Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Walking with lemurs

Calgary zoo has a new exhibit with lemurs. We love lemurs - went to visit the Duke lemur center last year and were so excited to find out that Calgary zoo has a walk with lemurs exhibit  where lemurs just hang out with visitors - it is really cool!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Small and big hunger

Places where we are born, raised and where we live shape us. 

“The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about the two "hungers". There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger. The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning...
There is ultimately only one thing that makes human beings deeply and profoundly bitter, and that is to have thrust upon them a life without meaning.
There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But of far more comfort to the soul is something greater than happiness or unhappiness, and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you're happy or unhappy. You are content - you are not alone in your Spirit - you belong.”

Laurens van der Post

A friend shared this on FB today. This is exactly what I have been thinking a lot about, especially in the winter months here in Canada. Belonging, being content, meaningfulness, how our environment influences and shapes us, finding one's own tribe, transforming in the search process... 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer clean up

Ocellated Turkey

The weather here is kind of funky this week - hot, muggy, smokey, so I am cleaning up. We took a huge load to the Goodwill yesterday (outgrown bike, boots, winter clothing that does not fit any more and some other household goods that we do not use). It amazes me that we still have so much to give away, even though we are extra careful what we bring home and we don't shop for things unless we need them. Living in a condo has been great for our family - we have so much time to spend doing meaningful things with our family, maintenance of the place is minimal and security high, and comfort level is high - car is always warm, no snow shoveling in 5 years we have lived in Canada, no lawn mowing, and our place is always warm in the winter. I will never own a house in a harsh climate like this - the weather here is not kind on man made structures. It is not kind on humans either but I will complain about that some other day.

I came across this little painting of a turkey that lives in Yucatan peninsula primarily. I love how colourful these turkeys are!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Speaking of exhibits

I went to pick up my paintings from the Harcourt House member's show today, and found out that my painting "The Neighbourhood Watch" was sold. That is always good news. I often wonder who buys my art, and why they bought it.  I like the people who run the Harcourt House and their next door neighbours VAA - always welcoming and friendly.

It is great to bring home less paintings than what you took to the show. This sale comes at a time when I was feeling discouraged by all the rejections this year - everywhere I look locally for an opportunity to show art doors are closed. I find it that people in general like my art when I do show it publicly and I always get great feedback. I just cannot crack the juries who decide what goes into local shows. It does not matter - I keep working on my art. That is what matters, and the fact that one person in Edmonton liked my art enough to buy it makes it all right! So thank you my new collector, I hope you enjoy owning my painting as much as I enjoyed making it.


I just realized that I have enough work for 7 full exhibits on different subject matter stored at home! I have been productive in the last 5 years since I became a full time artist. I am having a hard time finding places to show my art locally, and I feel that an artist should have local venues to show in before branching out to other cities. I have representation in Xanadu gallery in Scottsdale, and I did show my work in Lacombe's Gallery on Main for a few years, but it would be really nice to have gallery representation locally. I am pretty sure this will never happen in Edmonton. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that my art does not fit. Fortunately, I am not going to change, and will keep painting in my own style. I promise!
I am in a mood to paint some landscapes, and take a little break from my new series I am creating featuring more funky animals :). I am looking at many reference pictures I took in Banff on our recent travels there, so there will be some nice, juicy paintings coming soon.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Transformation show at Glenrose Hospital going on

This show is on until August 16, 2017.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Music and art

Music was always an integral part of my life. In the neighborhood where I grew up, there was an elementary music school right next to my regular elementary school. I really wanted to play an instrument so my parents enrolled me in this music school to play flute. I have such fond memories attending this school for six years - from the beginning of the third to the end of the eighth grade. I had private lessons two times per week, and solfeggio two times per week, plus orchestra performances and recitals later on. We even had a flute choir with over 20 flutes participating, and I played for a while in the local ethnic music club.

Playing an instrument has taught me to be disciplined, to practice every day to get better. This work habit has proven to be useful while I attended the University, worked as an engineer, and now while practicing my art full time.

