Nana Raicheva: “I am always looking for and finding the good in man”

картина на Нана Райчена

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She paints impacting pictures not only with brush and paint but also with words. With real passion she talks about the things that excite her and she believes in. She carries the beautiful name Nana, which roots the researchers connect with the ancient Thracians. She graduated philosophy but defines herself as an amateur artist. She shares that she’s been painting all the time and it is a necessity just like her breathing. A professor at the Art Academy liked her paintings and invites her to attend the black and white drawing classes of Professor Galiley Simeonov. She enrolls in the classes for amateurs, taught by the great painter Sergey Petrov. “This is my professionally acquired knowledge in art”, states Nana with her inherent modesty. She likes working with oil and acrylic colors. “I’ve got some achievements with water colors but this is not my technique. You need a lot of efforts in order to partner with the water color and to obtain the magic which will never repeat itself afterwards”, she admits. About the things that truly inspire here she says:

“I am quite impressed by the human face, the psycho of the human being. However, recently I paint more decorative, more frivolous and expressive things, because my eyes are tired of too much painting. I also have astigmatism. But portrait has always been my magic. When I am painting a human, especially from a natural model, I fall in love with him/her. The person may not have harmonious features but when you are drawing you can see how perfect man is. Perhaps there is a shade of idealism in me. When I make a portrait, in spite of the resemblance with the model, there is a shade of sublimity without getting into symbolism. I am always looking for and finding the good in man.”


For years Nana has worked with children and passes onto them the love for drawing. For the last have year, though, she has committed herself also to the challenge to help the imprisoned to rediscover themselves through the power of art. About her motivation to get involved as a facilitator in the project “The way of the new beginning” of the Mission Salvation Foundation, she shares:

“I’ve joined the foundation because here you get into a different surrounding. This is an oasis of the worm human relations. Not that we don’t have any flaw but the general atmosphere makes you to become team conscious and to be in service to your colleagues and the children. That spirit fascinates you and seems like you are getting better. When Zhani and Ivodor offered me to become part of the project, I was honestly taken aback. From the other hand, this was quite provoking for me. Rembrandt has said: “Give me a charcoal so I can draw the light”. The light strikes out the best on the dark. Not that I am the light and they are the charcoal, no way. But on a subconscious level I perhaps wanted to discover the human, what’s real in these people who are serving their sentences. I accepted and the first day was a big shock for me. I found myself in this се dungeon where you go through nine policemen to get to the tenth until you finally get to the sacred art club. In our mythology the imprisoned are almost horrifying creatures, dreadful recidivists. There was nothing like that. I found some very pleasant people. Of course, each and every one of them have trespassed something in some way, which is pity. But they were obviously handpicked men, who had some kind of aspirations for art, and with higher level of intelligence and culture. One of them is even a professional artist/painter. I go there to share, not to teach, not to lecture. The hours spend together are mutually enriching. Every one shows his own regard to the art, an asset of his character. Some paint with more vigor. Others are pedantic, too much of perfectionists. Some have a bit more developed taste for esthetics, others are more naïve.”


Nana shares that she doesn’t find it difficult to find a common language with these people. She tells us about her weekly work and meetings with them:

“The first remark that I was impressed with was what Christo said, whose nick name is “The Space”. He told me: “Madam, I am a free man. It doesn’t matter where you are but what you are doing”. That reinforced the truth that freedom is a condition of the spirit and not so much a physical reality. Though, it is better to be spiritually free at the Rila lakes. At our first meeting I introduced myself to them and told them that I am an amateur painter. I told them about my way of developing. I gave each one of them a booklet with photographs of my paintings. During our classes I bring some of my original pieces, as well as replicas of Bulgarian and foreign artists. Our first lessons were about color knowledge, composition, perspective, the “A and B”’s of the art of painting. My desire is for them to learn from the great artists. Van Gog has started his journey of an artist with coping of pieces of other artists, most of all of Millet, until he found himself. There’s got to be balance – painting from nature, from photographs, from replicas and by imagination. We’ve had three activities with staging of items, beautiful dishes and fruit but it was more difficult that’s why we started painting from photographs on A3 paper size. Each one of them received an individual drawing set materials – suitable paper sheets, crayons, water colors and acrylic colors. While painting we are joking, talk about life matters and little by little the secrets of this closed community starts to reveal. One of my students is Stoyan who is disabled from his waist down. He receives a monthly pension for disabled person equal to 200 levs and he got to the point of being tempted to start printing fake money with some people. How can somebody possibly live with only 200 levs?! It is not an excuse but there is still an explanation about this temptation. In the beginning Stoyan told me not to bring materials for him because he can’t draw but he rather do some applied art. I brought to him white and red clay so he can make some small plastic arts. He handled it amazingly well and then he started drawing. It appeared that he is my best student and the most humble of all, the least talking during his work but achieving the best and completed results. The joy for the teacher.“

The escape from reality and the desire to touch something beautiful are part of the motives of the imprisoned to join the drawing course.

“When someone gives the best out of himself he feels fulfilled and happy – explains Nana. – Then he feels his own significance and usefulness. I would call our activity and art therapy. These are hours of conversations and mutual sharing. I can say that just as when you take the pills off of a head of onion one after the other, so after every drawing they reveal part of their personality. At the same time I see every one of them more and more lit up, adequate and opened after the hours of drawing. It was pleasure to here that my visits are a celebration for them.”

A real recognition for Nana is the present she got for her birthday from one of the prisoners – a bickers head band, a red T-shirt with a tight fist after the idea of Che Guevara with the inscription “Association of prisoners”.

“I don’t know who gets more out of it – whether them from me or I from them – says the artist. I learned to be more disciplined and to value the freedom. We take so many things for granted. The Space and Ognyan work hard. When they have no materials they use old bed sheets, out of laths they make under frames, and they polish their paintings with flour varnish. This makes me appreciate the freedom, the possibilities I have. When I go to them I am just a lady amongst many chevaliers. I can feel the respect. I was so happy with the things I got for my birthday. They gave me whatever each of them could. I got hazelnut chocolate and it was the tastiest chocolate I’ve ever eaten. They don’t have the chance to go shopping so giving it to me as a present is a big deal.”

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