At 10 years old, local artist Katarina Ciric started in an Atelier, “an artist workshop,” and hasn’t looked back since. In Serbia you choose what you want to study when you are 14, and Katarina had to pass a painting and drawing test and did still life. She prepared for and passed her test for high school and started when she was 15.
The first question I asked her was, what made you choose art? Katarina was quick to say her mom and dad! She never watched television growing up, and she was always doing art projects, thanks to her parents. Her dad was an artist and built furniture. Her mom had a calendar with painting projects for every single day.
Her brother, who is three years younger, gravitated to music and classical guitar early on and was well underway at nine years old. He continued on for his master’s and now teaches at the elementary school level. He is an acclaimed musician in Serbia and has won many awards.
Her mom worked for the American embassy, and Katarina’s dream was to move to New York City, when and if she could get a visa. Creating art doesn’t make a living in Serbia. Her mom wasn’t eager to support her being so far away in New York, but in 2018, when Katarina was 20, her mom surprised her with a visa for the United States. She moved here with her mom and stepdad and they ended up in San Diego because everyone told her mom it was the best place to live in the U.S. Katarina and her family fell in love with the city right away.
Unfortunately, shortly after moving here her mother got very sick with a brain tumor, and at 50 years old she passed away. Katarina was understandably devastated, and when she went back to Serbia for the memorial service everyone told her to stay there. But she just couldn’t! She told her family and friends that she had to fulfill her mother’s support of her dreams, and she returned to San Diego. She started studying Fine Arts at Mesa College with the goal of transferring to San Diego State.
‘With the wind in her back,’ as her mom would always say, Katarina’s dream is to become an artist; and to make a living out of it!
In addition to art, another hope and dream of hers is to one day write a book about her mother. She said her mother’s life was so very interesting, and the number one thing about her was that she always supported her kids.
Her mom would remind Katarina daily “do what you love” and “live the life you love.” Both her parents always supported that message.
I saw Katerina’s booth at the recent Coronado Wine & Art Festival, and I was mesmerized by her art, as I noticed most everyone else was as well. Shortly after this inaugural community event, put on by Coronado Schools Foundation and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, the interest in Katarina’s art quickly spread. It was the auction piece everyone wanted and I wanted to get the story behind her art and her message that each line has feelings.
Coronado Times: How did you choose this art medium?
Katarina: In high school we had five art major options, and I choose textile designs – “painting on silk” – because my dream was to be a fashion designer. Ironically, I tried designing fashion pieces, but didn’t like it. Yet once I touched the silk I fell in love with the material. I quickly became the best in my class, with this Asian technique of painting silk.
Coronado Times: So you didn’t do fashion clothing with textiles, but you painted silk art pieces?
Katarina: Yes, our medium was textiles, but I quickly became in love with painting on silk and then I developed my own style. Then in my fourth year of school, we had to pick themes, and I picked Op-Art. I was so bummed. All my friends got sea shells or kaleidoscope. But then that is when my love of lines developed.
Coronado Times: Your love of lines?
Katarina: Yes, my lines became my feelings. Each piece I do, the lines represent a feeling. One piece can take me a few days but based on a feeling. I often listen to music when doing a piece, sometimes with people around, other times by myself.
Coronado Times: Do you listen with headphones?
Katarina: No, great question. Just out loud, and different types of music and moods.
She went on to share more intimate details about her process, and explained she loved doing big pieces. They usually are nine feet hand painted silk on canvas boards. She also explained that silk is by the yard, and she paints on the silk and then cuts however she likes.
Her first piece was in 2020, and it didn’t have a name. It was the first time she used the technique. The piece was pink with no name and no style. Then the second one had a name ‘home safe.’ And next was ‘home sick’ which is green and her favorite color. She naturally starting using feelings to name and encompass the art and the feeling she was having at the time for the piece.
While talking, Katarina suddenly jumped away from explaining her art and transitioned back to her mom. “She was my best friend, and the mother I hope to be one day. She would shower me with compliments every day, but also kept me in line and pushed me to work hard towards my dreams. She was an incredible woman with such a kind heart and full of knowledge. She is everything I aspire to be. She is my biggest role model. She taught me that nothing is impossible.”
I caught Katarina for this interview as she was getting off work at Garage Buona Forchetta. I had a chance to ask Marco Zannoni, one of the owners of the restaurant, about Katarina. “She is an individual who truly captures the energy and attitude of hospitality. She has that really bright energy and positive attitude that makes you feel welcome. Not to mention, she is smart, creative, and cares, with an internal positivity, which makes her shine.”
Katarina and Marco were both then excited to tell me about a local San Diego artist at Garage Buona Forchetta, Edward Fink @designsbyedward, who generously built the custom wood frames for Katarina’s work. He sells custom charcuterie serving boards at Garage Buona Forchetta, and he made the beautiful wrap around wood counter top at the restaurant made of black limba wood, where you can see the veins.
Ed explained that he was talking to Katarina at the restaurant one day, and she shared that she was buying off-the-shelf frames of cheap pine wood. Ed immediately offered to make her a quality frame that was more representative of her and her work. He used solid oak and walnut, with different colors and tones of amber and red, and a variety species of wood with a natural quality. He was honest and said it was a hard project. But he loves the creative side of designing from scratch. Ed is retired Navy and started doing wood work as pure fun, but it soon turned into a true business.
Lastly, I spoke with Tracy Real, a local volunteer who helped put on the inaugural Art & Wine Festival in May. Tracy helped with event planning, assisted in securing the artist exhibitors like Katarina, and put together the kids’ Artopia section. She was the one who recruited Katarina for the event. She shared, “Who knew one of the most cheeriest servers at Buona Forchetta was also a very talented artist? There are several reasons they call her sunshine. To add a piece of Katarina’s upbeat spirit to your home or office, check out the creative skills behind smile on instagram @ci.ri.c.”