I picked up playing the flute in my senior year of high school in the marching band, and then did not play again until well in my 20s when I signed up for a few classes at the University of New Mexico. This is where I really learned to play seriously for the first time with an amazing professor - Valerie Potter. Professional musicians are some of the most hard working people I met.
I never did pursue a professional path in music, but am eternally grateful to my professors at UNM for deepening my love for music, and making me work hard to slightly improve my playing skills. I regularly pick up my flute and play a piece or two just for my own good. I like to play when my substrates are drying between the layers of paint.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Harcourt House member show up until the 14th

The member's show is up until the end of this coming week. You can see my three paintings on the wall to the left.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nice weather and not so nice rejections

Rejections are bad in general, but it gets worse when you keep getting rejections for a project you already wrote off as a failure, and you get more in the mail to remind you of your failure.

But then I look at my work, and I feel good about what I did. And I feel motivated to do more work, without getting accepted to any local shows. In a sense, I still bloom where planted, although permafrost does not allow the blooms to show. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017


It looks like we are going to have a lovely sunny day today. I love sunshine, and yes, I do not take it for granted any more when we have sunny, warm days!

 We all slept in and I still got up first and browsed through some older posts. I found this picture from a show in Colorado - right before we moved to Canada! I do miss Colorado - it is a beautiful state. I miss Denver with all the city has to offer regarding art and science and kid and family entertainment.

Here I am with my #1 fan and supporter of my numerous projects and adventures in life. We were excited to start a new chapter in our life together :) - crazy kids moving countries and it all turned out ok. I am happy with the progress I have made in the past 5 years with my art!!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Canada Day!

It's a sunny and clear day here in Edmonton!

Friday, June 30, 2017

I just cannot stop making art

There are times when I ask myself why do you do this, and should I quit being an artist full time. I always come to the same conclusion - I cannot stop being an artist. This is who I am.

When I got interviewed for my Canada 150 project, I was asked who was funding this project. The question surprised me a bit. I am the one who thought the project up and designed the custom substrates, found someone to make them for me in a timely manner, and then worked on painting the 150 paintings for solid 4 months, rain or shine, no excuses, until the project was completed! I never thought about not doing it because someone needs to fund it first. I am certain it would have never gotten done if that was the case. What I mean by this is that I am having a hard time just finding the space to show the work here in Edmonton when the project is completed and ready to be hung, and there is simply no interest in this Canada 150 project here.

I cherish what happened during the 4 months I focused mainly on the Canada 150 project. I was able to stay focused, and come up with 150 paintings that represent Canada in some way. I pushed myself to talk to Canadians and learned a lot of things about Canada - some good and some bad. When we moved to Canada, I had a lot of preconceived notions about Canada and over the years I learned what it is really like living here, what long winters mean etc. Doing this project has opened my horizons quite a bit, especially regarding history and politics in Canada. Fascinating stuff!

In any case, I will keep trying to find good venues to show my work locally, and most importantly - I keep working on my art daily.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

School is out!!!

My kids love to be in school - it is a good experience for all of them, but we all love even more when the summer vacation is here. The weather is nice and we are ready to roam around outside as much as possible. Kids promised to kick my butt and motivate me to get in shape. They are so energized and athletic, they have their work cut out for them with me lol.

Exercise, sunshine and fresh air - that is our goal this summer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Transformation show is up at Glenrose

The show is up until August 16, 2017. This exhibit is inspired by an ancient tale of a huge school of golden koi swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. Gaining strength by fighting against the current, the school glimmered as they swam together through the river. When they reached a waterfall at the end of the river, many of the koi turned back, letting the flow of the river carry them away.

The remaining koi refused to give up. Leaping from the depths of the river, they attempted to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. Their efforts caught the attention of local demons, who mocked their efforts and heightened the waterfall out of malice. After a hundred years of jumping, one koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The gods recognized the koi for its perseverance and determination and turned it into a golden dragon, the image of power and strength.

I am still looking for a big room or a big wall where I can exhibit my Canada 150 paintings. I have received about 25 rejections this year  for my Canada 150 project. This has been an interesting experience and I learned so much about Canada while doing it. Even though nobody here is interested in my Canada 150 series, I am happy to have done it - it is truly a series that marks the beginning of a new direction in my art. That process of evolution of my art is invaluable to me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Koi-D1 koi painting by Natasa Vretenar

As we go through life, we change. Change is triggered by life events - like going away to college, or having a child, or getting a job, or a death of a loved one. Sometimes we continue swimming up the stream and sometimes we let the water float us down the stream. And sometimes, we set the goal that is not easy to achieve, and we have to swim against the current and be strong to reach that goal. The journey transforms us, and the journey can be long and sometimes painful. On this journey there are plenty failures, and acknowledging this can sometimes be the hardest part.

