Friday, April 20, 2018

Edmonton Art Guild

I have been thinking about organizing an art group in Edmonton for a while. I previously joined an art guild in St. Albert and I liked the group - they have different events and two indoor shows per year, but it was just too far for me to drive from Edmonton (especially in the winter time). Just to go to a meeting it took 4 hours of my time and I realized I need to join or organize a group that is closer to me in Edmonton. There are several groups that seem to be active, but when I contacted them multiple times I never got any response.
So, Edmonton Art Guild was born. If you are reading this post and would like to join - first step is to go to our Facebook page at

More on that later.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Spring is here!

I am grateful for the sunshine! Today is the second day we have above zero temperatures (the entire day) and sunshine. I spent majority of my day yesterday and today on the terrace working on some ideas, and I went for long walks with my SO. The wind is picking up today, so I am not sure if the evening walk will happen, but I must say it is beautiful out there when it is sunny and all the snow is disappearing. I used to take sunshine for granted when I lived in the American Southwest for decades. Nevermore, nevermore!

I feel motivated to work on multiple paintings. Sunshine truly puts life into my veins. All I want to do is be outdoors all the time.

Monday, April 16, 2018


Today I am grateful for not having much stress in my life now. I know how it feels to be extremely stressed out and I do not miss that at all. I had to run a few errands today and saw stressed out and angry people at every single place I had to stop by. I had to remind myself that when people treat you badly, it is not you, it is them...

This pieces is "No worries" 11" round substrate, acrylic. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Always work to do

Today I am grateful that I always enjoyed working. I worked in jobs and on projects that were challenging, most of the time hard work, but satisfying.

Artist always has work to do! I caught up a bit on my class assignments with Ardith Goodwin's Push Past Ordinary class, watched some art related videos, and picked up more art books from the library to read. Education is ongoing - one can always learn more about art history, techniques, materials, or personal lives of the artists. Another thing that I have been pushing off is varnishing. I am not particularly fond of this task, and since I have not been able (in spite of my huge efforts) to find a place to show my art this year, I have not been proactive on the matter. Now I have a gazillion paintings to varnish, and I will try and tackle that task soon.

Yesterday I went to YEG gallery walk. I think going to galleries during a major event like this is educational too - there were so many people out there on a sunny day. It was nice to see that locals are into visiting galleries and checking out art.

In the mean time, I am even more interested in digging deeper into my art creation. Traveling throws me off course, and I am happy to get into my routine and finish some paintings that have been marinating in my head for a long time! I feel like I have to finish all these projects before I start yet another one. It is hard for me to stay focused on one project if I don't actually have a show and a deadline to finish up. That is when I am the most productive - the more I work the more my productivity goes up!

I am posting another older painting today - still trying to visualize Spring (we are getting two more days of snow apparently!). 12x24", acrylic

Monday, April 9, 2018

Above zero!

Finally we are above zero degrees Celsius! It is a reason to celebrate. I love seeing the snow melt on walkways and I am happy we can again walk on the sidewalks without slipping all the time. Hopefully it lasts! It has been a long winter and I am grateful today that we were able to escape a few weeks of it and travel in warmer places. Let's hope some flowers start blooming here soon!

Sunday, April 8, 2018


Living in Canada has made me appreciate winter a bit more - the long shadows, the delicate pinks and purples in the snow reflections and pastel oranges, mauves and turquoise tones in the sky at sunset. Some days the sunrises are incredibly bright and colorful. I am grateful for these beautiful views.

I painted this a few years back - this is a view from our balcony in the morning. I love to sit by the window and a fireplace and look at the everchanging colors and shapes in the sky in peace before everyone wakes up. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Working from home

Today I am grateful for being able to work at home. Earlier today we got a bit of fresh snow, and now sun is peaking though. Hopefully, sun will win and we can enjoy some warmer temperatures. Even for Canada, we are having an unusually cold April this year.

I took the day off from making art to do some spring cleaning and rearranging furniture. I keep finding storage spaces for my paintings that I did not know existed :). Living in Japan for 3 weeks reminded me that humans do not really need big homes to live comfortably and that space can be utilized to be more functional in a smaller area. Every once in a while I think about why we live in a condo and here are the main reasons:

1) It is so easy! No snow shovelling for us!
2) We spend way less on unnecessary purchases because we just cannot bring more stuff in our limited space.
3) The car is always warm and ready to start, even when it is -40 degrees outside.
4) We spend more quality time with kids, talking, cooking, etc.
5) We have more time for creative endeavours.
6) Commute to husband's work is short (within walking distance)
7) Our place is always warm, welcoming, and cozy.
8) Maintaining the place is a breeze
9) We are within 20 minutes (or less) drive from any place we want to be at
10) A few good neighbors.

