We first met Mojca at an Positive Psychology event in Slovenia. We were immediately drawn to her sparking energy and contageous “joie de vivre” (joy for life). Our courtesy chat quickly turned into a lively exchange of views on art and life. It turned out we had a lot in common. Especially the unstoppable desire to create and convey stories.
We were tremendously happy when our roads crossed again and we got a chance to capture her portraits. After the photoshoot we ordered a pizza and talked about her creative path.
Mojca has so many interesting things to tell it’s been really difficult to reveal just a few pieces here. “Je suis l’artiste” (fr. for: I am an Artist), she says with a convincing french accent, holding her head up high, then she laughs. But right after that she changes her voice back to serious when she tells us that every artist should be proud of his work and know how to appreciate himself. And that’s where we all still fall time and time again.
About her beginnings
“I must had had it in my genes. Both of my parents were artists as well – my mother a designer and my father a sculptor. As a little girl, I was listening to music and browsing through painting books, we had piles of those at home. From the early age, I was intensely observing the world around me. All the lights, shadows, patterns on the floor, facades, sand, how it feels like walking on it … feelings, sounds, colours, everything was so interesting to me.”
At some point in primary school she noticed that she can draw well, but her talent wasn’t acknowledged. “I was not noticed. This was maybe also contributed by the fact that I came from a poor, a little excentric family; I was different than majority of the chidren I went to school with in the centre of Ljubljana.”
She remembers how she made a drawing of a flower that was on the window shelf of the classroom. That was in 6th grade. “I was really observing that flower into details – how it had these light green, dark green tones, how the light shone through, and those hair, veins and all. I know that drawing was good but it was not noticed. My Arts teacher did not like me at all. Oh and of course I always had my notebooks full of drawings. Those little, tiny drawings – already at that time I was using dots. And those lines. I’d been always doing some kind of architecture. I liked experimenting. Once I stole makeup accessories from my mother and draw with them, in my notebooks, everywhere.”
She really wanted to go to Secondary school for Design but her parents wouldn’t let her. “So I went to Chemistry, they literally forced me into it. Even the teachers there were driving me away, saying: “Mojca, you are too good at writing and drawing, go away from here!”. And I felt that on the inside as well. That I wanted to draw, that this was really me, that I wanted to make a living by drawing.”
In spite of that, the path was leading her away from Art for a few more years. After the secondary school she went to study Chemistry and then Architecture. During this period she practically stopped drawing until a coincidence led her to take on an order, connected with drawing. “I had to draw some technical stuff for a biology study book and I did it really well. And I said to myself – hey, I think I could do this! Then it all just opened up and suddenly there was a lot of everything – drawing, painting and architecture. At some point I had to decide what was the thing that was pulling me the most – what was my “point of genious”, as I like to call it.” For the past 15 years she’s now only been focusing on illustrations and paintings.
About her first real customers and supporters
The first one who really acknowledged her work was a german family. “In 2010 I had an exhibition on Tartini square in Piran. That day was very windy and I practically only had two paintings outside, leaning against a monument, the rest of them I took to a nearby gallery. And then those Germans came and they went crazy. They said they’d been looking for something llike this for the past 5 years and that they had to had those paintings. They really bought them and I took them to Dachau, where they live, personally. We are still in contact even today. Those were practically my first serious buyers and that was when everything really opened up for me.”
There’s also a lady in Slovenia that immediately recognized the value in her stories and saw the best pieces.“She was one of the first buyers of these larger format paintings of mine but she also likes the little ones. I remember how I was preparing 19 small paintings on the wood for the whole summer, I was making them for an exhibition. Then this lady came and practically bought all of them. So I remained empty-handed (laugh) since I didn’t dare to ask her if she would borrow them back to me for the time of exhibition. But that’s how it was, of course I was happy those paintings went to her.”
About the toughest period of her life
She did not have an easy life but one of the toughest trials came a few years ago when her daughter got really sick and she needed a very demanding surgery. That was the period when she felt everything was falling apart. She says than only now she is slowly feeling that she is getting firmly back on her feet and feels that no matter what happens in life, she can move on with full power.
“Some people say that artist needs pain in life to be able to create. But I’ve come to the point where I say: please don’t say that to me anymore. No, I really don’t need such level of stress, why would I? If your family is dying, if you don’t have some basic conditions for survival, it is a big disadvantage. I am sorry for every artist that ever has to go through something like this. Who could totally spread his wings but maybe never will. Because he is castrated – I call this castration. You don’t need that, you really don’t. Positive stress, adrenalin, when you get new orders, absolutely yes, But there’s a big difference between positive and negative.”
About finding inspiration
She can find inspiration practically everywhere. In nature. Through metting positive people. Even in photography, fashion and different other fields. When she goes abroad, she loves to visit galleries. “I am also very much inspired by other artist and I’ve started connecting with them actively, especially in the past three years. I also take classes because I am interested in how another artist sees things, in what way he works. But the thing that still grounds me the most is certainly nature. That’s when I can really connect with my painting. When I paint, I am always barefoot because I want to feel that touch, that connection with the ground.”
About influende and understanding other painters
She always tried to understand different styles and approaches to painting. One artist she finds very interesting is for example Magritte (René Magritte, op.a.), whose work she didn’t know for quite a long time but when she saw it, she could immediately draw some parallels between them. “When I first saw his stuff I said: “Dude, wait a minute, you stole this from me!” (laugh). Or, for example, Dali – when someone said to me: “Mojca, you did this just like Dali.”. Hey, if I lived in the time of Dali, I could had been his muse! (laugh again).”
