Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

Pavel Sokov - A Painter's Odyssey in Ethiopia

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #56

Show Notes:

Get over 50% off your first year on artist website with FASO:



On this episode, we sat down with Pavel Sokov, a Russian-born Canadian artist with a passion for science and culture. We discussed his incredible project documenting the daily lives of some of the tribes of Ethiopia, why he began this project, the interesting cultural differences between the west and the tribes, and finally we discussed some great advice for anyone seeking to selfishly paint what they want and also make a living from their work!

Say "Hi" to Pavel on Instagram:

Visit Pavel's FASO site:


Pavel Sokov: 0:00

I think the wisest strategy is you make your financial goal you make your artistical. And then you make it so that your financial goals allow you to pursue exactly what you want to pursue for your interests with literally zero regard for if anybody's going to collect it or not.

Laura Arango Baier: 0:19

Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier, and I'm your host. For those of you who are new to the podcast. We are a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. Before we begin, I'd like to share a few announcements. The first announcement is that we will be doing a two week season break and we'll be returning with more episodes on October 24th. The second announcement is that you can now watch the majority of our podcast episodes on our YouTube channel where you can find us using our handle at BoldBrush RT. And of course, if you want to watch the episodes as soon as they're out, and also get some excellent art marketing advice, then go check out BoldBrush Now on with today's episode, on this episode, we sat down with Pavel so-called, a Russian born Canadian artists with a passion for science and culture. We discussed his incredible project documenting the daily lives of some of the tribes of Ethiopia, why he began this project, the interesting cultural differences between the West and the tribes. And finally, we discuss some great advice for anyone seeking to selfishly paint what they want, and also make a living from their work. Hello, Pavel and welcome to the BoldBrush show. How are you today?

Pavel Sokov: 1:41

Hey, Laura, or Laura. I'm doing great today. How are you really happy to be here?

Laura Arango Baier: 1:48

Oh, good. Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you. Because you, you seem to have a knack for doing a lot of cultural projects, which is something that is, in my opinion, not very common today, you would see it maybe in like the academic times, or like in the times where there were more people who were actually out there documenting, of course, because there were no cameras. So what you're doing right now is pretty unique. Especially your current project, which will be what we will be discussing on the episode. But before we talk about that, I would like for you to tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Pavel Sokov: 2:21

Well, I'm Pavel and I'm known for, I'd say a couple of things. Primarily, it's my portrait commissions that I do for members of royal families and intrapreneurs. And people like that. But what I'm most excited about is my travel paintings. So I started a series called Stories of the World, which came about through me traveling all over the place as I like to do, and being very interested in how other people live. And finding that people from cultures that are not like my own, which is I'm Canadian and from Russia. Other people are very interesting to me how they dress their traditions, and I couldn't help but be drawn to painting them, much more so than the regular kind of modern Western person. I guess in many ways, I'm kind of replicating what the orientalist painters did, kind of like you mentioned before. And yeah, I just want to travel all over the world to go to places that the most people don't go and see people that most people don't interact with and take down their stories and paint them. I've done India, Morocco, all over Asia, Japan. And right now I'm really focused on doing the tribes of Ethiopia.

Laura Arango Baier: 3:48

That's awesome. Yeah. And I think that project is really fascinating too, because I feel like a lot of those, those cultures that you've been, you know, painting and visiting and seeing so many of those because of you know, things like globalization, and travel and all these things, it's very easy for those cultures to be lost. So I think it's wonderful that you're capturing them in a very one on one way versus a camera, which a camera can sometimes be, it can have a different effect than actually being immersed, which is really awesome that you actually immerse yourself to an extent.

Pavel Sokov: 4:25

I still use the camera when I'm there. So there's sometimes life paintings, but most of the situations I like to tell stories of different ceremonies and things that people do, which unfortunately, or fortunately, or neutrally means that a camera is very helpful, because let's say I want to capture a rain dance in Ethiopia or in India. I was at the KU mela Festival, which is a religious gathering. It's actually the gathering of the most humans and one place over, there was 190 million visitors, not on one day, but over the course of the month or so it's once every 12 years. And it's just a sea of people. And if I want to tell a story of how that looks or how that feels, you're gonna have to do it with cameras. But then if you have an opportunity to do a one on one painting, and the person has time, and you can talk with them about giving you a setting, that's fantastic. And then you can combine both live paintings and photo paintings. Yeah, yeah, definitely. But you do have to show up to the place that I agree. Painting somebody else's photos from Google is, I mean, people can do what they want to do. But that doesn't interest me. I want to go to the actual place, find out what the people are about, and get a sense for the place. I think it helps the art. And I'm just genuinely interested to be in these places myself also.

Laura Arango Baier: 6:07

Yeah. And why did you specifically become interested in the tribes of Ethiopia?

Pavel Sokov: 6:15

Well, I'd say the way it happened is that I developed a friendship with my favorite photographer in the world, Leif Steiner. He is big on photographing different indigenous people and tribal people or people that aren't part of our grand society. He loved my art, I loved his photos. And over a couple of years, I was saying that we should go on a trip together and make some artworks together. And then finally, sometime after COVID, he started setting up trips to Ethiopia, because he's working on a photo book of Ethiopian tribes of the Omo Valley. So he invited me and I said, let's go. And then when I got there, I realized that this is something I want to do multiple times. I'm actually coming back this January for another month. So I think I'll spend about five years probably painting just the Omo Valley Ethiopia tribes, not just I mean, I'm going to paint other stuff that I visit, because I'm going to keep visiting things now. So but over the course of five years, I'll deliver quite a lot of paintings. So it's not that I sought out the tribes of, you know, very open minded, you told me, let's go to Mongolia and Eagle hunters. Okay, let's go. Let's go to the Myanmar longneck. Tribe, let's go. I want to go to Chernobyl. But that's a little bit not going to happen at the moment. And for the next few moments. And I missed my chance. I actually had a tour booked in early 2020. And then the pandemic hit and it got canceled. And I had another one booked in 2014 Right before Russia is twice I tried to go my plans were destroyed so so I don't necessarily get stuck on who is that I'm interested in everybody and anybody that's doesn't look like this, you know, I don't care. I'll go to another planet. Happily, like it doesn't. So I don't seek things out. I just go to whereas whatever is happening, I'm there you know.

