Saturday, December 30, 2017

Summary of 2017

I cannot believe the end of 2017 is already here!

I started 2017 with a  #30paintingsin30days project. Many thanks to Leslie Saeta who organizes this challenge every year (she does it 2 times per year!). This project helped me jump start the year in a productive way and establish a work routine after the holidays. It has become a tradition for me to start the year with this challenge, and I love to do it!
2017 was Canada's 150th anniversary of confederation, so I thought it would be good to learn a bit more about the country I currently live in. The entire project grew from my 30 in 30 days January project to a 150 paintings in 150 days. I kept up the pace and painted one painting per day (and sometimes more than one) for four months! These paintings depict flora, fauna and daily life.

I talked to many people about what being Canadian means to them. It was a pleasure to do this project, and I feel like there will be more paintings (possibly larger format) in the future inspired by these 11" round paintings. While painting, I also learned about Canada's people, culture, flora, fauna, politics, constitution, and history. 

My first solo exhibit this year was at the Muttart Conservatory - there are only six artists juried in every year and I feel fortunate to have had two shows there in the past three years. I showed my koi series paintings - it was such a good pairing with the main pyramid exhibit - they actually had a pond with live koi in there while my paintings were up!!!

Here are my paintings in good company!

Another solo exhibit was at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital during the summer in the Mezzanine Gallery. This exhibit "Transformation" tells a story of strength and reaching a goal in spite of obstacles in the way. I am honored to present my work at GRH - many patients see it on a daily basis and some have express their gratitude for having my art on display to lift their spirits while in recovery. This was my fourth year in a row to share a bit of beauty with GRH.

Harcourt House Member annual show was another wonderful exhibit that I am happy to participate in every year. I had three pieces in it and "Neighbourhood Watch" found a new home!

Every year I paint a few smaller paintings on different subjects and one of the subjects are my "Our Lady" paintings. These paintings have 3D painted roses on all sides and are on a 1.5" thick cradled birch panel.

I continued to work on several series, including the Territorial series. This series is a natural continuation of exploring the animal world and forces that shape natural order of things. Most of the paintings in this series are medium (12x24" and 16x20") and large size (24x36") paintings.

I usually only do 30 in 30 days project in January (it has become a tradition), but this September I embarked on another 30 in 30 days journey and I painted 30 small abstract figure paintings. This was a bit out of my comfort zone, but this challenge was an excellent opportunity to try new things. My friend encouraged me to go to live model drawing sessions to hone our skills. Harcourt House has uninstructed drop-ins with nude models and provides local artists with an opportunity to improve their figure drawing/painting skills. Here is a collage of all the figurative paintings I completed during the challenge.

To wrap up the year, I made ornaments using images of my paintings I did this year. The ornaments are 3 and 4 inches in diameter and they turned out great! I had a lot of interest in them, so I will probably do more ornaments (most likely different design) next year.

I hope that the new year will bring many exciting projects - I am planning several painting series based on all the travels we took this year. I have been thinking about a landscape series for a while, and I may start the new year with a few landscape paintings. 2017 has been a fabulous year and it seems it went by too quickly. If you would like to see what I am up to in the future, please visit my website at, or my blog at

On the first day of 2018 I will be posting the first painting photo for the 30 in 30 days January challenge. It is a new series of paintings focusing on Mother.
Huge thanks to all my collectors - I am grateful for all your support this year and in the previous years. You make me work harder and push my boundaries all the time!

Happy 2018 and best wishes to all!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! 

We have a very cold front coming in Edmonton - it will go down to almost -40 degrees tonight with windchill! It is a good day to cozy up in front of the fireplace and do some crafts after opening presents this morning! 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Deep Freeze Festival

These four paintings will be at the Deep Freeze Festival in January (13th and 14th).

Saturday, December 16, 2017


I like to keep away from all the holiday madness, and shopping, and consumerism. December is a month of self-reflection and spiritual growth for me.

Yesterday we woke up to icy roads because it rained overnight. It is difficult to walk and drive on slick surfaces, but we all got up and went about business as usual. Living in Canada is not for the faint of heart, and it has been a humbling experience for sure.

I am working hard on my new series, which is "Mother" themed. It is a difficult, and at the same time, a delightful topic for me. It makes me think deeply about my female ancestors, and the legacy I am leaving to my children. Being a mother changed me in so many ways, and it intensified everything I am and ever was.

Friday, December 15, 2017


I asked my kids to write their lists for Santa. They could only come up with 2-3 items each, and as I looked at their modest requests, I reflected on this entire year and time we spent with kids.

