On a beautiful April day, almost on the same day I was born, only half a millennium earlier, the great Leonardo da Vinci came into the world. Other than that, there were no special signs presaging my arrival, no one can remember a voice from the sky or a hand from a cloud reaching out to offer me a brush and a palette. But frankly speaking, I could never think of becoming anything else but a painter. As long as I remember myself or, if the family legend is true, even before that, I would grab whatever could mark or draw and show off my creative ability with great enthusiasm. Industrial landscapes of Soviet Kazakhstan that surrounded me from childhood were nothing like the beautiful Florentine scenery of the northern Italy but it did not stop me from insisting on entering an art school. Then, after the Arts College in Karaganda, I was fortunate enough to join the alma mater of Russian art — the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and finally to stay in this city of my dreams, Venice of the North.