Kick-butt creative entrepreneur gives up day job.
It’s been six years since Jelena Obradovic gave up her day job as a journalist to be a full-time artist and she hasn’t looked back! Jelena describes herself as a self-taught artist, “Thanks to so many selfless professional artists online, I learned what I know now and I am still learning today,” she explains. “How I see it, I know so little and there’s a whole world of art and design out there to be known. It’s a beautiful world, and a beautiful fulfilling future to look forward to.” But, she’s not only kicking butt in the creative world, she’s also trained in Kendo, a Japanese martial art in sword fighting. We recently caught up with the Yugoslavian-born artist to talk about her inspiration and being a creative entrepreneur.
I wasn’t happy with my day job and the future that sort of life painted. There was more in me to be explored and for me to give out into the world.
Where are you originally from and where are you located now? I was born in Sarajevo, former Yugoslavia. After the war started in 1992, I moved with my family to Serbia, Novi Sad. And that is where I live and work now.
Can you briefly share your background? I finished high school during the bombing, which happened in 1999. That was my first turning point where I decided that even though I want to go to college, I first wanted to find a job—as soon as the bombing was over. There was a radio station I listened to through that time. They were fearless, working through all that horrific time and I loved the music they played. After the bombing was over, I just went there and asked them for a job, and they gave it to me. I worked as a political journalist on radio, TV and newspapers, while finishing college at the same time. Art wasn’t on my mind.
What motivated you to become an illustrator? I wasn’t happy with my day job and the future that sort of life painted. There was more in me to be explored and for me to give out into the world. I was neglecting a very important side of me…so I started to draw a little. Thankfully, I have artistic and smart friends who talked me into taking it more seriously and actually earning money from it. And that started the snowball effect. Listen to your friends!
Do you create any traditional art mediums such as painting and drawings, if so, what is the earliest piece you remember creating? The most traditional work for me is drawing on paper before I pull it into Illustrator. Those are mostly rough sketches. I tried watercolor, but that’s too difficult for me. I mostly work digitally now.
The characters I use on the website, what inspired those designs? They are so fun and engaging? There was actually a class I took on Skillshare by wonderful Charly Clements—drawing faces. I was never really good at drawing people and faces…so that class gave me the confidence to do it. Some of those faces are my friends, and for others I found inspiration online. Faces always give more life to every design, at least for me. There’s always something special and engaging about seeing a human being and especially a face in a design. I wanted to show that.
How would you describe your artist style? Very eclectic. As I said, there’s a world of design just waiting for me out there. Whenever I see something beautiful it’s a new shiny thing I want to explore and learn. Lettering, pattern design, drawing people, all kinds of stylizing. It is all so interesting for me and I go from one thing to another. I feel very lucky to be able to spend my time like that.
Is your work inspired by another artist, if so, who and why? Oh yes definitely. Since I am interested in all kinds of styles and themes, there are so many amazing and talented artists to find inspiration from. Lauren Hom, Stefan Kuntz, Charly Clements, Alex Gold, Kate O’Hara, Lucia Soto, Steve Simpson and those are just on top of my head. There is so much talent in this world.
You also create some fun abstract prints that are great for textiles such as your ‘Matisse’ designs. Were you inspired by the artist Matisse, and if so, how and why? Matisse inspired prints were actually a contest theme for Printed Village. I thought that was very interesting and wanted to see what I could create. I definitely love pattern design and whatever I create, I try to turn it into a pattern, if possible.
What challenges have you faced as a creative entrepreneur? The most significant battle was convincing myself I can do it. Giving up your day job—and all the benefits that go with it—to venture into something I have almost non-existent experience with, with world-wide competition, it was scary. Making a decision to leave the old (and known) life behind and fully commit to something new, was very scary and also one of the best decisions I made in my life.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing? I would probably still be a journalist, or some kind of copywriter, maybe something in marketing. All those things seem so distant now.
You are more capable than you think. You are more talented than you think. Don’t waste your talents, whatever they are.
What would readers be shocked to know about you? I have a Dan-grade in Kendo. It’s a Japanese martial art in sword fighting.
What is your favorite pastime, besides creating art? Cooking! I love traditional Serbian food with my little twist, and I live near a farmer’s market that works every day. It is filled with fresh organic veggies and fruit. Since I work from home, I can cook something nice and tasty every day. I also enjoy watching those Scandi-noir TV shows. Omg, I think I’ve seen them all!
What words of wisdom do you have for other entrepreneurs? You are more capable than you think. You are more talented than you think. Don’t waste your talents, whatever they are.
Learn more about Jelena and her artwork at blueleladesign.com.