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Innisfil artist paints her way through pandemic (9 photos)

Innisfil artist Maria Kelebeev has been keeping busy in lockdown painting pieces on current affairs, pop culture and her new town, Innisfil

Innisfil resident Maria Kelebeev loves to paint and has been creating her own masterpieces throughout the pandemic in the comfort of her own home while sharing them on social media. 

Some of her most recent work includes pieces of politicians Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, landscapes of both Innisfil and Toronto, and still-life interirors. 

"My work represents an illustration of a daydream filled with beautiful places, eating and drinking luxurious treats, and having life-changing and soul-touching connections and experiences," she describes. 

Kelebeev was born in Moscow and moved to Canada when she was just seven-years-old, with her sketchbook and drawings in tow. 

Her mother always insisted she and her sister study piano, but she was always more drawn to the visual arts.

At eight-years-old, she attended an art school in the city. While all her friends were headed off to university after high school, she went on to do a residency for art in Italy and Greece. 

As a young adult, she always felt pressure to get a 'real job' and keep her art on the side. She eventually went on to study business in Vienna, which led her to other corporate careers in the creative fields. 

After being laid off from her marketing job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has put her painting passion into high gear, making it her sole source of income as she raises her one-year-old daughter. 

"This is what I am doing full time as of February 2020," she said, "and I can't stop laughing at myself, because I waited for a global lockdown to start this."

But she sees it as an advantage, with people spending more time online, her posted artwork is able to grab the attention of potential clients.

She moved to Alcona in October, and loves everything about her new community, from the beaches to the people, she says she feels inspired every day by her surroundings. 

"The community is far more behind my back than anywhere else I've ever been," she said, noting the overwhelming amount of support and feedback she has received about her work on the community Facebook pages. 

"It's just unbelievable the amount of support," she said. 

She has always had her own home-studio but just before the pandemic, she opened her own art studio in Concord, which she is now trying to relocate to Innisfil. 

"With the lockdown, there was a lot of need for coping mechanisms and the painting took a different beat and a life of its own," she said, "The volume of painting has also increased."

Kelebeev works mostly with watercolour and oil paints but will use other mediums such as crayons, pencils (even coffee) if the mood strikes. 

She says she is inspired by vintage photos, social posts and candid shots and references them when visualizing her ideas for a piece. 

"It's a meditation practice for me," she said about her work. 

Her artistic style has evolved over the years and is inspired by artists like Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec. She is also a fan of contemporary artists Carole Marine, Lena Rivo, and Vladimir Volegov. 

Her pieces are often reflective of current affairs and pop culture, including recent works of the late Larry King and the actress from the Queen's Gambit. 

"I find myself creating mini time capsules of those precious moments that can be collectively enjoyed and identified within both residential and commercial settings," she said. 

She says her 'headline' pieces featuring political leaders, actresses and pop culture icons, are a form of "painting the news."

"I am not commenting on the political situation, I am just painting it," she explained. She refers to herself as a sort of  'painting journalist', sharing stories of current affairs through her art. 

Depending on the day, Kelebeev can paint anywhere from one to five a day. 

"It is a daily practice, and they are very small canvases, and I usually use watercolours or acrylics," she said. 

She either paints based on feeling or from a stack of photos she keeps for reference. She creates one of a kind pieces for sale on her website but also does commissioned work for clients. 

Her latest project includes a collection of Innisfil businesses and landscapes such as Innisfil Beach Park, plaza shops and Johnny Burger that she would somehow like to get across a large platform during the pandemic. 

"Either in Innisfil Beach Park or to find access to billboards and put them up," she said but added it is a work in progress. 

To check out some of her work, visit her website here, or Instagram page @hannatess_arthaus