Exploring Different Techniques in Judaica Art
by Aliza Marton
Interview with Rivka Krinsky
Oil paintings and laser-cut metal art are both forms of visual art, but they are quite different in terms of their materials, techniques and overall effects. Oil paintings are a traditional form of painting dating back as early as the eleventh century. They are created by applying paint to a canvas or other surface using brushes or palette knives. They can be very colourful, and the paint can be layered and blended to create a wide range of effects. Using computer-aided design lasers creates a modern form of art. The first lasers had their roots in Einstein’s theoretical work, but creating art using laser cutting has only been around since the 1960s. It is created by using a laser to cut and engrave metal sheets. The resulting pieces are often highly detailed and precise, creating a very different look to traditional art such as oil paintings. They can create a sense of depth, but they are also quite different in terms of texture and the way they interact with light.
I invite you to view beautiful art with two very different techniques.
It is evident by viewing the artwork of Rivka Krinsky and Naama Goldberg that their upbringing and surroundings influenced their art immensely.
Hi, Rivka. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in the Chabad community. I am the youngest in a family of six. I was always creative and expressive in different ways, whether it was baking, performing arts, drawing comics, writing poetry … but I never truly explored fine art until I was a freshman in college.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I took an art course as an elective in Stern College. I painted with oils for the first time and fell madly in love. It was a surreal experience. I hadn’t decided on my major yet, but every semester I took more art courses until I eventually shaped my major to Fine Art. My parents supported my decision, which I appreciate immensely.
Which mediums do you prefer to work with? Do you have a favourite?
My favorite medium, hands down, is oil paint. There is no medium as luxurious and fine as the feel of oils hitting the canvas. I love the smells of the (sometimes toxic) solvents and paints. I love the luscious feel of the paints being picked up by the brush and the way colours mix effortlessly. It is a sensory experience for me. Some artists don’t love how long it takes for oils to dry, but this never bothered me. I use various mediums to get different effects with the oils, such as cold wax medium, which adds body to the paint and gives my work plenty of texture.
More recently I’ve begun incorporating spray paint into my oil paintings, and I love the messy and more modern effect I am able to achieve with this combination.
Where do you take your inspiration from?
I am inspired by my surroundings, by the people around me and by current events. I am always fascinated by people. My work changes based on my location—New York, Israel, LA, and now Miami. I also get a lot of inspiration from my Chassidic background, and from various teachings in Chassidus.
Can you share a little about your process and technique?
Generally, I start with a concept in my head. Then I run it by my husband, who is an incredible designer and has a very conceptual mind. We often critique and rely on each other’s guidance in our careers, even though neither of us can do what the other does. So much of art and design is about balance, and we both have a solid eye for that. I’ll usually take the concept and do image research online, create a digital sketch or sometimes, like with my most recent series “Objects of Worship”, I will stage my own photoshoot to base my paintings on. From there I do a light pencil or thin paint sketch directly on the canvas, sometimes more detailed and sometimes very basic. For a portrait of a specific person, I will spend more time on the initial sketch. Then I go in with the paint. I like to cover the entire canvas with loose and broad strokes to get my colour story in place and get a feel for the whole piece right away. Then I detail with smaller brushes. After the piece dries I apply my favourite varnish to seal it: Gamvar gloss.
I noticed you do commissioned work. Do you have a specific way of creating these pieces? Do you discuss with your client and then sketch?
The first step with a commission is to get a feel for what the client has in mind and let them know my ballpark pricing, before we even have a real discussion. If what they have in mind is in my wheelhouse and the pricing works, then we usually get on a call or meet, in their space if possible, and iron out every last detail. We discuss a concept or review the photo they have in mind, and we figure out size, colours and style. (It’s always my style, but some people specifically request huge amounts of texture or wild colours, while others prefer a more muted or realistic look.) I get a sense of who the person is, what their personal style is, if they know their season and what the space where the piece will hang looks like. These things inform me while I paint. I want the client to love living with their piece. I always get a signed contract and fifty per cent deposit before I even start a sketch. If we are developing a concept, I will send them ideas and sketches for approval. I want to make sure we are completely on the same page before I get started on the painting. I don’t send process photos, but I do post studio shots on Instagram while I’m working, so if they are on social media, they can follow the process more closely if they wish.
