Isn’t sky the most beautiful abstract painting ever? Whenever I can I like to go for a walk after work to look at the sunset and admire the beauty of it. As an abstract art lover I find it incredibly inspiring and kinda wish I could soak in all the colors and take them home with me. But instead I do the next best thing, I take pictures of the sky (often intentionally out of focus: to abstract the scene even more, to try and capture dominant colors in the scene etc) and then use to images as an inspiration for my paintings.
In May, what now seems not months but centuries ago I set out to finish one of my ongoing series At the Edge of a Galaxy and figured it needs only one big final painting so it can be done. As I was cheerfully thinking about making that one final painting a thought rushed through my mind: “It’s alright you’ll finish it in November when things calm down.” It was one of those thought you don’t know where it comes from and you certainly don’t want to have it especially when you’re ready to finish something RIGHT NOW and not in 6 months. And of course I had no idea what would happen and what would need to calm down so I decided to just ignore that thought. Oh, well (insert the sound of evil movie laughter). I won’t share what has been happening in my life since May but it seems like that indeed I won’t be able to focus on finishing my series until November (if even then). But even though life has been crazy I still did manage to make some art that I’m pleased with so I’ll just share the images.
The image on the top of this post was originally called The sun and the moon coming together because of the obvious reasons but I later renamed it to Integration. It was made in mid July during one of rare positive and optimistic periods this Summer when I felt a sense of coming together and integration of some part of my psyche and for maybe first time in my life I felt like what I need and want are one of the same. I felt very hopeful at the moment of making that image (perhaps naively so) and could clearly imagine and feel a solution to some issues that have been pressing for a long time.
I made this one for lunar eclipse in late July. Originally I wanted to make something more impressive but gave up and ended up with this image of tomato like full Moon. I was really looking forward to viewing the eclipse and wanted to see the blood Moon but that night was very, very cloudy in Zagreb area where I live. However I woke up just after dawn when the weather cleared up to see very pretty, pale pink Moon just about to set.
The painting above was made in response to a song request on my tumblr. I’ve been making paintings inspired by music since January 2017 and so far I made 126 of them (!!!) This was a response to the most requested song so far: Let It Happen by Tame Impala.
This one is one of the most recent paintings and it was inspired by an image I saw on tumblr:
Originally I intended to paint Saturn floating in an ocean but then I thought I rather have it melt away :)
And to finish of this post here is an image of a small rainbow Moon because most of my art this past few months has been inspired by either music or astrology (not intentionally so).
What turns you on creatively? What do you need to get excited to create, to feel inspired to make art?
Personally, I need to dream big, think big, plan big. I am really turned on by challenging myself to work on big, demanding projects that take a long time to complete. I am drawn to the intensity of working on all-absorbing, challenging goals that require total commitment and a lot of focus, the projects you have to put a lot of effort into, projects that test your patience and self-confidence but offer a promise of personal growth, catharsis and transformation. Projects that, dare I say, feel really epic and monumental. I like to surrender myself to my work, pushing it as far as I can, testing my own limits and then reaping sweet rewards of growth and self-discovery :) Creating a series of let's say 100 paintings wasn't enough for me, I had to go and make over a 1000.
The other thing that turns me on as an artist is an idea that creative process isn't just a creative process but a chance to explore your inner world, confront your own issues, purge yourself emotionally, I am interested in art as a tool for healing, art as therapy I guess. One of the reasons I love making abstract art is that I can express whatever I want using this universal language of colors and shapes and even deal with some rather deep, "dark" issues yet still keep them private. I like this idea of revealing my own inner world to myself yet keeping it hidden to anyone else simultaneously.
There are many other things that also turn me on creatively, like using drawing ink in unexpected ways, working with colors, color theory etc but taking on big ideas and projects to test myself and grow as a person is really my main deal. The work I'm doing is literally very simple, I stain fancy paper with colored ink then doodle on it using nice pens but when I do it from this view point of it ends up being very rewarding, cathartic, healing and not just mere paper decorating :)
Technically, for me, making art is a roughly a two step process. First step is making of an under-painting: staining high quality watercolor paper with with ink and water. This is purely expressive, no-brainier step that I like to envision as a metaphor of the flow of pure emotion, of raw emotional energy. I let ink drip on wet paper, either directly from a bottle or from a tip of a large brush and let it freely mix with water allowing the two mediums to combine and merge as they please creating interesting effects. This mixing of ink and water is only loosely guided by my hand and brush gestures (the nature of these gestures is usually dictated by my emotional state) but basically I allow ink and water to and move and dance on their own, so to speak. I like to work in layers, as ink and water have done their dance I let the stain dry then repeat the process building an interesting texture which becomes a foundation for my artwork.
Step two is drawing (using either brush or gel ink pens) intricate patterns on top of my texture. I see this step as expression of mental energy since I see my patterns, dots and clusters of tiny circles, lines etc as thought forms, thought patterns. Unlike the first step that I just sort of, allow to happen, this is a very deliberate, conscious process of picking and choosing which parts of the underlying texture to accentuate and embellish and which simple shapes to use, what kind of patterns to create. The ultimate goal is to make a harmonious blend of the two, of the expressive, raw, free flowing emotional energy and conscious, deliberate, somewhat calculated thought process. This process of harmonizing the two can sometimes feel like a challenging balancing act but once it's achieved I consider the artwork finished. Of course, another important goal of all this harmonizing and balancing is to create something beautiful, beautiful art is always the goal.
When I was very little, maybe four or five years of age I strongly believed that when I close my eyes and gaze into the dark space in front of me I can see the universe. Often I could also see many, many tiny golden specks in that dark space which resembled twinkling stars and that helped solidify my belief that I was looking at the universe. Not only I believed I could see the universe every time I close my eyes I was sure I became the universe, I could feel it, here I am just a kid with eyes wide open observing the world around me but if I close my eyes and look towards the infinite I become the universe itself, it was just so easy. It was almost like a game I played, becoming the universe whenever I felt like it.
