My formal training was mercifully short.
At sixteen I was enrolled at the Skola Primijenjene Umjetnosti i Dizajna in Zagreb when my
parents took us to live in Croatia. The prospect of finally going to an art school was exciting
beyond words. Very few new students were accepted each year and I had the good fortune
to be one of them.
However, I had already been rebelling against school for some years and it wasn't long
before even art school felt crushing. Although I was there willingly, I couldn't believe that
my teachers had the audacity to put any restrictions on me whatsoever regarding how
and what I was going to paint. Clearly, I wasn't going to be a good student.
After I got over feeling ungrateful, I started skipping classes and, eventually, stopped
going altogether. Waves of relief flooded through me when I regained the freedom
to draw and paint on my own.
One afternoon, when I was seventeen, I made the unwavering commitment to embark upon
my life as a painter. This isn't as far fetched as it might sound. All my life I had access to my
mother's studio. She was an amazing painter. One of the greatest gifts which I received from
her was that she taught me to draw what I really see and not what I think I see. As a kid, I
remember painting in her studio and often bursting into tears from the sheer frustration of
being unable to make something work to my satisfaction. Without my mother's encourage-
ment, I may well have given up. Instead, I learned to persevere and find solutions.
With this strong foundation, and a vast amount of self-discipline and innocence, I was
determined to make a living as a painter. Of course, it was far from easy! Thankfully, right from
the beginning, there were people who loved my work. I had shows, commissions, and private
sales. And, this happened despite the dreadful difficulty I had in speaking to people about my
work. Making phone calls for appointments just about killed me! I congratulate myself for
every call I ever made.
All I wanted was to paint all day. I needed a place to live. I needed to paint. I didn't care about
anything else. For years my fortunes vacillated between broke and very broke. I just didn't
care because I was managing, albeit barely. It's true that I'd wistfully look at grapes when all I
could afford was cabbage. But, that's just the way it was if I wanted to buy that desperately
needed new brush.
I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I was sick with worrying about how I was going to
make it through the month. Nevertheless, I considered my life to be wildly successful because
I was painting, and painting is what I'd set out to do.
Gradually, the contacts grew. Through exhibitions and word-of-mouth, I met more and more
people who began collecting my work. And, here I am today still painting full time, living in
Croatia these days, and finding inspiration everywhere.
This very abbreviated story of my painting life wouldn't be complete without mentioning
my family and friends. The positive effects of their support and generosity over the years
cannot possibly be overstated. It's with immense gratitude that I thank each one of them
for being in my life.
This is a painting my mom did of me while we traveled through England on our way back to
Canada after living in Zagreb. I was seventeen at the time and I was just weeks away from
making the momentous decision to become a painter for the rest of my life.
It seemed inevitable that I would have a career in the arts. Although I had a longstanding
interest in visual arts since I was a child, in my early teens I had taken acting classes and
considered working in the theatre. But, painting was making a steady ascent and soon
overshadowed my other interests.
I remember the very moment when I decided that painting would be my life. At this time I was
living with four friends in a little apartment above a shop. My obsession with painting was only
growing by the day. I remember thinking, "This is all I want." And, I had the distinct knowledge
that if I wanted this then I must paint each and every day and never wait for inspiration
to find me. I must only work and the inspiration would take care of itself.
Far from finding this daunting, I knew I could work this hard. I was committed with my heart
and soul. I am deeply grateful that this desire to paint is always with me.