I was fortunate enough to sit down with local artist Vera Doumanoff to discuss her artwork and inspirations. Vera grew up vacationing in the Adirondacks. She has lived in many places across the United States, from Maryland to New Mexico, before officially moving to Elizabethtown in 2018, where she and her husband built their home.
Growing up Vera was constantly surrounded by art. Her mother, Elena, was an artist who focused mainly on portraiture. The attention to detail needed for creating portraits can be seen in Vera’s paintings of animals and landscapes. Elena worked at the Smithsonian Museum, where Vera was able to see artwork from some of the greats, like Thomas Cole. Cole's paintings of clouds and skies had a huge influence on Vera’s love for painting nature and landscapes.
Claude Monet is another great artist Vera takes inspiration from. “The way he worked with nature in his paintings was amazing and I wanted to be able to convey it in the same way." Vera’s grandmother, Valentina, also loved to paint nature, specifically mushrooms. Vera says her grandmother “taught her how to look at the little things in life.” Something as small as a mushroom could result in a beautiful piece of artwork.
Vera's husband has always been an outdoorsman, and loves hiking. “His love of nature inspired [Vera] to be out there with him and see things in a different way … to stop and smell the roses.” She has learned to take her time when walking through nature to pay attention to all the little details. From sunsets, to clouds clearing after a storm, to the way birch tree bark rolls and peels.
Living in the Adirondacks has given Vera the chance to be out in nature doing something she loves. With endless landscape inspiration surrounding her constantly, all she needs to do is step out her front door and walk a few hundred feet. There is always something new to discover. She mentioned how fast nature in the Adirondacks changes: “you can go to one spot one day and have a scene, and go to the exact spot the next day and have a completely different mood and color scheme to work with.”
Vera mainly uses oil paints, but also works with acrylics and pastels. “The colors of oil paint are vibrant and rich, which capture the natural beauty of the Adirondacks.” Landscapes and animal portraits are her main subjects for painting. Most of her landscape paintings come from standing outside painting in the moment, where she can take her time and really capture the scene she is trying to portray.
In her piece "Winter Solstice Sunset" she masterfully captures the contrast of the bright, orange clouds and the blue skies behind, with the dark trees and branches in the foreground. Vera does an amazing job of pulling you into her artwork and making you feel like you’re right there staring at the sunset with her.
Every painting she creates has a memorable moment behind it, which she hopes can spark a happy memory for the people that view her art. From a windsock at Marcy Field that reminded a woman of her dad landing planes there when she was a little girl to a pile of kayaks on the beach reminding someone of a childhood trip to the lake, Vera's art connects with her audience. She tries to focus on bringing joy and happiness through her art, even if she’s painting a gloomy scene. Her piece "Rainy Day on the Marsh" was a challenge because she had to combat the rain while trying to include all the tiny details of the rain drops hitting the water. “[She] had the hatch open, an umbrella out, and water still found it’s way and ended up on the canvas.” But even through the rough weather she got an incredible piece of art and a story to share behind it.
Vera’s pet portraits are mainly done as commissions or gifts. The majority are cats or dogs, but she is trying to put out more of a variety of these pieces; she says, “so, if you have a pet alligator, please get in contact.”
Saranac Lake art community
Vera sees an “explosive art scene” in the Saranac Lake area. The village has a huge community filled with supportive artists trying to help each other connect. Programs like Saranac Lake ArtWorks, created by Sandra Hildreth over 10 years ago, plays a huge role in doing that. Vera praises Sandra for doing an amazing job running ArtWorks, and holding events like the Adirondack Plein Air Festival, and various art pop-ups and galleries. They also hold a tent at the Saranac Lake Farmers Market to feature two local artists each week. “I know she started the program because she felt there wasn’t enough opportunities for the artists in the area … it’s a whole business and Sandra does a great job organizing all of it.”
Vera has participated in the Plein Air Festival, held in late August, for the past two years. She credits it for helping her make a huge amount of connections with people in the area, artists, and collectors. The events the festival holds, like “Paint the VIC” and “Paint the Town,” challenge Vera. Having to sit and paint a specific scene with a time limit helps Vera get out of her comfort zone and pushes her to continue to grow in her craft. She says she’s learned so many new techniques, some she would have never even considered, from observing and talking with the other local artists that are involved in the festival. The act of sitting in public, making art as people walk by and talk to her is something she says she is still getting used to, but loves how excited people get watching her, especially the kids.
The art pop-ups and galleries are held all year long and can be found on the Saranac Lake ArtWorks website. There is a huge variety of shows including abstract art, photography, and pottery. They have multiple different galleries in studios where they are held, so it’s easy to always find somewhere to go to be surrounded by art.
The Saranac Lake Village Farmers Market is held from June until the end of December, switching to indoors mid-October at Hotel Saranac. They mainly focus on local farms and produce with some small crafts throughout the year, but recently ArtWorks has had a tent at the Farmers Market where member artists are able to take turns displaying their art. Vera was able to display her work in December at Hotel Saranac.
Right now, Vera has 3 pieces of art at the Lake Placid Center of the Arts, which will be there until November 27, 2021. She also has a few paintings hanging on the walls of Evolving Hands Therapeutic Massage, also in Lake Placid. You can always find her work on her website (www.VerasCanvas.com) or her Instagram @verascanvas_artist.
If you're feeling inspired, head to Saranac Lake for a decidedly artful getaway. Hotels with fabulous history and architecture, menus with creative options, and even local activities all use art to tell a story. You can even unleash your inner artist at ADK ArtRise. This is truly a vibrant community with an authentically amazing art scene.
Written by guest blogger Sydney Joannette