I'm not sure how I got to think about infinity and universe at such young age but it was probably due to growing up around my architect grandpa who was really into higher math, geometry and sacred geometry and very often gave me long talks about his favorite subjects. He especially enjoyed talking about human (in)ability to understand the infinite and he loved the idea of designing a time machine (according to him, it would be in a shape of a hypercube). As a kid I had no clue what he was talking about but I liked listening to him and watching him sketch. As an art student I did study sacred geometry but sadly I was never good at math so I could probably not understand what my grandfather was talking about even today, as an adult. But I am still fond of my childhood game of closing my eyes and becoming the universe, except these days I call it meditation :)
I started regularly meditation about 12 years ago when someone told me that doing breathing exercises and meditation can make one quit smoking. Since I wanted to quit that seemed like an excellent idea so I went to a local bookstore and got some book by an old Japanese author describing various mediation techniques. They all sounded rather complicated but I can recall the author saying I should "breathe from the stomach and not use nose as a pump" so I just went with that. My meditation attempts turned out to be a very effective placebo and I manged to quit smoking no problem never to smoke anything since then.
These days I just like to sit on my couch cross legged, close my eyes, tune in and chill for as long as I can, no special techniques, no rules, just relaxation. I'm not sure I'd even call that practice a mediation but it works for me. Sometimes, not very often, but from time to time, when I'm super chilled I can see an image in my mind, an illustration or a painting (it's not my intention to imagine or "see" anything it just happens spontaneously). Usually those mental images are very complex and I wouldn't know how to paint them even if I tried but sometimes they are more simple and memorable like the line drawings (see above and look below) I've been making during last few weeks. The images of colorful, vibrating lines appeared way more complex and colorful in my mind but it was still super fun to try and draw them anyway. It was so pleasing to make them at one point it felt like I could just keep drawing colorful wavy lines for the rest of my life, infinitely... until at one moment I felt full and satiated and done with line art :) But still, it was a wonderful experience that resulted in much joy and few nice pictures.
I thought I was done with my art project but it turns out the project wasn't done with me.
As I mentioned many times before I started a personal art project Ink Flower Garden in January 2014. with an intention of creating 1000 ink drawings and paintings, finding my own style as an artist and just learning about myself as a person in general. The project turned out to be a very intense journey that officially ended in December 2017. It was a very rewarding experience but nevertheless super intense one and that's probably why I can recall the exact moment I scanned the last 1000th image and saved it. It was December 13th, mid-afternoon and as I was saving the image I loudly declared "It is over, I am done."
Except it wasn't over and I wasn't done. I still felt inspired to keep on drawing and painting in same vein and kept on adding new images to my portfolio site, slowly finishing up several ongoing series I've been working on for years. This Spring, when I made a final image for Enter the Underworld series I was filled with so much relief and joy that it felt like the project must have been finished, like, this time for real. But, it wasn't.
There is (at least) one more series that needs to be worked on, At the Edge of a Galaxy. I started (officially) working on it in June 2016. and as the series begun to take shape I believed it was about planets and outer space being a metaphor for my relationships with men. You see, I use my paintings sort of like Rorschach inkblots, I allow myself to paint whatever I want, intuitively and then after a while come back to images wondering what do they mean. It's a bit like self-proscribed art therapy, I guess. But, yes, I thought I had At the Edge of a Galaxy series all figured out when, honestly I forced finished it last Autumn by "importing" a bunch of images from another series and calling it done. Why did I do that? Well, I wanted it to be done, I felt that my "edgy, galactic" series was getting kind of dark and I didn't really want to explore it further, I didn't want to feel uncomfortable or face emotional pain. But, the fear of emotional pain is much worse than experiencing acute emotional pain itself. As soon as you face emotional pain and realize what is causing it, it subsides and dissolves. So, few days ago I cleared out the galactic series by deporting some images back where they belong (Deep Sea/Deep Space series) and now I'm ready to see what's hiding in deep, dark depths of my psyche and paint it out to wrap up At the Edge of a Galaxy series as well as the entire project.
Before I even started the Ink Flower Garden project years ago I knew that I wanted it to function as a whole so I can either make it into an art book or something else that would suit the project and that's why it's important to me to have all the series be properly finished, to feel finished. They don't feel finished yet, but very, very soon they might. Let's hope so :)
Today I’d like to share something different than usual, a writing exercise I've been practicing over past few weeks that helped me get much clearer on what I want to do next in life, not just art wise but in general. Although I’m not a writer it was an incredibly fun exercise and it helped me to figure out what I’d really like to experience in life (as opposed to what I believe I should do next).
Ok, so I have a secret tumblr that I use for reblogging inspiring images, it’s mostly beautiful nature photos, lovely landscapes, pretty looking interiors, flowers, art I enjoy and such. Few weeks ago, as I was scrolling through it I got an idea to start writing little stories based around the images I found the most appealing. I picked out a photo of a lake and stared describing exactly what I was noticing on it: shore, flowers growing on the shore, clam, blue water, sun setting on a horizon etc. Then I imagined I was actually standing by that lake and begun to wonder why am I there by asking myself bunch of questions like: “Am I here on vacation? Who am I with? Or am I traveling alone? Am I here to take photos? Or am I visiting a friend in town nearby?” I continued to build a story around the answer that felt best, that turned me on the most and I kept writing about it in great detail describing how being by that lake made me feel, getting into my plans what to do next... I didn’t write much at first, only three pages and I didn’t care about the quality of my writing either but it was so fun I decided to keep doing the exercise every day.
