Russian Artist Captures Time in Downtown Knoxville

Vasiliy Nasonov taught himself law, and his friends and family came to him for advice. He taught himself fashion, and he sewed for his wife and children. He taught himself oil painting, and, although he never knew it, he taught at least one granddaughter how to live.

“Once only, I saw one painting,” native Russian and area resident Inna Nasonova Knox says. “It was a sailing boat in a storm.” She pauses to look back on her childhood. “I don’t know where it went after my grandmother died.”

She was just like the grandfather she never met: an artist. As a preschooler, she didn’t want to go out to play with the other kids.

“I would go off like a siren if anyone tried to make me leave my drawings,” she says. “If I would get a pack of paper my father would bring, it was like a holiday gift.”

She graduated from Art College in Kazan and went on to St. Petersburg Art University Muhinoi.

“It was one of the most famous colleges in the country,” she says. “It was very, very hard to get into. I was accepted into interior design.”

To support herself, she painted.

“I was supporting myself 100 percent by art—selling my paintings. I had so much homework that I was painting only as much as I needed to live.”

A nearby cathedral, the ornate and expansive Savior on the Spilled Blood Church, was her best-seller.

“We didn’t do prints,” Inna says. “We didn’t use that technology. When I was running low on cash, I would paint another. It was a tourist area by the church. I ended up with all kinds of money—Japanese, German, French—but I needed rubles.”

She graduated and took a job as a front desk assistant and fashion consultant.

She moved to the U.S. in 2000. In Wisconsin, she tried oils for the first time and never looked back.

Now Inna is happily ensconced in her studio and classroom at her husband, John Knox’s, business building on Watt Road. Her old moneymaker, “Savior on the Blood Church,” hangs in the hallway.

She estimates she’s sold about 400 paintings and prints over the last few decades, including landscapes, cityscapes, animals and portraits.

Does painting make her feel good?

“I don’t know. Not painting doesn’t make me feel good. It’s part of my nature. It’s what I do.

“I paint fast,” she says pointing to a barn in Townsend she did with the plein air group she belongs to. She prefers a palette knife over a brush and many of her paintings have been completely done with a knife.

In 2015, she won sponsor’s choice in plein air competition at the Dogwood Arts Festival. During the 2017 Knoxville Museum of Art plein air competition, she sold three immediately.

“I sell in Nashville at York and Friends and at Bennett Gallery,” she says. “I sell here in Knoxville on Gay Street in the Art Market. I’m a member of Art Guilt of Tellico Village and Art & Culture Alliances, and also do commission work. Portraits of people or animals are pretty much word-of-mouth.

“In the last six months, I’ve started focusing on Knoxville urban scenes,” she says. “At first I was taking out people and cars, but then I decided I wanted to put people, cars and signs in. I like to put life and time in. I like to really detail the fashion people are wearing—purses, umbrellas and shoes. In 100 years, my great-grandchildren will say ‘Look at that!’”

She also offers painting classes for groups of four or more women.

For more information, call 865.766.9687 or visit