I have postcard printouts of Domagoj's art plastered on my wall. Bright, bold, and dipped in candour and light, the Croatian artist's art pieces are a journey in self-discovery. Many master the often obscure techniques of the practice. Only a few capture "the moment." It cannot be taught and perhaps arrives from earned understanding and deep empathy. It is a rare but familiar genius--immediately identifiable and perennially relevant.
Two months ago, I had the pleasure of reaching out to Domagoj and speaking to him about all he holds dear: his creations, routine, perspective, and learnings.
Picture courtesy: Domagoj Šokčević
Was creating art something you fell into, or did you want to do this growing up?
I’ve been in art my entire life. My grandfather is a painter, and several family members have been or still are involved in different branches of art and design. So, I believe it has genetically been passed on to me. But nothing precedes my own interest and love for art.
But nothing precedes my own interest and love for art.
I graduated from the School of Applied Arts and Design and studied textile design for three years. I have loved illustration for years, but I never had time to try to illustrate until almost two years ago. The intertwining of all sorts of personal situations and circumstances at the time started my illustration career.
How long does it take for you to finish a piece? I assume it varies.
Yes, it varies from job to job, depending on whether I work for myself or clients. Sometimes I can complete a project in a day. Sometimes, I need a few days. And there are times when I can finish two papers in one go. Sometimes, though, it takes a month. Fits of creativity and the feelings I want to get out of myself also affect the work. When that happens, I have trained myself to push through and get the job done in a few hours.
'Waves' by Domagoj Šokčević
What is your favorite part of the process?
The entire process in itself is immensely gratifying. Because you get to see what the work looks like at the beginning, during the making, and at the end when you finish it (although no piece is ever finished). The process from the start to the end has always intrigued me. Because I can easily compare my methods to someone else's unique creative process. It's fascinating.
The color palettes you use in your illustrations truly stand out. You also experiment a fair bit with the point of view in your frames. How frequently do you take risks with your style?
Thank you very much for your kind words. I experiment with my style fairly often. Exploration and experimentation should be the part of the process. With new styles, new methods and perspectives dawn. In each of my illustrations, there is at least a hint of a little experimentation--somewhere it can be recognized immediately, and somewhere it is not obvious as much. Regardless, for me, it is always fun.
I am a person who likes taking risks in life, even if they don't pay-off well. I believe this can be seen and felt in many of my works. The point of it all is to continue evolving. Continue exploring and discovering.
'what life brings' by Domagoj Šokčević
Do you carry out any research before beginning a piece?
I mostly do research when I do projects for clients, because they are generally different approaches or topics compared to my illustrations. When I do my personal works, they stem from my deep feelings.
Although, projects intended for clients do always contain slivers of my personalities, emotions and feelings. It is inevitable.
Are there any changes you have noticed in the Croatian art scene in recent years?
Every year there are more and more artists. Not only is the number of artists higher, but the quality keeps getting better. As far as I manage to follow the art scene, I must note that in Croatia there is still a large percentage of traditional artists, which I am very glad to see. Indeed, a lot of quality painters, sculptors, digital artists, and everyone is fighting for their talent and work.
How do you deal with the loneliness that comes with a solitary profession such as yours?
Uh, I think I find it harder to deal with back pain (laughs). Look, you are not alone if you have yourself, you love yourself, you love what you do and you have people around you who support and love you.
I think it is necessary to sacrifice something in order to achieve success, no matter how talented you are or how hard you try.
Everything comes in its own time. Of course, I will not lie, we are human beings, there are days when I have a harder time dealing with loneliness, but it passes, like everything else. A balance can be struck between business and private life, only if you want to, but on the other hand I think that you need to sacrifice something for success.
I initially sacrificed my social life so I could work hard. Friends would call me to see if everything was okay, and if I was alive. After a while of putting my art first, some balance has returned. I think it is necessary to sacrifice something from life in order to achieve success, no matter how talented you are or how hard you try.
All in all, I think everything happens when it's meant to happen.
It is important for me to focus my energy on the things that fulfill me. All in all, I think everything happens when it's meant to happen. It is a natural life process.
Do you like traveling? If so, how being in new places influences your artistic worldview?
Yes, I love to travel. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel outside the country for the last few years. But this summer or fall I’m going to give myself a great holiday and travel around Europe.
In any case, wherever I go--small places, big places, places I already know or have been unfamiliar with--I always find inspiration. It doesn’t have to be an inspiration for my art, but some kind of mental stimulation. It is different when you see a broader aspect of a place where a different life is led than yours, although even the smallest detail in the change is significant.
A piece of advice for young creators?
Probably this is a cliché statement, but just be your own person. Whatever you do, the effort should come of your own accord and your own talent. Practice, learn new things, work hard, and in time everything will come into its own. Patience and persistence are key.
I believe that the most persistent succeed.
I believe that the most persistent succeed. And I realized all this only after a certain time, so believe me, just be your own, do not pay attention to other people's opinions, be persistent, and work hard. Everything follows.