The second artist in the new series of Between the Art is painter and illustrator Tijana Lukovic.
Tijana grew up in a small town nestled among the mountains in West Serbia. As a young girl, Tijana was most happy when in a flower meadow or in a forest pretending to be an adventurer on a mission! She later moved to Novi Sad to study painting and fine art. Upon finishing her studies, Tijana moved to Belgium with her now husband, only to continue onto studying for a second MFA in drawing.
Tijana has now lived and worked in the medieval city of Gent, Belgium for over ten years. She currently works as a freelance illustrator, with work inspired by the magical and metaphysical realm, containing traces of folklore, fairy tale, mythology and love for nature. Celebration of nature and motherhood is often intertwined in one moment captured on the painting. Tijana is also a mother to her four year old daughter, living by a river and two old big trees which attract many different types of birds, meaning they can often be found birdwatching!
This article gives an insight into what makes Tijana’s work so personal and unique. Her inspiration comes from many places, but most notably it is the connection between our inner and outer worlds that she often delves deeper into through her painting. Read on to hear more of Tijana’s beautiful, poetic words.
Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?
Though there is a room in our home that was initially imagined as my atelier, it’s now used by my daughter for all her toys! Instead, I have a corner in our living room. However it’s my favourite corner in the house, with one huge beautiful vintage table. This table tells the story of me with all of the little details it has on display. Next to my gouache colours and brushes, there are many nature finds that I keep myself surrounded with, for example: curvy branches I find on my walks; a huge snail shell from the forest of my hometown; many smaller seashells, acorns, dried flowers, and a few observers’ books for references. I also have the dearest painting of mine, one original that I didn’t want to put up for sale, called Into the Woods.
I often say that this is a place where I become another self, a self that I cannot define in words but only in the pictures I am creating on the paper in front of me. It’s a place where I manage to tap into an inner realm and slow down my busy, anxious thoughts, letting them find their voice in the paintings I create.
"This is a place where I become another self, a self that I cannot define in words, only in the pictures I am creating on paper in front of me."
How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?
For me, books and reading in general plays a big part in my creative process. Since I was able to read as a child, I had books that closely connected with my inspiration to create. It always brought me so much joy to imagine all the words and characters I was reading about, and as someone who was always working with colours and brushes, it was only natural to bring those imagined worlds to life in my art work. It’s still like this today. After I have read something that creates an image in my mind, I often quickly draw it in my sketchbook which I always keep close to me. I also have one very small journal that fits into my purse for all those ideas that come to mind in times when I’m not at home. I think noting down your ideas as they come is very important. It can be in a few words or a few quick lines, just enough so that you can come back to them later. I bring the journal to my working table and turn those ideas into a painting.
For my paintings, I work with traditional gouache [opaque watercolour] and coloured pencils on paper as it gives me a lot of freedom and possibilities in a creative expression.
What is the main subject of your inspiration?
My paintings are inspired by the magical and, in some cases, even metaphysical realm. They contain traces of folklore, fairy tale, mythology and love for nature, which is woven into the everyday life of a mother, book-lover or a day-dreamer. Celebration of nature and motherhood is often one and the same, intertwined in one moment captured in the painting.
I try to share my observations of our inner landscape in relation to nature and the landscape around us. Rewilding and connecting with the natural world is what I find to be the most important thing in developing our care for Mother Nature. Being more aware of nature and its cycles is what brings us as individuals closer to our own subtle shifts throughout a year and throughout our life.
In my work, I explore my inner mind and try to bring up those deep, buried thoughts into the light on my paper. I’m facing my fears, illuminating my unconscious mind, and walking through the forest of my childhood memories.
I love this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that sums it all up:
“It is so pleasant to explore Nature and oneself at the same time,
doing violence neither to her nor to one’s own spirit,
but bringing both into balance in gentle, mutual interaction.”
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just about to finish illustrating a lovely book of poetry for a client. I am also working on an ongoing personal project of illustrating the Wheel of the Year, and turning these sketches into one painting at a time.
What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?
For me, sense of place is a place of belonging and an authentic connection with the natural world no matter where we live. Knowing nature’s cycles, the way the natural world looks in each season, noticing its flora and fauna. It’s about experiencing all the elements as if they have a consciousness of their own; as if we are in a constant conversation with the wind that plays with our hair, takes our worries away and listens to our quiet inner pondering. There is a grounding feeling that you get from simply walking the earth barefoot.
In my work, this concept is present in the place of a mother’s arms for a small child; celebration of each turn on the Wheel of the Year as it allows for a constant reconnection with the natural cycles; and a place inside of each of us where we manage to face our fears and accept our own shadow.
"Experiencing all the elements as if they have a consciousness of their own; as if we are in a constant conversation with the wind that plays with our hair, takes our worries away and listens to our quiet inner pondering."
Are there elements of your work that connect with or are inspired by the natural world?
All the elements in my work are in some way connected or inspired by nature. As I have previously mentioned, the natural world is the core of each of my creations.
Does the natural world have a part to play in your everyday life?
Yes, it definitely does. Though me and my family live in a city, we are blessed to live by the river. We wake up to the view of two big trees and a small park is just in front of our windows. A 15 minute bike ride along the river takes us to a beautiful landscaped park and bird sanctuary. I love birdwatching and collecting nature finds.
Do you have a favourite artist or creative individual? Someone who has artistically inspired your work?
I love to read work by Haruki Murakami and Carl Jung, and both of them have had a huge influence on my work. Some of my favourite painters are Marc Chagall, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Mary Fedden and Vilhelm Hammershoi.
What would your top piece of advice be for creatives navigating their way in the arts industry today?
To follow the path of your own authenticity. Find your sense of place and belonging as that is the place from which you can offer something back to the world.
Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world?
Connecting with nature is connecting with ourselves, and we need to be kind to both.
Tijana's Book List:
Books play a crucial part to my inspiration and art work. I have books scattered all around my home and often I read several of them at the same time.
1. If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
2. Earth Wisdom by Glennie Kindred
3. Courting the Wild Twin by Martin Shaw
To find out more about Tijana's work visit her website www.tijanadraws.com and head over to her Instagram @tijanadraws
All Images: Artist's Own