Both my husband and I are workaholics of sorts - we constantly add tasks and projects to our schedules. However, we spend all our free time with family, walking in the ravine, playing in different parks, hiking in the mountains, cooking together, watching movies, telling stories in front of the fireplace, and most recently we started playing board games again.

Kids are happy, creative and healthy. They make presents for each other and their friends (this however is not appreciated sometimes by their friends lol). I am glad that we raise them to not be so consumption oriented in spite of all the pressure from their peers. We weed out a huge number of potential friends simply by living the way we live, but at the end of the day the most kind, creative and interesting people remain in our circle. Life is a gift, and I cherish every day.

Monday, December 4, 2017


I have occasionally included human figures in my work, but for the next year I plan to combine figure with animals and do more storytelling. I spent this whole year exploring elements that I want to include in my future paintings: studied different animals' anatomy and behavior, attended live figure painting sessions, mixed different colors. The whole year was quite experimental, and I hope I can really narrow things down, in terms of theme, color and texture. I have been doing a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge for the past 4 years in January, and will start 2018 with a series of paintings about Mother. I have been carefully avoiding the subject of motherhood so far, even though it is a main part of my life now. I feel it will be a good start for the Ancestors theme for the entire year. My starting point is my "Our Lady" series. Let's see what happens!

Thursday, November 30, 2017


I always emphasize the importance of continuous learning in life, and Mark Twain's quote "Don't let education get in the way of your learning" comes to mind when I utter the word "education". I believe that if one is into science and engineering, that person has to go through a period of hard working, grueling study years that can only be obtained through rigorous process of taking classes on undergraduate and graduate level at the University. There is no way to learn that level of math and engineering knowledge on one's own, unless you are of course a genius (but realistically, how many geniuses are really out there?). I went through the educational grind and worked many years as an engineer on creative projects, and was able to do this because of the sound understanding of underlying math and science behind the experimental work in the lab.

As an artist, I find myself somewhat repulsed by formal education. There are many reasons for this and I will explain in other posts. However, I am always looking for ways to learn - about myself, about my process, about how to convey the messages and stories from my head onto the canvas.

I closed my 10 year old FB account and stayed off for 6 months. Then I realized I missed interactions with my friends and other artists. I made another FB account recently and kept a low profile, and something amazing happened. All of a sudden FB introduced me to artists that I have never seen before (and I had thousands of "friends" before), and one of them was taking a class from I signed up for the class and after only two weeks of class I feel that I have grown so much as an artist! I highly recommend Ardith's class - it is a year long class, and I already feel like the fee for the class was well worth it after only 2 weeks! I cannot wait to see how things develop during the next year!

One of the things we did is to look for unexpected images in our surroundings. I took this picture in Edmonton - it was a short moment when all the geese were lined up like that.

Being at the right place at the right time is important, but it is just as important to know where to look, and how to look at things.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


I am on a quest to focus on things that really fascinate me and inspire me. To help pinpoint these things, I am going back to the beginning of my art practice and see what it is that keeps showing in my work. It turns out horses have been the love and the bane of my existence as an artist.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Decorating for Christmas

The tree is up and many more handmade ornaments are on it this year. Every year kids make ornaments and we put them up on the tree. This year I added my own art ornaments and everyone says they look great! I am happy how they turned out and will definitely plan to make more ornaments next year.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Work days

Every day is a work day for me. I am even dreaming about art and ideas for future work! My little gray cells are on constantly. I have been preoccupied with my next series of paintings and preparing the substrates and finalizing ideas for them. It takes a lot of planning to organize all of the substrates. The first few paintings are usually well planned but as I paint more of them in a series, the paintings kind of take me on unexpected paths.

I started taking an online class with Ardith Goodwin and it is already helping me focus on a few things in my creative endeavors. It is a year long class and although it has only been a few weeks, I feel like it is worth the cost already! She is an amazing teacher and I cannot wait to see where this year long journey takes me and my art. I am also grateful for all the other creatives in this class - so much energy and support! It is just what I need!

Here is a picture of some of the substrates in progress. The edges will be painted black on each of them. These are custom made approximately 1x2 ft on a 3/4" thick MDF. I am enjoying painting on this surface - it is smooth, durable and easy to work on.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ayam Cemani

On this Black Friday I decided to share this black rooster I did a few years back. They are a fascinating breed that has hyper pigmentation and their whole body (including the inside organs) is black.

The only thing I like to shop for are art supplies and food in a few specialty stores. Any other shopping is a chore and annoyance to me. You will never see me shopping on black Friday, I avoid stores on that day like a plague.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we are not celebrating American Thanksgiving, but this holiday certainly brings back so many good memories for me! Every year since I lived in US I spent Thanksgiving with my American families and friends. I am so grateful.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Greeting Cards Bear

This is another card that is available for purchase.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Greeting Cards, Doe by Natasa Vretenar

This morning was very peaceful with a layer of fresh snow. I realized I have not been painting any snow scenes. As a matter of fact, I tend to paint bright, sunny scenes when winter comes to town. Maybe this season that changes.

