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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Alexsey Kashtelyan: An artist’s life in ink

    Photos from the collection of Alexsey Kashtelyan taken Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz.
    Mike Christy
    Photos from the collection of Alexsey Kashtelyan taken Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz.

    It’s impossible to describe Alexsey Kashtelyan without using the word artistic. A man entirely composed of hard angles and inspiration, Kashtelyan is a V-neck wearing, bearded student carving his initials into life’s gritty bark. Sipping an iced coffee at the interview, his eyes darted around Caffe Luce, examining his surroundings with keen appreciation for beauty in the smallest details that he might incorporate into his sketching.

    Born in the Soviet Union before moving to the United States as a child, Kashtelyan’s love of drawing began at a very young age, where an artistically-inclined family encouraged him to pursue what he enjoyed the most. From doodling “”Hey Arnold”” knock-offs in second grade, to enrolling in various art classes in high school, he’s taken great pains to incorporate art into his life.

    “”I’ve always had a love of art,”” Kashtelyan said. “”Since I was a little kid, I’ve always enjoyed doodling. Whenever somebody asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, I always said I just want to draw or be an artist. I was born into it. I felt wrong not doing it.””

    He entered the UA as a biology major, fascinated by the random beauty of life’s largest and smallest structures. After finding lab work excruciatingly boring, he switched to pre-business, ending up in Eller College of Management as a marketing major. Yet, he missed the challenges inherent in formal art classes and added a studio arts minor as one of the last students to sign up before the program was cut.

    When asked to describe his experiences in the minor, Kashtelyan grinned and explained, “”It’s the most fun I’ve had in college.”” From discussing his talented teachers to the initial awkwardness of sketching nude models, his excitement about his experiences in the program was apparent.

    After waxing eloquently about the 24 hour draw-a-thons, all-nighters, and endless cups of coffee, the minor doesn’t seem like idle sketching in idyllic parks. “”Art school has been the hardest experience I’ve had in school, maybe because I believed in it and wanted to do what I was doing.””

    Kashtelyan makes this obvious. Just glancing at a tree outside the café, he explains how he perceives the leaves, examining the shading, form and texture that they make and what type of composition would be best to capture the shimmering foliage.

    Kashtelyan understands that art is inspirable from the artist’s lifestyle. “”I’m constantly thinking of new drawings and new ways of portraying things. I look at everything as a picture. My whole frame of reference is from the point of view of what would something look like as an image. It affects how I look at movies, how I listen to music, talk to people, how I dress.””

    There’s no doubt that choosing to pursue art as a career is a terrifying prospect. There’s no job stability, no structured career ladder, and no assurance that you’ll succeed whatsoever.

    “”The stereotype of a starving artist is not a stereotype for no reason,”” Kashtelyan said. “”It took me a while to get used to the idea of being an artist. Art is sort of intangible, can’t really be used, totally aesthetic value, and is enjoyed by only a minority while the rest don’t care. It’s a tough decision.””

    Though he aspires to the title of an artist, Kashtelyan still expressed some hesitation in currently using that moniker as a descriptor. He looks eagerly to the days and years following graduation full of 40-plus hours of painting and sketching, trying to get work sold while perhaps acquiring fans and a sponsor or two.

    “”My goal with art is to elicit a pure, true emotional response from people,”” he said. “” Musicians go out and create a song that makes people cry or dance. That’s really difficult to do with a drawing. You can make someone happy or laugh if it’s a funny painting. To make someone cry … I want to make a piece of artwork that does that to someone.””

    There seems to be no “”why”” in art besides the love of the creative process. Why would Kashtelyan so wholeheartedly embrace the tenuous career of an artist? Love. Why does he prefer the studio arts minor over his marketing major? Love. Creating art is an inherently holy act, a striving for that which we never reach. Art is a lens through which our world is transformed into a place of beauty and potential.

    “”It’s what humans do,”” Kashtelyan said. “”We make art. Ever since we had cognizance of our own being, we’ve been transforming it into art. All of our experience and imagination has to come out somehow.””

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