Dina Roudman prefers vintage Playboys, loves New York pizza slices and believes no f*cks given is the best attitude.
Goldie captures the model/artist behind the camera and meets with her for a Q&A.
Unmistakable Dina Roudman enters the cafe full of energy wearing overalls and a vintage Parisian jacket. Over americanos and bourekas we dig into what makes this remarkably candid Russian so rowdy. Hailing from north of Siberia, raised in Kazakhstan, Israel and Canada, this 25 year old firecracker has travelled the world solo fuelling her creative outlets. With an intriguing artistic style and feisty personality, Roudman urges the importance of not losing oneself in the face of judgement.
What is your first memory of creating art?
It was the funniest thing. My parents brought me a bowl of pomegranate to my room one night. My mom came in an hour later and I had decided to throw the pomegranate all over the walls and they exploded. I got into so much trouble. But I liked how it looked.
Which art form came first modelling or painting?
Art was always my thing. I was always drawing since I was young, and then I started modelling in high school because it was kind of a weird way of expressing myself as well. For me, it’s not just a job. When I started shooting at 18 years old, I couldn’t get signed to an agency at first because of my height and I was never super slim, but I didn’t care. I decided to travel anyways and go see agencies on my own. My attitude was ‘just take me, give me a chance, because I have a unique style’!
How would you describe your modelling style?
I have a lot of darkness and nudity in my photos, and I become a creative director in my own shoots. I have the freedom to have a big input in the shoot, and people notice that, that I’m a creator. A lot of photographers enjoy shooting someone who has an artistic side to them as well because you create something together. I surprise people with what I suggest and the reaction is often ‘whoa’!
How do your two crafts (modelling and painting) inform one another?
It’s somewhat separate, but what I’m trying to do now is kind of combine the two together. I shoot as well, and I want to start incorporating other people into my art.
What inspires you to keep creating?
Lately I’ve started to watch a lot of old French film and that inspires me. Also I’m motivated from seeing young kids around me, like 17 and 18, creating so much. Being around creativity is inspiring.
Your work is rigorous and layered with repetitive patterns and faces. Where does this come from?
A lot of my personality really comes out in my art. I’m a bold person so I make bold work. When I walk into a room I’m really loud, I don’t mean to be, it’s just me, so my art portrays who I am. I paint with my soul. I mean, often my work is very abstract but it comes out of me, how I felt that day. I don’t think art always has to have a subject to it, it can just be what comes out. Also, when I was in high school, and travelling, I was made fun of a lot, and I never felt that I fit in. And I think that I bring out a lot of my emotion into my work. I definitely have a lot of dark days. I’m not the most bright or cheerful person. I can always find a way to get dark, which is not always a good thing, but it brings out the best art because it’s pain, it’s ripping things, it’s letting go of things.
Is creating art therapeutic for you?
For sure it is. I pick up a paint brush and I can’t walk away because I forget how much I love doing this. But sometimes you get scared as an artist because you think you’re not good enough, and there is so much out there that you see, and you kind of get lost in your style because you see so many other styles, so there’s ups and downs.
How would you describe the tensions that inspire your art?
I’m a feminine person and I’m a very sexual person. In my modelling there is a lot of nudity, but in a classy way, I find. I don’t have spread legs or something like that. But I believe a woman should be proud of her body. And I like to create interesting shapes with my body. But if you meet me as a person, behind the camera, I dress like boy, I act like a boy, all my friends in high school were boys, so I find I’m not a typical girl. But for the camera I become more feminine and both of these energies exist in me so my work reflects that for sure.
Is graffiti an influence or a practice?
An influence. Travelling, you see a lot of graffiti, and around Europe you see so many buildings and walls with graffiti, and that’s why I think some of my paintings look like cities, in a graphic way. I think that that’s, without even noticing or realizing, what I often capture with different colours, different layers, different walls of graffiti. I don’t ever practice actual graffiti. A lot of my friends want me to come tag with them, but I have no idea how. I’ve done like two walls just to try, but I don’t want to be a graffiti artist, it’s not something that I aspire to do.
How do you choose the various materials and tools you use to create your art?
I like to mix around with different medias because you get different textures and feels from everything. I don’t like just using one thing. I think mixing different things gives more character. I paint with my hands sometimes or I’ll scratch with my nails –
Or throw pomegranates on the wall?
Or pomegranates on the wall! You just gotta go for it! That’s how you get the coolest things. I’ve used wax on my paintings. I was drinking wine and eating this cheese, and the cheese was wrapped in a black wax, and I decided to burn the wax and drip it on my painting. So the painting is covered in this dripping black cheese wax! Like the Chanel No. 5 one, ’cause you know girls love cheese and wine and perfume and stuff.
There are some reoccurring characters in your art, such as the sad eyes of a woman, the woman’s mouth, there is also a man who smokes a joint… Where did these characters come from?
That’s my mouth. I did about three or four of those pieces. I used vintage playboys because I find that they portrayed females that were more natural back in the day. They’re more curvy, they have a bush, it was more free and natural. And I decided to put a piece of me in there, speaking out on behalf of those females, to say it’s okay to be curvy and sexy. I put a lot of myself into my artwork sometimes without knowing, like faces that I draw, and people point out that it looks like me. I think it’s just because it’s coming from me, it’s my touch. I don’t realize that I’m doing that sometimes, it just comes out. As for the man, I don’t know but there is something that inspires me towards that face. Maybe it was somebody in my dreams. But do I need to have an explanation for him? No. I don’t think so.
There’s a lot of emotion in your work, sometimes deep sadness. Where does that come from?
From my life! (Laughs) I mean, it’s not that I’ve had a sad life, but I think a lot of artists, we torture ourselves sometimes because we don’t always know our destination or our road and sometimes you don’t even know what you’re painting. I never went to art school. I had a couple classes I took as a kid, but I never really had a painting or drawing education, and sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing. But do you need to know what you’re doing? Or do you just express yourself?
Who influences you?
Basquiat is one of my favourite artists. I feel that my work has some similarities of colours. He was a crazy personality too. He died from a Heroine overdose. But I think a lot of artists are pretty fucked up. Also a photographer who I really love, Ren Hang, just passed away committing suicide, it’s so dark, but his work was so incredible. I find that suffering souls create the best work.
How do your Russian roots inform your work?
I’ve travelled so much so my work is more inspired by my journeys than my Russian roots. I was born in the north of Russia, past Siberia, then we moved Kazakstan, and at the age of 8 my family and I moved to Israel. We came to Canada when I was twelve. My Dad didn’t really want me growing up in Russia. He thought maybe I could have a better future here, so I think they really moved for me. And they struggled a lot moving here, they lost a lot, and they were doing this for me, so I say they should have just sent me here and stayed in Russia and it would have been fine, probably better. But I’ve been all over. I’ve lived in Miami and I lived in New York, Berlin, Barcelona and Greece. I was a wild child. My parents were pretty cool about it, even though they’re strict Russian. But they didn’t really have a choice because I’m an only child and this is what I’m doing! They’ve been supportive although I’m sure they were worried too. I’ve had the craziest things happen to me on my travels because I was such a wild kid doing whatever I wanted, partying like crazy, meeting the coolest people, it was incredible.
Did it ever feel dangerous?
Totally. I’ve gone into situations that are dangerous, but I’ve gotten out of it because of my character. I mean, things could have gone really bad at times, but I was able to get out of it because of how I am.
I still want to travel to Asia and India. My travelling days are definitely not over. They’re just on pause.
Do you have a favourite place?
I definitely love New York City. I don’t care what anybody says, but the energy in New York City is incredible! People are more real there. I loved it there. I felt like this is where my home is. But I had a problem with my Visa, I’m trying to get back, but now with the current situation it’s a little bit harder.
Amsterdam is my other favourite place.
You post select quotes, such as “don’t take shit from nobody”, “art prostitute”. If you had a slogan what would it be?
Zero fucks given! (Laughs) I mean, it’s funny ’cause I say that, but I do care, and sometimes I care a lot. I mean you have to care if you’re human, you want to be accepted and you want people to appreciate your work, and sometimes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, maybe there is something people don’t see, but a lot of the time it’s all in your head.
Sometimes you incorporate words into your art, such as “that’s money”. Is humour essential to your creating?
It always comes from how I’m feeling in the moment, my mood of the day. I don’t strive to incorporate anything – whatever is going on inside of me just comes out. I have a dry humour and a lot of people find me funny when shooting. I don’t overthink what I say, I just say it and sometimes that gets me in trouble. And that comes out in my work as well – having fun. You can’t be serious all the time.
