George Pocheptsov Uses His Imagination

George Pocheptsov, world-renown artist and full-time student, is not just the child prodigy that some wish to be—he is a child preserved in a professional’s body. His paintings are striking illustrations of fairytale scenes done too exquisitely to be found in any children’s book.

His work has been exhibited in prestigious museums, the United Nations, and even the living rooms of United States Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton. His appeal is huge and his fame legendary. He learned to draw before he could talk, and was discovered by age six. Pocheptsov has since continued to perfect his rare gift.

Although his artwork has undergone bouts of change and development over the years, his whimsical artistic spirit has gone uncorrupted and unhampered, making it a cause for ceaseless creativity. Pocheptsov gives life and form to the richly cultivated landscape of his inner dream-world, populated with oddly-shaped figures, mystical creatures, colorful characters, and boundless heart using acrylics of myriad colors and self-invented “sculptured canvases” of different angles.. His paintings, whether depicting an endemic Adam and Eve paradise (“Unicorn Garden”), a children’s charity goal (“Carousel”), a political message (“Celebration of Hope”), or a masterful classical revival (“Primavera”), have a common eye-popping dynamism and a unique drama to them. In describing his own evolution as an artist, Pocheptsov says, “I see in my earlier paintings a lack of color balance and gradients. Now I am working for more complex figures, intricate detail, and a fluid motion of color,” which means, above all, “no white space.” Yet, however much he experiments with mixing new paints and sketching more studies (up to dozens for the same painting), he will not compromise on two scores: “Every artwork has to have a story and an intuition behind them,” says Popcheptsov.

Unlike the Surrealists and Expressionists, Picasso and Chagall, Pocheptsov strives to make the unfamiliar familiar by tapping into people’s underlying recognition of imaginative forms. “Creativity is a wonderful thing,” Pocheptsov said, “especially if you can express it so that someone else can understand it. The way you do it is by taking the realistic components from life that they can relate to.” The youthful creator has a generous faith in people’s capacity to appreciate art, even if they cannot all be artists. “Everybody loves surreal colors, blossoming characters, [and] playful diversion.... My painting is a portal that people can go into and imagine.” In this sense, he is not only an artist, but a humanitarian as well. Pocheptsov’s foundation has donated over five million dollars to charities by auctioning off his work.

The young artist has remained faithful to the child within him in spite of his fame. He found that the key to success lies in this type of free creative expression. He admits that his imaginative fire would have probably died out had his early success not fanned the flame. But he has had the courage to stay the course of his individual artistic direction, eschewing all aid from those who think they know better. Pocheptsov was completely self-taught. Although he visits museums regularly, enjoys learning new art forms, and admires the masters, he does not rely on their influence or instruction. “There is no scholarly literature behind what I do,” he said. “It is just there, and that is why people appreciate it.” That is not to say that there is not method to his talent.

In many ways, being his own boss is difficult. “You have to constantly push the frontier further and further until you can come up with something that is completely different,” he said. And if he occasionally falls behind on a commission, it is only because he takes on so many at once. Sometimes he will be working on over 20 paintings at a time, putting projects on hold and resuming them whenever he is inspired again. “That’s how humans are meant to think: in spurts. Most people ignore bouts of inspiration because they are too caught up in deadlines,” he says. His unique artistic process gives people a taste of what life would be like in the wild of the unconscious.

This approach sounds fine on the surface, but does it hold up in practice, especially in the Harvard jungle? Pocheptsov has advice for re-imagining this arena, as well. Instead of measuring peers in a straight competitive lineup, one can situate them spatially—as in a painting—where each object has its logical, separate place in the whole. In this vein, he sees Harvard’s academic departments as complete entities in their own right, which he likes to participate in at his pleasure. The result of such thinking yields a hybrid species more exotic than the creatures in his paintings: part professional artist, part statistics concentrator, part polo player, George Pocheptsov is all-embracing.