Living in our space makes it easy to enjoy life. I find that living in a cold climate is more demanding on living and non living things - homes endure more damage, as well as a human body. Living simply is a key to being content in this climate. The most important for me is that simple living allows me to spend time with family. We welcome friends in our warm home often, as socializing and laughter is crucial in being able to thrive in long winters.

Here is another oldie. Yes, I am trying to visualize spring :). It is still going on and we are in for a longer stretch. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Mama bear, 24x24"

Today I am grateful for many artists who support me in real life and online in my quirky art endeavours and join me on my imaginative and creative journey. I appreciate every comment and like and criticism I receive, as they help me dig deeper and also help me see things from another perspective outside my own little bubble.

As an artist one has to develop thick skin. There are many ways that an artist can get discouraged - by rude customers, gallery representatives who are not respectful, to art critics, and in my humble opinion - the worst kind - by other artists. Once upon a time, I was watching a video of an artist I admire, who is world renowned and a famous artist in Canada. At some point during the show he proclaimed that the only way to paint nature is his way. I was surprised by his arrogance and dismissal of any other painting styles. I realize art is subjective, and I don't like a lot of art that is out there, but I always try and educate myself about where the artist is coming from.

The other day - another artist whose work I like, inquired in a sort of snobby way on FB why there are so many colourful, square bear paintings out there. I immediately thought of this painting I did about 5 years ago

Yep, it's colourful, square and with bears lol. I paint bears because bear represents strong medicine including the powers in the areas of wisdom, strength and healing. Bears have been in my life since I was a kid - images of Gypsies parading bears through our neighbourhood, or bears roaming freely in the countryside were not uncommon in Bosnia. It is important to find where artist's motivation is coming from. Even if they are painting in a certain style because right now it sells - does that give another artist a right to diminish their artistic efforts? What's it to them and why disparage other creatives efforts just because they do something the other does not want to or likes to do?

In any case, I am glad I pulled this painting out of the artistic memory files.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dreaming of Spring, 16x20" painting by Natasa Vretenar

Today I am grateful for living in a peaceful country, with no war on its soil. We can go about our daily lives with roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and pretty much having anything we ever need or want available to purchase.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Purple Poppies, 24x12" acrylic painting by Natasa Vretenar

Today I am grateful for all the art supplies I have available to do my work. On my (almost a decade long) quest to simplify every aspect of my life, I admit that I usually do not adhere to minimalistic approach when it comes to buying art supplies. That is why I decided to use what I have at home (substrates, paint, mediums, or found objects etc) and not go to the art store until I really need something else. I also organized my supplies and was surprised by just how much I have on hand to work with!

I am catching up on Ardith Goodwin's class. It has been such a wonderful class so far and it is helping me in so many ways. I also signed up for another one of her classes on distortion!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Getting back to my routine, Irises painting by Natasa Vretenar

Today I am grateful for another neighbour who sent me some information regarding venues where to sell art locally. I received another rejection today for a show I was hoping to get into. I wish I could just shrug it off, but when there is nothing positive happening regarding my art show applications, I feel a bit discouraged.

It takes a while to get over a jet lag so I try to stick to a work routine right away. I am hoping to get some new custom substrates soon from a local shop to start a new project. In the mean time, I still have a dozen or so more substrates waiting for me to get to them and work on some ideas that have been on a back burner while traveling.

I am also thinking about making a series of flower paintings - I have not painted any flowers in a long time!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Gratitude, Sunflower painting by Natasa Vretenar 12x12"

There are many things to be grateful for. It is so easy to focus on the negatives, so this month I will mention one thing I am grateful for every day. Yesterday, I was grateful for having neighbours who got us some tasty chickens for a fundraiser their kids do while we were traveling. Today, I am grateful for being able to go to the grocery store and fill up our fridge with food.

We came back to Edmonton and to a lot of snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing. I liked watching the frosty branches of trees on the way from Calgary to Edmonton while driving.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter

I am jet lagged today so not much is happening here except trying to get back into normalcy. 

Friday, March 30, 2018


I have been traveling in Japan for three weeks and it has been an amazing experience. Japan is a beautiful country, and Japanese are welcoming, friendly people. It is a great country to visit with kids as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Rudolpha the Red Nosed She Deer

She often lit her own dance podium, and danced alone... This is a quick line drawing I did for practice for Ardith Goodwin's class.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Poppycock, rooster painting by Natasa Vretenar

Organizing photos on my comp and came across this oldie. As a non native speaker of English, I am always delighted to learn a new word. What do I do then - paint a painting of course!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Legend, white raven painting by Natasa Vretenar


From the Spirit Animals series.

Being in nature, outdoors, is my favorite thing to do. I was fortunate to live in a few beautiful places - AZ, NM and CO where the climate is mild and you can spend a lot of time outdoors throughout the year. Since we moved to Alberta (another beautiful but cold place!) we are not able to spend as much time in nature, although we try to get out at least for an hour or so if the temperature is not below -20 Celsius. Colder than that it is difficult.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bubu Lulu (Don't be just a chess piece), 60x36" horse painting by Natasa Vretenar

It is very hard to take a good photo of this painting right now because it is cold outside and I have to take the pictures indoors. This painting is too big to take a picture of it in my usual spot where the light is good coming from the balcony doors.  This is the best for now until the snow melts and I can take the painting outside on an overcast day to take a nice picture of it.

Another issue with photographing this painting is that I use several different brands of acrylic paint and they all have different reflection properties - some are more matte and some are more glossy, so the pictures really do not give an accurate representation of what the painting really looks like in real life. I will keep trying until I get a better photo.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gypsy, horse painting by Natasa Vretenar

I am calling it done (for now!). Of course nothing is safe in my studio from further changes. "Gypsy" is 3x5 feet large and is really hard to photograph with bad light conditions we have today. Also, I used some copper paint - metallics are notoriously hard to photograph too, but they look amazing in real life - the painting changes as light changes throughout the day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Work in progress

The struggle is real. After painting a lot of small paintings, I really missed large format painting and my palette knives. I am back to work on a few large paintings and it is a real challenge. I am also going through my paint like there is no tomorrow. I paint totally different in small and in large format - each size awakens different parts of my creative process.

The light today is low and it is raining outside - one day above the zero and we get freezing rain! We will not have any snow any time soon, so it's skating rink out there for a while!

Here is a bad picture of my work so far. I tend to make the painting too busy. Gypsy was getting too fabulous (had too much hair everywhere!). So, I trim a lot of things down. I am sure the colors will change a few more times until I am satisfied.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Larger paintings

My true love is working on large paintings. I like working on the small ones also because they are easier and faster to paint, and to put down ideas - composition, story, technique, which can then be used for a larger painting. When I work on a 30 in 30 days project, I have no time to do anything else - the project with a time constraint like that is intense!
This month I am working on a several large paintings that have been waiting patiently for a long time for me to get to work :).

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Slideshow of my "Mother" series paintings

I finally got some time to put together a little slide show of my Mother themed paintings from January! This was a project that is dear to my heart - so many memories flooded my mind while working on this - both of my mom and of being a mom to my kids.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


This painting is one of the first large paintings I did - and I did it in oils. I really enjoy painting in oils but with little kids this was not possible - acrylic is much easier to work with. I like how acrylic dries fast and makes me work faster too. I put a lot of thought into a painting before I even start painting.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Elk Island, landscape painting by Natasa Vretenar

This is a large landscape painting. I painted it from reference photos and memory of a late summer visit to the Elk Island National Park close to Edmonton. It is a beautiful place to visit and hike - all the trails are pretty much flat so it is a family friendly area. We go there quite often and in every season.

36x72" on a gallery wrapped canvas.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


The hardest thing is to be honest with one's self. I am devoting this entire year to being more honest with myself in regards to what it is I am trying to do with my art. Ardith Goodwin's class is providing a great guidance on this quest. I am grateful for being a part of the class with so many supportive and creative souls! It has been helping me to focus on things that matter the most to me in my creative process.

One of the exercises we had to do is to pick a favorite color. I said that purple was it, but another artists pointed out that there is not much purple in my work! So I went back last 10 years and realized that I really do not use much purple in my work. And there it was - glaring at me - red! I apparently love using red in my work - a whole range of red. There is also a lot of blue - a whole range too - from teals to cobalts. I remember a few years back I did realize that I never bought any green paint, so I went and bought some for a small series I did. I forced myself to use the color I was not comfortable with for some reason at the time. By pushing my limits with color I was able to paint subjects I did not dare touch before - like a large painting of a mountain meadow, full of grass and wild flowers.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Along the North Saskatchewan River II

36x60" on gallery wrapped canvas

Friday, February 2, 2018

Along the North Saskatchewan River I

36x60" large acrylic medium painting

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Work year

Writing grants for art is not easy for me, and I put a lot of thought and time into putting together these applications.  This year is going to be my most productive one yet - I have gazillion ideas in my head that must get out and be put on canvas!