Laura Arango Baier: 8:50

Yeah, I love that. That's very much like go with the flow. Seize the day type of, you know, let's explore the earth because it's wild and interesting. And there's so much more out there than than just you know, roofing. Yeah,

Pavel Sokov: 9:05

yeah, I even I want to go to North Korea. Also. Good luck with that, thinking about doing that. Nobody really wants to go with me for some reason. Really. Nobody wanted to go to Chernobyl with me either. I don't know people are weird.

Laura Arango Baier: 9:21

I might want to go to Chernobyl. You know if you ever need a buddy maybe I'll go I would definitely take a ton of iodine pills. So

Pavel Sokov: 9:31

already radiation on the plane there and on the X ray is there to be honest. Look, you're there for a few days it's going to be okay. So hopefully, if there's ever an opportunity, I'll be there. I want to do plein air painting because I've never seen a plein air painting done in pet. So that's my goal, but life is conspiring against this goal.

Laura Arango Baier: 9:57

You know, maybe it's just not time yet. You know? You just got a better wait a little more. But it would be good. Yeah, you know, maybe maybe it's because of that. I mean, like, I would love to see a plein air of like, you know, the the playgrounds and like the empty apartments and all that because that's it's so spooky. But it's wildly interesting just like being in a place that had that saw God so much change overnight. But continuing with the Ethiopian tribes. I'm I'm very curious. Why. So Ethiopia has at tribes and total is what I is what I was researching before talking to you. But you're focusing just on the ones of these, this valley, and I'm guessing I mean, from what I read, they have so much diversity, even you know, within these tribes, like every tribe is totally different. Some of them have scarification, to beautify their bodies, others wear the lip things others, you know, they do a lot of different rituals. Was there a specific one that you found the most interesting or that you really, really wanted to document,

Pavel Sokov: 11:05

they are all different. They have a few things in common, but each one has their own kind of unique flavour. And what's also interesting is when you meet each tribe, you get to encounter the different personality like different approach that they have towards you. Which, my guess is that it depended on the level of hardship or danger or lack thereof that they experience. And also, how many tourists if any, they've met because some, a couple of tribes that we visited, they've never seen anything like that. So their level of friendliness was quite different between each tribe. I found that very interesting. I still kept the empty headed, open minded approach where whatever tribe you put in front of me, I'm interested, I didn't pick any tribe over and others just, we visited those six, and in January, there's actually going to be an opportunity to visit three new ones that I have not Bodie, Caro tribe, the Bodhi tribe, and the third one, that they just got a road built, that will give access for the first time to them. So I don't really know what they look like. And I don't even check before I go, I like to show up and see for myself, kind of mimicking maybe how the orientalist would have felt. So on my first trip to Ethiopia, I actually made a point not to learn anything about anything. I just googled the war they had going on a bit because my parents were complaining about it. But other than that, I wanted to have a fresh meeting with them. But if you asked me now that I've seen those six tribes, where there's some that are more or less interesting, I would say that the ones that experience more tourism and visitors are less interesting on average than the ones that have not. So an example of a tribe that gets a lot of visitors is the Surrey tribe. I think the reason why is because they're surrounded by very beautiful, lush land, and they're somewhat near the city of Jinka. If you drive for like, eight hours. And I think tourists are most likely to go there. And they also are one of the two tribes we've encountered that where are those quintessential lip rains? Yeah. And the result of them having encountered a lot of tourists is that they change the way that they beautify themselves, in order to increase the chance of a tourist person to book a photoshoot with them. Because each time you sit down for a live painting or photo shoots, it's your guide makes an arrangement with the tribal chief, and name names get taken down for every photo shoot or life pose or everything, and everybody actually gets paid. So it's commercial enterprise. And unfortunately, if you have a lot of visitors, that means that people are starting to put like, dried fruits and on their head and different leaves and things because it attracts the photographer and they're starting to do a bit of marketing, you know, and my philosophy for these paintings are not to make the most interesting painting, I don't think about that. Or at least, if you consider what I consider to be true that the most interesting painting is the painting that shows you exactly how the things actually are, is what I consider interesting. So I endeavor to find people that look like how they always look and do the things they always do. And don't set up an attractive situation to capture me as a photographer. So the surgery tribe was a little bit big on on those marketing moves, which I don't blame them good for them. So I often had to adjust, like, take things that they're put on their head and ask them to take it off and kind of put them back into how I think they looked yesterday before we showed up type of thing. Yeah. So yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 16:04

yeah, not and it's, you know, it is good for them. I mean, I'm sure it benefits them a lot. But at the same time, you know, it feels less authentic, which, of course, you're seeking out the authentic when you're visiting these tribes.

Pavel Sokov: 16:17

Well, that's another reason why I find it important. My my whole series of doing these world paintings is every single person that you see me painting this traditional people, their way of life will disappear soon and quickly and is disappearing at high speeds right now. My friend Leif the photographer, he says, even this time we visited in November of last year, he said he started visiting in about 2019 or so. Or maybe the first time was 2018. And just when he first went there, nobody had any Western shorts. Or, like Louis Vuitton and Prada shirts that they print out somewhere. And as time goes on, like, seriously, like 30% of people were wearing, like, football jerseys, and a lot of Louis Vuitton supreme knockoff shirts. And, yeah, they're comfy, I guess. And that's gonna happen. And I'm not there to stop them. But what I am there for is, while we still have the real outfits, I gotta go paint that real quick over the next few years, because I honestly don't think that's going to last long. Like I was watching a video, there's a tribe on the border of Northern India and Myanmar, called the headhunters tribe. And they tattoo their face, and they used to hunt other tribes and kill each other. And then they would preserve their heads and make these metal head necklaces. That would signify how many people they've killed. And they're not doing that anymore. And that's probably good. So the only people that have done that are now these village elders that are like 80 years old. So these traditions, for better or for worse, I'm not even commenting whether it's for better or for worse, it's probably for the better, to be honest. What I am saying is that these traditions are factually going to be gone. Man, honestly, in the next like five years, like half of them are going to be gone. Yeah, time is running out fast. If you're talking about 2030 years from now, like Mongolian Eagle hunters, no way. Like I said, why is that? That's because tourists calm and they set up photoshoots with them. And they kind of introduce their way of life and their various comforts to a tribe, which the tribe obviously wants to adopt for their own betterment and their own comfort. So naturally, these things are gonna go fast. So I just want to preserve a snapshot of what once was not as a comment that I don't necessarily find it wrong or sad. I have no valuation on what is happening. I'm not here to judge that. It's just I find how people look right now. Super interesting. And I know that in about 2030 years, we're all going to look the same. So for me, my interest in painting will be hindered by that a lot.

