Geordi Laforge rainbow portrait Olga Shvartsur
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Credit: Olga Shvartsur

These watercolor paintings put pop culture, unicorns, and rainbows front and center

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Jul 22, 2018, 12:50 PM EDT (Updated)

When Olga Shvartsur began watercolor painting in 2013, it was really an experiment. She’d been drawing with pencil since she was a child and was looking for a new form. She went to an art store to pick up some random supplies, just to see what felt right. Among the items that she picked up was a set of watercolors — and it was love at first brush. Since then she’s produced beautiful one-of-a-kind watercolor paintings featuring various pop culture properties and animals.

What ultimately drew Shvartsur to watercolors was their unpredictability. As she told SYFY WIRE, you can create interesting effects with watercolors and when using them, she feels like she doesn’t have full control over them.

“Each color has kind of their own attitude, and depending on what it’s made up of, the pigments behave differently,” she explained. “Some of them granulate, some of them don’t granulate. Some of them are transparent. Some of them are opaque. It’s really cool to see all the effects you can create with so many different colors that all kind of behave differently.”

When she started experimenting with the medium, she began painting things she was passionate about, including subjects from pop culture. Her favorite subjects are animals, specifically unicorns and cats. People portraits are also a favorite for Shvartsur and particularly special to her, given the extra challenge they present.

Unicorn rainbow Olga Shvartsur

Credit: Olga Shvartsur

“I started off doing portraits of my family from old photographs when I was a kid at like five or six years old. I would take photographs and do portraits and just draw copies of the photographs for my family,” she said. “They really liked it and I got a lot of positive feedback. I think that’s kind of how my passion developed for doing portraits.”

Shvartsur’s talent for capturing a person’s essence is abundantly clear in her work, as anyone can see in portraits featuring people like Frida Kahlo, Princess Leia, and Captain Picard.

There are other constants you’ll find in Shvartsur’s paintings, too. Perhaps the most obvious is her love for including rainbows in her work. Shvartsur explained that she likes to combine rainbows with black and white paintings in particular because of the contrast. Sometimes, it's planned, and sometimes she’ll start a painting, not like how it’s going so she’ll add a rainbow to make it more interesting.

“I think that’s how I initially started putting rainbows into my artwork: I was painting something and I wasn’t liking it so I made the subject vomit a rainbow and it turned out really cool,” she revealed. “Sometimes when I create something that has a rainbow, I’ll want to go back and do a series of artworks that has that same style or that same combination of colors. At first it kind of happened spontaneously and now it’s a bit more planned. I do like the black and white with the rainbow combination. I think that’s my favorite.”

Picard Olga Shvartsur

Credit: Olga Shvartsur

Shvartsur told SYFY WIRE that she’s always coming up with ideas for painting; it's what her brain does on the side when she’s doing other things. If she needs reference pictures for an idea, she’ll search online or take her own photos. This is especially convenient when cats are the subject of her work, as she has two felines that she can photograph doing various things.

“I do a light pencil sketch and erase and tweak it the way I want it to look. Sometimes I’ll do this whole process on scratch paper. I’ll do it loosely and maybe even pick out the colors and put on some colors just to get an idea of what color combinations work,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just do that whole process separately on scratch paper loosely and sometimes I’ll just kind of start the actual painting and experiment as I go, but it starts with a sketch.”

From there she puts on light layers of watercolor, with some pencil lines left for guidance. She starts with lighter colors and then moves to darker, often doing a lot of splatters and using various brushes. Shvartsur can finish a painting in anywhere from a day to a couple days. Most take her just a day or two to complete since she has a hard time going back to the same painting when more time has passed.

Her subjects aren’t the only sources of inspiration for her work. She’s inspired by the work of other artists and follows some on social media. Her biggest inspiration is LoraZombie due to the artist’s interesting, colorful style. For Shvartsur, being part of the online community of artists and fans has been a great experience.

the joker Olga Shvartsur

Credit: Olga Shvartsur

“I’m thankful for social media and the Internet because if I have a question about a specific medium or specific style, I can go into a Facebook group or maybe post on my own page and ask for suggestions or recommendations. There are sites where you can post your works in progress and people will give you feedback and criticism and ways to make it better and things like that,” she said. “It’s been really great to have that resource available whether I just want to show off something new I made or I’m stuck and needing some help or if I’m looking for recommendations like say if I want to try a new product.”

Whether it’s cats vomiting rainbows or our favorite characters taking the spotlight, we’re certainly glad Shvartsur shares her work with the community and with everyone else look forward to seeing the next unpredictable painting she makes.

Head over to Instagram and Facebook to see more of Shvartsur’s paintings.

Get to know Olga a bit better below: