Updated: Sep 2, 2022
By Elizabeth Gracen:
Social media has its drawbacks, many dark demons waiting in the corners to make us miserable, but when I escape down a rabbit hole of poetry or art, I am never disappointed—even on Twitter. I'm not sure how I found Romanian-Swedish artist Theodora Capat, but I think her work caught my eye shortly after I interviewed painter Paul Reid. By simply following another artist's interests, I've discovered amazing talent and continue my mission to support them and bring attention to their work. So, after checking out Theodora's terrific YouTube channel, I reached out to the busy artist and asked her to tell me about her life, her passions, and her outstanding art.
Please Meet Theodora Capat!
EG: Theodora, as with most of the artists I decide to interview, I find it hard to explain the route I was lucky enough to stumble upon that led me to the art in the first place. Maybe it was the Water Nymph image that caught my eye on a social media platform? What a classic fantasy image—expertly executed and just captivating. Would you please tell our readers a bit about you?
TC: Well, I am glad that you stumbled upon my art! Thank you so much! I have always been very bad at introducing myself. When people ask me how I am doing, I reply with my well-known phrase "Living life, getting old." I am just like everyone else, navigating the waters of human life. You can say that I am a dreamer. I love to dream and look at the world, analyzing it and wondering how I can fit better in it without changing myself too much. One thing I am working on is slowing down time, learning about myself and how to be a better person, helping others and giving people this energy I have gotten from others when I needed help. We are connected more than we think, but we are complex beings, which sometimes makes it hard to collaborate and learn from each other. My philosophy in life is simple: live, learn, and become a better person.
EG: I’m just going to start with the horses in your art. Gorgeous! Can you take me through the process of how you begin such a piece like Gericaults Horse or Escape the Nightmare? Do you utilize live models? TC: Thank you very much! Since I was a child, I loved painting horses. My very first drawings were drawings of horses. Gericaults Horse started almost 2 years ago ( 2020–2022 ). I never got around to finishing it until early 2022. The horse is a breed from India called Marwari. I find that breed incredible. Very defined features. I watch a lot of YouTube videos, a way I get most of my references, but the horse model I used was a picture I found on Pinterest: a brown horse holding something in his mouth. I changed it and based it off a Géricault painting. Also, I use a program called Daz 3D. Escape the Nightmare (shown further below) was created in that program. A very good tool, but again, nothing beats the real deal. Had to surf the net for days to get close enough models to make the horses real. Usually, reference hunting takes a lot of time and energy.
EG: How do you decide on a particular subject or theme to begin a piece? You mention that you do your preliminary work digitally. Can you speak more about that and what the process entails?
TC: Of course! Painting, drawing, or sculpting—these are skills that take a long time to develop. I worked very hard to be able to bring forward this image of mine to life. My dreams are my inspiration. They are vivid and sometimes very abstract. When I was younger, I always had nightmares—the repetitive type, the ghost ones or the sleep-paralysis type. The artwork Escape the Nightmare has that repetition in it. No matter how much you run, the heads keeps coming up to grab you. The idea is also developed while I work. I think all artists have this, "Oh, I got the sketch!" Then they start working, and they add more to it! It is the beauty of being an artist . . . it is limitless! You just need the skill and practice to put it in play—and that can feel like a lifetime of learning, which for me it is.
EG: Your oil painting is captivating, but your work in charcoal exudes such power and confidence. Do you have a favorite medium to work in?
TC: Hmm . . . I love both mediums, but truthfully speaking, oil medium has always been, for some reason, a struggle for me. Colour is very hard. There are so many ways of painting that I can’t seem to stick with one. Charcoal is harder because the medium is fragile and tedious. It is also hard to transport because it needs to be in a frame and protected by glass. Pencil is the easiest for me. Takes time to apply it on paper, so you need patience to cover an area compared with charcoal. If I would choose a medium, it would be charcoal, oil, then pencil. Let’s see how I will feel when I try pastels, haha!
EG: Tell me a bit about your influences and inspirations?
TC: Growing up in Romania, I didn’t have much Internet to discover that artist and this artist. I grew up with this art magazine that was weekly called Great Painters—the first ones I got were from 1400, Mantegna or Botticelli. So, if you look at Memento Mori (shown further below), it has that primitive way of painting, close to these two painters. Maybe subconsciously it stuck with me since then. Influences come from what I see and experience in life and inspiration from artists, movies, video games, the nerdy type.