This series has a deep meaning to me - it is all about persistence and tenacity and growth. I made 14 paintings with the dragon skin border. As the moment of transformation approaches, the border grows and the skin becomes more visible. This painting has a smaller border, meaning that the koi are just beginning their journey. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Beautiful places

Nature wise, I have lived in some of the most beautiful places on Earth - ex-Yugoslavia, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Alberta. All of these places have distinct landscapes and climate, and very different from each other.  In the summer time Alberta is gorgeous, and I am hoping that this summer we will be able to get out to the lakes more often.

Mt. Rundle, 11" diameter

Sunday, June 25, 2017


I completed the final piece for the show Koi-Dragon at the Glenrose. I will be setting it up on Thursday this week and it will be up for 6 weeks until mid August.

There are many transformations that took place in my life, and right now I feel like my art is undergoing transformation.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

Horseback riding

You know when you meet someone and you just know it is not going to work out because you have an instant dislike for that person? That is what it was like with Clem. He turned his head away from me when I approached him, snorted arrogantly, and started walking away from me to get a drink of water. Unfortunately, we were stuck together, kind of like in a marriage arranged by others, and I tried to make it work. Rode him through a muddy, mosquitoey trail, gently nudging him all the way to catch up with our friends. It was all fine with little hiccups for a bit, and then he decided to be a real jerk, speeding up randomly, eating grass, stopping suddenly - to his credit he started acting up when some people spooked him while chopping wood on the side of the trail. Clem and I had our differences, but he sure gave me a good workout. Horseback riding is not for the faint of heart!
I think I may just paint you, Clem.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The valley of 10 peaks

One of the most magnificent places on our planet is this - Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. Lucky to have a sunny (albeit windy) day on the Moraine Lake. Canoeing is a great upper body workout for the whole family. Humbling experience, engaging probably about 600 muscles in a body to fight that wind. Fortunately, it was pushing against us in the first part of the paddle to the other side of the lake. Coming back was a breeze (pun intended).

Once upon a time I painted you for my #Canada150 project. I really enjoyed making paintings for this project and interactions with fellow Canadians along the way. My favourite (yes, I spell like a Canadian while I live here) part of living in Canada is exploring its really, really, terrifying, wild nature and meeting as many of its animal kingdom inhabitants. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Creative process is ever changing

I have been working on a large painting to complete koi-dragon series, and it has been a blast. Lots of texture, crackle medium, colour and bling. Layers of it! As I put more layers on, the painting changes and deviates from the original idea. Since there are many layers I have to wait a long time for the paint to dry and it takes a while to complete the painting, even if I work on it on consecutive days. That is why I always have several projects going on at the same time in different stages of progress. Here is one of my 2 ft diameter koi paintings from the series.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


These birds are the symbol of the West for me. They have been my neighbours for 25 years, whether in AZ, or NM or CO or now in Alberta. I see them as tough creatures, capable of surviving the most harsh conditions. They are beautiful in their ability to adopt to challenges of living in desolate places. I like to observe the sheen of their feathers and beautiful shades of green and blue.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Moose paintings

The animal I always associated Canada with is the moose. There was a couple of young ones who came through our neighbourhood a few years ago. It was strange to see them in an urban setting like that. Those two are actually the only two I saw in Canada in five years we have lived here. They are elusive in the wild - I spotted a lot of wildlife on our travels through the mountains: wolves, caribou, bears, birds, elk, deer, goats, sheep etc. , but never a moose. This is surprising to me since we saw a lot of them every time we went to Estes Park in CO. Canadian moose are more shy I suppose (or just not that used to humans as those in CO).

This is the first painting of a moose I did "In a Rut" 36x60".

This one is a part of my #Canada150 project, 11" diameter.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Motherhood is a challenging job - kids change so fast and morph into different persons overnight! It is imperative to stay a step ahead of them at all times. Children have taught me a lot of things over the years and I am grateful for the lessons they provided so far.