Laura Arango Baier: 19:52

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it is, yeah, it's an unfortunate reality. Um, fortunate or unfortunate, as you said, actually, that you know, things are changing. It's inevitable. Of course. That's evolution. I mean, it's part of life, it's adapt or perish, basically. So

Pavel Sokov: 20:14

this little isation, which I like, and I like when cultures interact with each other, like Koreans are exporting their culture a lot lately. And that's pretty cool. I'm happy to see that. And, yeah, there's some great things about it, it's just there's a couple of sad things about it. Even in Morocco, when I visited, I could only find, I think three people total in two weeks, there weren't where I'm going to do this tracksuit or something. And I painted while he was a merchant, his name is Rashid, and he's in the city of Fez will be still there. And he dressed in a very interesting, traditional way. And he was the cause of, I think, my first travel of painting of a traditional looking person. So even right now, people are globalizing. And it's even hard to find people like that even

Laura Arango Baier: 21:16

today. Very true. I mean, you know, it's like, when you look at the folk clothing, even of Western countries, and people in Western Europe, and in Eastern Europe, you see it less and less definitely in the newer generations. And you do still have to like dig up a picture. So it's good to, in the present, find the places where those folk traditions are still being practiced. Because eventually, they'll just like you said, in the, you know, in a picture or in an old painting, but specifically, also, I was very curious to know, you know, what was there like, were there any cultural differences during your time with the tribes that maybe also made you want to paint a specific subject pertaining to that tribe?

Pavel Sokov: 22:02

Oh, there's very many cultural differences. And there is. So many things that the tribes do that I guess Western people would find fairly questionable. I myself, don't, it's people can do whatever they want to do. I'm a libertarian. And whatever they're into is completely fine by me. They had a culture of revenge murders, for example. And they have a whole system set up for how to go about revenge murder, which is complete with rules about how you can stop the cycle of revenge by going to the village elder, and he will broker a deal with the victim's family. And if the deal is accepted, then the victim will wash themselves in goat blood, which will signify that they promise to not exact revenge. But if such a deal does not come through, even 2030 years later, that person has the right to kill in Revenge of the other person, which is something that happened when the night we arrived to the Mercy tribe, somebody got killed there. And the cause of it was 20 years old. So the person's father was killed by that man. So he, he took and then the killer did not go to the village elder to create a deal for some reason. And this caused 20 years later, he paid for it. So there's traditions like that. There's a lot of ritualistic scarification which is seen as beautification rather than scarification, I would say, it's, I would liken it to their form of tattoos. It's like if we started calling tattoos, some self mutilation or something, we would find that to be unreasonable. So I think the same for them and their scarification. So when I see traditions like that, I really want to capture that event or tell the story about it. So my goal for the next trip in January, is to have more scenes of people engaging in these ceremonies. Like I want to capture cattle jumping ceremony, which is when a boy comes of age, because a lot of cultures traditional cultures have coming of age, ritual. Even let's say in the Jewish culture, Bar Mitzvah is A version of a coming to age. But in a lot of African cultures, there is a challenge involved where the boy has to actually complete a challenge to earn his adulthood. And in this case, they line up the family's cattle in a line. And the boy has to jump over top of them and run across them without falling. And at the same time, his sisters, if he has any are the women in his family, to show their respect and loyalty to the tribe and to him and to celebrate his manhood. What they do is they self whip their back. I saw this a lot in HALMER tribe, particularly, because I can't say that every tribe has the exact same, there's a lot of cattle jumping in a lot of different tribes, but they might have different variations. But I can tell you that in the hammer tribe, the women of the family will whip themselves to create a scar. And the bigger and cooler this car as the more elegant she is and the more respect you see towards a her later. And when you see her she gains kind of status and respect. And this is elegant lady, because she showed her loyalty to her family and her tribe with these scars that she put on her back. So things like that I want to capture and paint those. I saw an interesting ceremony, I have photos and I plan a painting of before a harvesting season in the Mercy tribe. The they selected two boys to drink warm blood from a cow, which I was afraid was gonna die because I have very many problems washing animals get hurt. So is tough for me. I had to see a lot of that during my month. But that's their life. That's what they do. And it's not for me to say so they took a cow and they caught a vein. And it started squirting warm blood. And these two boys, they captured it in a wooden canister. And then they drank the warm blood to give them strength for the harvesting season because they're going to work a lot to harvest some grains, which is mostly amaze. And luckily for me, I was pleasantly surprised the cow after they were done the bloodletting and I should have logic this out was not going to die, because that would be an extremely expensive endeavor, they'll be not worth it. So what they did is they took cow dung and they just glued the wound shut. And the cow just walked away like nothing happened. And I was very happy to see that. Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. Because you have to remember that in the tribes. Their wealth and their life is mostly in their cows and their goats and their cattle. So that's not only their wealth, it's also their security. It's their, it's what makes the things that they eat or consume. And it's very important to them. So obviously, they weren't gonna let a cow die just for that.

Laura Arango Baier: 28:41

Yeah, like you said, that would be very expensive for them to lose a cow. It's very important creature.