When the piece is done, I send photos and videos, or if they are local, they come to my studio. Occasionally, the client might ask for a slight tweak—perhaps a splash of orange in the corner is bothering them, or something of the sort that I can easily change before varnishing. The truth is that I can only remember one client (who was a designer herself) who asked for slight colour tweaks; nothing complicated, thank G-d. I pour my soul into my work and I make sure it’s as balanced and perfect (or perfectly imperfect) as possible before I present the work. My work has a wild feel to it, but I am a perfectionist and I will never let go of a piece until the portraiture is perfect down to the exact expression I want or the colours and textures are completely balanced.
Do you have a favourite theme or a favourite piece?
I love doing large-scale portraits. I love working large-scale in general. And I always love to have something connected to Judaism going on in my paintings. A few of my favourite pieces include “Eden”, my RBG painting entitled “Justice” and a ten-foot painting commissioned for a private family home entitled “Ayeka”, and the series I am currently working on, “Objects of Worship”, is really exciting to me. I have painted two so far and can’t wait to keep going with the concept. I also love and connect deeply with my Rebbe paintings.
With young children, how do you find the time to paint?
It’s funny; I recently did an interview with someone over Zoom and I told her that lately I have noticed that my best work is the work I produce super fast, when I’m on a deadline, since my time is so incredibly limited. I am a mother of four young boys, thank G-d, including a four-month-old baby. She laughed and said that the other young mother artist she’d interviewed had said exactly the same thing. Funnily enough, none of the young fathers who are artists ever mention anything about time being a factor in their work. My time is so incredibly limited. Every hour is precious. I paint while my young children are in school and my nanny is here with the baby. My studio is in my backhouse, so I can sneak out there easily. I sometimes work at night, after bedtime, if I’m not too drained by then, since I know I also need to be up early (and do feedings in middle of the night). It’s unbelievably hard to stop mid creative process to go do carpool or make dinner, etc., but I also truly believe I have become a better artist for it. I can work incredibly fast when I need to, without overthinking anything, because I just need to get it all out on the canvas. The colours and brushstrokes explode out, and my natural style is enhanced. I have to work from my essence, without interference from any insecurities or anxieties around the piece. It’s usually my best work.
What message do you want to pass on to the next generation as your living Haggadah?
Be in the moment.
Watch the full interview here: alizafineart.com
Interview with Naama Goldberg
Hi Naama, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi. I was born in South Africa and made aliyah after school and studied in Israel. I have been living in Ramat Beit Shemesh for eighteen years. I am a mother of five: one girl and four boys. I have been working as a WordPress developer and SEO expert for eighteen years in addition to my art, which developed unexpectantly along the way a few years ago.
I know your background is not in art, so can you tell us how your unique art came about?
I grew up in a very creative home environment. My mother is an artist who devoted much time and energy to creating art classes to teach us kids all about art. My sister was a budding artist and spread her art all over the house. Our entire house was literally an artwork, with many surfaces being painted, sculpted and illustrated, including the garage walls, the grass, the car and the dining room table.
We were also very academically oriented, and maths was a strong favourite, with high achievement, in our house too. We were all both very left- and right-brain oriented.
While I always loved all the craziness going on around me, I found it hard to participate. I didn’t feel I had the creativity and the ability to join in the fun, and mostly stood on the side and observed. I got my mum and my sister to do all my projects for me and enjoyed the accolades. My mother once even mentioned that she didn’t think I knew how to draw.
Although I never participated, the creativity, colour and theory around me was absorbed into my being without me even realising it! Later on I discovered how much it formed me, when it started having the opportunity to express itself.
I excelled in school academically and graduated among the top national achievers. I studied computer science and maths in Israel, but due to the intensity of the programme, I felt that I needed to seek out programmes in a different direction to free my head space.
I starting taking art classes, and for the first time in my life I noticed that I actually could draw! I just had a very different style to the abstract free style of my family. I excelled in realistic pencil drawings.
