Thursday, May 3, 2018

Designing Horses: The Art of Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković - Swarj


Designing Horses: The Art of Zorka Veličković
By Gina McKnight
Archived from the April 2018 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

“At the beginning of my ‘art story’ I painted Swraj many times, 
and I still do...
his magic will last till my last breath.”

The internet has made the world smaller. We can connect easily with people around the world, some becoming good friends. Through our love of horses, art, writing, or whatever it may be, we can sometimes find our doppelgänger or soul-sister (or brother). I don’t know if it’s fate, serendipity, or just coincidence, but over the past several years, I’ve connected with amazing people around the world who I can call friend. I am not sure when I first connected with Zorka Veličković. We have been friends for what seems a lifetime. She loves horses (and I do, too). She paints amazing images that seem to jump off the page; cosmic energy, ethereal vibrations, and colorful aesthetics all create Zorka’s engaging art.

Last year Zorka and I collaborated on a children’s book for Banyan Publishing, India. The book, entitled Nawaab: Marwari Stallion of India, is about the adventures of a young horse. The first book in the series, The Great Quake, was released in eBook and has a huge fan base. Zorka and I will be releasing the book version very soon, and then on to more books in this series. Zorka also created the cover and interior art for Horsemanship: Quotes from Riders Around the World.

Welcome, Zorka!

GM: Collaborating with you on projects has been so much fun! I am excited to share your art with the world and let them see the beauty of your designs! Tell us about your beginnings…
ZV:  I was born in 1970 in Kragujevac, Serbia, at that time part of former Yugoslavia, the second child of respected painter – my father, and my mom a social worker.

It is inexplicable how I became obsessed by horses, I’m just born that way... I didn’t speak until my third year, and then my first word was horse. My only toys from childhood were plastic horses. I draw nothing but horses ever since, and weird thing is that I didn’t have chance to see horses in real, but my father had great library of artistic books, so I enjoy in sights of Rembrandt’s, Michelangelo's, Degas, Gericault's, and many more. I never had wish to ride horses, I always had dream to keep them free as possible, share life on friendly base... I learned to ride last year in India (funny thing, isn’t it?).

My father tried to develop my talent, but I stick to the horse theme despite his efforts to share his knowledge about painting. I was also "wild child", so my mom decided to not let me in art school and instead of that I had to finish teaching university, and I got a job one week after I received my diploma. In the next years I got far from art, from painting, but never stop drawing horses just for me and I knew somehow that it will come time for that one day...  I never owned a horse, but in the end, I have small plot outside of my city, and hope one day I will raise at least one horse just for me, the way I want and feel. 

GM: When was your first encounter with horses?
ZV: My first experience with horses: in my town only Gypsies had horses, they were usually in bad shape, pulling cart all day long... saddest beings on this planet! I never passed one without giving them kiss and sweets. We have here 150-year-old hippodrome, there is few race horses and a few ponies, and that is how it is since I remember. But the first time I went there in the hope to find a place full of love, I saw how one guy hits pregnant mare in the stomach to force her to get in to stable... I didn't go there for many years after. Even today I don't feel good in that place. But in few villages around my city there are a few good people who keep horses, so in the season when weather is fine, I go there by my bicycle, just to spend whole day in paddock surrounded by those good souls.

GM: Riding your bike through the countryside to find horses sounds exciting! Of all the horse breeds, do you have a favorite?
ZV: I never had a favorite breed, I loved them all, until I meet Marwaris - that was Swraj and that was instant love. I can’t explain what I felt in his presence, but I saw the whole world in his eyes. My visit to Ajit Baba and Swraj [India] didn’t last more than two hours, but it changed me. Since then I noticed other horses, but in my mind and heart there is only Marwaris. At the beginning of my "art story" I painted Swraj many times, and I still do... his magic will last till my last breath. Then, there is Karamati… never saw him in real, but only photos that Manu (Sharma) took were enough to shake my heart... I won’t stop painting him also.

GM: Your fascination with the Marwari horse has become a true gift. In each painting, your images seem to come to life and keep the viewer engaged. The backgrounds and places you place each horse is beautiful. How do you design these beautiful backgrounds?
ZV: Backgrounds? I don’t know. Everything starts with Manu's photos, he really captures their soul, mind and personality. Some photos make me feel like I know that horse my whole life, and the background comes out easily, I never think about it. I spend lot of time in research and learning about Indian art. I love the Mughal period the most, and many details on my paintings comes out of that, but I don’t copy them, it is more like those ornaments become part of my expression in some other form, my own. Those ornaments are like notes, but I play the melody.

