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Meet Dimitri Pavlotsky

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dimitri Pavlotsky.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My story began in Moscow, Soviet Russia, where I lived for the first twenty-six years of my life. There, my culture was shaped by classical Russian novels, traditional academic training at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, and by watching the political nonsense practiced on a global scale. Having lived in the US since 1989, (and in Chicago since 1994) I am still carrying a little bit of the Soviet Union inside of me: a mixture of skepticism and idealism.

Very early in my childhood, I was admired for drawing horses in one single line starting with a hoof. Drawing came naturally and easily to me. But art as a career was beyond what my mom could envision. So, she gave all the encouragement she had to channel my love for drawing towards a more practical profession – being an architect. A Russian architect back then was educated in the tradition of the Beaux-Arts Academy, with rigorous training in drawing, painting and sculpting. The classical skills I acquired were excellent. But I was ready to go past the technical abilities. Attending a large Edward Munch retrospective has changed everything for me.  I kept coming back to the exhibit to see and soak in the value of emotion in the art of painting. A little later I discovered Chaim Soutine. His visual language had the power to express the drama of his inner world. Experimenting with visual languages has become my passion. But it took me years to overcome the “practical” side and to gradually shed the stable architectural career. To recognize my studio practice of painting as my unique and best way to celebrate life took some courage, support of those who get it (foremost my wife) and the assistance of the forces beyond my grasp, those same powerful forces that put the drive to draw and paint inside of me in the first place. I am happily practicing my art full time.

Please tell us about your art.
I paint and draw. And I do it quickly. It’s mostly about moving energy. Fear is static and rigid while energy is always alive and moving. Speed takes me past my own thinking where I can easily get bogged down in concepts and ideas. I let my hand tell the story. For me, the process of art-making is discovering the non-verbal truth of the present moment. Since my classical training is rooted in a figurative tradition, my gestures naturally add up to an image of a body or a portrait. But those are not illustrations of features. The images are always about the interior landscape of my own emotions at a given moment. I am an expert in internal conflict. So, I put it on display in my art. Look for doubts, indecision, and mistakes in my art. All are underwritten by an inescapable urge to leave marks on a surface. My art heals me. The process is highly intuitive. I never know the resulting image in advance. Even if I plan the composition, I change it many times during the process beyond recognition. All I know is the one next move, next color, and the next line.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
For an artist, being a seeker is essential. Two extremes can be considered partial failures: on the one hand, repeating the same thing for a long time because of the feelings of safety and comfort it brings; on the other – not being able to stick to anything for a considerable amount of time. The success is somewhere in the middle: sticking with what interests you for a while until you are ready to move on to the next thing. This takes discipline and willingness.

Financial success is important. But to base “success” solely on external events is madness. The successful artist is the one who has accumulated enough “failures” under his belt and didn’t quit, who listens to the inner voice and who figured out how to trust and enjoy the process even when it gets uncomfortable. Learning all that takes time and practice. Those who have practiced more will go deeper. My success is in the uncovering who I am. Since I carry an infinite universe inside, I will never fully know myself. There will never be a stopping point nor satisfaction. Success is the process itself.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?\
I find helpful two seemingly opposing pieces of advice:
1. A Russian ballet dancer said that he had blossomed in his art form when a choreographer helped him identify what he does best and most naturally.
2. David Bowie said in an interview that a good stopping point in his work is when he feels like somebody else’s hand has done it for him.
The first one suggests recognizing the specificity of your gift and developing the corresponding skills. The second one suggests dropping the skills and getting the ego out of the way.
Without skills, an art form is shallow and not rooted in any tradition. But when showing off the skillful hand becomes the goal, the artist may be cheating himself out of learning who he really is. Mastery can be a cover-up for vulnerable feelings. The most precious thing an artist can give is not the skills, but himself.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Support for an artist is very important in emotional, spiritual, professional and financial areas. I seek all the help I can find. There is no better demonstration of support and appreciation then acquiring an actual artwork or helping me find those who may be interested. If you like what I do, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook Visit me at my Ravenswood studio.
More information including the contact information can be found on my website:

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Lilach Schrag

    January 11, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Dear Dimitri,
    What awesome work and inspiring thoughtful interview!
    Best, Lilach

  2. elyse martin

    January 12, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    That was an inspiring interview. Your work is chock full of emotion!

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