Monday, January 14, 2013

Artist Interview with Stanka Kordic

This month I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with painter, Stanka Kordic.  Kordic's work resonates with me on a deep level.  She balances representation with abstraction in a style that creates an ethereal glimpse into the spirit of innocence.  Her work embodies wonderment.

Her work "Boundless" received a Gold Medal of Honor in Painting at the Allied Artists of America 99th Annual Juried  National Exhibition  in New York City. Kordic has also been named an "artist to watch" by  Southwest Art Magazine.

Here is a brief biography which I have copied from her website

"Stanka Kordic’s collectors would say her work affects them on many levels. Her paintings speak for themselves, never nostalgic replications of by-gone days, but truly contemporary examples of Modern Art rendered with the skill and passion of the Master’s traditions. They provide lasting pleasure, as one is always delighted to find a previously undiscovered passage with each new glance.

Stanka Kordic is a first generation American born of Croatian parents.  She followed her talented brothers, Vladimir and Branko into the World of Art. Stanka graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1985.  From there, she traveled Europe, taking in as much art as humanly possible - searching for her voice as a painter.  She returned to work as an illustrator for several years.  Her projects included editorial art, package design, and book illustration.  In pursuit of artistic freedom, she left the commercial world in 1988 to establish a fine art studio, concentrating her efforts on painting the landscape and figure.  This led to local recognition, awards, and inclusion in several corporate collections throughout the midwest, including Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Key Corp.

Inspired by people, she turned to the field of commissioned portraiture in 1998 to become successful employing the philosophy of making the portrait a great painting by transcending likeness, hence the name Alternative Portraiture.
Her extensive client list spans the US, crossing the ocean to England and Croatia.  

Stanka continues to work from life and her own source materials as she studies the figure in many different environments, integrating elements of abstraction with realism."

Without any further adieu, here is the interview along with images of her works!  Thank you Stanka!

Stanka Kordic at work in her studio.

Gavin Could you describe your earliest memories as an artist?

Stanka:  My earliest memories of an artist where of keeping a sketchbook. In it was some drawing of life around me, but most often it was people and story lines I made up. I also loved my Etch-A-Sketch. In fact, when I was hospitalized for a week at age 5, that was the only thing I wanted with me.

Boundless, 30x36, 2012

Gavin:  Could you tell me about your education and training?

Stanka:  I have a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. I've also taken numerous workshops from a variety of people. Started painting in oil at age 15. 

Lift the Veil, 20x30

Gavin:  Please describe your style and methods.

Stanka:  My style and methods are not simple to describe, but here's the nutshell. Overall representational, with a twist. I like to keep the figure fairly realistic in handling as the focal point/entry into the piece, and then allow the marks to determine how the painting will evolve. I rarely follow a strict plan of action. A loose idea is my only start, with the placement of the figure determined. The rest becomes quite an intuitive journey, working indirectly in multiple layers of paint over a long length of time. My reference are my own photos of real people as models, the environment is also a real place, but will often change as the painting changes.

Portrait of Nehemiah, 15x20

Gavin:   People love to know what materials an artist favors.  What paints, brushes, supports, and mediums do you prefer? 

Stanka:  I use oil primed lead on linen, mounted on gator board. (New Traditions) I like the rigid surface, and because I work in so many layers, it is structurally and archivally more sound than stretched linen. Paints: no real preference. Gamblin, WN the usual brand. My brushes are a mess. Whatever is on sale in bristle or mongoose, sometimes a synthetic for softer passages. I also use wide, 2-3" bristle gesso brushes for my big strokes, often a roller, a spatula, palette knife..fingers..Whatever it takes. Not terribly fussy with my materials aside from the panels. Mediums: M.Graham Walnut Oil in alkyd, or more recently, Oleogel from Natural PIgments.

An assortment of Kordic's brushes

Gavin  What has been most challenging for you as an artist?

