best seller? 

Lately it has been the Girlz that have a bit of an otherworldly feel and some tongue-and-cheek humour, as though they are visiting from a different realm.

How would you describe your artistic style? 

I say it’s “mixed media with no rules”, but maybe the true definition should be something along the lines of  “a mix of Disney-like female characters, drenched in Kool-Aid, with a dash of Tim Burton and a whole lot of thick, black eyeliner!”

Can you tell the story of how you first started painting on clothing? 

As a new artist and high school student with no money to buy stretched canvases, I decided to become my very own walking art gallery. I have a closet full of my old hand-painted jean jackets, pants, and (of course) bags! Since I haven’t worn a painted jacket in a few years, I’ve recently taken my sewing scissors to a few and turned them into wrist-let bags. There are some jackets that I just can’t bring myself to re-invent, though.

What is “functional art” and why do you like creating it?

Functional art is art that can be used in for variety of functions (i.e.: clothing, hand bags, greeting cards, doors, mail boxes, etc). Some people stop seeing the art that they loved enough to hang on their wall just because they’re used to it being there. It becomes invisible. Functional art is moved. It’s used, so it continues to live.

Which mediums do you use to create your art?  

Acrylic paint is my number one favourite medium. Next, I love using Caran D’ache watercolour crayons with my fingertips. They’re a great tool for bringing my acrylic art to life! Plus, dare I call glitter a medium? I do use it a lot less than I used to, but I still love it, along with Swarovski crystals. All Girlz need a little bling, even the creepy ones.

How did having children change your life as a person and an artist? 

My art was a hobby before we had our son. By day I worked in a cubicle, hated it (I loved most of my co-workers but hated the desk job), punched the time clock, and then would come home to paint and be happy. After we had our son and my maternity leave was over, we decided to raise him to believe that you can do what you love in life and succeed at it. So we tightened our money belts and have been sticking to our plans ever since! I’ve taken a couple of short part-time jobs to bring in some steady income over the years, but we always come back to centre. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, which enables me to be here for our son, create and teach art, and host “Into the heART” art retreats and “Creative Finds” markets. If everyone could just do what makes them happy for a living, it would be a wonderful world.

Can you tell us more about your event, Creative Finds Marketplace?

Our Creative Finds Marketplace is in it’s ninth year and filled with so much local talent! We focus on local, handmade, quality items and take a lot of pride in that. Plus, we do our best to treat our vendors and customers as members of the Creative Finds family. We’re there to support each other and do what we can to bring the artists together with the community that desires their product.

Since next year is our tenth anniversary, we added a new element this year. We’re welcoming vendors that specialize in offering art/craft supplies (with the exception of high import companies). We will soon be known for hosting events that showcase all of the creative levels of our fabulous community!

You do a fair bit of charity work. What are some of your favourite causes to support? 

Honestly, I love working with many local charities, but the one that pulls at my heart strings and brings me back again and again is the BC Children’s Hospital. We’ve had to spend some time at Children’s over the years and they have been very supportive of our family and many others.

Where can people find your work? 

The best place to start is on my website! You can make a note of my upcoming events or where to shop online. I will be taking part in the Fraser Valley Art Crawl on Thursday August 13th from 6-9pm. Other than that, I do have Glitzy Galz greeting cards available at Wild Child Tattoos & Hair in Surrey (19228 96 Ave, Surrey, BC), as well as at the Sugar Shack on Vancouver Island (4492 Happy Valley Road, Metchosin, BC).

What will you be selling at the expo? 

I have a few canvases that I am creating specifically for this great event! These Glitzy Galz will be full of whimsy and ready to go to their new homes at the end of the evening.

I will also have a mailbox that is ready to enhance the entrance to someone’s home, a wide array of my art prints, and packages of my Glitzy Galz greeting card line.

Thank you for spending a little time with me and I look forward to meeting you all in person on May 1st  at the Expo!


Visit Nicci’s website at: