masterpieces in fingernail size

Abstract paintings, edgy textures, unconventional palettes, inspirational patterns –  Berlin-based nail artist’s Anna Petrenko creations are unique, especially in Europe and Germany. Only few artists can bring – neither by taste nor technique – this arty vibe to the finger tips.  With her extraordinary eye for design she’s painting in the same league as Japanese and Korean Insta-famous manicurists, but adding a certain elegance to each creation.

Anna studied architecture, worked as an editor, had an online interior shop – until she moved from Moscow to Berlin with her husband – And noticed the lack of modern manicure salons offering high quality nail art. She enrolled in a manicure course (in Russia) to learn the technique and apply it to her aesthetics. Back in Germany, she made nail art her profession.

We talked with to Anna about her inspiration, customers and, of course the future of nail art.


  • Why did you choose nails as your medium?

I remember reading an interview with Madeleine Poole, a nail artist and ambassador for Sally Hansen and her saying that nails are like small canvases — “they are shiny, wearable and on the the body”. It opened me a whole new perspective. Nails are something everybody has, they are in front of your and other people’s eyes all the time. Nail art is affordable, easily changeable and fun. And there is something really satisfying in having a quick and distinct result every time — you apply your skills and your vision and it instantly makes someone else more beautiful and happy.

  • Who is coming to you for nail art?

There is a pool of ongoing clients, whom I know pretty well already. I know what they like in a matter of style and there is a huge credit of trust they give me. They are ladies of different attitude and lifestyle but I always enjoy the variety and our regular chats help me see life in all its diversity.

  • How is your creative process?

It depends on if a client has any particular vision or not. I always ask them to send me inspiration pictures (if there are any) in advance so I could figure out best way to transfer their idea onto nails. There is always a way to manage a client’s request even if it’s not your cup of tea. For example, one client picked Chagall’s paintings as their source of inspiration and to be brutally honest I hate Chagall. So instead of drawing chicks and flying people on her nails I used Chagall’s blue-green-hint of purple color palette which is pretty recognizable and created some abstract stains and strokes design that nevertheless screamed Chagall and made her happy. I also have a private account on Instagram, where I post pictures that I’d love to turn into nail designs. It can be modern art, random design prints, a Valentino dress or a pile of colorful erasers. Girls often choose from this selection which is already pre-approved by me. It helps me embody my fantasies and eases their torment of choice — win-win situation! Regarding creative process itself it was hard in the beginning and I even had nightmares in which a client asks me for a design and I either don’t know how to execute it or spend too much time on details that are not crucial. It’s so much better now, all it takes is practicing techniques and designing patterns, that will help you turn any picture into nail art as some magic mobile app would do.

  • Where do you get your nails done?

I do my nails myself. My hands serve as a showcase of what I do. Besides, I normally don’t know in advance, which design I’m going to make on my nails, there is always room for improvisation, trying different techniques, changes. A lot of changes. Sometimes it takes me a hell of a lot of time. I just put on my air pods, play some cool podcast and go with the flow.

  • How did nail art evolve in the past years, and what do you see for the future, in aesthetics but also how it is approached?

There is this Russian saying that makes me cringe: “The simpler the girl, the more complex her nail art is”. Usually being dropped by ladies who accept 3 types of nail design in their lives: nude, red and French. I’m glad this mindset is getting a thing of the past. For me it’s just another boundary we are getting rid of in perception how a woman (or a man) should look like. I see same trends in approach for makeup, thanks to “Euphoria” it went widely spread. Nail art, makeup — these are just some other channels to translate your style and have fun. Don’t want to have fun? Get out of the way. I see more and more complex nail art projects on red carpets and in fashion campaigns, nail art is becoming a great marketing instrument. I’d like to see a variety of cool and easily adjustable nail stick-ons being sold in designer concept stores along with other accessories. Also male nail art is becoming a huge trend right now as well as experiments with shapes and volume, and questioning limits of what’s considered bad taste and what’s not anymore.

  • Where do you look for inspriation?

Everywhere really. I’m a huge fan of primitive and tribal art, antiques, ceramics, jewellery. Decorative art of all sorts has great impact on what I do. Also nature: I absolutely adore animal print, stone and wooden textures. Last time I went to Berlin Aquarium I took almost a hundred pictures of corals, sea horses and jellyfish. I spend way more time on Instagram than I should following new graphic designers, art galleries, carpet makers, other nail artists every day. Basically, I got used to “seeing nails” everywhere, be it layered concert posters on Berlin walls or fish scale. But it turns out my favorite works are always inspired by something very personal: my collection of small ceramic vases or traditional Russian hand-painted toy from my father’s hometown.

Laura Dunkelmann
[Photo ]
Anna Kazakova/Kate Nichi
Oktober 14, 2019
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