When I married and moved into my new home in Israel, I realised how important aesthetics were to me, together with creating a Jewish home. I carefully chose each piece that went into my home to furnish and decorate our space, albeit with a limited budget. I which wall the pictures of gedolim would be hung on. It was clear to me that this was a foundational element of my Jewish home. But when I looked for pictures that would fit into my modern interior aesthetics, I could not find anything! I could not find pictures that would fit in with the modern minimalistic design and that I felt comfortable living with.
That wall stayed empty for years as I searched.
One day my husband and I started playing around with ideas of making portraits for our home. I wanted a modern minimalistic artwork—my standards were high. The idea seemed crazy at first, but slowly it evolved into a reality and became the artwork we have today on our wall, and on the walls of Jewish homes and offices all over the world.
Following a layoff due to Corona, I had the opportunity to take the artwork I’d created for my own home and share it with the Jewish world. They too had the same needs as I had and were desperate to find a modern rendering of the gedolim pictures to put on the walls of their modern interior-designed homes.
Can you share a little about your process and technique?
Our artworks are made from stainless steel on a background of acrylic. Both my husband and I are involved in the process. I handle the design and management and he, the aerospace engineer, handles the engineering. We start the artwork from a photograph of the rav. The photograph needs to be clear and very high resolution. I then work on the photograph to create the very simple and minimal graphical representation of the rav. My husband, Asher, then converts the graphic into a vector form that can be laser cut. Our artwork is made from stainless steel and is laser cut to precision in a large industrial factory. A laser basically uses intense heat to burn through the metal to cut it. A laser cuts with one single line, so we have to ensure that we convert the graphic into a single line so that it can be cut properly without leaving burn marks. We then receive the metal pieces and bond it to a black piece of acrylic.
It then undergoes a series of cleanings, framing and more cleaning, while being so careful not to pick up a metal filing and scratch the stainless steel. And then it’s boxed, ready to be shipped and hung on your wall.
You have such a large collection of gedolim. Do you ever do other people?
We are currently specialising in only gedolim artworks.
We do accept custom orders of family pictures for a special occasion, such as an anniversary of grandparents. The artworks can be engraved with a dedication for the event or for donors. This is also a special artwork that can be donated to a shul l’illui nishmas a loved one, as is some people’s tradition.
I know you and your husband are a great team. Can you explain how you work together?
My husband and I brainstormed this idea together and we use our unique abilities together to create the artworks. In fact, we cannot create them alone; we need to work together to make them—my design skills and his technical engineering skills. It’s wonderful that we can spend time together, creating together. And the rest of the family joins in too sometimes.
We are very careful to ensure that our work together is fun and does not become too stressful or affect our relationship and our house adversely in any way.
My husband also has a demanding full-time day job. When it gets too much, we are quick to bring in external help. We want to ensure this is good and fun for us as we scale our business to meet growing demand.
Any future projects you would like to share with us?
We are considering a new line of artworks of Jewish holy places. We are discovering that this is actually a whole new art form and will take time to develop. We would love our customers to be able to connect in their homes to both to the gedolim and special Jewish places.
If you had a chance to write your history, what one life lesson would you make sure was added?
If I had the chance, I would add the lesson that if you have a passionate idea that is important to you, then go for it. You have no idea where it will lead and what great things will happen. Don’t be afraid. Just do the work and great things will come.
To learn more about both Rivka Krinsky and Naama Goldberg, scan the QR codes below to watch the live interview.
Watch the full interview here: alizafineart.com
Aliza Marton is a Los Angeles based Judaica artist who specializes
in traditional oil on canvas as well as her own novel technique –
blending abstract acrylic pours with realism on wood panels. Her art
serves as a window into Aliza’s passionate and emotional connection
to our Creator. Many of her works incorporate biblical passages
into scenes of nature and of everyday life. Aside from teaching art
to hundreds of students in the Jewish community, Aliza’s proudest
moments are when her clients’ connect deeply with one of her
pieces and decide to make it a part of their home. Her artwork
can be purchased on line and shipped anywhere in the world at