Every day I’d pick out at least three different photos from my the archives of my secret blog to write short fictional stories about while focusing on writing about what turns me the most, what makes me feel the best, what genuinely interests me and letting my imagination soar without any restrictions. Soon it became one of my favorite things to do and after a few weeks of indulging in it I noticed a pattern appearing. No matter what kind of photograph I was describing, no matter which image I used as spring board for my imagination (a landscape, a houseplant, peach orchard, nicely designed living room...) I would always come up with a similar story involving same activities, same type of people, and me experiencing same emotions. I was bit surprised with what I kept writing about but it lead me to a logical conclusion that if this thing makes me so happy to fantasize about and I keep writing about it then I should just go ahead and make it happen in real life. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made so now I’m taking baby steps to make my fantasies come true:)
But, why did I need to write a bunch of fictional stories to figure out what I really want to do and experience? Probably because every time I’d try to journal about what I’d like to achieve I’d end up writing about stuff I believe I should do next, things that felt rational, next logical steps to take, things other people advised me to try, goals and plans that are in line with where I’m already at (even though none of them felt just right). Writing fiction helped me unlock imagination, override mental blocks, limiting beliefs and and get in touch with my true desires. I’m very grateful to figure out what I actually want to do (as opposed of what I believed I should be doing) and now I’m on my way to make my dream happen ♥
On my work desk I keep a small jar of honey somebody gave me as a birthday present last year. I find it very aesthetically pleasing and inspiring to look at especially during the afternoon hours as the sunlight fills out the room. I look at my little jar of honey, a pot of liquid gold illuminated by sunshine, sparkling and think of all the ways I wish I could capture the essence of this gorgeous yellow in my paintings. I let my imagination take the lead and think of various, random things this pretty rich yellow color reminds of: thick, sticky amber syrup, warmth of a hot August evening, golden hour etc... The process usually puts me into a really good mood and also inspires me to create something.
I've been also very much inspired by beautiful flowers, their colors and shapes and fragrance in lately (hey, it's spring after all!). Last week I got a bouquet of pretty pink roses (my all time favorites) and I just couldn't stop looking at them, enjoying their perfect, delicate coral shade, their soft petals as if I wanted to soak in all of their beauty so I can somehow transfer it to my art. I must have starred at the flowers for a very long time since at one point I caught myself writing down these words into one of my notebooks: "Does a rose flower know it's being watched and does it care about being seen? How would it describe itself, if it could name itself what would that name be?"
I don't know answer to those questions but I do know inspiration can be found in simple, mundane objects and lovely flowers and in last few weeks I keep on noticing more and more everyday things and sights and sounds and scents that make me inspired and energized and eager to create.
I really wanted to make something for vernal equinox this year to greet the spring after seemingly never ending stream of grey, chilly days and I ended up making this bright yellow image. It was partly inspired by music I was listening at the time and partly by craving sunlight. As the time went by I realized this painting would be perfect final image in Enter the Underworld series. I really thought I was done with that series and didn't want to return to it since working on it (especially finishing it) was quite challenging. The series starts with an image of an eclipsed sun (done for spring equinox in 2015.) so maybe ending it with an image of bright sun (also done for spring equinox) is the right way to end it. After exactly 3 years in making filled with a lot of emotions, illness, stress but also joy and ectasy it deserves to be finally finished :)
After I made Spring equinox image I just wanted to keep on painting sun: small sun, happy sun, sweet sun, lemon-yellow round ball sun, vibrant orb sun, joyful sun radiating tiny colorful particles, whatever sun, sun-shine, sun-light...and I started with a simple and fun illustration of a sunrise.
After that I wanted to paint an even bigger sun and pulled out the biggest paper I had at my place at the time (50x70cm) and quickly made this simple image of sun. I didn't do much work on it, after the ink dried I filled the yellow center with hand-draw circles and that was it. I hung the paper on the wall planning to finish it when I feel like it but few weeks have passed since then and my sun image still hangs there intact and I quite like it that way.
When it comes to art I'm a bit of a maximalist, I'm inclined to keep on adding more and more, more layers of ink, more patterns and details to my images until I'm sure I have exhausted every idea and until all of my energy is exhausted by working on the picture. Sometimes my approach works great and sometimes I simply suffocate the paper with too much detail. Generally it's hard for me to stop working on my art :) But this sun, there is something different about it, I love looking at it, I enjoy the fact that it isn't finished, it just isn't done, it's still in the early stage of becoming, it's simple and fresh and feels light and open and full of possibility and just makes me happy hanging there on the wall looking at me :) I'm not sure if I'll ever finish it, it feels so amazing just to let it be as it is.
Speaking of unfinished art I managed to finish the painting above in one frenzied afternoon. I wanted to do something with bunch of old acrylics I had stacked in the back of my closet (since I almost exclusively use ink these days I have had a box of decade old acrylic paints that has been just taking up space). I even decided to record the process and it all started like great fun but in one moment and, I can't tell why, it turned into torture. I wasn't happy how the painting was turning out but couldn't just let it go and stop working on it, my camera would stop working recording only 30 seconds at the time and 2 light bulbs exploded. Oh, well. Eventually I did set the mess of a painting aside and forgotten I even recorded most of the "making of" process. Few weeks went by and I decided to take photos of the messy painting because, why not, not everything turns out great and making bad art is still ok. I even uploaded the video on my youtube, it's just practice anyway.
I found a new pleasure in simplicity, in letting things be simple and easy so I've been just doodling a lot, being playful with colorful shapes and lines not forcing myself to add too many details and not exhausting all of my energy drawing. It's been fun.
Actually, everything I've been doing in lately has been fun, so much fun. I don't know why but I've been feeling ridiculously happy for no special reason whatsoever and been enjoying all of my activities. last week I was at my mom's place alone and just felt do happy and awesome I wanted to capture the moment so I started taking selfies jsut for the fun of it.
I've also been enjoying taking long walks and looking at all of the beautiful blossoms and of course soaking in all the warm sunshine I can. It's been a wonderful moth so far and I have a feeling it will only get bettr and better!
A few weeks ago I had some time off and spent it making art, as usual. I made three small paintings over the period of three very productive days and I also recorded "the making of" process.
I remember images I haven’t created yet, recall paintings yet to be painted and feel nostalgic about photos I am yet to take.
In a world of images concept of time doesn’t exist, past, present and future are all blended into one and can be accessed by allowing yourself to experience them as raw emotions, sometimes “positive”: joy, bliss, ecstasy… and sometimes “negative”: sadness, longing, fear, etc.
Last year I listened to an interview with writer Colm Tóibín about “the important function of a novel’s first sentence as a catalyst for the rest of the book” and as it resonated with me I would think about it every now and then.
I’m not a writer but many times a sudden and spontaneous occurrence of a single image in my mind, an intense feeling rising in my body, a spark of a curious idea or even a single sentence would move me to create an entire art project.