What has surprised you most about working in the modelling industry?
It is such a toxic industry. You’re getting judged a lot and that is hard on your mentality. I never had an eating disorder or anything because I never really cared that much. I cared, but not enough to make myself sick. I like food way more than I like modelling! I mean, as a passionate person, food goes along with that, I like flavour, I like colour, but yeah you definitely see disorders.
One of my first experiences, I was living in Greece in a room with 4 bunk beds and a kitchen all in one room, living with three other models and they’re all competition. Everyone asks how many castings you have and you’re comparing yourself to them. And then suddenly you can’t afford rent because you’re paying $800 euros for a bed in a room. Imagine that. You have to attend dinners and parties that promoters are having and they just want to bring you out to the club, and you end up partying a lot. A lot of girls get lost in the industry because of that. When you’re not yet a super model, you’re not living that luxurious life, and it’s actually a really fucked up industry. If you’re not a hard headed person you can get really lost and mentally hurt. I used to get anxiety going to castings because I’m not very tall. I’m 5’7”. And sometimes I’d just turn around and walk away because I knew I wasn’t going to get it. But I worked with a lot of amazing photographers when I travelled because I reached out to people who’s work I loved. I’d say ‘hey I’m in town I wanna shoot’, and a lot of people like to shoot with me because I’m artistic and creative. So I had the chance to work with some really big names. I wouldn’t say I made a lot of money modelling in Europe, but I made enough to get buy, sometimes not even, enough for a coffee, but now that I’ve built a strong portfolio I’ve worked a lot in Toronto.
And when you’re young and starting out you’re not doing it for the money anyway right, you’re doing it because you love to?
Describe your dream photo shoot.
I’ve always wanted to be on the cover of Ivy magazine. I love the funk in that magazine. I love the colours. It’s always very unique, so it’s always been a goal of mine. There’s still time.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of going into modelling?
Go into it with an ease, have fun, but still get an education on the side, or do the other things you want to do too. You can always take a pause and go back. Just don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Definitely go and do it, you’ll see the world, you’ll grow and build your character. But it’s the way you come into it that matters – don’t get into your head so much. And today there is more openness to uniqueness and different looks, it’s changing, hopefully, as I see it there is more diversity now which is great.
I saw a quote you posted that I really appreciated – something about not caring if casting directors accept your looks…
Yeah it was on this wall I saw in Europe and I think it’s pretty much how every girl should feel. You have to be who you are. You have to not lose yourself in all of this. At the end of the day I might not be a typical model, but I still have a chance. People see me as an artist and want to work with me in that capacity, and I can still shoot because I love expressing myself in front of the camera. By the way, the quote was “dear casting directors, fuck your opinions on my looks!”
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I’m a very emotional person, and I think it kind of came out of being bullied in school. I was bullied really bad. So a lot of this ‘I don’t care’ or ‘I’m so rebellious’ – deep inside sometimes I really do care, and sometimes I do over think things. Like am I fitting in? And that can stay in the back of your head. You don’t open up to people in the same way when you are bullied and not accepted for who you are, and then you think maybe you’re still not accepted for who you are. You know, some people judge and ask why is she always naked or something like that. But that’s my work!
You have great style – I love your jacket.
Oh thanks so much! I got it on Ossington, there used to be that vintage shop with the garage door. I asked how much and she was like $25? And I was like $10? I got it for $10. It’s from Paris.
I’ve been watching a lot of French film and you know, things stay in your head, and inspire you. But I don’t know actors names or any particular names, there are just so many different things I see that influence me. People need to stop bullshitting themselves, saying they follow one person or one thing. Why? I love jazz and sometimes I listen to a lot of old school rock and roll, like I love Queen, but I don’t have a favourite artist, a favourite thing or a favourite food. Well maybe I do have a favourite food. It’s definitely pizza.
That’s the New York in you.
Yeah the $1 slices. New York is expensive so to survive there sometimes all I ate was pizza slices.
I’m going to mix my design with my art. Mixed media is the thing that I like. I’m working on getting back to finding my style now because I’ve done so many different things. I want to see what I like the most and slowly work towards a show. I don’t think I’m ready yet, and that’s fine, I’m in no rush, I’m a young artist, but I definitely will have a show.
Photographer: Anthony Tuccitto
Styling: Francesca Abony