Pavel Sokov: 28:50

So they don't need they don't really eat the animals, they they're mostly vegetarians. They'll they'll eat a goat for a ceremony or some sort of very, very special occasion. But for them, it's like, it's like their real estate, you know, you wouldn't want to chip your garage off your house, you know. So it happens extremely rarely and I didn't see anybody eat any meat in my mouth. There.

Laura Arango Baier: 29:22

That's fascinating. I mean, it definitely goes to show that the way they live is just something totally different than what we would expect. And they definitely live off the land which also has its own rules and its own. Like how you said they have a harvesting season and they have to focus on when to plant and when to pick so that they know that next season they will have next year they'll have enough food which of course with our say like first world place it's just you just go to a supermarket which is a totally different experience. So I can imagine being a month there for you must have been almost like going back into Time, you know, to like when humans are still trying to live from the land and basically existing and taking care of themselves in a totally different way that you know, today we become so, so used to convenience, you know, which is so fast

Pavel Sokov: 30:17

you make a great point that that exact aspect is I think the most interesting thing about the Ethiopian tribes in particular, is because, actually human genealogy traces back exactly to Ethiopia, where the the oldest human humanoid fossils not even human but humanoid, the previous versions were found in Ethiopia, you can see the skeleton of Lucy is one of the earliest if not the earliest, excavated FASO and museum in Addis Ababa. So when you say that it's it's very onpoint, because that's actually where humans evolved from. And seeing these cultures is a bit of a time machine. mixed with some modern things like the tribal chiefs, they do have a cell phone because sometimes they need to call the government for help on something. They have a lot of AK for a lot of guns, obviously, there wasn't back in the day that they got a lot of those now, which they never keep on safety. They're just in all states of disrepair. And they fire them off sometimes, in the hammer tribe, if somebody passes away, they let the surrounding villages know by firing into the air. So so that's a somber moment. Yeah. But it is very interesting to kind of see how people live right now, which you can assume is similar to how people lived a long, long time ago. And you can kind of see a stage in human evolution that explains how we got to where we are with our credit cards and iPhones. And I find that very interesting. And you even get to see tribal psychology and compare it to modern day tribal psychology and see the ways that we have changed and many ways in which we have not, and many ways in which we still have similar psychologies. But on a grander scale, really. I find that very interesting.

Laura Arango Baier: 32:39

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I feel like we probably haven't changed too much in that sense. You know, there's still like, are you an Android person or an iPhone person type of world, which is, it's very interesting is that it creates like a similar sort of dichotomy that I could imagine seeing in different tribes as well. It sounds a little funny, but the mentality is still there, you know?

Pavel Sokov: 33:10

Oh, exactly. Like you talk to the tribe. Oh, we talked to them Yanga Tom tribe on the border of South Sudan and Ethiopia. And they were one of the less friendly tribes and I think it's because their environment is super dry. And it's just all messed up, like even their animals have come back to the village there was a donkey, whose ass was completely chewed off by somebody, maybe a hyena. And this donkey came back home to the village and his house was just gone. And I was just like, Oh, my God, oh, somebody helped that donkey Holy crap. But they had this attitude of like, yeah, that donkey is gone, I guess. And there was no emotion like, no, because I was like, Oh, my god, somebody do something. And they're just like, it is what it is man. Like in the Rocky, you know, if he dies, he dies. So that rough lifestyle is also partly due because their village gets to talk to a lot which causes them to build these fences around our village, which you actually see in one of my paintings that just came back from a show that I kind of now wish I brought into this room to show you but didn't think of that. It's called a tuba tribes woman a tuba building a fence. And she's chopping wood to build a fence around the village because they get attacked a lot by animals, but also by other tribes. And when you talk to them about the attacks, it's just like it's always been with humans, you know, it's like, we never attack first. We'll only attack and revenge because they took our cattle then obviously If you go to bat tribe and they never attack first, nobody attacks first ever, everybody's always defending. And nothing, nothing has changed. Which was evidence, particularly to me last year, that everybody always says that they're attacking for all the right reasons. But, as always, so much has changed.

Laura Arango Baier: 35:26

Yeah, that is so fascinating. How BoldBrush We inspire artists to inspire the world, because creating art creates magic. And the world is currently in desperate need of magic. BoldBrush provides artists with free art marketing, creativity, and business ideas and information. This show is an example. We also offer written resources, articles, and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush. And if you believe that to sign up completely free at BoldBrush That's BOLD BRUSH The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be a professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special ink forward slash podcast, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artist website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly, ecommerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor, the art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today, right now, in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes, so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link forward slash podcast, that's Because it's like the same, but obviously a little different. I mean, their lives are actually at risk compared to you know, the average person in the West. So that's that must Yeah, I can understand why they would, you know, become more numb or more resist resilient against, you know, loss, since it's such a natural part of their life at that point. So fascinating. And then, you know, I was curious, since you mentioned a specific painting, is there any other painting that you created, that you hold, maybe closest to or the painting that you maybe feel more attached to that you created? Making that shows one of these tribes?

