Interview with contemporary artist Jelena Tošković

Jelena Tošković aka Heartofrockandroll is a student of graphic design at Art Academy in a small country of Montenegro. Mixing realism with imagination in her artworks she is creating a unique surreal stories in an expressive way with a touch of mystery and melancholy. Many of her illustrations are hidding a short song quotes on a back of a paper.

Please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
I always felt that art is a part of me, I drew a lot of cartoon characters ever since I can remember. I never actually thought about art as a career, I just loved doing it and I let it took me wherever ... and yet now I’m pursuing a career of an illustrator/graphic designer.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
There’s many artists I admire. Works of other artists and their techniques inspire me in some way, but I’m always trying to stay away from everyone’s style in order to make something unique and completely strange. Music inspires me very much, lyrics are the most important to me. When I was in a high school I used to create images in my head while listening to songs and I would grab a paper and pencils and draw something. My works grew with me up and nowadays I am thinking differently. I’m reading a lot of poetry, I’m much more interested in old Nordic, Slavic and Greek mythology and traditions and I’m trying to recreate some gods and interesting people from it, as well as from poetry, in my own way.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
Well my ‘normal’ day  revolves around my college  assingments and since I’m on Art academy I have a lot of work to do, so even when I’m at home I have always something to finish and a very little time to rest...and if you add some side jobs, commissions, design stuff, etc. it can be pretty hectic. Now when I think about it’s everything but not normal.

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I’m self-taught when it comes to drawing, but I have to admit that coming to academy was a some kind of epiphany for me. Nobody was trying to change my way but some professors helped me to drew my attention to things I hadn’t noticed before. They opened my eyes and that helped me free myself more. Now I experiment much more than before. There are only advantages in the formal training on the art academy in my opinion if you’re pursuing a carreer of an artist. People will take you more seriously and you’ll experience a lot more mediums and who knows, you can discover that you’re good in other branches of art, like I did.
What fascinates you the most about surrealism? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
What fascinates me the most about surrealism is the fact that you can revive all of your wildest and craziest dreams and ideas. My brain is full of them, I never start producing an idea before I finish it completely inside of my mind. Then I take a paper and make it real. My style is collision of hyper realism and totally unrealistic motives combined with some ornaments and decorations. I love combining these opposites. Whatever I do I tend to make it psychedelic, hippie and yet dark and hunting. I’m always trying to depict some emotion that people usually keep deep inside of them, I did not find happy emotions inspiring. I’m also interested in Greek, Nordic, and Slavic stories and  mythologies, pagan rituals and tradition. I read a lot about Mayans, and Aztecs, American Indians, they just fascinate me. Those cultures are so rich and inspiring, so I use it through my art and I’m making concepts , stories…every illustration I make is a visual story about something. I never make it so obvious or ordinary, I don’t want people to stay indifferent when they see my art. I want them to ‘read between the lines’ to search for the story.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
The best about being creative is that you’re looking at the world around you differently - you see things that others don’t see. Its fun and exciting, so many details that other do not see are inspiring in my case. To me being creative is a fun way of letting your inner spirit and imagination to come out and play, you’re able to make a lot of crazy and weird stuff.

Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
Sometime I spend two or three days in making of one illustration. I work only two or three hours per day. I always start with a graphite pencils and when I think that everything is in a good composition and put well, I move on to colour pencils, water colours, ink…and then I finish it in Photoshop, but I use it only to change some colours or to add some effects, like sparks or light, to make a little more magic.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Since I study on Art Academy, on my first year I had classes of  sculpting, oil/aqrilique painting and graphics. I tried these traditional mediums and I loved them. I personally think that tattooing is some kind of art medium of the 21st century. I’m in love with the tattoos, I am making a plan to start doing it in the close future.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
Well, I’m still a student so I don’t own a studio yet… I work in my bedroom, which is full of candles, books and my drawings are all over the place, some are on the wall, some are in the pile on my table. There’s nothing strange in my room, it’s not that exciting at all ...except this sculpture of a black dragon, which my mum hates, because it looks like a demon as she said, and not many people know, but his head is removable ....but I always let them to find out by themselves, because the expression on their faces is always priceless. If you pull his head up from his body, it becomes a handle of a knife which hides in his body…so yeah, it’s pretty strange but it was money well spent in my opinion, he is very cute. I named him Dracarys (yep, this is the fan of GoT talking).

What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
I don’t know, I’m just starting to make something serious of all of this, so I didn’t have so many tough challenges. I’m on my fourth year of academy and I have learned so far as a graphic designer that ‘time is not our friend’, we don’t have it, deadlines are everywhere, so if you want to get some quality work done, start working on something immediately, no procrastinating, last minute work is always sh*t.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?

Good one was : Always listen to what others have to say to you, but in the end don’t let it affect you or change you in the way you don’t feel it’s right for you. I can’t think of any bad ones at this moment.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I always despised the jealousy between artists, of course, not every artist is like that, but most of them are. I think this is the worst...Everyone should just respect everyone.

An artist´s life doesn’t have to be lonely. I know mine isn’t, but in the end it depends on every individual.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
I see myself as an established artist/graphic designer, doing what I love the most and making good money out of it so I could make even more exciting and bigger art with damn good quality tools. It is my goal to make people notice me more, to be the name in the world of illustrators, to be such artist that someone else will look up to one day, as I look up to some of them today.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

Even when you are on a dry spell and you don’t have any inspiration, look for the works of others and just let them overwhelm you, take a paper and practice whatever...everything is better than doing nothing.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
I have a lot of favourite quotes about life, this came to my mind first, it’s a question from T. S. Eliot’s (Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) poem and it goes like:

‘’Do I dare
   Disturb the universe?’’

I see it as a constant reminder, when I ask myself this, how far will I go after my dreams, do I have a guts and  to prevent myself of giving up on  a first obstacle or a failure and to always be able to answer ‘’Yes, I dare.’’

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

I’m listening to a lot of music, diggin’ up for some new, mostly from independent artists, I read books, I’m also running a blog where I collect and post photos that I find interesting, I’m going out with my friends…yeah that’s pretty much it.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
Yeah of course, you can check out my portfolio on Deviantart, Behance or Tumblr.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I’m currently working on this series of illustrations where I draw Pagan Gods, believers and priests, in a way I imagine them as I read about them. They’re all gonna be connected with this dreamy, dark, nocturnal atmosphere with piercing eyes and  rich decorations like they jumped out of some dream. First in series are ‘In Your Honour’ and ‘Dark Mother’, stay tuned for the rest, I’m pretty slow...but I have a lot of ideas. Cheers.
Thank you dear Jelena, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)
By contributor Linda. September 14, 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.