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Interview With "Start Art!" Hosts Özgün and Daniel

If you haven't heard it before, this duo have been gaining a lot of notice both on YouTube and Instagram! I wanted to interview them and learn who they are, see what is the secret behind their success.

"Start Art!" / "Sanata Başla!" Team holding a piece of fine art!

E: Who are Özgün and Daniel?

Ö: I am Özgün Yılmazok, the author and the creator of the art history and painting analysis platform Sanata Başla! in Turkish and Start Art! in English.

I have studied engineering and am still working in that field. However, I have been very interested in art since I was a little child. I started art with drawing and looking at images of paintings from art history. That grew into a passion in time. I have traveled to all major museums in Europe and have seen many masterpieces. In 2012, I created Sanata Başla! as a platform to explain famous paintings to absolute beginners to art in a simple and non-complicated fashion.

Sanata Başla! / Start Art! has been active for the last 8 years. I have recently launched a new project on YouTube called “Art Talks for Beginners!”, in which I collaborate with Daniel.

Özgün Yılmazok

D: And I’m Daniel Lynch. I studied language and literature at university and I met Özgün through a mutual friend, just at a time when I was starting to realise that I knew next to nothing about fine art! I’ve been interested in orchestral music ever since I was a young teenager, but I seem somehow to have completely missed out on everything to do with art! I was lucky to meet Özgün when I did, and now feel a lot more comfortable looking at paintings, even though the more you learn, the more you realise there is left to learn about!

Daniel Lynch

E: Tell us about “Art Talks for Beginners!”. What do you talk about in that series?

Ö: Art Talks for Beginners is an extension of my website on analyzing paintings and explaining them to beginners to art. This time it is in a video format on YouTube.

D: Özgün is great at explaining what can seem complicated and daunting at first and in order to make it seems less scary, we thought he might need to bring along a complete beginner to give that perspective. Paintings can seem very overwhelming and esoteric to a beginner, so we hope to break that down and make it more easily accessible.

Ö: Exactly! Daniel is the beginner to art in this series and he asks “idiot’s” questions to me about paintings and I explain the symbols and tell the story behind for each painting.

D: We usually start with what I see in the paintings, from a beginner’s perspective. I talk about what things stick out and what I think could be happening in the scene. Then Özgün explains the story behind the painting—if there is one!—and then we review the painting again, looking for symbols and clues that could give it away. Then we move into more technical details about the painting and whether or not it is typical of a given period. The more we go, the more I can identify some of the basics, but art has a long history and there are plenty of masterminds who can shock you by doing something very out of the ordinary, so it’s good to stay on your toes!

Who should definitely watch “Art Talks for Beginners!”?

Ö: It is a series for beginners to art. So, anyone who is interested in art can watch and have fun. As I always say, it is the interest in art that is essential, not the background information. So, if you are interested in learning more about paintings, but the only paintings you know are Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, then you are the perfect follower for Art Talks for Beginners!

D: I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the same position as I was when we first starting: someone who wants to know more about art, but has no idea where to start. Before, when I looked at paintings I had no idea which century it could’ve been painted in, why it was so effective, and what made some things more effective than others. Now when I go to museums, I look at the paintings in a completely different way. I know which painters to look out for and can even identify the influence of some painters on others! There’s a lot to learn, and while it might seem overwhelming, where better to start than with us?

How long have you been running your channel for? Did the format change in time? If yes, why?

Ö: Start Art!’s YouTube channel has become active around April 2020. So it is pretty recent. I started with a project called “5-Minute Art!” in English and “5 Dakikalık Sanat!” in Turkish first. In those projects I explained paintings again but without showing myself in the videos. And Daniel selected the background music for those videos.

D: I was happy to help by finding music from a similar period to the paintings themselves, and something that gave the right feel for the context of the painting.

Ö: Later Daniel suggested that it would be more dynamic and interesting if it were in a conversation format. And I thought “Why don’t we do it together Daniel?” And then we started recording the episodes for “Art Talks for Beginners!”

What kind of feedback do you get from your followers?

Ö: We are still trying to build up a follower base. Start Art! has more than 750 followers today. But we need more. And we are trying to engage them in responding to the videos and create more discussions.

D: We’re also still developing the style of the videos. It can be a bit scary to get in front of a camera and start talking, not to mention all the preparation that goes into them, from research to editing. So we’re grateful for any and all feedback we get from viewers. I can definitely see that we’re getting into a groove in the later episodes, compared to the first one (much less material for bloopers these days!).

What are some of your future projects?

Ö: I think we will continue recording new episodes of “Art Talks for Beginners!” for a while. As a future project I am also thinking about having Video Guides for specific cities and museums like: “Which art pieces to see in Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence” or “What are the most important art museums in Paris” etc.

Do you have a website that people can reach out to you?

Start Art! / Sanata Başla! has the following website in English and Turkish:

Instagram Account: @sanata_basla

E: Thank you very much! It was a pleasure to meet you both! I'm excited to see your next videos and projects!

Ö: Thank you, it was our pleasure!

D: Thank you!

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