Story behind Arnold Schwarzenegger Portrait

Portrait of Gratitude

I absolutely love Arnold Schwarzenegger, but to me he’s more than a movie star. He’s inspired me to overcome depression and to turn what looked like a tragedy into my dream life! This portrait is my expression of gratitude to all teachers, and specifically to Arnold, who has inspired me to think big and develop my potential.

Artists create because they can’t stop the flow of energy and they feel compelled to share the beauty they see with the world. Picasso once said “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Arnolds Schwarzenegger’s life continues to be an inspiration to millions of people around the world. I am a big fan myself, watched all his movies and read his books. However, to me he’s more than a star. He has transformed my life and inspired me to win! Read Arnold’s 6 Rules for Success in my previous post.

My American Dream

A small town girl from Crimea, Ukraine (now Russia), I left home at 17 during Perestroika to attend college in Moscow. It felt like I was at the epicenter of something monumental, tumultuous and exciting as the political landscape was shifting in Russia. In December of 1991, as the world watched in amazement, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries. The end of the totalitarian regime and glasnost, opened the floodgates of the American entertainment industry.

I remember being shocked by a poster of a handsome unbelievably muscular American movie star, who personified an American dream! The law of attraction arranged for the synchronicity of meeting an American man who looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I married and immigrated to the United States.

However, what started out as a fairy-tail turned into a nightmare. Few years later, with two very young kids, tragic circumstances in the family paralyzed my spirit and I felt unable to go on. Instead of giving into depression I picked up Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding and taught myself how to workout reading page by page. After a few grueling months of self-training with simple free weights, I was fit for stage and entered a local natural Bodybuilding competition in Virginia, hoping to just look good. To everyone’s amazement, including myself, I won the Overall Figure division! This gave me strength to leave my old life behind and pursue my dreams with confidence and passion.
Read full story How Arnold Schwarzenegger Inspired me to Win!

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

Creative Process

As a portrait of strength and victory, I chose Arnold’s photo that powerfully illustrated these qualities. Bold and confident, it demands attention and response. Firm gaze of a warrior piercing through the veil of illusions with undeniable charisma. Ginormous Cuban cigar seems like an extension to this fitness champion’s larger-than-life personality. The smoke curiously twirls around in a lovely shape of a voluptuous woman. Dubbed as a king of one-liners with swagger that is second to none, viewers are anticipating another witty remark. Hasta la vista, baby and I will be back are still ringing in our ears, reminding of Arnold’s spectacular authentic performance!

This is a large 40 x 30 inch oil on canvas painting, embellished with genuine faceted Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires, gold leaf and tobacco leaves from real Cuban Cohiba cigar. After 10 years of training in the Russian Realism tradition, I was fortunate to learn directly from the Old Masters by making replicas at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I use the indirect method of painting going lean to fat, gradually adding more oil and always start with an underpainting. To add a 3-Dimensional effect, I use dozens of glazes and thick impasto.


For that extra punch and beautiful texture, I use various natural organic materials in my paintings. Dried up flowers, plants, insects, leaves, shels, fur, animal bones and feathers add their unique qualities. For this painting I chose small genuine faceted Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds, Sapphires and Gold leaf.

Paying homage to the star’s love affair with Cuban cigars and to add authenticity to the piece, I incorporated into the paint tobacco leaf from a real Cuban Cohiba cigar. Watch video Arnold smokes his stogie anywhere he likes. 

Art for Charity

In his legendary speech during the Governor’s 2009 USC Commencement address, Arnold gave his 6 Rules for Success that will immediately energise you to take action in pursuing your dreams! Arnold’s final rule is about giving back.  He believes that in any path you take in life, you must always find a way to give back to your community, to your state, or your country.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as a celebrity has a long history of giving back to the community and charitable causes. This painting is also about giving back. Part of proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, or one of many charitable organizations supported by Arnold Schwarzenegger! Check out my Art For Charity collection.

Let me tell you something, reaching out and helping people will bring you more satisfaction than anything else you have ever done. — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Who Inspired You?

Thanks for reading! If you’re an Arnold fan, artist, musician, competitor or were inspired by someone to overcome a challenge, and create something amazing, I would love to hear your story! Who inspired you? Comment below!

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