In lately I’ve been thinking a lot about being an “artist” or what it means to me and how I got be an illustrator in the first place and decided to share with you my story, my creative journey so to speak.
As a kid I grew up believing that being an artist is a valuable and important thing to do, mostly thanks to my grandfather who was an architect and had a huge collection of books on art and architecture. I remember flipping through pages of Janson’s Art History even before I could read and admiring pictures. I liked to draw, as most kids do and I was pretty good at it. I would sometimes play “art exhibition”, displaying my drawings in hallway and trying to sell them (needless to say I didn’t earn anything hehe). But, as a kid I never dreamt of becoming an artist one day, it never occurred to me to do anything related to arts until I was 18, and it kind of happened by accident.
All I cared about in high school was going out, partying and cutting classes. I didn’t bother to study anything that didn’t interest me. I remember school psychologist took me in her office one time asking how come I have Ds in science classes (math, chemistry, physics etc) and straight As in humanities and languages (sociology, history, English, etc) how such discrepancy is possible and I calmly explained that I don’t bother studying boring subjects. She got enraged, of course.
But in my senior year I realized I should go to university because getting a job with only high school degree would be hard. But I wasn’t interested in studying anything! So, after thinking about the whole deal a bit, it dawned on me I liked art and that I would like to study art history. But one day I shared that idea with a friend who told me that getting into art history program is extremely difficult and I need to have good grades to get in, and she also mentioned jokingly that, if I like art, I have more chance getting into art school because they don’t care about grades, only if you can draw or not. And that sentence really changed my life :) It was an answer to my dilemmas, I figured, well I can’t go back in time and get better grades but I can learn how to draw in next 6 months and get into art school- and problem solved: I will be an university student!
Few days after my “revelation” I talked to a substitute teacher at our school and she mentioned her friend, Martina, is giving drawing lessons. I made an appointment with Martina and when we met she asked me: Can you draw at all? No, I replied. And, you’re sure you want to apply to Academy of fine art? Sure, I answered. Ok, then, draw two dots and connect them with a straight line, as straight as you can, she said. I could barely do it and Martina just looked at me in disbelief. But, somehow she decided to teach me drawing realistic nudes, portraits and still life and help me put together a portfolio necessary for admittance to academy.
Next 6 months I spent drawing, and drawing and drawing some more and i felt good about myself mostly because I had no idea how much I sucked (I was absolute beginner after all). A wake up call came on first day of entrance exams. Entrance exams for art academy lasted 4 days and inculcated drawing nudes, portraits, still life and comics. On the first day all students were supposed to bring their own drawing board. I had no idea what that meant so I just brought a piece of ink stained plywood in found in trash (literally!). It was much smaller than actual drawing board and I couldn’t put a big enough piece of paper on it. Plus, all the people taking the exam actually knew how to draw! They’ve been practicing for years! My drawings, compared to theirs looked like Celia Gimenez’s Jesus. I was sure I was doomed to fail until I heard that year, for the first time ever, professors are going to be interviewing each and every candidate to see who they’re dealing with. That moment I knew I was getting into art school because I was always great at interviews!
And, yes I did get admitted into academy of fine arts (even though I didn’t know how to draw, really) and spent next 4 years wishing I wasn’t. Why? Well, studying at ALU was an awful experience for me. I couldn’t fit in and I didn’t like my professors or classes. Plus my private life was a mess. You see , at the time me and my mom were living in Zaprešić and my father was working in my hometown, Vukovar, all week, coming home only on weekends. He was always a difficult, negative person but at the time his behavior got worse and downright abusive for reasons unknown to my mom and me. I remember how deeply sad I was that first year of college, I waited until Sunday night until my father would go back to Vukovar and then I would cry my heart out knowing that not only I’ll be spending entire week on university I don’t fit in but another weekend will come and I’ll have to put up with my father’s abusive behavior as well.
(Few years later, me and my mom discovered that reason for my father’s craziness and abuse was a fact he had an affair with a young woman in Vukovar who, in a manner of cheap soap-opera scenario decided to rob us from our family home, and unfortunately succeeded- but that’s whole other crazy story. My father did finally left and my parents got a divorce so my mom and I didn’t , at least, put up with constant abuse. Anyway, enough about that, this is a post about art, after all.)
Anyways, yes I hated studying animation (which was my major) and I was deeply miserable because of my family situation, and I needed an outlet of some sort. In 2002. I bought my first digital camera to make stop-motion animation which never happened. Instead I started taking pictures, obsessively, and photography really became my saving grace, it kept me sane during pretty crazy, surreal years of studying. During that time I didn’t think about what will I do for a living after graduation, or how will I (if at all) be able to monetize animation degree I was getting, I had no idea what it meant to be a professional artist. All I wanted to is to survive, emotionally, mentally , literally and to graduate as fast as I can, so I can move the hell out of university that made me feel like suffocating.
And, I did graduate,as soon as I could, back in 2006. not having a clue what to do next. I briefly felt a sense of relief but then something happened. I felt like everything bad I’ve been through in my life ( war, being , a refugee, moving around a lot, poverty, my father’s betrayal, wrong choice of college…) culminated in one point and crushed me. I got depressed, like clinically depressed, like I-can’t-stay-out-of-bed-for longer-than-10-minues depressed, like I can’t-go-outside-without-having-an-anxiety-attack depressed. I felt I was in hell, and in one way, I was. I felt dead, and metaphorically speaking I did die. But at the same time, defeating depression was the most valuable lesson of my life. I learned so much about myself and others, as well, and it really made me stronger, wiser, more confident. However it took me few years to fully recover and during that time I didn’t make any art. I did take a lot of photos, especially selfies, it was very therapeutic). I also tried different jobs, from tarot card reading (yes, I can do that) to video editing.
And, then, in 2008. I started my first blog with an intention to post some of my photos there (that’s why it’s called three little cameras), but I found about Illustration Friday and decided to start drawing again, to give it a go. I enjoyed it a lot and, to my surprise, people actually liked it! You see, while in art school, my work was continually criticized by teachers, labeled as weird, or disappointing (no matter what I did, classical, animation, video art, drawings…) and this was the first time people, illustrators and artists reacted positively to my work! I was feeling happy and motivated to keep on drawing, keep on creating. And not only people liked my work they wanted to buy it as well! Wow! I really felt so happy and grateful and I can really say blogging and posting my stuff online really changed my life for the better.
Fast forward 5 years and I’m still drawing, taking pictures (and blogging) and loving it. But I’ve been also asking myself what’s next? What it is I would really love to achieve, in which direction should my work evolve? I still haven’t figured it out completely but I’m working on it, and I’m already making changes in my life, making space for new creative energy, for new opportunities, for new better life, for a start of brand new creative journey, a new chapter in my life. And, thank you for reading this particular quite lengthy “chapter” :) and also for following my work! I’m sending you much love!