Artist brings Russian flavor to Penelope's

Art connoisseurs can get a taste of Russian artwork between now and July 31 as a sampling of impressionist painter Kanya Bugreyev's works are displayed at Penelope's Café at 1029 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada.

Bugreyev, of Montrose, previously studied with famed Russian painter Sergei Bongart, who left a mark on her artwork. “All of us who studied with Sergei have his lovely colors and varied composition,” she said.

However, she admits, her talent also has been influenced by her past, though she doesn't let the negative aspects color her work. “I should be painting all depressing,” she joked, “but I sort of overcompensate, I suppose.”

Bugreyev was born in Russia and came to Glendale with her mother, stepfather, and older sister, Sacha, as refugees when she was a young girl. It was during World War II and at a time when Adolph Hitler was bringing young people from Russia to work in Germany.

Her father, an officer in the Russian White Army, had already been taken away for questioning, and as with many situations then, he never returned home.

When it looked like Sacha would be sent to Germany to work, the family opted to escape. “My mother said, 'Let's all die together,' so we left,” Bugreyev recalled.

A Presbyterian church in Glendale sponsored the family. “We were very fortunate,” Bugreyev said. “We felt so glad to be here, safe and secure.”

Growing up in a new country was challenging, especially since the family came to America “with only $5 in our pockets,” she said. Her mother cleaned houses for people and her sister worked nights at Lockheed. Her stepfather was given a custodian job at the church.

After graduating from Glendale High School, Kanya married and began a family. She has a son, Andrew, and 5-year-old granddaughter, Eve, in Hawaii, and a daughter, Shura, who is a veterinarian in Montana.

Bugreyev has always been a doodler. “I always drew little things,” she said, adding that her husband finally said he was sick of her “scratching,” and urged her to go to school to study art.

After her first art class, she came home triumphantly with a smile on her face.

“My husband asked me if people at the school had said I was good, and I said, 'No, but everybody else was worse.' ”

Bugreyev continued to expand her horizons and take courses in “literature, philosophy, art and more art,” she said.

She also participated in area cultural activities, which is how she met her art mentor. “

Sergei was a Russian refugee as well, and it's like if you were in Spain or some other country and saw Americans — you spent time together. I was very fortunate to meet and study with this famous artist, who had so many movie stars as his patrons and who took classes from him,” she said.

“For me to get into his classes was wonderful.”

Bugreyev paints oil still life, floral and plein air landscapes. Her work is filled with transparent shadows and clear, vibrant colors.

She has received many awards from California art organizations, and three gold medals from the California Art Club.

Her work graces the walls of private collections across the country, as well as in Germany, Sweden and South America.

In addition to painting, displaying and selling her artwork in local galleries, Bugreyev teaches art and encourages others to paint.

“I'm glad to be part of this community of artists, so I love to teach and pass on what I have learned,” she said.

“I teach colors, designs and how to put it all together. I'm a little bit tough, but it pays off. I'm proud of all my students.”

La Cañada artist Mary Jane Hebert is a student of Bugreyev's, and also a fan of the Russian-born painter.

“Kanya has a wonderful sense of color, her color is phenomenal,” Hebert said.

“She is able to find the right color and she has such a passion for what she paints. We've become great friends; I enjoy learning from her, she has so much knowledge to impart.”

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