Few weeks ago I realized I have fallen into a routine with my painting and needed to do something about it so I took a break to get some rest and then to try to make new, exciting paintings. While short rest period certainly helped to get an energy boost and find joy in painting again I couldn’t make a desired breakthrough.
Forcing creative breakthroughs is never a good idea so instead of working on art, one late afternoon I went for a long walk exploring the part of my neighborhood I don’t know well. I walked along a narrow street parallel to the train tracks. As the trains went by the sound of passing wagons put me in a strange mood, evoking nostalgia about my early childhood and also made me think of distant trains in de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings. I kept wondering could a symbol of a train be an universal symbol of nostalgia and longing (at least for modern humans). My thought process was interrupted by arriving to the end of the road and seeing a wide meadow with a view of open sky and mountains in the distance.
The sun was about to set and sky was colored with every tone of blue imaginable mixed with occasional strokes of deep oranges and pinks and stained with patches of dark grey clouds. The beautiful scene got me thinking: “What do we look at when we look at a gorgeous sunset or a sunrise?”
We are actually looking at colors, free of form, floating on an endless canvas of sky. And this experience of color free of form, this impression of boundless beauty moves us, elates us, inspires us, it often brings up very deep sense of awe and admiration for the the world that surrounds us and enhances our connection to it, connection to the nature and all that is.
This effect of directly experiencing colors free of form is apparent in the art world as well, for example in Rothko’s work. If you look at one of his classical “color field” canvases for long enough you might have a similar emotional experience as if you were gazing at the sky during a beautiful sunset.
As I was contemplating colors and Rothko and still in a strange nostalgic mood and enjoying a fascinating sunset an unusual sentence entered my mind “I remember images I haven’t created yet.” and was followed by another thought: “I recall paintings yet to be painted and feel nostalgic about photos I am yet to take.”
What was that? I’m not sure but those simple sentences possessed me and I could feel their potential, the potential of starting a brand new art project. I could, for a split second, indeed remember images and photographs I haven’t taken yet but I will in near future and could feel their energy and mood.
If you asked me to describe those images in detail, I couldn’t, but I can still feel them and can sense they will somehow deal with nostalgia and longing and exploration of colors, perhaps colors free of form.
So, this spring that’s the direction I want to take, live with this somewhat absurd idea of remembering the images that I am yet to create and building another series of pictures around it. Let’s see what happens next.
There is this game I've been playing with myself: often I'll make a painting inspired by someone, a person in my life, someone close to me I know well or someone I haven't figured out yet but I'd like to get to know better. After I finish an image inspired by another person I go through my portfolio looking in which of the five ongoing series of paintings the picture could fit into. But that's not the "game" part of the process.
The thing is, for me to better understand and categorize my own work I made a connection between the series of paintings and astrology. You see, when you're an intuitive painter and your art revolves around emotions, inner worlds and process of self discovery you gotta do extra little something to help you navigate those inner worlds and not get drowned in pure emotion. Since I've been very much into astrology (for over twenty years now, time flies) I've linked my art series with planetary aspects, for example I call The House of Indefinable Pleasures my Venus/Neptune series (I have that particular aspect in my birth chart so it makes sense to me). Deep sea/Deep Space is another one of Neptuinan series (in that case I think of more about Neptune in aspect with Sun) and Uncharted Territory is my Uranian series etc.
So, when I intuitively make a painting inspired by someone else and go about to see where the image fits an astrologer in me wants to see which "planetary energies" the object of my inspiration corresponds the most, like: "Wow, a painting about this guy fits into my Plutonian series (Enter the Underworld), what does that mean?"
Others don't have to know anything about astrology to understand my work, I am totally ok with people interpreting my work any way they want and I almost never go telling others I made a painting about them either, it's just a little fun game I play with myself, merging art and astrology and creating a weird system for myself. I guess, since both art and astrology have been such huge interests of mine it was bound to happen :) It's been so personally fulfilling to work this way I've been constantly thinking how to connect my art and interest in astrology in deeper way. I have no idea how to go about it yet, but I'm sure it will reveal itself to me.
On an unrelated note here is my latest painting, it's called Cauldron and it's about cooking up some new ideas.
Few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday morning, still curled up in my bed I wrote in my journal: "As I wake up I peel away my night skin made of enigmatic dreams, unfulfilled desires and longings..."
Almost every morning I fill pages of my notebook with whatever comes to mind, stream of consciousnesses style so no surprise much of my writing sounds nonsensical and I don't ever analyze or rarely even go back to it but this sentence stuck with me and in days to come I couldn't stop thinking about my "night skin" and meaning of it.
As I was going through my archives I stumbled upon an old painting called Nocturnal bloom, a dark blue and purple texture I was always very fond of. Even though it's from 2015 I can still recall exactly how it was made: I woke up feeling super restless and still in my PJs I started working on it without having a clear idea of what I was doing, in an almost trance like state. I don't usually finish my paintings in one day but I just couldn't stop working on this one. At one point I spilled a bottle of purple ink all over myself but that didn't prevent me from continuing to work on the painting. I made it in about 6 hours time which is super fast for me but somehow it worked, it made sense to me in all of its abstract, dark glory.
Looking at this old painting now and with its "nocturnal" title in mind I thought to myself I must have made it while still having my "night skin" on since I could feel an echo of "enigmatic dreams and unfulfilled longings" coming through it.
It made me realize that I made most of my best or favorite work from the same point of view, or better said while being in the same mode of operating, from the same, particular space: dark (but not in a sense of negative or destructive), enigmatic, mysterious, untamed, filled with desire and nocturnal in nature. In other words I make my best work while having my "night skin" on.
While pondering that I took some long exposure self portraits and other photos as well.
One of the most recent paintings I did that remind me of Nocturnal bloom is Metaphors of love and it's the last painting I also recorded myself making. I really want to shoot more work-in-progress videos but can't bring myself to do it, it's very hard for me to both paint and record the process, multitasking just ruins my flow unless I somehow manage to convince myself that recording is just as part of creative process as painting itself. In that case I approach painting as an act of performance captured on camera but since I'm not fond of performing I don't succeed in puling it off very often.
