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that's what others write about me. Writing my bio first person would be too silly.
The artist Leonid Afremov was born in city of Vitebsk, Belarus in 1955-- the same town where Marc Chagall was born. Leonid Afremov graduated from Vitebsk Art School in 1978. The school was founded by Marc Chagall in 1921. Along with Malevich and Kandinsky, Leonid Afremov is one of the elite members of the famous Vitebsk art school.
Leonid was building up his experience by painting a lot with oil and participating in various exhibitions. But nevertheless, his talent achieved its real heights only when he moved to Israel in 1990. The scorching southern sun filled with colors and brightness made Leonid's paintings positive and joyous. The artist himself is a convinced optimist and this can be easily seen in his creative artworks. His paintings make viewers feel lighter and more positive.
Artist's personality reflects his unusual technique which was developed and perfected many over years of hard work. His artistic style is unique and easily recognized. Leonid uses palette-knife instead of regular brushes to put paint on canvas. Palette-knife itself is intended to be used for cleaning old paint from canvas. It is very rare that any artist ventures to use it as an instrument in painting together with a brush, and it is even more rare that any artist uses it as his or her only instrument. Working with palette-knife gives fantastic possibilities, but it is also fantastically difficult to master. It took 10 years for Leonid Afremov to build up his palette-knife handling skill up to the level that it is now, and the work is far from being completed. Look at the paintings of Leonid Afremov. Can you believe that all small details on them were literally carved out from paint with little steel blades, smallest of which is only one and a half of an inch long? His painting technique is accepted by specialists to be completely unique and not capable of being copied. He even does not really need to sign his artwork, it impossible to confuse it with other painters work or to forge. By the words of the Artist, he very enjoys traveling. Traveling fills out his soul with all the energy he needs to create fabulous art. Now Leonid Afremov lives on a beautiful side of Atlantic Ocean in Florida. That lovely place with all its beauty of nature makes him create, create, and create....'
Leonid Afremov (Born july 12th 1955 - ) is a Russian - Israeli modern impressionistic artist who works mainly with a palette knife and oils. He developed his own unique technique and style which is unmistakable and cannot be confused with other artists. Afremov is mainly known as being a self-representing artist who promotes and sells his work exclusively over the internet with very little exhibitions and involvement of dealers and galleries. Before the advancement of online sales and ebay, Afremov was a very struggling artist. He was born Vitebsk Belarus and lived there until 1990, between 1990 – 2002 he lived in Israel and Between 2002 – 2010 in Boca Raton, Florida. Leonid Afremov currently resides in the popular resort town Playa Del Carmen , Quintana Roo, Mexico near Cancun. He paints mainly landscape, city scenes, seascapes, flowers and portraits. Most of his work is considered very colorful and politically neutral
Leonid on the right side 1958
Early Life and Education:
Leonid Afremov was born on July 12th 1955 in Vitebsk, Belarus (Then former USSR) to Jewish parents – Bella Afremova and Arkadiy Afremov. His father was a shoe designer and shoe maker, His mother was a worker in a metal factory in Vitebsk. Ironically he was born in the same town where Marc Chagall was born who later became a significant role model to Leonid Afremov.
Leonid was raised in a traditional Jewish home. His parents and grandparents spoke Ydish at home. Despite extreme centralized government supported anti-Semitism in Soviet Russia the family practiced many Jewish traditions and risked imprisonment for practicing their religion and speaking their language. Their birth certificates and government IDs stated their nationality as Jewish. During his years in school Leonid was beaten on regular basis by fellow students for his Jewish heritage.
Leonid was a good student in school. He received good grades and has been very interested in history and art. He attended all the possible art classes offered in school and taken private lessons from local artists. Leonid’s parents noticed his talent for painting in early age and encouraged him to develop the talents. Leonid was collecting postal stamps and pins during his high school years; he also was reading hundreds of different history books. At age 14 Leonid was exposed to extreme cold which resulted in kidney damage, he had to spend that whole year at home and ultimately redo 8th grade in school. Later in life the kidney damage resulted in hypertension which he still struggles with to this day. During his teenage years he was also taking care of his grandmother which was paralyzed.
