Saturday, December 31, 2016

Summary of 2016

Wow! It is hard to believe that this is the last day of 2016! It has been an interesting year.
I spent a lot of time developing my technique and contemplating what direction I would like to go in. My main focus has been painting different animals and exploring symbolism of animals in different cultures and mythologies.


I started the year with a series of small paintings of corvids. They have been a constant in my art throughout the years. It is becoming a tradition for me to start the year with 30 small paintings in January. It starts the year in a productive mode and it is fun to pick a theme and experiment with new paints, colours and textures on smaller canvases.

During the summer, I had two solo shows in Edmonton - one at the Inspire Gallery at GRH and one at the Mezzanine Gallery at GRH. It is a wonderful place to show my art - I am happy to be able to contribute in a small way to patients' recovery at the Glenrose Rehab Hospital. I am grateful for the opportunity to show in both of these spaces this year. It is hard to get juried into shows locally and I am honoured to be chosen among so many talented artists in Edmonton.

Later on in the summer I came back to one of my favourite subjects - painting koi fish. I got inspired by a young lady who went to the Olympics this year representing Canada. She had a tattoo of koi fish turning into a dragon and told me a Chinese story of persistence of one koi fish that was rewarded for its efforts to jump the tall waterfall by becoming a dragon.

This series of paintings was born, and I will be showing some of my koi paintings at Muttart in January, and dragon-koi paintings later on at the GRH in the summer.

My Windows series is a beginning of a major project that digs deeper into human interactions with nature. I strive to depict human characteristics by painting animals. 12 animals chosen for this first series are all animals that live in Bosnia where I was born and raised.

I am looking forward to 2017! I already have three solo shows scheduled for the year, and am waiting to hear results from more applications I sent in. It is important to get a juried exhibit space - it motivates me and keeps me in a creative mode. I have a good feeling about the next year - so many ideas and projects are already going on - I just have to make sure that I stay focused and keep painting every day!

Huge thank you to all my art collectors, supporters and friends who cheer me on and encourage me to continue creating! Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 26, 2016


It is always festive at our house for the holidays. I love this part of the year, and this year we got some snow for Christmas. For me it does not get busy, as I hate shopping. I also keep consumerism to a minimum. We share meaningful gifts - handmade items, artwork, fun cards, things one can build or carve, or gifts of events. Santa has been good this year and gave us tickets to Cirque - Toruk production here in Edmonton. It was a fun show and we all enjoyed it.

This painting "The Light Pillar" recently sold (12x12"). I personally love this painting - it shows the view from our place in the winter time. Light pillars are formed when it is really cold outside and the sky that day I saw this pillar was magnificent. Winter can be very colourful and beautiful. I enjoy the brief moments in which light explodes with colour and reflects from the fresh snow.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Setting up square payment in online store

Today I spent hours setting up the online store on square for Canadian orders. Orders have to be separated into US and Canadian, so I set up 2 accounts - one for Canada and one for the USA. It is a bit more complicated than using Paypal but it should work well. Let's hope that the new year is prosperous and productive for all.

These paintings are sold.

Friday, December 16, 2016

30 in 30 days

I am taking a few days to prep my substrates for the January challenge. I am working on the background layers for 30 paintings, deciding what colours to use, what texture (if any) etc. What I like about the challenge is that sometimes a whole new texture process comes out of working on these small substrates.

It took me a couple of days to gesso, and then build a first layer of paint on 30 substrates. My substrates were specially made by a local business - they are 3/4" thick and 11" diameter. I am trying out both birch plywood and lightweight MDF. Each one has its advantages. I like the smoothness of the MDF surface, which works out better for smaller substrate size as I do not usually build too much texture on smaller paintings. Birch is a more hard wood and it is also a good choice for this project. Either substrate is easy to hang with two D shaped picture hanger screwed into the back. I use a wire with plastic coating on it - it is more durable and it never breaks on me!
Of course, weight is not a consideration for substrates this small, but it is good to track these things for bigger sized projects in the future.

I work on our dining room table so that area was quite messy and busy during this process. I work in acrylics primarily because they are easier to work with, I can build a lot of texture very quickly and they do not require solvents and do not smell too bad (especially after they dry).

Another big part of the project is choosing the theme. I chose to paint things related to Canada, and first 30 paintings are of animals that live in Canada. I made a list of each animal and the list keeps growing every day. Each painting will be a colourful, fun painting.

It is also time to start thinking where I should exhibit the finished paintings. That is always a challenge in Edmonton! Wish me luck on that one.

One of the animals that made the list for January is a raven! Here is "Patriarch" a small 6x6" painting I painted a long time ago :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


December is an intense month for me, a month that brings an avalanche of memories, mixed with holiday cheer and crisp snow. Here is our poinsettia - it is really big and bright red. I love it and could not resist bringing it home from the store the other day.

I love to decorate the house and I usually do it early in December, but this year I am taking things slow and I just hung the stockings up on the mantle today. We love to spend Christmas in Canada - it has always been a white Christmas since we moved here four years ago. We already have some snow on the ground, but it looks like there will be more before the 25th. 

