Artist shares talent with South County |

Artist shares talent with South County

While living in the former Soviet Union, an education in art meant more to Eugene Santalov than a few courses at a state university. Attending classes at the St. Petersburg State Academy Art Lyceum required discipline in classical fine art techniques, as well as travel through Eastern and Western Europe studying the work of great artists and architects.

Eugene, now resident of Lake of the Pines, was first recruited into Russia’s system for gifted artists at the age of 13. He studied for two years in Almaty before continuing on for another three years in St. Petersburg studying fine art and architecture. Finally, Eugene received a bachelor’s degree from the Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in New York where he studied iconography.

I first heard about this artist after reading about an art course offered at Lake of the Pines. The courses taught by this Eugene are for adults and children. After meeting him in person, I soon realized Eugene’s skill in art lived up to his stellar education.

Eugene is serious about guiding his adult students into a higher realm of fine art. His intense instruction is focused on turning amateur artists into professionals. He is more interested in fine-tuning techniques than in leading students to paint “pretty pictures” which do not live up to professional standards.

After speaking with Eugene, I decided to try a short lesson at the Lake of the Pines Yacht Lounge where he has been sharing his expertise with others since early October. In a few short minutes, I could see Eugene was a true artist and a professional with deep knowledge of materials and technique.

Also in class was LOP artist Suzanne Reynolds, a serious artist who has been working with oil paints doing portraits. Suzanne was in class to improve her work with more “professional training.”

My initial sketch included a preliminary thumbnail of the composition, on an easel, with proper lighting of the subject: a Styrofoam cube and a sphere. I attempted to grab an ordinary pencil to begin. This was not acceptable. Eugene hand-sharpened a soft-lead professional drawing pencil and instructed me in the proper way to hold it. The pencil had the most incredibly sharpened point I had ever seen.

Prior to my visit to Eugene’s make-shift studio in the Yacht Lounge, I believed I was somewhat of an artist. I was wrong. I soon learned what it takes to be a professional — hard work, the proper techniques, excellent tools, and lots of practice.

Eugene first moved to LOP last summer. His fiancé, Ekaterina Ivanova, also lives in the lake. She is a world-class biathlete who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She is also a member of the Auburn Ski Club and has competed in the Cross-country Skiing World Cup.

Residents of the Lake of the Pines area have a unique opportunity to improve their art skills by learning from a true professional.

Eugene Santalov is offering classes on Mondays and Fridays from 3-4:15 p.m. and from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Yacht Lounge. Eugene also teaches art to children on Saturdays. Classes are $15 per class and the first class is free. For more details contact Eugene at

Laura Lavelle’s column is for southern Nevada County residents to share thoughts and information. Contact her at

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