In 1973 Leonid Afremov graduated high school number 10 in Vitebsk and was admitted to the Vitebsk Education Institute where he studied in the arts and graphics department. During his years in college Afremov was introduced to the work of March Chagall, Picasso, Dali, Modigliani and the 19th century French Impressionism.
His early artistic work was very influenced by Chagall and Modigliani. During his years in college Afremov participated in various school exhibitions and even sold some paintings. In 1978 Afremov graduated the institute and took private lessons from the local famous artist Barowski who was teaching art from the time when Marc Chagall was still living in Vitebsk. Afremov always had the drive to become a better and more skilful artist.
Life and Carrier in Soviet Russia (1976 – 1990):
Leonid on the left with family 1989
In 1975 Afremov met his wife to be, Inessa Kagan, who he married the following year. In 1977 his first son Dmitry was born. The young family lived in a 2 room apartment together with inessa’s parents, grandmother and sister. In 1982 they bought their own home where they lived until 1990. After graduating college Afremov worked as a label designer in a local beer and liquor factory. Then he briefly worked in a local theater as a set designer.
In the early 1980’s he started doing free lance work for communal farms and schools. He was designing and making various propaganda posters, themed rooms and walls for certain communist events and holidays. He was also doing template sculptures of Lenin from plaster. He had a very good reputation in that field and was invited back by many farms and schools. This type of work was available only during the summer and spring. In November 1984 his second son Boris was born.
During the cold Russian winter, Afremov stayed at home painting. He was not allowed to participate in government exhibitions because of his Jewish roots and was not allowed to be a member of the local art associations. His early work was sold privately via family and friends and was not seen by many people. A lot of his work in the 1980’s was just given away for free. He did not keep records of his work then and not much of it survived. He currently does not have pictures of anything before 1990.
In 1986 the Chernobyl disaster happened. Vitebsk was only a few hundred kilometers from Chernobyl, close enough for radiation to travel with the wind and rain. The ecological situation in the area become worsened, local crops and water was poisoned with radiation. Small children were affected strongly including the 2 year old son of Leonid Afremov. His son was having serious digestion and stomach issues which were traced to radiation poisoned foods. The doctors could not do anything to help. At the same time Leonid Afremov was experiencing serious discrimination and insults for his Jewish heritage. Tolerating Acts of antisemitism became part of his daily. The liberal politics of Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Jewish soviet citizens to migrate to Israel in the late 1980s. After being fed up with antisemitism and problems caused by radiation, Leonid decided to move to Israel without hesitation as soon as the doors were opened.
On may 14th 1990 the Afremov family left by train from Minsk to Warsaw where they stayed in a hostel for 3 days then on May 17th 1990 they took a flight to Israel provided by the Israeli immigration authorities. The Afremov family was among the first to migrate from USSR in the Russian - Jewish immigration wave of the 1990s.
Life and Career in Israel 1990 – 2002:
On May 17th 1990 the Afremov family entered Israel in Ben Gurion airport. They had to give up their soviet citizenship in favor of Israeli. To this day Leonid Afremov and his family are citizens of Israel only. The Afremovs had some family in Israel who lived there since 1970s and 1988. The family rented an apartment for them in Ramat-Gan and helped them to assimilate. A few weeks after moving to Israel, Leonid Afremov found a job in an advertisement agency making signs and posters. After working in an advertisement agency, he worked in a gallery- frame shop where he learned to make frames and was introduced to the palette knife for the first time. The Russian immigrants in Israel were seriously underpaid and discriminated in favor of local Israelis. They were getting paid much less than local Israelis for same jobs. They were constantly insulted for being Russian and denied equal opportunity almost on official level. Leonid Afremov found himself trapped in the same situation he ran away from in USSR.
Because he was a recent Russian immigrant, the locals considered his work with very little value. Galleries took paintings for 50 shekels (15USD) and were reselling them for 500 to 5000 shekels. When Leonid confronted galleries about the extremely low prices, he was always getting the same answer “you a Russian immigrant, you a new piece of junk, you have no choice, if I don’t buy your paintings, your children will starve tomorrow' The galleries refused to sell his work for percentage commissions just because he was a Russian immigrant. He was only given the option of small price for each painting which took a day to make. Afremov felt like he was exploited and discriminated by the galleries and Israeli society just like he was by the Soviet Government.