Currently I've been slowly but surely working on expanding The house of indefinable pleasures series and this little piece called Beloved is the latest addition to it. After years of predominately creating images in portrait orientation I decided to rotate my images which might not seem like an important thing to do but even such small change made me more inspired. I've been also doodling a lot just for practice and fun, drawing eyes or little stars.
Speaking of stars, I was very happy when I finally painted "a star of my own". Few months ago while finishing my mega project I was also struggling with finishing the series Enter the underworld. The series begins with an image of an eclipse and I knew the final image should somehow relate to it but I just had no idea what would it be. Eclipse was made on 21.03 2015. (during an actual eclipse) and it took me almost 3 years working on the series to come up with A star of your own painting that made me finally feel like the whole series is done.
I also felt I needed to make another painting that somehow relates to another image from 2015, White flame so when I made A vein of gold I knew the series was complete and it brought me a sense of relif and joy :)
I've been still making paintings inspired by music on the blog I actually update regularly (unlike this one oooops) and you can go there if you like to see those images or just scroll down to see some of my personal favorites inspired by song recommendations.
A couple of weeks ago I’ve finished the art project I’ve been working on for the past 4 years, project started in January 2014 with a goal of making 1000 ink paintings and drawings. Working on this project I always thought that when I finally create those 1000 images I’d feel exhausted, empty or even bored with with the repetitiveness of my own work but instead, to my surprise, I’ve felt very satisfied, energized and still very inspired to keep on making art.
The main reason why I even produced this big body of work over past few years is inspiration, I’ve simply felt inspired to do it, to do it for the love of making art, working with color and pattern, out of the need to develop my own style, to get to know myself as a person, to let my vision unravel...
Although pretty challenging at times this process was incredibly rewarding and it made me absolutely fall in love with working with colored ink creating small pieces on paper. It is generally believed that artists create small pieces on paper out of convenience (if, for example, they don't have a big studio space to work in or can't afford to buy many large canvases) but I genuinely adore working on paper and would, no matter the resources available, always rather make smaller works of art, they feel more intimate and satisfying to create.
Even though I've just finished a huuuuge project I'm feeling very full, almost overflowing with inspiration so I'll just continue this beautiful relationship with ink and paper and color and pattern and see where it takes me next. I would also love, as I've mentioned in previous post, to find time in near future to write down some things I've learned while working on this project and I would love to slightly redesign this website as well. It should all be challenging but fun to work on!
Who is your favorite painter?
Mark Rothko was always one of my favorite artists and considering today is 114th anniversary of his birth (he was born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz on September 25, 1903) and also my birthday I wanted to share a personal, Rothko related story.
A couple of years ago I was talking to someone near and dear to me and mentioned how much I loved Rothko’s art.
He proceeded to tell me: “Oh, Rothko, that abstract expressionist? Did I ever tell you my great uncle was his student and adored Rothko? He always praised him and said Rothko was his favorite teacher, kind and encouraging to his students. In fact, my great uncle loved Rothko so much and spoke so highly of him it sometimes even annoyed me listening to it while I was a kid.”
I was, of course, delighted to hear Rothko was a wonderful, devoted teacher and felt happy to hear there is someone else who also adores his work as much as I do. Even though I haven’t met the old man in question I always felt we share a connection in our mutual admiration for Mark Rothko.
Last January I had an exceptionally vivid dream that felt strangely realistic. I’ve found myself in Rothko’s studio surrounded by his canvases. Do you know how sometimes places in dreams get a bit distorted, for example you dream you’re staying at your friend’s house that doesn’t look like their place at all but you still experience it as their's, or you dream you’re standing on Times Square that doesn’t even slightly resemble the actual place? Well, in my dream Rothko’s studio wasn’t a made up or distorted place, it looked just like his real studio that I’ve seen on photos, it also felt real. Sometimes dreams can feel fluid, light and fleeting and and as soon as we become aware of people, events and spaces in our dreams they start changing, distorting and are sometimes hard to grasp. This dream didn’t feel fluid or light, the place I found myself at felt real and there was a feeling of solidity and heaviness under my feet just as if I was standing firmly with both feet on solid ground.
I was fully aware I was dreaming as I usually am, but again something was different about this particular lucid dream. Not long into it I met (middle aged) Rothko who said I was going to be his apprentice. I felt very insecure (I mean who am I to be Rothko’s apprentice?!) but Rothko was very kind and encouraged me to help him to finish one of his paintings, he kept telling me that I was doing amazing job and wouldn’t let me criticize myself. After that he asked me about my art and offered to help me out with it. I showed him my drawings and called them “pathetic” but once again Rothko wouldn’t allowed me to underestimate my own work and praised me while helping me to finish one of my illustrations. I felt honored and grateful and also moved by his genuine kindness and interest. Later in the dream, some art critics and journalist visited his studio and he introduced me as his apprentice saying I was doing great work. At that point I was so moved that I started to cry.
After waking up I was still under the impression of this unusual dream and Rothko’s kindness and support I’ve experienced so intensely in it. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for such a dream and I felt very happy.
Naturally I wanted to share my dream with the person with whom I’ve previously talked about my (and his uncle’s) admiration for Rothko so I skyped him and enthusiastically begun talking about my dream when he stopped me by saying: “Asja… I’ve got to tell you something. My great uncle passed away last night as you were having your dream.” Of course I felt sad and confused by the timing of the dream, I didn’t know what to make of it.
Later that day I tried processing my emotions by painting and as I was working on a red under-painting I suddenly and inexplicably felt I knew how to blend color tones in a more sophisticated way. As if my knowledge of working with color has somehow deepened or expanded and I could feel it in movements of my hand, my wrist, my bones and my blood. I just knew how to make red feel more red, how to make it more powerful, how to imbue it with life force. As irrational as it sounds as if Rothko has generously shared some of his knowledge with me. I continued to work on my painting with deep feeling of reverence for the artist and in honor of his student who has passed away the same night as I met Rothko in my dream.
Still, to this day I remember that experience of a lucid dream with gratitude and fondness and I strongly believe that Rothko was not only a brilliant artist but also an extraordinary, compassionate and encouraging teacher.