EG: Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist? What was your life like as a young person in Romania? Do you return home often? How does your life in Sweden differ from your homeland?
TC: Since I was a child, I loved being surrounded by beautiful things. At the age of 11 is when I got introduced to art by a very close family friend. After that I knew that art was all I wanted to do. We all have experienced hardship in life, and for me art was a way to escape that reality. It is my friend that will never leave me. Romania was interesting, if I look at it as a mature person. Moving away from Romania, detaching from my family, and being introduced to another culture made me see that we are all flawed. Romanians are direct, while Swedish people are indirect. Now with the Internet and the Western culture influences, you can see how things are being altered. It made me understand that I don’t belong anywhere.
This is a very long topic to talk about, but I can say it very shortly—people are the same everywhere, it is the culture and traditions that set us apart.
I do try to visit my family as often as I can, but I need to find time, put projects aside for a while until I come back to the studio. It is hard to have family in two places and friends scattered around the world.
EG: We’ve all had to navigate the difficult waters of the pandemic these past couple of years. What was your day-to-day life like in Sweden? What kind of mandates, policies, and lifestyle changes have you had to adjust to? How has the pandemic impacted your life as an artist and teacher?
TC: For me, the pandemic times were pretty much the same as always but with less traveling, just working in the studio. We are very lucky with the Internet. I worked on my site and marketing to be able to reach the right people and grow my business. Sweden, in my opinion, did very well.
EG: How do you envision your life as an artist 10 years from now? What do you hope to accomplish? TC: The way I see it is simple: I want to paint like in that picture of Joaquín Sorolla painting in his studio. That is what I am doing even now, and I keep envisioning it in the future! Of course, I want to get better, find the funds to paint, and do those images in my head. I have been lucky enough to meet good people that [have] helped me and guided me through this chaotic road to be an artist. Being a freelancer and selling images can be tricky, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep this vision going. My studio at Vaxholm Kastellet in Sweden is that vision! I am there now. It is a matter of choice, strong will, and just doing it that will take me through this vision and life. The type of work I wish to do is about life and people. We can hurt so much and show so little of it, and sometimes I feel powerless in how to help. There are many artists out there like me who want to do the same thing, and thank God there are. We need beauty because that is what will save us from this nihilistic area we are going for.
EG: Please take us on a deeper dive into 3 or more of your paintings!
In Romania, the philosophy of death can attach itself very easily to all dreamers and the curious. The Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu wrote that "Old age is a slow death" or "Not everything natural is beautiful." We don’t talk much about our mortality. We hate and wage war for land and material with the hopes to keep this society going, for status and wealth. We are flawed, and this is the road, for now, that we keep taking.
Memento Mori shows the viewer that no matter how young, healthy, or wealthy you are, how much you pray, death will envelope you until the moment of truth comes. Nothing is more truthful than death. Nature will always repeat itself, no matter how much we "destroy" it. There’s a balance that we refuse to see, and I fear that in time we will get to a point that it is too late to revert it. Not for the planet we live on, if I can be a bit selfish, but for us. The planet does not need us. It is there in its purest form, continuing its cycle as God, if you will, intended. The landscape is inspired from Isaac Levitan, showing the full moon and its monthly cycle, in its eternity until the order of things stops existing even for it.
The artwork Time, Bringer of Death also represents the doom we are all heading for. But in this image, it is natural, and the fate is accepted in the end. The woman looks down at the dusty earth, her right hand being decayed by time, because of our cursed flesh. One of the horses is desperate, trying to jump away from its demise, but you can see how it, too, will be eaten up by time. The image doesn’t need to scare the viewer but somehow give peace that all shall pass through time, forgotten with ages.
My recent personal work Escape the Nightmare, though it is a dream idea, can show the human subconscious in its terrified state of trying to escape its inevitable death. Life is all about dodging your fate, which is the end of our cycle. The scared figure hiding herself, looking forward at a never-ending fear, the horses jumping chaotically trying to change the flow of time, the heads coming forward from the ground, trying to end the misery of the dreamer gently receding in the back, the dark storm catching up to the dreamer . . . this is a clockwork of life.
I am trying, through my work, to understand myself, and I guess that people are relating to it as well. We all know life is a journey, and every journey has an end to it. I hope this can give you an idea of what I am all about. Thank you so much for this interview, and I hope my work will inspire you.