Artist of the month: Vali Irina Ciobanu (Demo)

“I dedicated all my existence to painting, I paint in my mind when I eat, when I walk, when I dream…”, says Vali Irina Ciobanu.

Vali Irina Ciobanu was born in Valea Popii, Călărași in 1976 and is a graduate in History of Culture and Religions from the Department of Philosophy of Bucharest.

Vali creates a concept of modernity as an opposite of abstraction, based on a few recuperated easel practices of ancient ages, some even from the Renaissance and having the spiritual support of a cultured audience.

“She creates her paintings using a very old technique, inspired by that of Leonardo da Vinci. She paints on leather (vellum) with water colors, binders and hairspray which are specific art objects in themselves.” – Tudor Octavian, art critic 

Asking Vali Irina Ciobanu why she prefers painting on leather (vellum) she answered:

“I like all the techniques, I study them, experiment them, try to find their secrets… it has been painted for so many years on the skin that it was imperative to try this Renaissance technique. All the time I try the long-lasting ones, the ones that have proven their durability.

I’ve seen a lot of information mostly in old-school textbooks, but I’ve found more details about this technique in a book about a work that was supposed to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci. I’ve been experimenting for years to find the ideal formula so I could paint lasting and beautiful paintings and themed maps on leather (vellum). What pigments to use, how to adapt the old materials to the current ones. The fins I work with and the finishes I make to my art painted on vellum are such to preserve the natural elasticity of the skin. Now this is one of my favorite techniques because the skin is very versatile and, being a natural support, comes with surprises … and a little adrenaline every time. The color, texture of the skin requires a certain subject made in a certain way. You will see paintings painted in watercolor, egg temper, gouache, tusk or mixed techniques.

All are old techniques with natural pigments that are suitable for work on natural background. In large-scale works, the leather is stretched on a chassis that has a cloth before it so that the skin is better protected. After the skin is well stretched and clean, I prepare it with a special primer. I use Arabic gum, which is a natural ingredient to prepare the support, because it is as old as painting itself, I would say. “- Vali Irina Ciobanu, Artist represented by Renaissance Art Gallery.

This style of painting came to Vali through the brief description of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting on vellum “La Bella Principesa”, presented by Martin Kemp and Pascal Cotte in the book with the same name, were the two well-known art critics from the West emphasized the fact that Leonardo managed to prepare the vellum (leather) so well that is resisted for centuries.

Vali transformed her own studio into an alchemist’s laboratory, experimenting for a long period of time to discover the right formula which would confer the artwork that intense color effervescence as well as durability.

Thus, the leather was stretched on a wooden chassis with a cotton canvas prepared in advance for the protection of the leather. As for the leather base, it was prepared using primer to enhance elasticity and strengthen the leather. Moreover, the primer is based on  Arabic gum (a substance also found in the color mixture) which makes for a proper overlap of pigments and the conservation of color vivacity over time. Finally, the artworks have been glazed with special kinds of varnish which do not allow for water to damage the painted surface. “

In the last 10 years Vali created on vellum exquisite custom paintings and themed maps illustrating her customers interests in various fields, or chosen by her for the exhibition held at the National Museum of Maps and Old Books  in Bucharest, April 2017, entitled “Visual Histories around the World- from Map to Art”. 6 original large scale maps painted on leather were exhibited: the Danube Delta map (earlier shown during the group exhibition “Danube through strength and fragility”- at Renaissance Art Gallery in September 2017),

the History of Coffee map, the History of the automobile (cars) map, the map of Romanian wine (Vali designed the labels of Cramele Recaș – REGNO REGAS), the History of horses around the world map and the History of sailing vessels map. Vali Irina Ciobanu has works featured in numerous private collections around the country and abroad, exhibitions both personal and group participation in creative camps and is currently represented by Renaissance Art Gallery ( ).



Three of these maps were later exhibited under the same theme “Visual Histories around the World- from Map to Art” at Renaissance Art Gallery on January 2018.  During the exhibition were displayed: the originals of Danube Delta mapRomanian wine  map and the History of horses around the world map, as well as 2 prints of maps from the original exhibition at the National Museum of Maps and Old Books  that have been sold (History of Coffee map and the History of the automobile  map) and 4 other prints of maps custom made previously:

History of sailing vessels map, that was exhibited together with an original study made for the map on leather painted with tempera with egg for the “Galleo” in latin and in English is called “galley”  that was later donated by the Artist and Renaissance Art Gallery to be live auctioned at the Light into Europe charity Ball in February 2018;

History of the chess map, exhibited with the framed original sketches made with watercolor & ink on paper of 20x28cm of all the 12 chess pieces (8 pawns, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 1 queen, 1 king);

Celestial map and Plansiferium Celeste (Planisferio Celeste Meridionale) exhibited with 7 original leather small painting of some of the 12 zodiacal signs (Constellation Pisces, Pisces, Gemini, Libra, Leo, Constellation Aquarius, Constellation Sagittarius, Sagittarius).

Renaissance Art Gallery had a very positive feedback of this new concept of introducing at Vali’s latest exhibition the possibility for the art& old maps& history lovers to acquire also copies of the already produced maps. Canvas prints varying from sizes of 35×50 cm to 120x 150 cm where available for sale at affordable prices and the Gallery continues to receive orders for prints.

“What I like about Vali apart from being the artist of a “thousand techniques” that she masters so well, is HER PASSION that she puts into art, into being an artist and truly enjoying any moment of her artist life. Weather she is present at the opening of her own Exhibition, or working hard to mount her exhibition in the Gallery, or talking with a Curator or a Gallerist, or alone in her studio painting or surrounded by her students, or researching for the preparation of her themed maps made on personal orders or weather she is on the field researching for her maps she has always  a  SMILE on her face and is accompanied by her signature LAUGH. And YES, she does her personal research even physically to live the experience of the people that have a passion that they want immortalize for the future generations – as an example she took ski lessons and spent a hole day skiing on a beautiful sunny, white winter day in Predeal Ski resort Romania followed by dinner with a reputable ski Instructor listening to his stories and watching famous ski races to get the feeling of it, to find out why the person who ordered the History of Ski map has her eyes lighted when she talks about this sport.

I love her laugh, her happiness and her positive attitude toward her clients, her students, her collaborators and towards the other artists.

I love her willingness to create custom made themed maps and all the patience she shows to listen to her Clients, followed by her own research she does for them, her capacity to make a work of huge complexity and time consuming and discover antique untold stories that she unfolds on each theme she is given and the way she manages to put on a painting such complexes historical themes.

She is just amazing, a truly accomplished artist that I’m positive it will remain in history and our grandchildren will admire in museums.” – Oana Visoiu Cutucache, owner of Renaissance Art Galley

Here is a link with the catalogue (only in RO) were you can visualize the maps –

 Vali Irina Ciobanu is currently working on 2 new personal for thematically maps:  History of the Pharmacy for a Pharmacy Chain Owner and the History of ski for a ski lover to be exhibited in a mountain chalet.

For more information on Vali’s work please contact Oana Visoiu at [email protected] or 0722381325.

Original maps still available for sale:

  1. Horses around the world map  watercolor and ink on leather, 160/130cm, price EUR 5,800 



2. DANUBE DELTA map –  Water color on vellum (leather- initial green colored, from Italy with special treatment for the leather, Vali works with them for 10 years as they know what she needs and want), 120/160cm; price EUR 5,800

3. Romanian wine map – watercolor and ink on leather,147/97cm, price EUR 4,800

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