I am doing a lot of behind the scenes work - preparing substrates and layering, painting borders etc. I also varnished a few paintings and finished all the ornaments I had to do! I purchased the hanging string for the ornaments as well - so now they will be ready to hang on the tree.

I am pleased to now offer greeting cards as well - they are with images from my 150 in 150 days project this year and are blank inside (14x14 cm square).

let me know if you are interested in getting them at $5 each.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Digging deep

I have been working on my art almost every day this year. I think this has been the most productive year for me so far. We reduced our family's scheduled activities to zero, and apart from school and work, we freed up our schedules to do whatever and whenever. This has reduced the stress levels to a minimum, as well as given us ample time to cook, talk, dine, walk, exercise, and travel together. It has been an amazing year for creativity.

Slowing down has actually unleashed this avalanche of ideas for my art projects. I have blogged about all the paintings I completed for 150 in 150 days project, as well as other mini projects I did this year. Furthermore, while experimenting with different techniques, going all out with color or texture, or minimizing color and working on compositions, I dared to dig deeper and conceptualize more meaningful paintings in my mind. A lot of these ideas are in my sketchbook as seeds for something bigger, and I am starting to finally grow these seeds. The preparations for my January project are already on the way, since December is going to be a bit busier with concerts and other activities we have planned for the holidays.

 I am starting an online class on the 19th with Ardith Goodwin - it will be fun (judging by all the activity on a secret FB page happening pre-class - excited to be part of this dynamic group of artists!)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

Remembering my first show

My first art show was at the Cherry Blossom gallery in Loveland, CO in 2010. It took me about 4-5 years to show my work from the time I started painting in between work and taking care of toddlers. It was a group show with about 10 or 15 local artists, and I had no idea what to expect. looking back, I don't think I expected much, but I was a bit nervous about putting my work out there for the world to see. A few roosters, lots of trees and sunflowers, some zebras and fish.

A lot has happened since then, and I am painting more than ever before. I am glad I put my work together and showed that night - I sold two paintings and gained some confidence to continue my life as an artist. It was not an easy decision, and it took at least a few more years for me to focus on creating art full time.  It has been an exciting journey and I cannot wait to put down on canvas the next idea floating around in my head!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Snow and cold front

We got winter again on Halloween! It seems like every year it happens regularly. We are getting a hang of this climate after 5 years living in Canada. The temperature dropped overnight and we are around -10 deg C today. I respond with a nice warm chicken soup and a shopping trip to an art store for a few art supplies. Our winter tires are on and seem to be doing a good job on the snowy road.
I even took a short walk today - my toe is getting better and I can walk more normally.

I am continuing my work on different large paintings and smaller substrates for my next big project coming up in January. It is not too early to start thinking about it! I am also wrapping up the last of the ornaments - quite pleased how they turned out!


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Finished ornaments

I finished a whole lot of ornaments this week and am storing them away in boxes until they are ready to be shipped! These are just a few smaller ones, 3" in diameter.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Focus on the positive

I finished another batch of ornaments today and have only another small batch to do. I am taking a break from making them because I want to actually paint something for a change! I think ornaments turned out quite nice, there are several different designs available and I will probably post them online soon.

My toe is getting better slowly every day. I can walk more now.

Life is busy and it is important to stay focused and think positively. Every day is a gift.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Elk Island National Park is only a short drive away from Edmonton and is a beautiful place to visit. We are outside whenever we can be, especially when the weather is good. I feel grateful for the natural beauty we are surrounded by.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Thoughts on being a self taught artist III

Since I love to paint animals, I spend a lot of time in nature and at the zoos. I probably have taken a gazillion pictures of various wildlife. I also watch the birds and bunnies straight from my balcony - there is a lot of action in the field outside my windows. I observe their motion, flight path, feather arrangements, muscles, proportions and color. Because I am quite busy with motherly work, a camera comes in handy (does not have to be a fancy one). For better reference photos it is nice to have a mid range SLR camera like Cannon Rebel with a telephoto lens and a good wide angle lens. Initial investment is maybe pricey but totally worth it in the long run. I have owned my Rebel for 6 years now and it works just as well today as when brand new. I only use my own reference photos for my work. It is good to have a bunch of reference photos to look at any time when I have time to paint. I am also grateful for zoos. At this time in my life I cannot afford (time and money wise) to travel to remote locations and observe animals I like to paint in nature, so zoos are in my humble opinion amazing places to hone my artistic skills.