Pavel Sokov: 37:56

All right, now it's the one in the back of me right there. Nice. So this guy, he's from the hero show. He's from the Arborea tribe, which was one of my favorite tribes. Because they were a very interesting mixture of not having received any tourists, except my photographer friend a few times. And they always remember every tribe we go to they meet so few people that when we come back, you just hear a kid's running out the car screaming leaf leaf leaf, which is the name of the photographer friend, and he jumps out they're all like, leave the thief and they gather around a screaming leaf. It's very cute. The kids are super cute. So this tribe was super friendly and smiling and laughing and even had a couple of guys dressing super stylish with a hat and a feather and they're like leaning against the tree. Oh, cool. They're the they're fashion influencers, I suppose. So I love the these guys because they still all the traditional stuff is there, but so friendly and easy going and hanging out at our tent camp and they're just a lot of fun. I love chasing the kids. I found a new form of exercise because there's no gyms. So um, the kids are obsessed with stealing your plastic water bottle. I guess because that allows them to carry water or something like that. But it's not good to give it to them because it just ends up on the ground. 100% chance of it ending up on the ground very soon after and cluttering up the place. So after Every time we left the camp, we would go around collecting some plastic trash, because the tribes people don't currently have any desire to not have the little bits of trash around. So these kids, they want your water bottles. So I found a great way to exercise by having them chase me for the water bottle. And I thought that, since I'm so much older that I would actually win and there, they wouldn't get the water bottle. And there was like 30 of them or so and they ran so fast, the water bottle was gone from my hands and like, five minutes, at most, between three to five, I tried three times I lost three water bottles. I just had a good, I guess emotional experience with that tribe. And this painting. I'm a big fan of it. I think it's it's possibly the best painting I've done, but probably easier to say the top three because sometimes when you finish a painting that you're happy about, you're a bit too excited about it. And time will tell if you think is good, because you have some emotional experience with the painting that could be clouding your judgment, which I think is likely happening in this case. But given that I think even without the bias, I think it's one of my strongest work. So what I like about it is that it sets the gentleman His name is our borro. And what sets it sets him in his environment where he's about 20% of the canvas 25 I'd say probably about 22% of the canvas is his finger. And the rest is his environment where you see there are Bori tribe mountains, you see the the birds, which are actually carnivorous birds, that when they start circling around the environment, you know that they're trying to slow down and land safely to eat a dead animal of some sort. Because a bird can't. Well, eagles, I think Eagles can just like, just rock it down and just smash into the ground somehow and pick up a mouse. But vultures, they don't have. I don't know what prevents them from being able to just like, rocket downwards, but they have to like a plane like a human plane circled around and start to lose speed and lose momentum slowly and land slowly. So you see these things and I was thinking about how for tribes, people, their environment is a lot more part of their life than for you. And I would argue. Like I'm in Montreal, and I don't I'm not even in Montreal, it doesn't matter to me that I'm here. I don't I don't participate with Montreal, I don't know. So my environment doesn't matter to me in as far as the restaurants and how do I get to the restaurants that I like to eat. That's what I'm interested in the tribespeople, their environment is their life and their cattle is their wealth, their security. It's intertwined with the environment. So I wanted to make a painting that shows them in to tell the story of our borough, I can just do a close up of him and be like, that's our borro I think his story involves the environment. Yeah. And to be honest, it also involves the tribe. So maybe I could have the painting of everybody there. Yeah, so in the back of the painting, there is a very small section that shows cattle walking by with one herder. They're hard to see it's it's a more of a detailed thing, you'd have to be really paying attention. It's like a easter egg. So the cattle are moving the the goats and the cows, you can't tell exactly what animals are there because they're so small in the back. But it just gives you a hint that cattle are an important part of life. So I'm very happy to show this interaction of the environment in person in the space. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 44:47

So I think that's it's an incredible painting. I love it. I was actually staring at it. Almost like way before I even mentioned it because it's so it's so it is very reminiscent of you know those people In the academic world, from before the camera, who, you know, would go out and, you know, also document, the same thing. So to me, it's like I'm looking at the past, but it's actually the present. Which is it's so wonderful because it brings that timelessness into the work. I can't see the details, but it's, it's lovely.

Pavel Sokov: 45:21

Oh, yeah, you can see him on Instagram or something. I want to with my paintings, I would ideally like to transport you there, like you're there with me. But you don't have to, you know, take the flight and spend all that money and get sick like I did. But I'd like you to get a bit of the experience of actually being there and maybe get a feel for the weather, and what kind of air they have, which is the mountains, they often tell the story of what kind of air is in an environment. Like, for example, Colorado is famous for having very little atmospheric perspective. Even John Singer Sargent commented on how difficult that is to be in Colorado, because it doesn't have that distance that oxygen often creates. Yeah, so with my painting, it gives you this like Sandy, warm feeling that I hope transports you to the place and gives you a little bit of that physical experience. Maybe you can even imagine some smells like I painted a couple of pieces of cattle dung, for lovely to to add to your experience. Things like that are important. So like I said before, I'm not trying to make a beautiful painting, I'm trying to my goals a little bit different. So I'm not taking out the cattle dog. I'm, I'm happy that it's there. You know?

Laura Arango Baier: 46:55

Yes. Because it's part of the environment. And it's,

Pavel Sokov: 46:59

I can promise you it is. In fact, it's so much part of the environment that I got a lung infection and was a bit worried that Oh, my life there. So there's definitely Catalonia could probably see that.

Laura Arango Baier: 47:13

Yes, yeah. And it does have a particular smell. I mean, I live, I live on an island in the north. And sometimes, like when you're driving, you know, from one of the next nearby islands, and you driving back, especially in the summer, you get that smell of the cattle poops even through air conditioning, so it's a very, very strong smell. I'm glad you survived. Yeah, so I also wanted to know, you know, because you've had time to actually be with these tribes and and to experience them, do you feel like it also has changed the way that you view painting and how you try to capture the tribes as well.

