Sergey Cherep has changed international cultural scene with his beautiful landscapes and seascapes that earned him an impressive award at the highly acclaimed 2nd annual international ARTV awards, which were broadcast on the NBC Bravo Network in 2007. Among his many other honors and accolades, Sergey also holds the title Professor at the Accademia del Verbanzo in Italy.
Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) on January 24, 1969, Sergey started studying art as a young child. At the age of 3, he developed meningitis and became paralyzed, unable to walk or speak for several years. Attending a School for children with disabilities until he was 7, he found comfort in painting. At the age of 8, he was enrolled in a school for artists and then went on to attend college at the prestigious Serovo Art Institute. There he gained extensive knowledge in all the classic art forms including European Art History, photography, printing processes, sculpture, restoration methods and painting from still-life to portraits.
"School was very disciplined," says Sergey, who is still deaf in his right ear from his childhood meningitis. "We did very traditional things like still-life painting. The teachers told us what to paint - there was no freedom. There was no such thing as abstract because it was considered very Western and evil. The school was free - they gave students the paint, the brushes, and the teachers and everything was paid for by the government. But once we graduated, we were supposed to get a job and contribute back to society."
Sergey graduated from the Art University in 1988 when he was 18. Glasnost was just coming in and Gorbachev allowed free enterprise on the street. But while the young artist would paint cityscape's in oil, he was forced to sell his artwork through organized crime that controlled the streets, giving 70 percent of his profits to them. Filled with wanderlust and dreams of what he could accomplish, in early 1991 Sergey made the decision to come to America to find the artistic freedom he desperately desired.
Leaving his family and everything he knew behind, 21 year old Sergey obtained a visa with the help of an American visiting Moscow and, in May 1992, flew directly to Atlanta, Georgia. He had a Russian friend that was connected to a professor at Emory University who invited Sergey to stay with him. Not able to speak a word of English, Sergey got a job cleaning bathrooms and collecting trash at the IRS building, making $150.00 a week, and painted in his spare time. He learned to speak English by listening to the people who worked at the IRS talk and by taking his Russia / English dictionary into the bathroom and trying to read the newspaper.
One day, Sergey showed some of his work to his manager, who became excited by what he saw. The manager helped set up an art show for Sergey in the cafeteria of the IRS building. The young artist sold three paintings at that show and was paid in cash. Afterwards, he found a small frame shop in Atlanta and the owner offered to let Sergey display his art there and do some shows. He sold one painting for $1000.00 in contrast to the $600.00 he made a month for working daily at his cleaning job.
The turning point for Sergey came when he met his wife, Renee, at a Christmas party in December 1995. They were married a month later. With his talent and her head for business, the couple immediately set out to get Sergey and his art recognized. They attended an art trade show in New York, where Sergey made $20,000 selling his art. After that, Sergey was able to get his paintings into several acclaimed Galleries.
In 1994 , Sergey attended the World Cup Soccer game in California and visited Napa Valley while he was there. He was enchanted by the grapes, the beautiful landscape and the overall ambiance. It was then that his art changed from the traditional European style of painting that depicted stark realism and was so prevalent in Russia to painting a bright, vivid palette of land and sea in primary colors.
"The technique of painting that I have embraced is definitely the Post Impressionism style made famous by Van Gogh," says Sergey. "I love the simplicity of colors and energy found in his work. The bold, unrealistic colors and expressive brushstrokes of my predecessors are my tool as I try to bring a three-dimensional feeling out from the paintings by using color , perspective and a thick texture. My paintings are like fairy tales-- a dream place. I don't see things as realistic. I allow the fantastic to happen. When I travel and paint, the sun, the grapes and the smells of California speak to me. But anything can motivate me--a picture, a cut watermelon,or even a color."
Sergey has accomplished a signature style, which allows his work to be recognized immediately. He gets up at 5;30 AM every day and begins sketching. When he is comfortable with his composition,he begins painting. ( " Eighty percent of successful painting is composition,' he notes, ) his work now hangs in major galleries internationally.
"I feel like I am halfway up the stairs," the artist sums up. "It is not fame I desire but rather to grow as an artist. I still have the hunger inside my spirit and I do want to be known. I love teaching people how to paint and love the fact that they come to me."