Lana Sokoloff
At Mom’s studio in Saint Petersburg, Russia

I began drawing when I was 3 years old. At 5 years old I was drawing so much that my fingers became calloused from holding a pencil. The callouses were so bad that my parents would make me take breaks from drawing. But, my heart still yearned to make art. When I was 7 I made my first book with the help of my mother about a little dolphin. I drew the pictures and my mother helped me with the writing. At age 6 I remember spending many days at the art studio where my Mom worked as a batik textile artist. I spent so much time drawing and watching at the studio that my mom’s c-workers made me my very own small wooden frame with stretched silk so that I could create batik paintings just like my mom’s. Her studio produced a small collection of fancy scarfs, collars, cravats and different styles of men’s ties. Those pieces, along with my art, were sent to a special dye house for dye treatments and wax removal. It was thrilling to receive my art back and to see my finished product!

Little Lana My Dad, Nikolai, and me, 1954

I was 8 years old when my Dad shared his passion for photography with me. Occasionally, he would borrow a friend’s camera so we could have photo sessions where he taught me to operate a camera. My family didn’t have a lot of money, and times were hard for us. My Dad secretly worked overtime to save enough money to buy us a camera. Today everyone has a camera on their cell phone, but then it was a very big deal - a camera was not a typical possession for Russian families like mine. It was a big surprise for our family!


Photo by my Dad, experimenting with double exposure process, 1965


My dad and I spent many hours in our kitchen organizing our dark room with a red light, the chemicals and enlarger for developing and processing our photos. It was amazing and magical how the images slowly made the appearance on the white photo paper.

old photo My Mom, Elena, my cousin, Mark, and me, 1956


I always dreamed of becoming an artist, but life seems to have different rules. I lost my parents when I was very young and was forced to survive on my own. I became an Operations Manager and worked for 20 years at a Russian department store. I lived half my life in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which is the most beautiful city in the world. There were many reasons why we left Russia; Political, economical, and to create a better future for our kids. The weather in Saint Petersburg with the grey sky, cold and rainy days, and everyone is constantly dressed in grey and black. When I moved to sunny California I was blown away. I was inspired and stimulated by the colors of the sky, flowers, trees, ocean and all the beautiful pictures I saw in magazines. I could no longer contain my excitement, I felt intoxicated by the colors surrounding me, and decided to start painting.





I had two artist friends and I asked them to give me some lessons. After just two sessions in 2007 I couldn’t stop painting. I worked full time as a pattern maker in the fashion industry for more than 20 years, and then everyday after work I spent 2 - 3 hours painting. I learned new techniques and did some experimenting of my own. I fell in love with working outside under the California sun. There is an organic quality to the process, using fluid colors to create movement. I never use brushes. Paint is applied to the canvas by dripping, pouring, blowing and splashing with water applied to the surface. Painting for me is about capturing the physical and emotional energy that I experience while being completely lost in the process. Three years ago I started to spend more time with photography. First my dad taught me, then my husband, a photographer himself, encouraged me to further my photography by teaching me a few things himself and helping me to take some classes. He bought me a special camera cover to do underwater photography. My experience in the fashion industry working with fabrics and styles inspired me to create my own designs and outfits for models to wear during underwater photoshoots. I have some young friends who became my models and we work as a team. I have branched out from solely underwater photography to portraits, city and beach settings, boudoir, weddings, night - time and business portraits. My next project will be a combination of underwater photography and painting.