Afremov was trying to sell on street fairs and exhibitions in local social clubs. However, it was difficult because the social stigmae of Russian Immigrants. His wife was forced to hold an underpaid job as well in a textile factory where she was constantly reffered to as Russian pig by her Bosses and fellow workers.
During the early 1990s Leonid Afremov was mainly working with watercolors and acrylic. He was very little experimenting with palette knife. He was painting what people were buying. he had very little artistic choice; he had to paint what was putting food on the table.
In 1993 the Afremov family bought an apartment in Ashdod because it was a city of mainly Russian Immigrants. Leonid Afremov hoped to avoid constant insults and discrimination by moving to a place where mainly Russians live. However, the city was primarily residential without much opportunities. Afremov had no choice but to keep dealing with the discriminating locals from Tel Aviv area.
In 1994, out of extreme desperation, his 16 years old son Dmitry tried to sell Leonid’s paintings door to door around the neighborhood, This practice proved itself very effective and Afremov suddenly became selling many pieces he painted and was getting little better money than from gallries. Dmitry proved himself as a good door to door salesman. He was selling Leonid’s paintings in the new neighborhoods where recent Russian Immigrants were living. In 1995 Leonid acquired enough funds to open his own gallery and frame shop in Ashdod.
The gallery was not popular among local Israelis, it was mainly visited by fellow Russian immigrants. The gallery was vandalized and broken into on several occasion. On one occasion the windows were sprayed with writings 'Russian Pig, go back to Russia' . Local police was refusing to act and never held a real investigation. The local Israeli newspapers were refusing to publish advertisements for Afremov's Gallery. Afremov was advertising only via Russian Immigrant press and radio station. However, artistic freedom could not be achieved completely.
During the late 1990s Leonid was constantly holding exhibitions in Russian community centers around Israel, everywhere else the doors were closed because he was a Russian immigrant . During this time he already worked mainly with a palette knife and oils, he began establishing a unique artistic identity , however it was difficult to paint what he wanted because of the financial obligations and the picky customers. One good artist note happened in Israel, Around 1999 Leonid became friends with Russian speaking Israeli Jazz musician Leonid Ptashka. Leonid Afremov was a big fan of classical Jazz and holds a vast collection of vinyl records of Jazz. Leonid Ptashka inspired Leonid Afremov to paint a collection of portraits of popular Jazz Musicians and helped him to hold a successful exhibition in the International jazz Festival in Ashdod. Since then Leonid Afremov has painted dozens of his favorite musicians.
In March 2001 Afremov's gallery was completely vandalized inside out. Dozens of paintings an were destroyed , the artistic equipment was stolen and the facility was turned into rubble. The local Police once again refused to react. Then Leonid Afremov decided its time to move somewhere else where he can be treated equally. He eventually moved to USA in January 2002.
Life and Career in USA 2002 – 2010:
Leonid Afremov was preparing his move to USA very carefully. For several months he did not sell any paintings, everything he painted he sent to his sister in Brooklyn. When he arrived in the US in January 2002, he had more than one hundred paintings at his disposal. Him and his son were systematically going gallery to gallery in New York. They found galleries that liked and purchased paintings, however they only took what kind of Judaic themes and Musician portraits. Afremov found himself forced to paint only limited themes and subjects for living. There was no room for artistic freedom when he had to put food on the table.
Leonid with painting 2009
Leonid had good opportunities in New York but the cold climate affected his health. He was constantly struggling with arthritis and muscular pain caused by drastic temperature changes. Thus he moved to Fort Lauderdale in April 2002, The rest of the fmaily joined him few months later. In Florida Afremov had the same changeless like in New York , only certain themes and subjects were selling. Afremov had no room to paint something from his soul, something he really wanted to paint. He had to paint what the galleries wanted and were able to sell. He almost gave up hope of painting what he really wanted. He was faced with a hard dilemma , paint what he wants and starve or paint what the galleries suggest.
Leonid with painting 2009
In 2004, After graduating high school Leonid’s son Boris was introduced to ebay.com by his friends. He researched the site and saw other artists selling their work. They tried to sell a couple paintings by auction and immediately received magnificent success. Paintings were sold for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and everything sold without exception. For the first time Afremov was given an opportunity to paint what he really wanted. He was able to forget the pressure of making a sale and explore himself as an artist. At this point the real artistic journey began. Afremov finally began painting what he really wanted from his personal inspirations. He finally was able to explore his artistic vision and abilities all the way. All of the popular paintings you see on hundreds of blogs and sites were painted during this period and after to this day. You will see almost nothing from old Afremov work on sites and blogs because it was painted under pressured circumstances without true artistic freedom .