Online classes with artists whose work I like are another way to develop my own skills as an artist. I just signed up for a year long course starting in November to boost the creative process. Looking forward to it.

In the future, I would love to take workshops with artists I admire. There are many week long workshops and conferences I have put on my to do list, but it will all have to wait until my kids are a bit older. This is definitely the most costly part of one's development as an artist, as these workshops are not available locally. However, comparing it to tuition costs, even workshop costs do not seem so high.

Being self-taught is always a work in progress.
This guy was making really weird motorcycle noises at the zoo in Edmonton! He was agitated and looked quite menacing. He did not appreciate all the visitors to the zoo that day. 

Thoughts on being self taught II

So what is a self-taught artist like me to do, in a city where they do not fit into an art education mold? There are many ways to grow as an artist, and resources are quite readily available.

I am regular visitor to our local library and I study art history constantly - probably not a day goes by that I do not read something related to art, artists from the past and present. I also spend time on social media browsing through new works of my art "friends". I try not to spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram these days, but I enjoy doing it and I have "met" so many wonderful, productive and innovative artists through social media. It can be very inspiring if you don't get too involved and spend too many hours browsing through other people's posts. This part (particularly using the library resources) are free. Furthermore, one can exchange books with friends.

Working daily is the most important thing for me - whether it is just a sketch, or a complete painting, it does not matter. What matters is that I work every day. Sometimes I just manage to write down the idea in my sketchbook, and that is it! For me it is important that I put these ideas down in writing, and sometime later when I do have time to work on a painting, I develop these ideas into a work of art, or even a series of paintings. This also does not require much monetary commitment. Supplies may be expensive for artists, but sketchbooks and pencils (or pens) are not much. Besides, one can buy a lot of paint and substrates for one semester worth of tuition money.
This picture was taken at the overlook above the Bow river and close to Bow river falls. What a magnificent place! Look at all those tough, resilient trees growing from the cliff, the water rumbling, and beautiful mountains in the background!

Thoughts on being a self-taught artist

Education is extremely important in my world. However, being educated does not mean one has to have formal education and a degree. There are many examples of innovative, successful people who never finished college, yet they contribute to humanity by leaps and bounds.

I am a self-taught artist. When I say that to people locally, they usually immediately dismiss me as a serious artist. Some have even suggested I should take classes to learn to paint, or laughed at me etc. It seems that having a degree in art is important in Canada, and I get that kind of thinking. Formal schooling gives a person an experience like no other, and one can grow a lot and learn a lot from attending a University program. Because it is an investment of time and money, degree is viewed as a valuable asset.  From the research I did in Edmonton, I can see that there are just a few professional artists without a formal degree represented by local galleries.

I have looked into going to the University to take classes, because I do think I could benefit from the right kind of instruction. It would be great to hone drawing and painting, color theory, and composition skills with a professional artist.  However, most of the art education in Edmonton is centered around conceptual art and I just cannot get into it, nor do I understand it. I strongly feel that attending the University at this point in my career and in life, would not be beneficial to my development as an artist. I came to this conclusion after attending numerous local art shows and leaving most of them underwhelmed. I just do not get it. I figured out much better ways to use the money I would spend on tuition to better myself as an artist.

So what is a self-taught artist like me to do, in a city where they do not fit into an art education mold? There are many ways to grow as an artist, and resources are quite readily available.

These two hippos were happy as can be that day at the Calgary Zoo. Just basking in the sun and relaxing. My favorite kind of day.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Halloween stuff

We always have so much fun for Halloween. This year we made an Oogie Boogie costume from scratch, and it was as much fun to make it as it is to wear it. The mask making involved making a plaster helmet, foam, duct tape, fake burlap and cutting up an old outgrown Halloween costume (black fabric for the eyes and mouth), and finishing with stitches with black yarn. We are ready to go trick-or-treating!

Here is where you can find detailed info on how to make a costume
Thank you Semrau family!

We did change a few things, we used old sneakers for the feet and glued the fabric to them. We stuffed the hoodie and feet with stuffing from a cheap pillow from IKEA, and hot glued the same cheap three pillows inside the body for added volume.The costume is probably the best we ever made so far!All in all, it cost about $45 CAD (mainly for the fabric and glue sticks and 4 ikea pillows). We had yarn, plaster, scissors, velcro for the back, foam, and old shoes available, as well as a lot of time to make it. It was a great bonding experience with my son too! He made most of the costume and I helped - time spent doing it together - priceless!

We went to two Halloween events to test it and will still make a few modifications to the mask - the plaster was crumbling in a few spots and getting into hair and eyes. 


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