At the age of six, Lev began studying drawing and painting at a children’s art school in Lugansk, then part of the USSR and now in Ukraine. Later, he attended the Kiev National University of Construction and Architecture where he studied architecture alongside drawing, painting, sculpture, composition and art history.
When he receives a brief, Lev looks carefully at the concept and what the client wants, identifying the narrative that will underpin his piece. He renders in watercolour and coloured pencils on toned paper, and loves doing the detailed side of the work, using very thin brushes and tiny little strokes. “The details often tell more story than the whole picture,” he says.
Magic Realism is at the heart of Lev’s style. Imagine combining the traditional feel of Breugel’s paintings of the folk around him with the realism, depth and light touch of Andrew Wyeth, plus the magic of the story he’s illustrating, and you have a rough formula for Lev’s imagery. It’s the realism that convinces the viewer, while the ideas and emotions of the artwork take them away to a new and magical place.
Question: What led you to become an illustrator? Lev: It was a coincidence. My friend asked me if I would like to illustrate a fairy tale book. And I agreed.Question: Did you study illustration at college? Lev: No, I am a studied architect.Question: Where did you grow up? Lev: In Lugansk, in the ex USSR, now Ukraine.Question: Do you have a childhood memory relating to drawing/art that you hold dear? Lev: Yes, the mysterious smell of paper and color in the children's art school.Question: Where do you live now and what drew you there? Lev: I live in Stuttgart since 1992. I emigrated from the Ukraine to the FRG and came straight to Stuttgart.Question: Describe your studio for us Lev: It is a small room in my apartment where I have everything to work on. Also my LP collection and turntable are here - it's my habitat.Question: Describe the view from your window Lev: It is a sleeping quarter: many houses, but also many trees and forest-covered hills on the horizon. Nearby is a kindergarten and I keep hearing children's voices outside.Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Lev: North Renaissance, especially Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Andrew Wyeth is also my great role model.Question: How do you get your ideas? Lev: With the pencil in my hand. I start to scribble, to etch right away and it starts immediately to assemble something in my head. I never wait for inspiration, it comes during work.Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Lev: Free painting, music, literature. Question: What is the first record you bought? Lev: Pink Floyd 'Wish you were here'.Question: Tell us about a favourite project you’ve recently completed Lev: An illustration for the PETA-Animals print ad.Question: Why is illustration such a powerful medium? Lev: Because we live in a world full of visual attractions and the visual information is accepted faster and better.Question: What is the best use of illustration you have ever seen? Lev: Norman Rockwell Illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.Question: What makes a really good client brief? Lev: If he does not accept you as a supplier, but as a team member.Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Lev: The four-part cure (Tetrapharmakos) by Philodemos, 1. Don’t fear god, 2. Don’t worry about death, 3. What is good is easy to get, 4. What is terrible is easy to endure.Question: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Lev: Maybe Kyoto in Japan.Question: Have you any hidden talents? Lev: I can write well. I can cook well. And I can learn quickly.Question: If money were no object, would you continue to illustrate? Lev: Yes, exclusive and very interesting commissions.Question: If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet and why? Lev: Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The most mysterious and the most interesting artist I know.