Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bugs in the head, painting by Natasa Vretenar

The hardest thing about learning another language is learning the idioms. The phrases never translate directly from one language to another, although one can guess the meaning of the idiom. In a serbo-croatian language we say that a person "has bugs in their head" if they are behaving in a weird, irrational way.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Lift me up!, painting by Natasa Vretenar

One of the things I loved doing when I was a kid was to step on my dad or mom's feet and they would walk around with me. As a parent, I love doing this with my kiddos too. They grow up so fast, it is important to spend time with kids, be in the present moment. When they say "Lift me up!" they do not realize that they are also lifting you up!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Amalgamation (of the previous versions of herself), painting by Natasa Vretenar

I started this painting with diamond pattern in the background - it symbolizes the diamond in a rough that a person sometimes is. He/she then transforms, hones their skills, different experiences shape them and guide them to be a better version of themselves... Every day, and every experience is an opportunity to grow.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Never look back, by Natasa Vretenar

The weather in Edmonton is absolutely perfect this week. Chilly in the mornings, sunny, clear from smoke, no mosquitoes. I have been taking advantage of it and take long walks in the ravine for a couple of hours. It is quiet in the forest, and quite peaceful. We are fortunate to have such an extended park trail network here - lived in Edmonton for five years and have not explored more than half of the trails in the city. While walking I think about what to paint next and many ideas pop in my head. I have to write them down in my sketchbook as soon as I come back home. I am mostly thinking about ideas for the small painting challenge, but these ideas are directly connected to another series I am working on and have been working on for a while. More on that later.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gravity defying, a painting by Natasa Vretenar

I love summers because I spend a lot of time with my kids - we had gazillion adventures and just as many conversations, jokes, and puns. I never take take this precious time with my family for granted. Today is the first day of school and everyone was excited to go back, even though it means having a busy schedule and an established routine. 

I have some personal fitness goals and one of them is to be able to do a hand stand again. I cannot remember when was the last time I did one. I am taking it slow, building the core muscles and shoulder strength. Here is my go at the Gravity Defying painting today. Sometimes the ideas evolve slowly, some never quite come out right. But I keep painting every day. And working out!

I decided to add fiber paste on this figure - partially to be reminded to take more fiber every day - so important for a healthy digestive system.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bursting with energy, a painting by Natasa Vretenar

There is a short time in the third trimester when a burst of energy happens right before the labor. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Things that matter, by Natasa Vretenar

Oh, to come up with ideas for each painting! I try not to think too deep or too much about the painting when I do small painting challenges like this one. It is important to choose one theme (such as human figure) and stick with it. But, each individual painting emerges from imagination daily. I never really know where the painting will take me every day!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Checkered Past, by Natasa Vretenar

Painting challenges are a really good way to experiment - see what happens. 
I am trying to use as little as possible in terms of color and texture etc. That is a challenge for me, as I do like to work on big canvases with lots and lots of texture. 
11" diameter 3/4" thickness

Friday, September 1, 2017

Barefoot, by Natasa Vretenar

I have not painted a human figure in a long time, probably years! So for this challenge, I am going to paint 30 small human figure paintings. Looking forward to seeing what happens :).  I had some 11" diameter substrates leftover from my 150 in 150 days project and it will be just enough supports for this project. After this month I will be moving to other sizes and shapes of substrates.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grisly Situation by Natasa Vretenar


Territorial series in progress.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse

Happy to nerd out today with my kiddos. We managed to take some nice eclipse photos (68% partial eclipse here in Edmonton, AB) without damaging the camera and blinding anyone!
That is an achievement :).

Here are multiple pinhole images we observed through a home made series of pinholes (yes, they spell out ECLIPSE 2017).

Direct image through the camera (with a filter of course).

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Polarizing, 24x12"

I am continuing my Territorial series. This one is still a work in progress (well all of them are), but for now I am leaving it aside and will look at it again when I finish the entire series I have in mind. I am painting 12 of these for now - they will mostly be 12x24" and a few will be 16x20". 

In the past few days I prepped 30 substrates for the challenge in September. I am excited about it. The key to doing a project like that is to prepare and to think about the topic before hand. As usual, life gets in the way and sometimes not all 30 paintings can be done on a consecutive day, but that is really not the point. The idea is to get into a work routine every day. I usually finish several bigger canvases during these challenges because I am motivated to work and I get lost in the creative process for hours.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Preparing the substrates for the challenge

Today I prepared 30 substrates for the September challenge. I know what I am going to paint too! It is a bit out of my comfort zone but it should be fun. When I work on the smaller paintings I see it as a chance for experimentation - a chance to throw a new medium in and see what kind of new textures I can achieve! I am excited about the project!