Pavel Sokov: 48:03

Think what I would say in terms of painting, is that they gave me a bit of purpose and a reason for the paintings that okay, I'm a strange artist. This is going to be highly unpopular, highly unlikable. I understand but too bad. I, I just not gonna lie. I don't think artists are the most useful parts of society. That's just my opinion, because that's what I think sorry. I don't think that our paintings do much we can't eat them. We can't drive them. We can't type on them. I find us and our way of life to be quite kind of selfish and self absorbed in that we do things that pleasure us all day. But painting like why do I paint not to please you guys to please me? So as there's something about that, that makes me sad a bit where I was thinking that if I was bitten by a different bug, I could have been a scientist. Maybe do something actually useful. And everybody disagrees me on this one when I do my spiel on how I think artists are kinda like some of the most useless people possible. Everybody's was like no, no, so useful. Oh, my God, oh, my God. I get what I get what people are saying in a way and I think when I do something like paint people whose way of life will disappear fairly soon. I do kind of see that. There is a point because when I look back at the orientalist painters, even though they painted most of those paintings back in their studios, Paris or London, perhaps, but mostly bears. I hope that their setups that they created in Paris are meant to actually mimic what they saw, which is what I'm doing with my paintings. I'm not like I said, I'm not a beautifier. I don't care about beautiful things, I care about how it is. So it is my hope that the orientalist paintings are historical glimpses into a world that's not long gone. And it gives us a piece of history that we can't see or experience any other way. And I think there's a lot of value in that. For example, there is a famous, the most famous tribal photographer. I forget his name, and probably shouldn't mention his name anyway. But he is the McDonald's of tribal photography, and that he shows up and he'll hire people from his cruise ship, to go pretend to be tribes. And he'll dress the Botha costumes and he'll shoot a smoke machine behind. And you see his photos and they're epic. They're like cinematic like, movie scene photos. But people that no amount of mettam 80% of the time that's like, his, like Uber driver or something or his hotel staff. And he's not sleeping in the tent with the tribes. He's sleeping at the hotel. He makes epic imagery, but he has a different goal. His goal is be very famous at travel photography, and give you a beautiful, exciting image. Yeah, and good for him. I'm not necessarily going to pull on his parade, but I find there to be some sort of anthropological value in the paintings, the way I do them that I never beautify a scene, I don't romanticize anybody or anything. And I don't bring my like Western opinions into anything like, people are revenge killing people, men are marrying many wives. Although that's not a that's not so difficult for me to break out. But there's things like scarification, and like women being themselves that are a bit difficult on my opinions, but I don't, I will paint whatever is happening. And the things I saw, and my approach to them, made me feel like there is an actual value to creating these artworks, besides the enjoyment of your eyes, there is an anthropological, historical, psychological, cultural value to preserving these moments. So that's kind of what it gave me, I would say,

Laura Arango Baier: 53:12

wow. And you know, what you mentioned something there that I find I found very key. And that is, you know, comparing what you're doing to this other person who's basically just setting things up, it's fascinating to also see how your, your goal, right can determine so much of the process as well as the end result of what you're creating, which is something that I think every artist should be asking themselves. When they're creating an image. It's like, what am I trying to do? You know, like, why exactly,

Pavel Sokov: 53:46

because when you make a goal to let's say, sell, I want to sell paintings and get the money and have the money, that's a goal, right? Or you could set a different goal of making the most authentic painting that you can. And unfortunately, those two goals are counter productive to each other. And I can tell you that so far, I've started my Ethiopian project, and I cannot say that, like, people nobody's ever told me that they want to hang paintings of tribes people in their home. I've nobody's that's not the reason why I got into this. Nobody ever told me that the popular thing to do is to paint these traditional cultures. And in fact, it's highly unpopular. What you are supposed to paint is making women and flowers and landscapes. So you have to make a choice as an artist, what are you doing and why? And I I've made my choice here. So I'm going to maximize the reason for that choice, which is not to create sellable artwork that everybody is going to break down my door to go acquire that if somebody cares about the most authentic real representation of a rare culture, then I will be that person that you go to, and you will pay a lot of money. And that's how it has to be. And if not, that's okay. I don't need you to so will be already the way.

Laura Arango Baier: 55:30

Yeah, yeah. And that's a really good perspective to have, too. Because, you know, I had a teacher at Angel Academy, Michael, John angel, he actually used to say, you know, if you want to be rich, if you're trying to paint for the money, maybe you should pick another career.

Pavel Sokov: 55:47

No, no, no, I'm not saying that.

Laura Arango Baier: 55:51

But, but he meant, if the goal is just money, and it's not the creation of anything beautiful, then painting is not the way to go. Because it's very much about the self and about, you know, putting the work before the money, and then the money comes, you know?

Pavel Sokov: 56:10

Exactly. I just don't want people to feel like the path of an artist is not financially lucrative, I guess, after what I said, it sounds like, that might be what I was getting at, but absolutely not. So I have different goals for different things. Like behind me as a painting I'm working on that's gonna end up with the king of Bach rain. And don't you worry about my finances? there plenty plenty fine. You know, they call us starving artists. But

Laura Arango Baier: 56:45

yeah, like, that's, that's a lie. I mean, it is always possible to make money. Of course, the issue is, you know, if you're putting the money before the creation of something that's meaningful to you, then of course, you're gonna suffer and you might as well just do something else. Because then you're just sacrificing time and energy into something and maybe, you know, you could be making more money doing something else versus if you're doing something that comes from within you that you know, you're, you really want to like you, for example, you really want to capture all these beautiful cultures, or you're being asked to paint these amazing portraits that you enjoy. That's God, that's like winning the lottery, you know?

Pavel Sokov: 57:30

Yeah, for commission portraits, you got to find a balance. I'm lucky where I kind of navigated my commission portraits towards an area that overlaps with my interest in traditional cultures. So I get to do a lot of portraits for royal families that want to preserve their history. So I'm getting these old historical black and white photographs of situations that are long gone, and it's once again it evokes that Orientalist painter situation. So I tried to take on, try to make my stories the word collection encouraged people to contact me for this type of project, so that I can have an equal blast painting the Commission as I do my studio work, but then again, look, I'm heading to Dubai in a few weeks, and I've got two Commission's to paint there another neither of them are traditional culture, portraits, their portraits of modern successful people. One is real estate developer. And other one is a successful guys, a wife and daughter. So these are not things that excite me emotionally. But they excite me financially. So what I like to do is I set a financial goal and then I set out artistic goal, and I try to maximize where they can crossover. But if I have an artistic goal, which is I'm just obsessed with showing you traditional cultures, and people don't care too much for that. I will not stop that I refuse it. I don't care if you guys buy it or not. A lot of people do most people don't most people are buying landscapes and nude women. I will not stop no matter what. Why? Because I got lots of money from another area, which allows me to do whatever I want and not try to be popular and not go started Tik Tok and start dancing on it or turning around with my canvas or whatever is the latest. So I think the wisest strategy is you make your financial goal you make your artistic goal And then you make it so that your financial goals allow you to pursue exactly what you want to pursue for your interests with literally zero regard for if anybody's going to collect it or not.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:00:14

Yeah, that is, wow, that is really excellent advice. Because I feel like, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of like, I have to make it with my paintings that I love. And then it creates a sort of like, pressure that just maybe makes the work a little less. God, it just makes it lose some of that beauty because you're so pressured that you can't fully focus on creating a beautiful image, because you get that inner critic or all those voices that say, like, oh, how is this gonna sell who's gonna give a damn. And if you, you know, do as you do where you don't, you really don't give a damn, because you're fine, you have something else supplementing you, that frees you up to do whatever the hell you want, which is excellent.

