Artist Lana Hollin talks about her art and how to start acrylic painting

You probably heard people saying: “The first step is the hardest, but you’ll never regret doing it!” Putting so much pressure on the essential first step creates a certain vibe about it, thus making you wonder how to do it. The beginning – “el comienzo” (Spanish), “le début” (French), “inizio” (Italian), “der Anfang” (German) – unique spelling in different languages with similar meaning.

When you reach midlife, the question “How to start something new?” can lose its blissful excitement and become more of a technical inquiry. But what if you want to try something creative, like painting? How to take the first step? How to start painting and choose the right colors? Where should you start?

I talked about this with an artist Lana Hollin – “Svetune”, who makes acrylic paintings full of colors, joy, and love.  

Lana, how did you start painting and how many years have you been painting?

Elena, first of all, thank you for the interview. I love your blog and enjoy reading your articles, that are always interesting and inspiring!

Since my childhood I always liked to draw, and in college I studied design. It was mostly pencil drawings and various sketches. I never believed that I had talent and that I could become an artist. So for many years, painting remained only a dream. But I believe the Universe always leads us to our goals and it happened to me.

I started to paint regularly when I was going through a tough period: divorce and depression; I was in a foreign country without the support of family and friends. I seemed to have lost it all and life didn’t have meaning for me.

Then, one day, I did a photo session for a wonderful family at their house, with bright and cheerful paintings all around. I admired them! After talking with the owner of the house, I found out that she painted all these pictures, and to my surprise, she was not a professional artist. It was her hobby.

I told her that painting has always been my dream! And to my surprise she invited me to a trial drawing lesson. In the first lesson, we painted with oil, and I chose to paint “Moving water.” (2015) I remember my feelings – it was like magic! I liked the whole process of painting; it’s so smooth and soft!

Painting with oil is such a long process. It took me two lessons to paint one picture. I waited for one layer to dry and then applied another. After a few classes, my teacher said she had nothing to teach me and she thought I had a beautiful vision, sense of the color and the form. At the end she added: “Just create”! And so I began my free voyage in painting.

At first, I had a wild desire to splash bright colors onto canvases and mix them with my hands. I wanted to fill canvases with paint. It felt like magic. I like simple acrylic paints more, perhaps because I do not have enough patience with oil paints!

My first paintings were very chaotic bright pictures, some butterflies, simple lines, zigzags, and circles. And mostly, I painted with my hands without brushes. And I was full of ideas and enthusiasm!

I remember one night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 3 a.m. At a certain moment, I jumped out of bed, run downstairs to my studio, and started painting. I threw paints on the canvas, and spread them with my palms and fingers. It felt like I was dancing on a canvas. When I finished, I was very happy! I went back to bed, felt asleep and had magic dreams. In the morning, I woke up rested and happy! I saved this picture, and I still like it! 

Thanks to painting, I fell in love with my life again. It gave me a feeling of pure creativity and helped me survive and move forward in life.

“Dancing in the sky”, 2015, acrylic on canvas

What was your first painting? Do you still have it in your collection?

My first painting was “Moving Water,” painted with oil. The second painting was “Exotic red flower.” The third painting was a “Sleeping girl in flowers”, where the flowers were purple irises. I copied the image from a photograph of my girlfriend’s daughter, so I gave this painting to her.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I’m a self-taught artist and don’t have a deep knowledge of painting techniques; I intentionally don’t look for it. I like to create. I want to have my own path. And I am not wandering in the dark, on the contrary, I feel a huge resource inside me, and intuition guides me. I know I already have enough knowledge and experience. I feel it!

Everything has already been invented, but I am sure it all has a continuation!

When I exhibit my work in galleries, I need to mention my style, and I do. However, more important than indicating the artistic style is what you bring into this world by making your art. 

Artist Lana Hollin “Svetune” lives in Orlando, Florida
“Orlando City”, 2021 – acrylic on canvas.

What supplies do you use to paint? 

I mainly paint with simple acrylics because it allows me to create more dynamics and movement. I also like oils, but painting with oils is more time-consuming. Sometimes I use both. I start with oil paints and then finish with acrylics. I like to experiment with volume and different textures. In addition to brushes, I often use palette knives, scrapers, sponges, cloth, paper, and fingers. Several of my pictures I painted by fingers, and they turned out great.

My favorite acrylic paint brands are:

  • Master’s touch
  • Liquitex
  • MM Modern Masters

What are your three favorite colors and why?

It is hard to choose only three. When I look at my paintings, I see that at certain stages of life, I prioritized different colors. There was a time when I used primarily cold shades of sapphire, purple, ultramarine, azure lavender, etc. Then there was a time when I painted using green and yellow.