Today is a rainy day in Edmonton. It is a great day to work on a new large painting and do some cooking.
One thing we are working on is to improve everyone's cooking skills. I used to use an egg timer (the type you put in the water and indicates when it is done with shrinking egg inside it) to hard boil eggs but it was not working anymore. Today I found a perfect method (thank you google!) to make hard boiled eggs - bring them to rolling boil from cold water, take them off the stove, cover and time for 12 minutes then drain the water! They came out perfect. I am still learning to cook and am grateful for internet :). Kids also enjoy cooking and finding recipes. For example my boy made some delicious popsicles yesterday from a made-from-scratch smoothie. They were delightful and are already gone!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bee painting from Canada 150 project is sold

I am so excited that it will be beautifying a room of a lovely newborn baby. I am grateful for all the parents out there who introduce their children to art from the day they are born! Thank you T and M for your purchase.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's Left Unsaid - Harcourt House Member Show in June and July 2017

I dropped off my three paintings for the group show at the Harcourt House - this show will open on June 22nd and will be up until mid July 2017. There are a lot of amazing artists affiliated with the Harcourt House and the show is a real treat to see every year. My entries are from the Windows series - "Neighbourhood Watch", "Where the Babies really Come From", and "The Rainbow Sheep of the Family". I have not shown these paintings publicly anywhere yet. Each painting is 20x16" on a gallery cradled birch panel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Uninstructed live model drawing sessions

I have been meaning to go to the uninstructed drop in sessions at the Harcourt House for a long time, but never had time before due to kids schedules, or just being too tired to go there. Finally, I was able to go yesterday and it was a great experience. Our model was male, and there were 2, 5, 10, 18 and 60 minute poses. It was 3 hours of pure fun.

For this session I brought my sketch book and drawing pencils. I will bring along some other bigger paper in the future. It was an enjoyable and good learning experience. Drawing is good for the soul!

Here is one of my sketches (18 minute pose) from yesterday. This picture is a bit distorted with barrel distortion (taken by computer camera) but it shows what I was able to capture in a short time. The more you look at the model the more you see - small folds in the skin, how the light falls onto the body. For me it was important to be able to catch the proportions of the body and the pose as good as I could in such a short time.

Today I am putting some hanging wire on the back of the Canada 150 paintings and preparing more substrates for future projects. Prep work is time consuming but important part of the process. I am grateful that I can take care of my sick child at home today, thankfully he is getting better already.
Pollen and dust affect us more than we would like to admit.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Social media break and real life

I really love Facebook and how it allowed me to get in contact with a lot of people who were once in my life (especially from ex-Yugoslavia), and I am grateful that it "introduced" me to so many wonderful artists whom I would have never even know about. However, it also became a time sink for me - spent way too much time scrolling through posts. It is time to quit cold turkey - no more posts on any social media. I will be writing here and post my new work on my blog and website regularly. 

The weather in Edmonton is great now (except for the mosquitoes) - we are spending as much time outdoors as possible. I am taking reference photos of the different spots in the ravine and getting ready for my next winter's project. I am planning to do a series of the ravine paintings.

I have been off social media for a few days only and it has been great. Being present in the moment without distractions is a wonderful thing for the mind. It is amazing how much more I accomplished - caught up on several big projects in the home, worked out more, sketched several new painting ideas etc. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cemetery Flowers, by Natasa Vretenar

Every painting is a step forward and toward my next series and development as an artist, even if it is a "bad painting" or a sketch. There are some ideas that are in my head that have been evolving slowly over time and I am starting to work on them. In the mean time I am also painting these small 11" diameter NM challenge paintings - just because I love NM and enjoy painting with this group - scenes that I am familiar with and I have seen with my own eyes while traveling through. This painting is of artificial flowers on a wire fence in the cemetery. It could be any cemetery or even a makeshift memorial on the side of the road.

The link for Let's Paint New Mexico website is 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Along the Jemez River, by Natasa Vretenar

I am missing NM a bit these days. This is another challenge for the Let's paint NM group. I still may work on it later but I am done for now. I just love Jemez river and especially the hot springs!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Our Lady I-VI

Each painting is 18x3" on a 1.5" cradled birch panel. On each side I painted 3D roses on each painting. These paintings are labor intensive - I use crackle medium to achieve the old cracked look and this alone takes 3-4 solid days to dry. There are many layers of paint and also, it takes a lot of paint to build up all the roses. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Our Lady VI - 2017, by Natasa Vretenar

It has been as busy as ever around here. I still have a lot of paintings to varnish from my Canada 150 project and I got to do some of them this morning. They are drying now, while I prepare a couple of large substrates for my next two big paintings. I am excited to paint a few big ones. They require a lot of work and preparation (both mental and material). 



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