Happy birthday Mark Rothko, thank you for the art and your legacy!
If you had to describe your artwork in a nutshell how would you do it? I suppose I’d say my art is an art of self reflection.
Majority of work I’ve made in the past four years was about getting in touch with my emotions, processing them, dealing with past challenges and issues while being in an almost meditation like state of creating colorful and sometimes intricate abstract designs and patterns for hours at a time.
Four years ago I got pretty burnt out working as a freelance illustrator and realized that I might end up spending my entire working life doing stuff for clients while never figuring out who I was as an artist or what my own, unique artistic vision would look like. The thought of never really getting to know myself totally freaked me out so, after almost two months of creative block, in January 2014. I set out to create one thousand ink drawings and paintings. I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish but I knew I wanted to create ink art (contemporary ink art) because I adored the medium and I also wanted to make some kind of flower designs because I’ve already made a series of abstract flower paintings that I was very fond of.
After working as an illustrator/designer for years I knew it was crucial when embarking on this personal project to allow myself to create whatever I wanted to in, no self censorship whatsoever, no self criticism and also to create intuitively without any pre-planning. I was very curious what will happen if I let myself create freely, what designs, shapes, color combinations would emerge, what images will spring from my mind, what will I discover, how will my creative process evolve?
First I started by making simple flower inspired shapes (I called them Atomic Roses) on square format paper, designing them with black ink pen then coloring them with drawing ink. I just did it, intuitively, it was an enjoyable process and even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time those “roses” were like seeds for the entire project and my first attempt to design my own visual language. I kept making them for at least six months and it was like a really long warm up session that prepared me for doing more expressive work. Around that time I titled my project of making one thousand ink paintings Ink Flower Garden.
The “roses” were seeds that eventually grew into an entire Flower Garden, a series of artworks in which I became aware of which shapes and patterns appealed to me the most. My painting process was still purely intuitive and I would allow myself to create an image without analyzing the process. Only after I was done with it, I would try and take a step back to analyze my own work, asking questions like “Ok, but what does this mean, does it mean anything at all? Why do I keep painting flowers and flower like shapes? Why do I keep drawing circles and wheel symbols and astrological symbol for the Sun?“
In this process of self analysis I realized that I owned many elements of my art (especially the wheel and sun symbols) to my decade long interest in astrology. When I was a teenager I was totally into studying astrology and hand drew hundreds, if not thousands of astrological charts so no wonder those designs kinda imprinted themselves onto my subconsciousness and came to surface years later when I allowed myself to paint and draw “whatever the fuck I wanted, no censorship”. From today’s point of view I can tell that most of my round, circular, flower designs were actually artistic renditions, sort of echos of all the astrological charts I drew when I was young. (Why did I hand draw star charts by hand? Well because as a teen I didn’t own a computer and a printer so I did everything by hand.)
As time went by, somewhere in mid 2015 I felt the need to become more and more expressive and to get in touch with my emotions and to try to process them through painting. I started to paint imaginary underwater landscapes, sea monsters and jelly fish, deepest, darkest parts of the ocean and even made some kind of “postcards from primordial sea”. Parallel to that I also painted “deep space”, I had no idea why I just felt there is some sort of connection between two places as they both represented something dark, foreign, alien and dangerous to me. Some of images I created at the time were foundation of Deep Sea/Deep Space series.
I was also obsessed with dark blue color and started to paint blue female figure in various poses. It wasn’t a self portrait just a generic female figure “drowning in sea” of shapes and patterns. I worked on Deep Sea/Deep Space series for almost year and a half and it was my least favorite series of paintings, I felt as if those images were expression of deep and complicated emotions, my own unsolvable problems, my own hopelessness and helplessness etc. I kinda hated them, tbh (my inner astrologer called them too pathetic and too "Neptunian").
That changed when, in November 2016 I had a dream in which a famous dead person told me I should: "Make a painting called Cosmic love”. I thought that was silly but did it anyway and since painting turned out nicely I wanted to add it to my portfolio. Something clicked and I realized that Cosmic love was the final image in Deep Sea/Deep Space series. I also became aware that the female figure was sort of in the state of being awakened, getting up from laying down position to standing up. The whole thing was super obvious and starring back at me but I just didn’t see it until then. In that moment I became aware how important that series was for me and that it also in a way represented my recovery form depression and process of healing and finishing it with a piece called Cosmic love gave me a lot of hope. (Thank you, famous dead person, for the idea.)
Parallel to that series I worked on two more, Uncharted Territory and the one slightly unfortunately titled Enter the Underworld. I’ve been working on Uncharted Territory since early 2015 and still don’t quite understand what it is about (hence the name). I believe it is about having sudden flashes of insight and inspiration, something I’ve been experiencing all my life but it also might be about something else, I’m still not sure work here is finished (also, as a former astrology student I like to call this my "Uranian" series).
I made majority of Enter the Underworld images while being very sick and unable to prevent many aspects of my life from falling apart (yet still continuing to make art in spite of it all). When I look at the images from the series I see so much struggle, pain and suffering as well as failure to assert my own will power in troubling times and just having to let many things go, let them die.
By the time I started working on At the Edge of a Galaxy series I was very much in tune with my creative process. By 2016 I was totally into processing my emotions through painting to the point that every time before I would start to paint I’d ask myself things like: “How are you feeling today? What colors are your emotions, what shapes and patterns describe them the best?”, and then I’d try to "paint out" whatever would came to my mind first. It was very therapeutic and helpful.
At the Edge of a Galaxy turned out to be a series about relationships (planets being symbols for people for example) and at first I thought I was making art about men in my life (Mr Fantasizer, Stargazer etc) but as time went by I came to almost painful realization that I wasn’t making paintings about, let’s say, my exes but once again about myself, my masculine side so to speak. It wasn’t a fun revelation, I must say (wtf, am I really Mr Fantasizer?! Nooooo).
