As soon as I could hold a pencil, I began to draw. Soviet Russia where I was born was a perilous place to a growing child, so drawing provided a safe heaven. My pictures depicted fictional worlds full of adventure and risk-taking yet perfectly safe because it was not our communist leaders but I who controlled the outcome. By the time I was ten, I was writing and illustrating my own books with character types and genre tropes lifted from adventure books I found in my dad’s library.
Official Soviet art was strictly realistic, and intuitively I resisted a formal art training. I knew that in an art school I would be taught by imitating reality, but Soviet reality was so oppressive that I had no desire to imitate it. Instead, I gravitated toward theatre, a place of magic and imagination. I graduated from St. Petersburg Academy of Theatre Arts and became a stage designer. I worked for wonderfully old, esteemed stage companies in St.
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