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To celebrate Mother's Day this year, we interviewed artist Yana Ushakova to discuss her mother and dogs' influence on her work. Read on to get an inside look into her unique experience balancing dog mom duties and making art.
You are a dog mom– what kind of dogs do you have and what are their names?
I have a cream Pomeranian, Emma, and a deer head Chihuahua, Asya.
How old are they?
They are 14 years old.
What’s it like to be a dog mom in NYC?
It’s not easy. There’s little green space around my apartment building for them to enjoy and it always breaks my heart a little bit. The dream would be for them to have a yard to play in.
Do your dogs inspire your work in any way?
They’re my everything but I don’t incorporate them into my work much. They’re too cute and my work is not cute at all. If anything it’s very hard to pull away from them and get to work.
Do you make art at home or bring your dogs to the studio?
I mostly work from the studio and I do bring them with me everywhere I go. They have their own area in the studio where they can hang out away from the paint and fumes.
Yana’s babies Emma (left) and Asya (right)
How do you balance being a dog mom & artist?
I make sure we spend a lot of quality time together. If I’m working with something nontoxic like pens or pencils, I keep Asya on my lap and Emma (she’s a bit bigger) on the side of me. They’re at the age where they’re no longer very high energy and require a lot of contact time.
Do they ever get really interested in what you're doing? Like smell your paints, step on your canvas, or silly dog things to distract you?
Asya is very disinterested, sometimes even grumpy she can’t sit on me when I’m painting. Emma, on the other hand, would love to paw paint if she could. She will walk right into any paint drops or palettes I leave on the floor and prance around leaving paw prints everywhere. She has been an inadvertent paintbrush more than once. Once I left my palette on the floor and she sat right in it. Her butt was red and fuchsia for a week even after multiple washes. Her tail too has grazed more than one painting. My concern at that point is to make sure she doesn’t consume any paint trying to clean herself but it’s hilarious nonetheless. She’ll often sit and watch me paint with a very pensive expression and I’m convinced she, too, is an artist at heart.
What is special about being a dog mom and an artist? What kind of unique responsibilities does that entail? What advice would she give to other artists with pets?
What’s most special is how supportive they are of my process. If I’m conflicted or ever doubting myself they’re always there comforting me. They keep my spirits up and put a smile on my face. I believe that positivity translates into my work.
Shifting gears a little bit– how does your own mom inspire you?
My mom is my favorite person in the world. She has always been very supportive of my career. She’s even posed for me. She’s always encouraging me to travel. enjoy life, and pursue my vision. Two weeks ago she was in a tragic car accident in Arizona. My mom and her boyfriend did a road trip with another couple. On the way to the airport they were tboned. When I received that call from the hospital in Las Vegas, it was the scariest moment of my life. I flew out on the next flight. Luckily my mom and her boyfriend weren’t badly injured. Unfortunately, their friends weren't as lucky. One died. The other was seriously injured. When something like this happens it really shocks you into not taking the people we love for granted. My mom inspires me to prioritize family and friends and to truly enjoy life.
Did she play a big part in your wanting to become an artist?
She did! She’s a very creative person but has no natural drawing capability (that I get from my dad, who is an artist) but she says when she was pregnant with me she had this very strong urge to draw. She was doodling nonstop during her pregnancy. When I was born, the urge went away. Because of this I think she always knew I would be an artist and has always been very supportive even though she doesn’t quite understand much about it.
Have you ever done a work as a gift to your mom?
I do all the time. When my parents divorced, I did a painting inspired by her strength during the process. Generally, whenever she falls in love with any particular painting of mine I give it to her. She gets anything and everything she wants! Haha
Does your mom have a favorite work of yours?
Her favorite is this abstract painting in pastels that she lent to my aunt at the moment.
What is one activity that you enjoy doing with your mom?
What I love doing most with my mom is having brunch at her house. We can sit and talk and drink tea well into the night.
Anything else you would like to share about your mom?
She is the strongest most selfless person I know. She’s truly beautiful in and out.
Yana’s painting, Anna’s Hope, which is part of the “Gifts for your inner mother goddess” Gift Guide.