By 2017 I got tired of constantly dealing with my own emotions, issues and problems and finally after three long years of struggle and purging my emotions through art I wanted to make something about someone or something else. I started doing a little side project of painting songs on tumblr that I still love doing. I started a new series called The House of Indefinable Pleasures inspired by music as well (Prince!) as well as Goethe’s Theory of Colors and pleasure we get from experiencing color and I guess just pleasure in general. This series is still work in progress and I have no idea where it will take me. I’m still really into color theory and just finished reading Steiner’s lectures on color and I can feel that will somehow influence my future painting as well, so yeah, who knows where my creative journey will end.
But Ink Flower Garden project will end soon, that I’m sure of. Till this day I have finished almost nine hundred fifty paintings, discovered (I guess I should more correctly say layed down the foundations of) my visual language, processed a lot of emotions, learned a ton about myself and how I function, already created a huge body of work and put together a portfolio which I’m happy with and know I won’t die without learning who I am as an artist :)
So far, this has been a very rewarding journey of self discovery, a four year long exercise in introspection, in mastering the art of self reflection yet I have a feeling it is only a warm up and best and most rewarding experiences are yet to come. I'm very curious, once again, how this deeply personal project will come to its end and wonder if I'll find more ways to surprise myself as an artist while working on final fifty paintings.
I do have a feeling something pretty intense and surprising is in the making for me, art wise and that's why I wrote this post briefly describing the journey so far, almost as if, by writing it down I wanted to create way for something new and exciting to happen next :)
Sometimes it is necessary to make a lot of bad art, intentionally and unapologetically because it is the one way to start making decent art.
This week I allowed myself to do just that, make a ton of really bad, expressive, messy, raw ink and charcoal textures because I was too restless to be working on my usual stuff. I took 25 sheets of A3 paper and then cut each sheet into four pieces and got 60 pages of 15x20cm paper. Then I dipped a bunch of paper tissues in colored drawing ink to make prints (yes, I know, what a fancy printing technique). I kept adding layer after layer of tissue imprints until I got tired of it. I also made sure I do it really fast not to begin thinking too much about it, start wondering why the hell I'm doing this when I should be making something more meaningful (but, hey it's fun and messy and sort of liberating to make bad art on purpose!). After my inked papers dried I drew some messy lines on top of them using charcoal just to add some contrast to colorful ink stains. Again I tried to do it super fast and really sloppily. Then I scanned my textures without protecting charcoal scribbles with spray so it got even messier and my filthy fingers left a lot of smudges on paper as well.
But, again I did it on purpose, I allowed myself to make every step of the process to be as sloppy, messy, dirty, bad, shitty as possible to let go of any pressure to create something good or meaningful and to liberate myself from pressure of making good art, serious art, important art. I allowed myself to be raw, to work fast and, by doing that, to silence my inner perfectionist that demands everything to be doing neatly and with meaning and purpose.
After scanning all of the textures I composed them into a short experimental video clip ( and added music by Alkaline Samurai).
The whole process took maybe 6 hours (making textures, scanning them and making the video) and even though I'm not too fond of the result those 6 hours were time well spent. Sometimes allowing myself to make something bad on purpose is necessary so I can release the pressure of having to produce "good art" and to stop taking myself too seriously but to remind myself making art ultimately should be a playful process. If I didn't cringe at a very thought of an overused term "inner child" I guess I'd say it's necessary for artists to let their inner child to play and be messy now and then. Although in my case. I think, it's not the inner child but more like an untamed, wild, slightly neurotic inner woman that needs fast paced play time, a very necessary outburst of raw creativity that borders on destructiveness but ultimately clears path for fresh, new, healthy creativity to emerge.
End of summer often leaves me feeling tired and slightly apathetic so I wanted to write down a list of things that make me feel better and help me pick myself up from any bad mood/rut I’ve been stuck in and help me become more productive and creative.
I decided to share it here because, you never know, maybe someone will read it and find it helpful as well :)
First of all, I’m no yoga evangelist and I’m not that person who, when you tell them you’re feeling down will yell at you to start doing yoga! I know that type and, no, I’m not one of them, but since yoga has been keeping me sane for the last few years I can tell where they’re coming from. So, yes, let’s talk about it.
I’ve always been pretty active person that enjoyed working out (although I haven’t done any sports since I was like 14 and that didn’t go very well because I’m not competitive by nature, I mean who the fuck cares which team wins in a handball game, right?) but I do need regular intense physical activity (and no, not just that particular intense physical activity, you with the dirty mind, you).
Few years ago I got into weight lifting after not having much experience with it and shortly afterwards I injured my lower back doing dead lifts. I needed to rest to let my back heal but I don’t seem to know how to rest so I kept training and re-igniting the back injury. Finally I gave up and decided to just do something really easy. For some reason I thought doing yoga was really easy. I took my first class and spent 45 minutes in agony realizing how incredibly stiff and blocked I was. I almost broke down in tears. I mean I was not out of shape or inflexible or anything, something else was hard about it but I didn’t know how to articulate what exactly, it made me feel a lot of resistance and I made up my mind that I hate yoga and I’ll never do it again. But I kept doing it, who knows why. My low back healed, but not really, every now and then it would flare up for no apparent reason and it would hurt like hell. It had no medical reason to ache at all.
In November 2016. I had one of those oh, no my back is killing me and for no reason at all again episodes and I decided to do some yoga to help ease the pain. I begun by warming up my spine, doing some cat to cow variations and after my practice something truly amazing, almost magical happened. I have physically experienced pain leaving my body, as if there was a bullet or a tip of a broken arrow stuck in my low back causing chronic pain and suddenly it was gone, in an instant, gone, never to return. I felt amazing and healed, born-again and 15 kilos lighter and then absolutely blissed out. It was first time I truly became aware that sometimes what seems a physically injury can be an energy block and that sometimes mindful combination of breath and gentle movement can bring instant healing. In that moment I also had an epiphany of sorts and learned a lesson of necessity of finding balance in my life and not constantly pushing myself forward (a lesson I need to remind myself of right now as well, tbh).
But, yes, in that moment I fully understood why so many people love yoga and why it’s such a huge trend, and no, I didn’t have any low back problems ever since that miraculous moment in November 2016 which I’m very grateful for. I still do yoga on the regular, I don’t do any fancy stuff, just aim to keep my spine and mind healthy. Every time I need something extra to pick me up I turn to my yoga practice knowing it will make a positive difference.
