THE FIRST UNDERWATER PAINTER IN KUWAIT.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, I’m Djana, a scuba diving instructor for the last 11 years, an underwater painter and an environmental activist.
Tell us about your education.
I started diving in Thailand, Phuket island and fell in love with marine world from the momrny I took my first underwater breath. Since then I share my love with everyone, teaching them how to scuba dive, educate eco-friendly behavior and give opportunity to limitless adventures.
When and how did you come to Kuwait?
I didn’t know Kuwait even existed, when I first met my future husband. He was on holidays in Phuket, and decided to take scuba course in a dive center, I was working.
Where are you currently working?
Since day one I’m working in 5 star diving center, The Palms Dive Center.
You are a painter but also a scuba dive instructor. How and when did you start painting?
I love art since I remember myself. My father was an artist. But professionally I came across in the south of France, where we were living with my family for 2 years. Every corner of that beautiful countryside, Cote D’Azur, Lavanda fields left an indelible impression that influenced my further life path.
Your art and your art practice are unique. What is your main goal as an artist?
First, when I just started, I had no goals, I was curious. Two of my main passion suddenly came together and you can’t even imagine the joy I felt, painting with scuba. Then, when my colleagues and fellow divers began to admire my work, I thought, why not make something more out of it. In parallel with my work, I was organizing underwater clean-up events. So, the idea came naturally. Now I sell my underwater painting for donation for upcoming “Dive against debris” events, with project AWARE.
How did you discover the idea of underwater painting?
When we lived in south of France, I learned about a pioneer of new movement in art, Andre Laban. He did his first underwater painting back in 1965 at the same coast I was living that moment. He was working with Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the research vessel “Calypso”. Since then he had already more than 800 underwater works. His experience excited me to try it myself.
And how can you actually paint underwater? What special equipment and materials are required for that?
Oil paint, pallet knives, canvas and proper weight system. By trial and error, I created a decent set of tools that makes painting underwater easier. For the last 4 years of my underwater painting experience, I’ve tried many different oil paint manufacturers, even created my own oil paint from natural pigments, that were mined in Canada. I use oil paint and pallet knives, as well as my fingers to create desirable patterns on canvas.
What was the most challenging part of your work?
To establish my working space underwater, to maintain good performance during the session, no matter how hard are the conditions, (low visibility, strong current, surf, heavy boat traffic) and exit water with my fresh painted work. Gladly, I always have my husband to help me.
How much preparation both physically and mentally goes into being ready to paint underwater? What is the most enjoyable and riskiest part of the process?
Since I have an idea of my future work, I create a small painting, trying different techniques and colors till it looks exactly how I pictured it, underwater I don’t have much time for experiments.
The whole process is purely enjoyable for me, that’s why I forget to check my air supply sometimes. I guess that’s the only risky part I have in my work.
How do you ensure that your art stays for a long time?
Oil painting can “live” up to 100 years, I just make sure that sea salt will not destroy it with the time. That’s why after the session I keep my paintings soaked in fresh water for 24 hours, then drying for up to a month or two, and after I change the frame to new custom made one. I use glossy glass finish, to protect paints fading even on a direct sun light.
Where all have you exhibited your work so far?
So far, my work has been exhibited at:
-French Institute of Kuwait, may 2017
-Otman museum, Hawally, Kuwait, February 2018
-Cultural center, Var Department, Frejus, France, July 2019.
What has been the response? Were you able to sell your work?
Im glad to say I’ve received a huge number of admirable reviews so far. Many of my underwater paintings travelled to USA, Russia, France, and Australia.
Do you also teach underwater painting? And where?
I am currently working with PADI to establish a professional course of underwater painting. Meanwhile everyone willing to have that kind of experience are welcome in a Palms Dive Center or directly to me, and I can make it true.
What is the best age to learn underwater painting?
There are no limits for painting, though there are for scuba divers, you can start diving from the age of 10 years old.
You are also organizing beach cleanups. How did you get the idea and what are some of your achievements?
The idea of clean ups comes naturally once you become a certified scuba diver. It’s a part of the course. Its only your choice to continue spreading the word and be a role model, help people to understand how fragile our ecosystem is and how much it depends on us.
Every single dive I do through the year (almost every week) I do clean up, I have my mesh bag and diving knife with me all the time.
The biggest clean up we did was back in 2019, October. 73 participants, both divers and snorkelers cleaned Kubbar island and recovered 140 kg of marine debris, mostly same amount snorkelers recovered from the beach.
Tell us about some of your hobbies?
Since not long ago I became a biker, Harley Davidson. I love this beautiful power, adrenaline. Same as I started my marine captain experience, love to drive the boat through the waves. Back in Russia I was a tattoo master. I play keyboard, learn Spanish and raising a daughter, who is already a good swimmer, diver and regular cleanup participant.
Your message for us at CP magazine.
Dear friends, we all live on the same planet, no matter how different we all are, we can do one thing: Let’s keep our home clean and healthy.
And please watch “Seaspiracy” on Netflix. It’s an amazing movie.
Thank you for this opportunity, CPMagazine, wish you all the best!