When it comes to Picasso, she says she didn’t understand him for a long time. But she knew that he had been a great artist and that was teasing her. “And then the other day an artist said, fully convinced: “Oh, Picasso is so trivial!”. I say: never say trivial, because you don’t understand the story. And you don’t undestand why something is like it is. Try to open up. I like to open up as much as I can, even to things I don’t understand. So that I don’t judge. We are inclined to put things that we don’t understand into boxes, to somehow categorize them. With Picasso, I was really studying his paintings. I went to the museum and I was there in front of one of his paintings for two hours because I didn’t understand it. But I knew it was good – for me. And then I kept looking, until I figured it out.”
There are also some slovenian painters that are close to her heart. “One that is energetically terrifyingly close to me is Darko Slavec – a great painter, hyperrealist. Then there are also Bernik or Lojze Spacal. I wasn’t paying too much attention to Spacal until I realized that we have a similar poetry in a way. At the end, he was very much subtracting the colours … People started complaining to me: “Mojca, you are not using colours anymore, you only have two colours on the painting and a few lines … what is going on, where are those colourful paintings and all those worlds and billions of dots”? And I said: “I took it away, because I want to find the essence.”. Spacal was for example also using only white and read, or orange, black, white and red, and relief. And that feels close to me.”
About the stories in her paintings
Mojca creates a story in every painting and it is being developed as she paints. “Sometimes I am not even aware it is evolving inside of me, it is boiling below the surface, some elements are slowly appearing. And then there comes a moment when it simply “happens”. Then a series of paintings is created, just like these little horses of mine. However the thing is that, for example, I have a story of my own but people may see it completely differently. I like to hear those stories from people and when I do, it’s the best. I am a storyteller, I tell you mine but you tell me yours. People often see different things and they tell me that through observing the paintings, they are cleansing themself. I also feel that I am cleansing myself when I paint. But I am never depressed, never. When I paint, I am always in a good mood.”
About the symbolism that she uses in her paintings
At the beginning of her path she was simply paiting and wasn’t paying so much attention to symbols. She says she didn’t even know why she was using some of them. “Back then I didn’t even know the materials and the colours well so I couldn’t express exactly what I wanted. Only now I am really getting to the point when I understand the essence of the symbols. For example the moon – I often do it as a crescent and then as full. This to me is time passing, just like a cycle, like infinity. Like it’s oscillating. I love the word oscillation. How time goes, it is spinning very fast, but in this rapidly moving time you are completely calm inside. That is how I understand it – like someone is fighting really hard somewhere, in space and time where everything is moving.”
One of the most popular are her paintings with little horses.“These little horses – they are often very quiet guardians of time or they are dancing. They also visit each other because, like humans, horses are social beings. Then they fall in love and create their little horses.”
When going through her studio, we couldn’t take our eyes off her typical fairy-tale-ish mini people. “At the beginning people thought they are some fairies or elves, although that wasn’t my intention. I see them more like some essence, like being. Now I rarely used them in my paintings anymore. I mostly draw couples or I like to show these journeys, meetings of two people. When they meet and something happens – some chemistry. When I was drawing those dancing couples, it was also very important to me that they are in 100% balance and trust, but at the same time individually strong – he in his backbone and she in her dynamics. Because one person should not lean on the other just out of dependency, out of feeling helpless.”
Architecture, which she was studying, is still close to her and is also present in her work. “Architecture to me is “wow”, the best, because it is like house, like space, like home. That’s why I often paint little houses that give this feeling that you are really at home.”
About her first step in the world of portraits
Mojca thinks that only now she is discovering her true painting side. A special place in her heart certainly belongs to the recently created portrait on which she depicted her daughter. That was the first portrait she ever did. “When I was at a one-month painting seminar in Austria, I was working on the portrait of my daughter. For that purpose I first needed one good photo of her, which turned out as quite a challenge. She really doesn’t like being photographed but on the other hand it really meant a lot to her that I wanted to paint her. I knew I wanted exactly that cut – the whole face somehow didn’t work for me but in this way it felt perfect, also with this great makeup she did by herself, with those little dots. That was my first portrait in life and I was really surprised I got such great feedback on it. Painting on the basis of a model, I never did that before. But now I am really drawn to it.”
About sharing knowledge and copycats
She is not hiding her knowledge and she likes to share it with others. She’s not worrying about the copycats. “Someone once said to me: “Mojca, who showed it, was cut off! (adapted from a slovenian proverb) Don’t explain how you are working, you shouldn’t tell anything!” But I said I would do exactly the opposite – I would tell everything, it really doesn’t matter. Really. And I feel perfect when I get a chance to lecture because I know I’ve passed some knowledge on. Yes, I do have a few copycats, one or two of them are actually really good. But I decided I would not really pay much attention or deal with it. Some people don’t see the real difference and think it is the same author, they think those are my paintings. But if you pay some attention, you know immediately they are not. Those who cannot recognize that – they are not my buyers. I am me and regardless of the fact that someone else might be good or even better than me – it will still be him and I will still be me. It cannot be the same, ever. No matter what. Because that person has a completely different soul. People come to buy my paintings because they really feel something, they connect with my work, and that is what matters the most.”
About her personal definition of success
She sees success in life in the capacity to find and retain the connection with yourself, and then also act accordingly. “To be, who you are. That’s success to me. To achieve some kind of balance within yourself. Because that attracts everything else, everything is connected with it: financial success, personal happiness, health, good relations with other people. This is it. I will be 50 this year and I have a feeling that I’ve only just started living. That feels totally sexy. To me, this is success.”
To see more of Mojca’s work, visit her website http://www.fo.si