GM: Visiting India to see the Marwari horses for real must have been an exciting time! Where did you visit?
ZV: I was twice in India, in Punjab, both times by generosity of my friends from there. Last year I was guest of Jatinderpal Mangat family. I spent most of the time on their farm, among horses - in stable, in paddock, learning to ride. We also visited many farms around. That was truly magic time for me. I didn’t draw the horses, I just enjoyed being near them, and I think I kissed each one. I talked with each one, and they are incredible ones. Also, it was huge luck that my friend Jatinderpal is truly a person who cares and loves animals, he not only breeds them, he rescues many of them from poor life at previous owners and it was honor for me to be part of his family for that short time (I stayed 20 days). I really felt like I’m at home... and if I ever can choose the place where I wish to live, it is simple answer... some small farm in India with Marwaris and all other animals are welcome too.

GM: That sounds intriguing and I hope you are able to return to India to visit someday soon. Your father, a seasoned artist, wanted you to become a different type of artist. I am happy that you have stayed true to your dreams and paint from your heart! Tell us about your painting…
ZV: I’m self-thought, I never had classes. My father tries to teach me, but since I refused to do anything except horses or animals, he simply gives up. I use pastels and pigments. From pigments I make acrylic or water colors, also they are base for oils colors which I will try one day; I have no fear to try. I have my own studio, remained from my father, it is on attic of our family house where I live. During the hot summer days, I paint in our garden.

I’m painting Marwaris simply because I can feel them, they are more than horses for me, they stole my heart and I can’t fight against that, just relax and let them inspire me. When I saw first picture of Marwari, it was like meeting with my destiny... I can’t explain it more.

GM: Besides your father, who is your favorite artist?
ZV: I have met many great artists on Facebook. I admire and respect them all, but I have to say that Frederique Lavergne has had a huge impact on my work; she encouraged me to start again and supported me in my first efforts. Then there is Anthony Pontrelo whose work is pure magic for me and I’m thankful for all his kind support. We all need encouragement when we are beginning.

GM: What is compelling about to Frederique’s and Anthony’s work that inspires you so much?
ZV: What I love in their work? I love in Fred's art her expression of the horse’s soul, their eyes, their power. I like her dreams in her paintings. I can understand her work because we share same kind of love and passion for horses. I don’t know if you’ve seen the work of Anthony Pontrelo, but every one of his paintings are like some ancient story about horse’s magic. I can look at them for hours.

GM: What other muse or inspiration motivates you to create such incredible art?
ZV: You know that I use Manu Sharma's photos for most of my work, so I can say he and his work are huge inspiration for me, only I have one problem, he is better and better every day. And whenever he uploads some new pic, I get an idea for a new painting, and I’m just human, I can’t manage to paint as fast as he clicks. It is amazing, how he shoots them, I have no other option than to dream them. He simply catches their soul, not only their beautiful presence, and I’m 100% in their world.

GM: We have all seen a lot of horse art and each artist has their own style of design. I really like the way you capture the essence of the horse on canvas. Do you have plans to share your art with a gallery, or perhaps exhibit?
ZV: And at last, I’m still a beginner. I have luck that my father left me full studio, lots of canvas and paints, so I live my dream, painting my dream horses. I sold some of my work, but I don’t think I have some future in my country. I have my paintings in India, in Norway, SA, Cyprus, France... but most of my art is here at my home.

I hope I'll mange to make my first exhibit here with a little help of my friends. I’m too obsessed by painting, and marketing is not my stronger side. I started to paint horses because of love. I want to show their beautiful spirit to the whole world...at least to the part of the world where I can reach over the internet. And first, my whole town knows the Marwari horse now. People start to respect them, they don’t ask stupid questions about their ears anymore; second my non-Indian friends on Facebook started to love Marwaris, because I’m too persistent in painting them, so I guess people have only two choices... to start loving them or to start hate me.

GM: What are your future plans for artwork and horses?
ZV: My dream is to paint them till my last breath, and I wish that more of my work end up in India, they belong there...

Connect with Zorka…
Gina McKnight is an author, freelance and blogger from Ohio USA.

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković

(c) copyright Zorka Veličković



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