Pavel Sokov: 1:00:57

And I believe that when a person continues to do exactly what they want to do, at a high level with passion and continue to just hammer on it. Like I recognize now that for example, galleries aren't exactly going to cancel their next Western cowboy themed a show, which they know sells well, in order to do a one man Ethiopia tribes show. That's not they're not exactly dying to do that. But I'm gonna keep hammering at this until you're basically forced to just comply with my interests. Look, this ends in one way only I'm painting this until I die or until you become interested in one I'm interested in because I'm just refuse to stop. So I think if you do that, I mean, how are you mark is created is through passion, and through just chipping and chipping and chipping at it. And not changing yourself for the world. But making the world change to your preference, which is obviously pretty challenging, but I think I think we can do it. At least we're going to find out because that's what I plan to do.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:24

Well, yeah, we will see.

Pavel Sokov: 1:02:27

Yeah, the story remains to be told, I guess we'll find out,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:32

which is very exciting to and inspiring, like, you know, go for it. And then it also, you know, it inspires me to pursue the things that I love, like I watch you you're doing, you know, these these amazing projects of different cultures and science. And those are obviously your passions. So it definitely, I hope it would also inspire our listeners, but also I can speak for myself and say, Damn, it makes me really want to go for the things that I give a damn about. And then force people to see things my way. So

Pavel Sokov: 1:03:05

we'll see. Yeah, when you're so excited about something. Like, I love talking and making friends with non artists, if they're passionate about what they're doing, I love hearing them talk about what they love, like particularly scientists, even like people in finance, I love hanging out with them. And just whatever you're excited about is just can be infectious in a good way, I think. Or at least to me, I'm drawn to the passion and interest of other people and doing something productive and difficult. And people will you can show people what is interesting about what you find interesting, you know, over time, yeah, or in the very least, maybe it will work but you'll have a fun life and you'll be proud of the work you made even if people didn't get it and they decided to buy whatever, on tick tock these days or whatever.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:04:07

Well, yeah, I mean, like you said, what counts is that, you know, in the end, this is a very selfish act, you know, what we create is literally for our own pleasure more than anything. And that's what counts you know, living life for yourself. Just doing whatever she does nice. Do you have any other pieces of advice that you'd like to share? You know, maybe for someone who's just starting out with painting or who wants to become an artist, lips from their work?

Pavel Sokov: 1:04:36

I think what I would say is one of the things that really helped me get my career going like, literally within six months of trying, it was close to 10 years ago now that I started my career I quit my business office job And I moved to California to learn all the painting. And I got kind of going right away. And when I asked myself, Why is that why was it fast? It's a combination of luck, which you need. But you know, the brave, the brave are the ones that get lucky the most, you know. So I found that I went after and took on different projects that at that time, I was a little bit too green for I didn't quite know if I could execute this. This challenge. I did my first oil painting commission during my first semester at watts, semesters, three months there. So in my first three months of touching oil paint, I took on an oil painting Commission. It was from breaded I painted somebody's dog. Yeah, it's humble beginnings, from red, it's dogs to kings and things like that. But you have to start where you have to start. But what is really important is to say yes, to uncomfortable things that are a bit too soon. Because I've seen other students at the time, take the seemingly more logical strategy of not putting the cart in front of the horse. So they would take things kind of slowly and logically in steps, like they would take all drawing classes before doing painting classes. I, for example, skip drawing classes and took painting classes right away. And they would like build up to things and that's fine, that will work. But the brave thing to do is you don't build up to it. You just do it right away, you say yes to everything. And it's extremely stressful. And you get like, literally physically ill. I remember one time magazine, through sheer miracle of luck, contacted me to do the Time Person of the Year cover in 2014. It was my first six months of trying to pay an artist. And I said yes. And I had like 40 hours of class each week, and I had only two weeks to get it done. And I remember when I realized that the email wasn't actually a scam, because I was convinced that it was some sort of like phishing scam. When I realized it wasn't a scam, I just like turned green, or ever. I was like, Do you have a fever or something? Because I realized, I'm like, I wanted it to be a scam, you know, so that I don't have to have the pressure and the pain of at the time, I felt a lot of stress because I feel a great responsibility upon myself. When somebody does a commission with me. It is extremely intrinsically required for me to make sure they're happy. And not because I care about them, or I'm a good guy. Absolutely not. And I'm not a good guy, I deeply want to be proud of myself as a person. And for that to happen, I need it to be true that working with me or doing something with me, is something that every person will be happy and excited that they did. I would never regret that this is something I need that so that when I go to bed, I can say that I respect myself, not the client, not the client is the client. But if for me, so that pressure when I would say to certain things early on, that personality would put a lot of stress on me that actually I found made me learn faster, perform faster, and do leaps of artistic evolution very quickly because you gave your commitment. And you'd rather die than break your commitment or not be able to do something that you tell somebody that you're able to do. So your brain just unlocks whatever resources are there that are required to make this happen. And I grew artistically very quickly through a lot of stress. And through a lot of like hair falling out and stuff like that. I remember going to paint an MIT professor from life at her like mansion early on. And it was so challenging the Light was going everywhere. The polls was all changing. It was, it was so stressful, I literally my hair started falling out faster. But through doing things like that, I literally feel nothing. Now I feel absolutely nothing about anything, I have no stress. I don't know what, what kind of task they'd have to give me, for me to experience some sort of like fear or trepidation at this point. And I think that was built through those early years of jumping into things without the safety on, you know, and the more stress and pain you feel, the better. I think, at least look, I can tell you, that's how it was for me, we I recognize we all have different brains and different psychologies and different things that push us maybe some people grow better from positive reinforcement, whereas I grow from negative reinforcement exclusively. So, take my advice with a grain of salt and I guess ask yourself if psychologically, what is right for you, but I can tell you that for me discomfort was the speed booster and the strength builder that I think made my life so much better. I made this whole thing go by quicker, and it allowed me to get to painting these paintings that I want to paint faster than otherwise.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:11:42

Wow. Yeah. And that that makes perfect sense. Even even just slight discomfort, you know, that promotes growth. So it's a thing kudos, bro. Just jump in at a crazy commission so early, I could understand why your hair was falling out why you were stressed as hell. But it definitely yeah, you know, trial by fire. Here you are like chillin. And that's what counts.