I seldom use black. Instead, I usually mix several acrylic paints to achieve a dark, very deep color.

I love the scarlet color, but it took me a while to start using it. Previously, I did not have enough courage and passion for this color. Now I often use all shades of scarlet. I also like pastel shades, but I haven’t been able to paint in these colors yet. Maybe this is the next step, to paint translucent, tender pictures.

So I can’t say that I love a particular color. I like all of them, and every color has its own energy and mission.

1- “Dancing on the streets of a big city” (2019) – acrylic on canvas
2 – “With love from Paris” (2019)- acrylic on canvas

How often do you paint?

Since my main job is wedding photography, painting depends on my spare time and inspiration. Unfortunately, inspiration sometimes disappears and returns only in a couple of weeks.  

What do you paint more often?

I am an artist who always looks for new ideas, subjects, and objects to paint. I enjoy painting landscapes, flowers, portraits, abstract, and spontaneous realism. I also practice intuitive painting.

Recently I painted a picture called “The joy of my soul” (2022) I love it! I painted it blindfolded. It was a fantastic experience! I did it on a warm evening when a light breeze was rustling leaves and incessant crickets singing serenades. I was blindfolded, and I felt like I was submerged in darkness. I didn’t have the slightest idea of the colors I chose, but in the end, the painting appeared to be in bright tones. There was a moment when I picked up a paint tube, held it in my hands, then put it back in the box. I used only my hands and fingers to paint. It was a magical process, a 100% intuitive painting! And I want to repeat this experience, and I want to paint it for someone special.

“Woman in Hat”, 2018 Acrylic on Canvas, painted with fingers.
“Sun Love”, 2015 Acrylic on Canvas, painted with fingers.

“Code of Abundance”, 2022 – intuitive painting.

Intuitive painting is a unique art and is particularly interesting to me. Before painting this picture, I meditated. I believe everything in this world is energy and a creative one is very pure. I want more high and pure energy around that contributes to life’s movement and helps generate more good intentions. Nowadays, I work on harmonizing my space, and while creating this picture, I was in a flow of abundance and joy. After I opened my eyes and looked at it for the first time, I truly rejoiced and admired it because the colors came out just fantastic! Now this picture is finished, I can feel its energy and notice beautiful changes in my life.

What inspires you to paint?

Sometimes I get inspired by beautiful nature and paint only landscapes. Other times abstract, I express my emotions through color combinations and indefinite forms.

I also like a sensual and intimate topics. Today many artists paint gorgeous portraits of beautiful, lonely women who look cold and inaccessible. And it’s beautiful! But my goal is to show harmony and love in everything!

Therefore, I love painting pictures where some action occurs between two. I try to express love, passion, and attraction in my paintings. There are many lonely people in the world, and I hope those looking for a special person to share their life with will find him/her and be happy together.

And therefore, I am sure that paintings that express love, tenderness, care, and other good feelings and emotions boost energy and may help attract beautiful relationships into their lives.

“In one breath” – acrylic on canvas, 2017

How do you develop a theme for the painting? 

It all depends; sometimes, I work on the theme for a long time, but other times I start creating spontaneously without even having any idea.

First, I throw paint on the canvas, let it flow randomly, or make rough strokes, and sometimes vice versa. Second, I delicately combine colors to smooth the transitions. I don’t know what the final picture will look like; I just paint. At the end of this creative process, I can forget about this picture for a long time or admire this “abstract nothing.” That is how I express my special mood.

In total, I made three paintings inspired by Marilyn Monroe.

What do you like and dislike about painting? What is your favorite moment in the painting process?

I love everything about acrylic painting, and every step is beautiful in its own way. However, I have some paintings I didn’t finish for some reason. I left them in a closet for a year, where they got covered with dust. And then, suddenly, I felt inspired to finish them. And I am surprised at the freshness, novelty, and how unexpectedly beautiful they turned out. 

Artist Lana Hollin is also known as Svetune.

What classical and contemporary artists do you like?

I like the work of the Austrian contemporary artist Voka. He is the founder of the “spontaneous realism” style. I love that style, and Voka is by far the best! I also like the work of Gustav Klimt.

What was the most unusual picture you did with acrylic paintings?

I had several of them, but one, in particular, has an interesting story that happened when I met a very special person. The tender feelings I had at that moment inspired me to paint. 

I took a random card from the Mirage Valley Tarot deck, “Lovers.” It was a very sensual picture; there was a lot of light in it; I got a beautiful background, the colors heavily diluted with water spread over the canvas and elegantly mixed.

The primary colors were sunny yellow, delicate lavender, and shades of blue and marine. The man in my picture looked very similar to my beloved one. Unfortunately, in real life, our relationship didn’t last. After a breakup, I didn’t have the inspiration and emotional energy to finish the painting. So, I left it untouched for a year. Then one day, I tried to draw another face, but nothing came out. And again, I left it unfinished. 

