The Baranovs bring new meaning to the word ďtogetherness.Ē The
old song about love/marriage/horse/carriage comes to mind. This
not-so-ordinary couple, in fact one of maybe three such in the
world, have learned to paint simultaneously on the same canvas:
four hands, four eyes. Their efforts to compromise and support
one another Ė and have an occasional fight Ė are an inspiration
to any partnership.
Evgeny and Lydia Baranovsí Artistic Collaboration
brilliant July day, Lydia and Evgeny Baranov stood, painting the
sun-drenched Carmel Mission Basilica. It was an odd sight: both
painting simultaneously on the same canvas - a duet of dancing
brushes. Occasionally, dueling brushes. ďOh, we have our
differences!Ē she said. He nodded.
The completed piece now hangs at Jones & Terwilliger Galleries
in Carmel, along with a dazzling collection of the Baranovsí
Russian Impressionist works. A double set of eyes and hands has
created incendiary European sunsets over moored fishing boats
and portraits that reflect the fiery passion of the indivisible
couple. Theyíve even found the light in a portrait of Evgenyís
mother in a darkly paneled room.
ďAt the end of each tunnel there should be some light,Ē Lydia
The couple, who married and moved from Moscow to the U.S. in
1990, are widely acclaimed. Their works hang in galleries,
corporate offices and VIPsí homes throughout the world. Their
output is prolific; thus, they are moving to a larger home in
Pebble Beach where they are working in tandem to transform a
living room into an artistís studio.
The Baranovs bring new meaning to the word ďtogether.Ē
Do you take turns painting?
She: At all times we paint simultaneously and the brushes
sometimes meet and we say, ďNo, no, no! Thatís mine.Ē It happens
all the time. Thatís part of the process. We do paint over each
otherís work and that sometimes leads to conflict. But itís
He: Itís a constant struggle between your ability and feelings
and . . . (she finishes his sentence) between reality and the
ideal. Some people bring up children jointly. Itís the same
idea. Our paintings are our children to us.
Recall a bit of your childhood in Moscow.
She: I remember myself as being very quiet, serious,
untalkative, unlike children are supposed to be. Mother said Iíd
always try to find answers myself. Some were wrong. I was always
drawing and painting. Mother was a concert pianist and teacher.
My father was always fond of music and he always encouraged my
drawing. Now I recall, we had a collaboration of drawing and
painting. I always say it was Evgenyís idea but now I recall
that my father and I drew together . . . I was always too much a
perfectionist. I was always a triple ďAĒ student and that was
disgusting about me.
He: At age 7, I started to paint and draw. It was generally a
happy childhood. My father, right now, is an art teacher in
Your love story?
He: We met when we both worked as architects.
She: He was my supervisor for a while. There was something
hidden in both of us. We kept joking and teasing. Sometimes my
jokes were biting and critical, but that was a common way of
socializing at our office.
Q: Who made the first move?
She: He invited me to his studio where we had a nice
conversation and wine. We fell in love. I kept discovering good
things about him every day.
Itís really hard to separate; our life is so joined. We really
became parts of one another and you just canít live without that
other part. Weíve been discovering so many things in common it
almost scares us. Usually people say opposites attract, but we
feel itís mainly because weíre so much alike. (He nods.) But
sometimes that creates difficulties.
He: Itís very hard to have two people in the same profession in
one family. Itís very competitive. You need to treat the
relationship with each other extremely carefully to keep this
marriage for a long time (13 years). In our case, weíve tried to
Q: So, compromise has become an art?
He: We should learn that our entire life. Unfortunately, people
donít gain much experience on that. Letís look at history:
People become smarter and smarter but wars still happen and war
with Iraq is a very typical example . . .
She: My perfectionism has a negative impact. For me, itís very
hard to compromise. As a woman, I should be wiser. In our
family, more often, he is the one whoís wise. Heís always the
one who starts peace negotiations.
His/her most annoying habit?
She: Let me think . . . (He chimes in with ďsmokingĒ.) No, he
doesnít smoke much . . . I think I found one. His one drawback
is that heís very stubborn in his refusal to improve his English
and, being a perfectionist, I tease him all the time. Before we
came to this country, I remember the last summer in Moscow I
decided to give him private lessons. But he was lazy and drew
caricatures during my lectures.
He: Basically, I do not need to know better English because, in
my case, it would interrupt me from the main work. When I worked
as an architect, I was a very big enthusiast of computers . . .
Since I came to the U.S. I never touch a keyboard. Absolutely
not. You can spend 27 hours a day on the computer. I want to
have as much time as I can. I canít be interrupted.
She: People ask, do we always work together? We say 99 percent,
but the funny thing is, the part thatís done separately is I
have to do the dirty job of sitting in front of the computer and
take care of business because I have the language skills. He has
the luxury of only painting.
Q: Who paints what?
He: Itís like playing piano in four hands, very simple, but at
the same time hard to describe. Itís clear whoís playing what.
She: Thereís always a temptation painting what youíre attracted
to, but we try not to let that happen. It will make the final
results worse and leads to breaking the ensemble into separate
He: We paint very normal but try to show our feelings and
thoughts. Itís like the difference between being one-eyed and
two-eyed. We have stereoscopic vision.
Q: Does your style cast out the Russian darkness?
She: There is no such thing as Russian darkness. People always
claim that the Russian soul is so special. We donít like this
view. Every nation is unique, and also has its darkness and
He: We donít want to perpetuate stereotypes.
Q: Pros and cons of cookie-cutter art?
She: Itís an oxymoron. Art is art and making cookies is making
When we feel thereís a suspicion of repetitiveness, we slap
ourselves in the face and say, ďWeíre going down the wrong
path.Ē Being together, we can always grab the other one. If we
decide to paint a bouquet of dahlias, we donít want to get so
attracted to them that we would become repetitive and paint them
in the same way each time. Itís important to convey a different
Q: Other things you do in tandem?
She: We walk a lot and hike. We enjoy red wine together. He was
my scuba diving teacher but Iíve become too lazy to scuba dive
now. Iím not athletic at all.
Q: Most challenging piece?
She: The next one weíll be doing. Itís always the future. It
keeps you going. (He agrees.)
Q: Aside from each other, in what do you have faith?
(They talk in Russian and she translates.) He says you are
always trying to divide us (both laughing). Donít forget we are
from a socialist country and we are supposed to be thinking
alike. You are trying to separate us. Thatís very capitalistic!
Universal Update: Since this
interview, the above marriage has lasted another two years, ďso
far,Ē Lydia said in a recent phone call . . . laughing, of