The CADETTE WOMEN series focuses on building community amongst creative women who are actively sharing their unique voice & vision through their crafts.
Being a growing entrepreneur myself, I’ve found connection & community to be one of my greatest sources of support and motivation. I am incredibly grateful for the creative, driven and generous females I’ve met throughout this journey, thus far – and aim to share their stories with you through video, imagery, and brief interview.
You've likely heard me sing praises of my dear friend & mixed media artist, Oksana Berda, many times – so it should come as no surprise that she is no.1 in the CADETTE WOMEN series. I stopped by her home/work space a few months back and spent the morning with her to get a glimpse of her 'world', creative zone, insights & more.
Can you introduce yourself and your creative profession?
My name is Oksana Berda. I am a Toronto-based artist and I work with mixed media on paper.
What is one of your earliest memories of expressing yourself creatively, as a child?
The first thing I remember painting is a tree. More than the final painting itself I remember the feeling. Being totally immersed in the process of painting, focused and invested.
What is it about the practice of painting that you feel so connected to?
There is a lot of freedom and spontaneity in painting that I love. I work with watercolour, pastel and ink quiet a bit which involves a fair amount of letting go - and letting the elements such as water, gravity and temperature take the wheel. It forces my ego and my human need for control to step to the side.
Why did water become the key focus and subject of your work?
It happened very naturally. There was a period of almost a full year where I was going for walks to the same beach at least once a week- it became this little ritual. And I became obsessed with being there- I watched these baby geese grow up into birds, I saw various pieces of giant driftwood move and change into wood chips, I saw the beach flood and I saw the water recede, I saw sunsets and sunrises, I saw it in the rain, in the snow, I saw big waves and I saw it be still as glass, I saw the beach totally bare in the winter and lush in the summer. The more familiar I became with this place the more I noticed details and the more dynamic it became to me. There is so much to explore in these places visually and conceptually that it became obvious to me that this was my life's work.
Today, what stimulates your creative spirit?
There are internal and external forces. I have a drive that's inside of me that I can't explain. It's always going and my hands just won't stay idle. I also find myself inspired by my surroundings both in obvious places like the outdoors and art galleries and in more unlikely places. For example I've been watching the X-Files and there is an episode in Season 2 where Scully is in a coma. They have this scene that is supposed to represent her state of consciousness as separate from the waking world. They have Gillian Anderson dressed in all black in a row boat on a river floating away from the dock where her sister is standing. And I've been thinking about that for days, the poetry of her isolation, the symbolism of water, the levels of our consciousness - all of that. And it just makes me want to paint all day.
Do you have any favourite artists that you look up to or draw inspiration from, and why?
I love Anges Martin, Frank Stella, Egon Schiele, Monet. I think what they have in common is complete focus and dedication to specific subject matter, minimalism, lines, bodies, the light. There is a simplicity and a bareness to their work that draws me in. I also love and follow the work of contemporary artists like Helen Liene Dreifelds, Kathryn MacNaughton, David Burdeny, and Dara Vandor to name a few. There is a distinct style in their work and a voice and I respect and admire that kind of clarity very much.
What do you aim to communicate through your paintings?
I try not to think about that too much. You might have noticed that I talk about control a lot. In my work I try to release that. I got a piece of advice from a mentor, he said that you have to step aside and allow the medium to be the medium. I try to focus on the process and not the outcome. I've seen people react to my work in lots of different ways, which has taught me that it doesn't matter what I intend, the viewer will see a reflection of themselves and their experiences in some form. I know that if that stops happening, I've lost something.
Why do you think the freedom of creative expression is so essential?
It's the air I breathe; it's essential to living a life where I am happy and fulfilled.
What’s a handy tip or trick you use to put you in your ‘creative zone’?
I can't have the TV on, or any kind of screen. It pulls me away. I like to either listen to music, podcast or an audiobook but through headphones and not a speaker, otherwise I feel that same pulling away feeling. I also prepare my space to be really clear so that once I catch momentum I can move around a lot and work with various media in different pockets of my studio space. I also mentally have to decide that for the next little while all of my attention is going to painting or drawing and nothing else.