Who says you cannot do art while traveling? I "drew" this face in the white sand - I have been thinking about doing some portraits for a while and it may just be a thing to do in 2018. We visited many beautiful places and stopped by the White Sands National Monument - what a magical place. We stayed to see the sunset after playing all day in the sand.I am going to look at many reference photos I took on my travels last year - I am really craving working with palette knives again and making a few landscape paintings.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Collage of 30 in 30 paintings January 2018

I did it again - finished 30 paintings in 30 days project in January! This year I did some of the work in December because of the travel plans in January though. Many thanks to Leslie Saeta for organizing the challenge - I am grateful for this experience (this is my 5th year doing the challenge at the beginning of the year!)

This project actually takes a lot more than 30 days in reality. I started planning it in November when I ordered and received my custom substrates from Captive Cutting. Mark does a wonderful job and makes them fast. When the substrates were delivered, I prepped them with a couple of layers of gesso and then painted the background with a few layers. All the prep work takes quite a bit of time. Thinking about composition, details of each painting, symbolism, theme within the theme, how it all ties together - this is the major undertaking and a ton of work as well. I have been thinking about this theme and project pretty much constantly for 3 months (well intensely and focused on my art, because I have been living as a mother for 15 years now!).

One of the challenges with making series like this is to keep yourself motivated. To stay on track I subdivided the project into smaller parts. I created five groups of paintings. Each group started with a smaller 3x18" painting symbolizing a sub theme: Love, Health,  Wisdom, Nurture, Community.

This series of paintings is in a sense an experimental series - I tried different mediums and techniques. The paintings reflect crafts that were done in my family: embroidery, weaving, needlepoint, knitting, beading, and crocheting. The small and big dots, thick and thin lines, repetition of patterns was used to emulate these crafts. I grew up watching the women in my family making beautiful things.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The funeral, Mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

Last Rites, concludes the Community segment of the Mother series and #30paintingsin30days for January 2018.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Roots, Mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

Cutting the roots off, then growing them again.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

It takes a village, Mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends - connections, networking, emotional support... Time is ticking, but some things always remain the same. The effect our actions have on others, how we leave our marks on others.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Welcome, mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

Socializing, decision making, family bonding takes place at the dining room table. Growing up, offering and sharing food was a gesture of welcoming those who came over to visit us in our home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Storyteller, Mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

The stories are woven throughout the time, erased, resurrected, added on etc. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Balancing Act, Mother series painting by Natasa Vretenar

Sometimes, being a mother feels like your whole life is turned upside down. Even then, keeping the balance is possible.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Raining Lemons, Mother series painting by Natasa Vretenar

"When it rains it pours"

As several unexpected challenges presented themselves, I think this painting is more than relevant today. Making a lemonade out of lemons that life gives is a skill that I have become quite proficient at over the years.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Belief, a mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

I am grouping this painting with fertility and abundance sub theme.

Many of my girlfriends have been able to get pregnant quite easily, some had to work hard on that, and some were not able to get pregnant. Some did not want kids. In times of struggle, one may find strength in spiritual matters.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lada, Mother series painting by Natasa Vretenar

11x23" on 3/4" thick MDF custom cut panel. Lada is a fertility goddess in Slavic mythology, and a popular name in the former Yugoslavia where I was born and raised.

Back in the saddle

We came back to Edmonton last night and are happy we missed another cold snap - the temperature today is cold, but "only" -10C. I am sorting through some household work (baking bread, doing laundry and putting away the Christmas decorations!), but after I am done with that I am so ready to sit down and paint more paintings for the 30 in 30 days project! It is quite difficult for me to paint while on the road, but I always bring my sketchbook with me and try and jot some ideas down and quick sketches.

Here is a collage of paintings I have painted so far for the January project - so much color and fun!

I am looking forward to dig deeper in Ardith Goodwin's class as well. This class has been amazing and it pushes me to examine my process.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Juggler, Mother themed painting by Natasa Vretenar

This painting is a mix of things - hinting at the abundance of things available to make mother's life easier, and how that same abundance can create chaos and overwhelm a person trying to juggle all the responsibilities and things she is surrounded by.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


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