Later, this picture again caught my eye, and I experienced the same sad emotions, I was about to burst into tears, but then I realized that I should end this vicious circle and start again! I felt like a warrior who is ready to win at any cost!

So, one evening, while having a glass of white wine, I put the picture on the easel upside down, carefully studied it, mentally said goodbye to everything I associated with it, boldly splashed wine on it, and start to paint!

First, I used intense dark acrylic painting with cold shades of blue, then added dark green and maroon, mixed with water, the paints slowly flowed over the canvas, and everything gentle, pale lilac, and sunny yellow disappeared.

 I had no idea what it would be. I made rather sharp movements, distributing paints on the canvas. I used a palette knife instead of brushes. Before the paint had dried, I had an idea. I thought that now everything that connected me with this picture was under the dark water. So I called this picture “Under the dark water.” And while the paints were still very damp, I began to draw forms. I scraped a raw layer of acrylic paint with a palette knife, giving the shape of water lily leaves lying on the water. It turned out fantastic because a sunny yellow appeared from the previous picture in those spots where I removed a wet upper layer though it looked more muted.

“Under the dark water”, 2021

 I liked this effect! I saved smudges, and the painting looks textured. It shows water lilies surrounded by leaves. Despite some negligence, the picture is very symbolic! Lotus flowers and water lilies are endowed not only with beauty but also with significant meaning. The lotus flower is born somewhere in the deep dark water, in some mud, overcoming many obstacles and difficulties before reaching the surface and revealing its beauty to the world! Now, this picture makes me feel good and evokes only positive emotions! And what’s more important, after I finished the painting, I let go of the past!

What is the most important thing for an artist in the professional field?

I recently found this saying “An artist is a person who paints what can be sold. A good artist is a person who sells what he writes.” That’s what I think is very important for an artist.

How do you prepare for painting?

I don’t do anything special to prepare for painting; everything happens in a flow, sometimes very spontaneously. 

As a photographer, I know that communicating with inspiration is very delicate. Tell us about your relationship with the muse. What inspires you? How do you catch the moment of inspiration?

Various factors can influence this: visiting new places, traveling, and meeting new people. I don’t do anything on purpose; if I don’t have the inspiration to paint, I do something else. I am a creative person, and I am interested in many things. But when there is absolutely no inspiration, I do nothing; I allow myself to be lazy, watch a movie, read a book or chat with someone. And then, suddenly, a space of inspiration opens up with the most beautiful muse there. 

Did it happen to you when you didn’t feel like drawing but had to? How did you deal with those moments?

I don’t start or finish anything if I have no desire to create. I prefer doing something else at those moments. I think painting without inspiration is a waste of time and effort. 

One of the main goals of my blog is to show people that in difficult moments of life, creating, painting, and using bright colors can increase the level of enthusiasm for life and help upgrade the quality of life. Do you agree with this statement? Why do you think painting evokes positive emotions?

Yes, I absolutely agree. Creativity is life, creating is being in a flow,  creating is a movement’s energy, and movement is life!

Where do you see yourself in five years, as an artist?

I sincerely hope that I will not run out of inspiration! And I will continue to create. I have big goals and many projects and am ready to work on turning them into reality. Later, I am sure I will have more exciting ideas. I also hope to evolve as an artist and get more exposure worldwide.

My artwork is permanently displayed in Sobo Art Gallery. Florida, October 2018

What is your definition of a happy life?

A happy life is about balance; when desires, goals, and opportunities create a balance; having enough time to create without sacrificing anything. So many people sacrifice their dream! I want everything to be in balance! A happy life is – to live, create and enjoy!

“Make a wish” 2020 – acrylic on canvas.

What is your advice for beginner painters?

Start creating, and don’t be afraid!

What is your favorite quote?

I like this saying – “Painting is life in itself. It contains nature and soul without intermediaries, without conventions”. I don’t remember where I read it, but I still remember it. Also, I love this quote by Gustave Moreau “Painting is passionate silence.”

Do you do customer paintings?

Yes, I do. I am a photographer and artist. Recently, I started doing digital art, an exciting process that allows me to create personal art for my clients. Creating art in Photoshop requires the ability to draw, mix colors, use different tools, artistic vision, and professional skills. It’s a time-consuming but exciting process. 

How can customers contact you?

My Facebook – Svetlana Hollin

Instagram – @svetlanahollin

My website – Painting by Svetune

Lana’s art can be purchased following the next link Saatchi Art

Thank you, Lana, for your time! It was a great pleasure talking to you, and may the inspiration to paint always stay with you!

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