Oh, I am also going to try and limit my palette for this series. Wish me luck on that one.

I am already missing the mountains - this is a picture of the Abraham Lake - it is such a beautiful area of Alberta. It reminds me a bit of southern Colorado part between the Pagosa Springs and I-25, but with more lakes.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

30 in 30 days challenge

I am up to my old tricks - just signed up for another Leslie Saeta 30 in 30 days challenge in September. I usually only do the January one, but feel up to it next month to get me energized for the winter! I am thinking about the topic!
Here is the first one I did.

Bosnia paintings

Canada paintings

Looking forward to another challenge!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Transformation show is over, but transformation is not!

I took down the Transformation show today at the Glenrose Rehab Hospital. I am happy that I was able to show my work there for the last three years and make, in a small way, life more bearable for the patients there. I am always happy to return my "babies" aka paintings home.

I wish I had more places to show my work, but it looks like there will be no shows in Edmonton for me for the 12 months or so. I applied to more than 30 calls last and this year - not one was accepted. Maybe it is for the best, because my decision is to focus on creating more art.

I asked myself "How important is it to show my work publicly?", and realized that I thought that it is very important to me at this stage in my career. Every painting, every series I do, is well planned (or not so well planned sometimes) as an idea and then executed over time using my ever evolving techniques. A lot of thinking, planning, and physical work goes into every painting I make. When it is done - I do want to share my creations with the world! Showing my work in public also pushes me to work harder due to deadlines. However, this desire to show my art put a lot of stress on me, and I put a lot of emphasis on getting validation from external sources.

After so many rejections, I felt discouraged. Then I reminded myself that art is subjective, and that I am not interested in creating art that looks like some famous artist's work. It is hard to pave your own path and express your own ideas, using your own techniques... Creating original art is uncomfortable, not only for the artist, but for the audience as well. In order to avoid further rejections and potentially falling into a despair over it, I decided that I would focus solely on creating art in the next year. Once the stress of writing applications and anxiously awaiting the rejec... i mean response is gone, I feel this freedom to just create. My own transformation as an artist has already been quite surprising, and I am looking forward to what this next 12 months will bring out in me.

I will continue sharing my art publicly, just online when it is not possible to show locally. I am grateful for all my friends all over the world who are there for me and who join me on my artistic journey.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Gridlock, by Natasa Vretenar

I have spent a lot of hours in various zoos across the world. When I was at the University, I used to go to Reid Zoo in Tucson and observe and sketch the animals. I was so grateful for those moments of solitude, as I was working crazy hours and taking usually 6, sometimes even more classes every semester. It was my escape from thinking about the war in Bosnia and uncertainties in my life at the time. All I wanted back then was for the war to be over and that my family survives. Spending time around the animals at the zoo somehow eased the suffering. 


Territorial series

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Territorial series

 "OK. I lost. No need to rabbit in." 12x24"

I find it a bit hard to get back into my work schedule after traveling this summer. We had a great time and I am still under the influence of all the exciting things we did and saw on our trips. I am ready to get back to work and create for the territorial series I have been sketching and thinking about for a long time. Every series that I do starts as an idea in my head and sits there for a while - these ideas can morph over time and turn into something else.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Solitude is important for an artist. I was feeling the weight of social media, obligations in real life etc., and decided to take a step back and stay away from internet for a while. It is good for the soul and for creativity.
We have been traveling to places we have not been before. I am thrilled to explore, but it is great to be back home. I have been delaying cleaning out my closet and organizing pictures, albums and scrapbooks for years, and I started doing it yesterday night. A friend of mine got me into making scrapbooks when my first child was born and I was able to finally complete a few of these scrapbooks, only 13 years later lol. It was great to go down the memory lane, and somewhat terrifying to reflect on how fast all those years went by.

The weather here in Edmonton is rainy, so I am thinking about catching up with my Let's paint NM challenges.

Here is a painting of Jemez river I already completed for one of the challenges.

Another one 11" diameter

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Transformation show is up at GRH until the 16th!

Stop by the Glenrose Mezzanine Gallery and see my paintings if you have a chance! They will be on display until the 16th of this month. I am honoured that my art has been chosen to be displayed in this space, and I hope that it can inspire people to keep working hard on their recovery.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Canada 150 paintings

My 150 paintings project is for now safely tucked away in boxes at home. I am taking the ideas and techniques I experimented while doing my Canada 150 project to larger substrates to see what happens next. I find that different size substrates and different mediums inspire me to do different paintings. Right now I have several series in mind (continuing some old ideas and building on them, and also a new idea that has been brewing in my head for a long time). I feel that the rest of this year will be fun and interesting in terms of what may materialize.

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.  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


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