This year, I downsized our tree and got us a white pencil tree - it fits in our living room nicely and blends in our contemporary decor. It is so nice to sit by the fire (and we needed it in the last 2 weeks during the arctic air blast) and look at the tree when it gets dark.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Muttart Conservatory show in January-February

I am making final preparations for my show at the Muttart Conservatory. I am excited to show there again! It is one of my favourite places in Edmonton to visit - especially in the winter time. My koi series will be on display in the main atrium on the art wall from January 13th to February 17th 2017!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

30 paintings in 30 days

Yes, I am doing it again! I signed up for 30 in 30 days challenge.

It is a great challenge to get me going for the next year. I have a few things in mind already!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Glenrose Rehab Hospital show in 2017

Great news! I will have a show at the GRH in July-August 2017 at the Mezzanine Gallery. I am really excited to show my new work there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

KoiD-5 Koi painting by Natasa Vretenar

23" diameter 1" thick
This series is inspired by an ancient tale tells 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.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

KoiD-3, koi painting by Natasa Vretenar

The fish are swimming in the river upstream, some may turn around, some may swim in circles.

Friday, November 4, 2016

KoiD-2, Koi paintings by Natasa Vretenar

23" round substrate, 1" thick, ready to hang. All of the substrates for this series have been custom made from MDF that is 1" thick.

I started this series after hearing a legend about koi fish swimming upstream in Yellow river in China. I really enjoy going to places that have koi ponds. One of my favourite places in Albuquerque was Japanese garden with a huge pond in the botanical garden. I used to spend hours there, studying, contemplating, even writing my dissertation. Watching the fish has a relaxing effect on me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Koi series paintings by Natasa Vretenar

My new series - this is the first painting in the series that is finished. Each painting is on a circular substrate that is 23" round and 1" thick. The substrates were custom made for this project. These paintings have a lot of different texture - the texture was used to symbolize different things that I will reveal as I post more paintings. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Galleries in Edmonton

Here is one of the earliest large paintings I have done. I am so happy that I am able to pursue painting full time since we moved to Canada. It was a good decision. I am learning every day, painting and drawing and building on my ideas. 

I have been in Edmonton for four years. There are many galleries in town and I visited all of them on many occasions (at least all those that pop up in google search). I love to visit new galleries - to check out art and do research on gallery itself (to see if it would be a good fit for me and my art).

I noticed that there are a lot of out of town artists represented in Edmonton galleries, and a few local artists. There are not that many young(er), or emerging artists represented. I was surprised that local talent is not promoted more.

I also noticed the lack of customer service. There are only a couple of galleries where we visited and were greeted and felt welcome. Not a single gallery attendant ever engaged in a conversation about the artwork on the walls or to speak about the artists represented. That must have been the biggest surprise of all. There were a few occasions where the artist at the show opening was left to do all the mingling and talking and socializing and promoting their work, while the owner usually did not do much than look at their smart phone.

It's definitely educational to visit the gallery before sending personal art info to them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Windows series collage 2016

I received another rejection letter in the mail yesterday. It was for a project that I really would have liked to get, and I was initially quite bummed about not getting in. However, this is a life of an artist - some calls you get and some you don't. The creativity goes on, stronger than ever.

I finished 12 paintings of animals, and I will for now move on to another project. All these animals I chose to paint for this series are from the old world. They all live in Bosnia where I grew up. I is taking me a while to write up stories for each painting, and I will be adding these stories as I go.

Now, I am on to my other project that I have been working on - it is coming along nicely. I am using different media to achieve a particular texture and this takes some time, as different media needs at least 3-4 days to completely dry and then I layer other media on top of the original layer. So it takes more time to build the texture. I love working with acrylics because it does allow me to work fairly quickly between the layers.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Snow in Edmonton

Today we have a snow storm here, and it has been snowing since this morning, and the temperatures are dropping. Thankfully we changed our tires to winter tires last week! The weather here is quite unpredictable and we learned to check the forecast every day before we head out of home.

I like it when the snow is falling if I can work from home and do not have to drive anywhere. Today was a good, productive day. I wrote another grant proposal, made cookies and cooked some tasty beans for dinner. Proposal writing is a process for me - takes me a while to put it together, but it is a helpful process. It really makes me think about the project I am working on, or projects I have in my head that are not quite well defined.

I painted a bit as well.
Here is a flower painting for this snowy day!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Grants and painting

I was just going through my old paintings and realized I used to paint horses a lot a few years back. I am currently working on two large horse paintings and having lots of fun with them, even though it is definitely challenging to paint horses!

Today I am also writing a grant proposal. It is very time consuming for me as English is not my first language and I tend to overanalyze every sentence and worry if things I am trying to explain make sense.

Here is a painting I did 7 years ago.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Rosie", cow painting by Natasa Vretenar

20x16" on Russian birch cradled panel, acrylic media

Growing up, I spent summer and winter vacations in the country. My family always had a couple of cows that would provide milk throughout the year. Each cow had a name and they stayed overnight inside their cozy barns.

This painting is part of my Windows series that depicts animals that live in Bosnia and Hercegovina, where I was born and raised. Each animal has a special meaning.

The Messenger of Immortality 12x24"