Aimlessly wandering around (going for long walks/photo walks)
Sometimes, if I’m forced to stay indoors for too long I feel like an animal trapped in a cage and I even start behaving as one, pacing nervously up and down the room (driving everyone around me crazy hehe) so, regardless of weather conditions I need to spend sometime outside every day, even for a little bit. Going for a long walk, when possible is one of my favorite activities and I don’t like setting any goals I prefer wandering around aimlessly, it’s way more fun to explore!
About a decade ago, when I was suffering from depression, going for long, aimless, exploitative walks helped me bring myself back to life. When I got depressed I decided not to take any meds or see a traditional therapist (even tho there’s nothing wrong with that, if you are depressed or otherwise mentally ill please do get a professional help, no shame in that, I just had my personal reasons not to) but to try and find alternative ways to help myself.
Symptoms of my depression were more physical than mental or emotional, I wasn’t so much anxious or sad as much as I’ve experienced complete physical exhaustion (while being perfectly healthy otherwise). I couldn’t function or get out of bed or move at all as I felt inexplicable heaviness pressing my body and my muscles, keeping me paralyzed. Intuitively I knew I needed to move, like get up and start moving. I wasn’t able to work out, after just 5 minutes of light cardio I would burst into tears and had to stop, not because I was sad but because I could feel heavy pain and stress filling every cell of my body, paralyzing my muscles.
But, I needed to move so I forced myself to go out and walk, walk it out. I thought if there is nothing else I can do, at least I can walk around. When possible I would just walk for hours until I’d get tired, but not tired from depression, actually tired from genuine physical exhaustion, hunger and thirst. With time I got better so I started to bring my camera with me and take pictures of everything and anything that caught my eye. My photos sucked but taking pics gave me additional motivation to keep moving and going for walks and also planted a seed that would later grow into passion for photography and one of my favorite hobbies.
Still, I love going for long walks with or without the camera. Sometimes, if I’m feeling playful I do something silly like taking a voice record with me and recording ambient sounds: traffic, wind, rain etc. I don’t do anything with those recordings, it’s just something kinda creative I like to do. Going for a walk always helps clear out my mind and makes me happier especially if I can wander around local parks or forest.
Creating morning routine to start the day right
Nope, I’m not a morning person, never was, but the older I get the more aware I’m becoming of benefits of starting your day early and having healthy morning routines. After I’ve been stuck in a bad mood or an unsatisfying routine for a long time, an easiest way for me to start picking myself up is to start getting up early, exercising, having something healthy for breakfast and then doing something important or productive before I continue with my day. If I feel I’m headed into a wrong direction establishing a healthy and productive morning routine usually helps me get back on track.
I first became aware of that few years ago when I got into running (oh, no, why did I ever wanted to run?! That sucks :)) so I begun getting up earlier than usual to go for a run. At first, I hated it but wanted to keep up so I motivated myself by going for a jog along the path that led to a field where I could see a bunch of horses grazing. So, every morning I’d get up early and go jogging so I could see horses and say hello to them. It made my whole day better. Sadly, after some time I noticed horses were no longer there and I asked a friend about it. To my shock and horror she explained that those horses belonged to a farm and were slaughtered for food and turned into sausages! It got me very sad so I stopped jogging.
Anyway, I digressed I just wanted to say that getting up early and doing something good for your body (working out, eating right) makes a difference in your whole day and just makes you more creative and productive overall.
After writing this short list I realized that it's easiest for me to feel better by engaging in some physical activity :) There are other stuff that also help, like journaling or sketching or listening to music as well as spending time with people I love, of course while avoiding toxic assholes as much as possible :)
This summer was really hard for me.
It was really hard and it was really, really hot. Like, insanely hot. As I’m writing this counting down the last days of August it’s still scorching hot outside. We’re having official heatwave No7 this season, here, in continental Croatia. While Heatwave No7 sounds pretty suiting for a name of a cheap perfume, enduring so much heat (and humidity!) this season without any breaks has been hellish (no wonder last heatwave was named Lucifer). Horrible blazing hot weather has started way back in late May and since then I’ve been basically just waiting for heat to subside, for summer to end so I can be myself again (if you can’t tell by now I don’t do so well on 40+ Celsius weather).
Continuing with my painting practice this summer was really hard. I didn’t have that extra energy I need for making art and I didn’t have much free time either, not as much as I hoped I would, at least. So I would get up very early (4 30 in the morning early), try to make myself at least semi-functional and paint. But most of the days I just didn’t feel like making art so earlyso I would rather go out for a walk. I’d usually go to the nearest bakery that opens at 5 and get something to eat, like a soft pretzel (yum, all the delicious glutens), then walk into the fields to watch sunrise and do yoga. But even those activities (all the stuff I adore doing the summertime) felt forced and uninspiring. And even at 5 in the morning, it was still hot and humid and it felt as if there was no fresh air, no oxygen to breathe. Nonetheless I kept up with my morning routine throughout the July, pushing through, forcing myself to create and work out and stay as active and as productive as I could until in early August, during yet another awful heatwave I finally gave up and decided to take a break from everything. I was totally exhausted and needed to rest. I didn't take any vacation this summer but I did take things easy for most of the August.
As time went by I started to sketch more and more and think about all the future artworks I wanted to create. It made me super excited and motivated so I decided to finish my personal project (Ink Flower Garden) by the end of this year. I begun working on it in January 2014 with the goal of making 1000 paintings and drawings to basically find my own, unique artistic style. It begun as an art project only but over the years it turned into something much more, a therapy, a process of deep introspection and self discovery and I feel I'm ready to finish it soon. I'd also like to share more about the process (either in written or video form) so I'm already compiling notes for that too. By now I have finished 877 (!!!) paintings+drawings and I'm pretty confident I could make 123 more during this fall (who doesn't love a good challenge :)). I have already stocked up on paper and ink in preparation for this grand finale of my beloved art project and only need to clean up my work space as well as survive this last heatwave of the season and then the adventure continues :)
Without any additional explanations, I'd just like to share some of the art I've made this month, some paintings, some doodles, some pages from my sketchbook, some ideas and thoughts... a bit of everything :)