my creative life interview series - nela dunatoOn this creative path I’ve met and become friends with many wonderful, interesting people across the world. It’s high time I introduced you to some of them.

‘My Creative Life’ is an interview series where we get an insider view of artists and their lives from different disciplines and on different stages of their own journeys. My intention is to ask questions that are perhaps a bit different from the usual – the answers to which might spark ideas or simply reassure you as you follow your own artist path.



Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Nela Dunato, an artist and graphic designer from Croatia. I’ve been reading Nela’s blog for quite a while now, and love her thoughtful approach and dry humour, and her clarity and honesty about who she is and what she does. Like so many of us, Nela’s interests range far beyond ‘one thing’. I love what she has to say about what being an artist means to her, and there’s some great advice in here from someone who’s very familiar with all the parts of creative process.

Meet Nela…

{All emphasis is mine. And don’t forget you can highlight any part of the text to share it.}

NelaDunato - Polarity

“Polarity” by Nela Dunato. Digital mixed media, 2014

Tell us a little bit about your creative work in the world {whether it’s your business or your pleasure, or both!}.

I primarily consider myself an artist – I started drawing and painting around 2005. My work is a mix of various media: traditional drawing, traditional painting, digital painting and digital collage. I sell my work and did some book illustration, but I don’t make a living from it (and I’m fine with that).

My business is a graphic design studio. I create brands and websites for creative small business owners, artists and non-profits. I’ve been a professional designer for about 11 years now, and worked in several design agencies before starting my own business in 2013.

What is your favourite thing about being an actively creative person?

Boredom doesn’t exist in my life. You could lock me up in my studio and unplug the internet, and I’d never run out of ideas to draw, paint, write, make…

Some people say that one of the hardest things about working from home is not having people around to chat with – I’m happy to report that in over 2 years of working from home, I have not once wished there was someone with me in the room to talk to.

NelaDunato - Layers

“Layers” by Nela Dunato. Acrylic on board, 2014

Is there anything you wish were different? Have you learned a way to accommodate that?

Sometimes I wish I had more self-discipline, so that I could follow through with things I start. I often start new things and rarely complete them, and it used to bother me a lot. But the truth is simple: when I need to rely on willpower, I fail.

The way I learned to work with that is to set things up in such a way so that it’s easy for me to follow through. I keep my sketchbooks and tools right under my nose. I use apps that block certain websites during certain times. Basically, I keep things I want to spend time on at my fingertips, and my distractions as far away as possible.

How else does your creativity express itself in your life? {Especially if you’re having a dry spell in your ‘main’ area.}

I always had a soft spot for handmade crafts, and I had phases when I was really into jewelry design, mask making and sewing. I love exploring ways to make something in my home more beautiful, and find much of the commercially available stuff ugly and totally not my style. The choices are often down to “Which of these tables is the least ugly?”, which is heartbreaking for a double Libra. My dream home is one where I have designed every piece of furniture and decor myself.

Nela Dunato - Winged Lioness

“Winged Lioness” armlet by Nela Dunato. Bronze, 2011

Do you have any favourite resources, books or blogs around creativity you’d recommend for inspiration or support? 

I love the work of Lisa Sonora, especially after reading her book “Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice” which revealed she has a lot of the same patterns as I do. I love her approach to unifying art therapy and business in the book “The Creative Entrepreneur”, and I’ve just gone through one of her online workshops.

I also enjoy Andrea Schroeder’s blog. Her free course on creative dreams is a great resource, too.

What one easy and simple creative activity would you suggest to someone who feels like there’s no time for creativity in their life?

I always harp on about sketchbooks, so I might as well do that now. Sketchbooks are great because they’re portable – there are even teeny tiny sketchbooks that fit in your shirt pocket or wallet. Along with that, you need a pen or a pencil. Nothing fancy.

Carry the sketchbook with you at all times, and every time you find yourself waiting for something or someone, riding a bus or having a break at work, instead of reaching for the phone – get the sketchbook out instead.

It doesn’t really matter what you do in it. You can doodle, write notes, draw what you see around you, fill the page with tiny circles… what’s important is maintaining contact, showing up every day, just so you don’t forget what it feels like.

I know it’s hard to find a full hour in your schedule for creativity, but there are hundreds of tiny gaps in our day that we tend to fill with social media because we don’t think this time matters. It does matter. Even stopping to take 10 deep breaths makes a difference.

Nela Dunato - Allure

“Allure” by Nela Dunato. Digital painting, 2007.

What’s your creative process like? Are you an all-in-one-intense-hit-then-collapse type or a more of a slow and steady sort? Or something else?

The former describes me perfectly, hahaha. This was also one of those things I initially wanted to change about myself, until I learned that there are many people out there like me, so I accepted this trait as normal.

Often I get into too many projects at once, and it wears me out completely, so I have to recover for weeks or months. When I get inspired, I better act on it right away. If too much time goes by from that initial spark, I can no longer “feel it” and lose interest in the project.

Nela Dunato - Nourishing Heart

“Nourishing Heart” by Nela Dunato. Acrylic on canvas, 2013

What does being actively creative bring to your life that you might not have expected? 

This was more pronounced with writing for me: it turned on a sort of “writer’s perspective” on everyday life things. Like, when you catch yourself in the moment when something is happening, and a part of your mind thinks “Oh, this would be so interesting to write about!” and goes on to form sentences about the event as you’re still in it.

Having this writer’s perspective added a dash of humor and hope when things were tough. In the shittiest of times during my last depressive episode, I’d say to myself “One day this is going to make a great blog post”. Getting a glimpse of Future Me who can see these things in retrospect was very reassuring.

It’s similar with painting. Once you learn things about light and color, you start noticing them around you – reflected light in the shadows, rays of light coming through the treetops, the way colors interact when they’re next to each other… You pass by the same tree every day, and it’s a different tree depending on the weather conditions.

I suppose this is what people mean when they talk about “seeing the world through the artist’s eyes”.

What best supports your creativity to thrive?

Solitude. Quiet. No distractions. Just me and my thoughts, until those thoughts become ready to transform into things. Having that piece of void in time and space to fill up.

I’ve worked in all sorts of conditions – from not having my own room, to emotional turmoil and depression. But I don’t romanticize those times. If I can choose my conditions, I choose the spaciousness.

Have you ever lost touch with your creative self for a long period, and if so how did you bring it back?

Looking back, I always did something creative, but it doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoyed it. There were times when I hated my day job, and didn’t feel like I was really creative, since I was “pushing pixels” (ie. following my clients’ and bosses orders) most of the time.

Usually what pulls me out of the rut is finding a new obsession – something completely different that I’ve never tried before. I’d allow this new obsession to consume me and get me back into that whirlpool of creative flow. Once there, it’s easier to look at my life and see where I’m being incongruent with my creative spirit and make adjustments.

As you might guess, I’m not a very subtle person. Moderation is a medicine I have yet to learn.



Nela Dunato is an artist and a freelance brand & web designer from Croatia. She works with creative business owners and helps them bring their individuality into the spotlight.

She loves sharing tips & insights on her blog, teaching in-person creative workshops, and sometimes shows up in public wearing elf ears.

Get her free Authentic Promotion Guidebook, a workbook that helps you create a totally custom, non-sleazy promotion plan that will save your time, energy and sanity.

Find Nela on social media here:

Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Instagram   |   YouTube

If you have any questions or comments for Nela, or have had any ahas reading her words, please do share in the comments!