Pavel Sokov: 1:12:08

And it's also very fun, you have to remember, like, depending on your psychology, I suppose. But I can say that, for me, some of the most fun moments that I often look back on, and kind of smile about are those early moments in my life where I didn't know if this art thing was going to work out. And it was all by the seat of my pants. And I was just kind of like grinding and hoping and sometimes the bank account would get all low and stressful. And those early years, were extremely fun. Because after a while, if you keep going at this it gets to a point where things are like easier. And it is quite difficult to put yourself in a stressful challenging situation. Which is partially why well he can get which is partially why my friend and I we started going out and plein air painting because we both have a lot experience in portrait painting. And I asked myself, well, what's the next? How do I get that student mindset, which is so pleasurable, honestly fun to be in when your brain is alive and learning and you can like literally feel your brain like working at its highest capacity. So we went out plein air painting and learning about landscape. And now those plein air paintings, they helped me in my studio paintings where I want to place the figure into a big background like this painting that we spoke about earlier. So always finding a way to challenge yourself, which becomes harder and harder to do as you get comfortable with life and things. With pressures you get comfortable with high prices and they don't cause pain anymore. You have to find your areas of weakness, and then address those in a stressful way. For me, I know what my next stressful thing would be. It would be to give workshops and do painting demonstrations. That is so scary to me. Right now that I've only taught. When I got back from watts, one of the things that I stressed myself with was after two semesters of watts I got back to Montreal for six months before my next two semesters, and I taught oil painting fundamentals class after two semesters of taking that tell you but luckily the Wazza tele game was so good and so informative and I learned so much that I actually genuinely brought a lot of new information to the table in the context of Montreal, which is a place that lacks information. So I can't say that, like, if I went to New York like, hi, I took two semesters of watts. Can I teach class, that's a different case. But I put myself in that situation and I had to do a demo. And that was very scary. And for me, right now, my next goal is I'm kind of training right now to doing things that would make me be okay giving a demo. Because once again, if I do a workshop, and somebody pays their money, no matter how it is, even if it's like a $50 Zoom workshop, I don't care that somebody wanted to do something with me, and they trusted, that I'm going to deliver what I said, that is extremely, extremely scary. And What's scarier than people literally watching you paint lives. So that's what I'm working on now. So I'm doing these daily head studies for up to an hour and a half, just to get good at not messing up the first layer, and I'm gonna work my accent, I'm not taking my advice. I got lazy, comfy and fat and happy. I'm building up to slowly and not taking my own advice to giving a workshop, the old me would book a workshop right now. But I'm not on me anymore. I'm all comfy now. So don't be like me. I'm trying to acclimatize myself to it.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:16:40

Yeah. I mean, it's like you said, you know, over time, you do get comfortable and more risk averse, which is natural, but it's good that you're still considering, you know, doing something that scares you, which is a lot more than the majority of people aim to do anyway and their daily lives. So again, kudos, I think a workshop, like led by you would be really awesome for a lot of people. So definitely get on it.

Pavel Sokov: 1:17:06

Well, thank you for the vote of confidence. I just, I hope you're right, because people have traveled to like, I've taken workshops, or you go to another continent, and you get the hotel. And I feel like, it's a huge thing of respect. I just, I remember, I was emailing this company workshops in France, about doing a workshop. And I got to admit the truth, when they gave me the form to fill out like what I've done that teaching wise, I kind of got scared, and I didn't fill out the form. And I didn't do it. Because I find that if somebody takes your workshop, that's a massive, like, I'm very honored by the thought of that. That's a huge respect that you know, buying a painting or a commission, that's just money, right? You transfer money, and it's gone. And it's, it's no big deal. But the workshop means that somebody took a week or two or five days plus weekend, so probably a week out of their life, where they're not working on their own paintings. They're getting on a plane, they're going to another country, because nobody's going to come to Canada dogs. So obviously, we're going to somewhere and that's such as respect thing to me that I want that I want to be able to do to deserve that in my life. And I'm going to work on deserving first. So I'm excited about that.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:18:41

Well, I mean, I think I think past you would have said you deserve it already. And you can figure it out. Now you've got this so you've got this. I think you have a lot to offer. And I think a lot of people out there would definitely yeah, of course I think a lot of people out there would definitely got their the mind blown if you gave it course. So considering the breadth of work that you have and the amount of followers that you have, I'm sure you have fans out there who would be like this guy has something that I need to learn so do it.

Pavel Sokov: 1:19:15

I really appreciate that. I'm gonna work hard to make that true.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:19:20

Good. I'll be watching Yeah, so speaking of your work, is there any place that you prefer for people to find more of your work?

Pavel Sokov: 1:19:31

Just get on my Instagram and you can say hello there. I have a website obviously but I'm not selling any workshops or videos or anything so I don't worry about anything I just say hello on my Instagram, which is my name Pavel Sokov. Nice.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:19:49

Perfect. Well, thank you so much Pavel for the amazing conversation. This was, again, inspiring. I love talking to other artists, especially artists who I definitely do the thing that they love and they are making a living it inspires me and again inspires our listeners so thank you.

Pavel Sokov: 1:20:09

thank you so much Laura, I really appreciated talking to you.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.