By Noma Faingold
Last year, artist and art teacher Oleg Osipoff expanded his Sunset District home studio to include a gallery, where some of his favorite pieces are now hanging. The 66-year-old San Francisco native plans to invite people in, but for now it is a peaceful, airy space for him to relax and plan his next painting. And the one after that.
His Craftsman-era home, which has been in the family for decades, is authentic in its design details. His paintings also have a meticulous, authentic quality, even if there are abstract elements. His go-to subjects are usually located in San Francisco.
“My vision is walking the balance between abstraction or expression and realism,” Osipoff said. “You might look at my paintings and think they are pretty realistic, but there’s always an element of abstraction. I am trying to make things almost poetic. It’s not necessarily beautiful. But it is poignant and meaningful.”
As an art teacher at Lick Wilmerding High School on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco for nearly 38 years, Osipoff hopes to inspire students through his thoughtful passion for art. He teaches through demonstration. He also takes them to museums. Last year, he took students to see the ambitious digital mural installation at the SF Museum of Modern Art by the hottest of artists, JR from France.
“JR is a big influence to a lot of my students,” Osipoff said. “They can relate to his work.”
Osipoff, a third-generation artist, is most influenced by artists with local ties: Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Bechtle. He met Thiebaud a few times and took several classes from Bechtle at San Francisco State University, while earning a degree in print making and visual arts.
“Diebenkorn is a strong influence because I loved the way he walked the tightrope of abstraction and realism,” Osipoff said. “It’s become a signature of my work.”
Osipoff recalls being interested in art at age 5 or 6. While his father, Igor, was an engineer, he would still create art.
“It was around the house,” he said. While a number of Osipoff’s friends played football in high school at Lowell, he knew he wanted to be an artist. “It was always going to be art,” he adds.
After raising two children, Mikhail, 32 and Alessandra (Sasha), 34, with his wife, Georgiana, of 36 years, Osipoff’s drive to paint has never waned. In a two-week period, he will typically complete two paintings, especially during his summer vacation.
He enjoys plein air painting even though “a challenge as a painter here is to work through days of relentless fog,” he says. “I’ll do plein air even if it’s freezing and my hands get numb. It’s important to get through that because it’s worth it.”
Like his artistic influences, Osipoff’s paintings intentionally contain a natural element. “It could be small but there is always something natural. It’s important to me,” he says.
Osipoff is able to pinpoint how he has evolved as an artist.
“I have the flexibility to start a painting any way I want and get the results I’m fairly satisfied with,” he says. “As I’ve gotten older and more mature as an artist, I know what I want to get out of the painting, as opposed to still searching.”
Still, he characterizes his approach as intellectual. “Every movement of the hand, every stroke is being weighed and considered,” he says. “It’s analytical from start to finish.”