The exposure on eBay gave him opportunities for commission orders and access to different galleries. However, because of negative experiences with galleries, Leonid preferred to sell directly to the collector. Thanks to the internet exposure , Afremov participated in various local TV shows around USA. His art was declared very relaxing and calm by notable psychologists and psychiatrists. To this day Afremov's art is used in various psychological and psychiatric therapy procedures. Afremov's paintings were published not only in art magazines but also in various medical and health magazines as examples of stress reducing paintings. In 2005 following a successful year, The Afremov family moved to Boca Raton. In the same year, they started taking their first family vacations in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.
Leonid's paintings and grand daughter 2005
In 2007 with the help of his sons Leonid lunched his own personal site www.afremov.com where he began selling giclees, prints and original painting, eventually moving all the business and attantion to his personal site.
Leonid with painting 2009
In 2009 Leonid underwent heart bypass procedures. The doctors recommended Leonid to stay away from managing a business , keep a calm lifestyle and ultimately retire. Since then his sons Boris and Dmitry handled his sales and business aspects like customer service and shipping.
Recent life and career in Mexico 2010 – today:
In 2005 Leonid Afremov vacationed in Playa Del Carmen and Cancun for the first time. Since then he was visiting the Mexican Caribbean 2 to 3 times per year and completely fall in love with the area. Eventually in March 2010 Leonid decided to take on early retirement recommended by his doctors and move to Playa Del Carmen , popular resort town near Cancun. His children were involved in his business to the point they had to move to Mexico as well. His children manage his virtual gallery and shipping office in Playa Del Carmen. Afremovs also have locations in Cancun and Cozumel where they sell art during the busy tourist season in the winter. Leonid found Caribbean Mexico very relaxing and stress free environment to spend his time painting. In 2011 Leonid sponsored the construction of his own personal ranch near Puerto Morelos where he spends much his time painting in quiet .
Leonid with his cat in Mexico 2010
Leonid next to gate to his ranch in Mexico 2011
Artistic Philosophy :
Leonid Afremov keeps the majority of his art politically neutral. His paintings are not offensive to anyone nor send any hidden messages. The paintings usually reflect certain personal memories and emotions. Leonid Afremov tries to draw the viewer to have a certain feeling rather than tell a story via the painting, or have the viewer see the world how the he sees it. The neutral attributes of Afremov’s art make the paintings appealing to almost any social, ethnic and age group. Leonid Afremov has been traveling quite extensively and has taken many photographs of different scenes that he later painted. Almost every painting he painted has a very personal inspiration. His art can be reflected as very positive through the bright colors he uses.
Leonid Afremov loves cats and other animals; he has had cats throughout his entire life. He has painted many paintings of cats, dogs, horses, tigers and even giraffes. The only political paintings he has are of bull-fighting , where he tries to show the viewer the cruel nature of the sport and discourage the viewers from liking bull-fighting.
Leonid Afremov never wanted to become a famous artist or an expensive artist. He considers every painting as his child, or a piece of his soul. The only thing he has always wanted is to share this child with the world. In the past it hurt him much when people could not afford his paintings, so he began selling affordable giclees but he realized that a giclees do not have the same effect as a 100% painted original painting and can never make the viewer have the intended feeling. Therefore, he began a new path of giving his fans a more affordable way to acquire a piece of his soul. Leonid Afremov started recreating paintings previously sold in very affordable prices.
The first painting painted originally cost thousands of dollars, but a recreation looks just as good and does not cost much because it’s not one of a kind. He also paints very small one of a kind originals just so people who really want an original Afremov painting can afford one. Eventually Leonid Afremov sold giclee and print making rights to third party company and focused his attention only on original paintings and recreations.
With his unique palette knife style it’s impossible to recreate a painting 100% the same way. Every stroke of the palette knife is like a fingerprint which impossible to repeat. This attribute gives originality to every recreation he makes. Afremov only recreates popular work sold years ago.
This biography was written by Boris Afremov