Stanka:  Most challenging for me as an artist is the fluctuations of the market. Making a living doing this has always been difficult, even though I knew that signing up. It gets hard dealing with the worry of it all. Each year I get better at tuning those thoughts out, and trusting the process and the path I've been given, and chose to follow.

Kordic's Palette

Gavin The art world is changing dramatically and we are seeing a return to representational art.  Would you comment on the direction we are headed and make a prediction for what the art world will look like in 15-25 years?

Stanka:  The direction of the art world is getting interesting. When I left the scene to raise a family and focus on portraiture in 1998, not much was happening in the representational art market. The recent shift has been amazing to witness. 

Not sure I can predict, but I can tell you what I'd LIKE to see
..a greater focus on thought, hand in hand with excellent craftsmanship. Period. How that end result is achieved should not matter if you are a practicing professional. Seeing the work as a stand alone entity, rather than focusing on the gender, age, or education of the artist. Individual voices stepping forward, rather than getting in line with all that is currently trendy. I want to see some joyful work, rather than all the focus on how hard it is. Yes, the discipline of it all is a given in working representationally. It just is. No need to glorify it.

Within Reach, 40x50, 2011

Gavin:    What interests you most (in terms of subject and theme) as an artist and why?

Stanka:  In terms of subject matter, I feel committed to this path of integrating the figure with the environment, and honoring the voice of the paint. I will most likely stick to using women and children as well. Children have often been dismissed as overly sentimental, and women are often objectified. I try to describe them in a more powerful way. 

As far as paint..there is something about looking at my materials, knowing the limitations and the possibilities, then seeing what happens as I use them. I like NOT being in charge of the whole process. That's where the joy, the courage comes in. It's a rush diving in and screaming as I fling a color on the face I never used before, or wiping another section off that I just spent 8 hours working on. For me, the actual imagery of what I make is often secondary to the materials. Yes, the figure is an important portal to catch the viewer's attention. Then the piece softens, and becomes theirs. I don't want to provide all the information in the first reading. It's the viewer's journey, as much as mine. 

I'm pretty much done with straight up figurative painting (working from life) which I still do fairly often. It's good exercise, but limiting to what I want to do within a piece.

Visionaries, 36x48

Gavin  Who has been the greatest support to you as an artist and how?

Stanka:  My husband has been my greatest support. He simply gets it, and is committed to making sure I continue, even when times get challenging for our family. He's never condescending.  I'll always be grateful for that. 
Path Takes Hold, 40x50, 2011

Gavin Please tell us about your influences.

Stanka:  My influences are the usual suspects in the painting world. John Singer Sargent, Rembrandt, Cassatt, Degas, all the Wyeths. Sorolla. Too many. I look at Diebenkorn, Picasso, Frida Kahlo as well.

Rise, 30x20, 2012

Gavin:    Why do you make art?  Why is it Important?  Why painting?

Stanka:  I view art making as a vocation, rather than an occupation. It really is a path for me. If I'm doing it well, then something gets triggered in the viewer, a change, a new way of seeing the world, perhaps. A new way of seeing themselves. 

At the risk of being over the top..I see all art as another form of healing. It can (I believe) over time, elevate one's experience of life. This is why I've never felt compelled to do work that reminds others of what's wrong out there. We need to feel better about our place, not worse. 

Why painting? Not sure. I started at age 15 with oils and that was it!

Release, 23x20, 2012

Gavin:   What words of wisdom would you offer to young artists?

Stanka:  Words of wisdom for young artists.. walk into the world of art eyes wide open. It is not an easy life, but there is nothing more fulfilling. Arm yourself with all kinds of education, from the fundamentals of art making to the basics of business. Study with many different teachers, and listen to your own voice when it makes itself known. You are your own best advocate. Never be shy about standing up for your work. If you don't believe in what you are doing, no one else will. Go forward with faith.

She Followed the Bird Path, 20x30, 2012

Gavin:   Please share something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.

Stanka:  I practice a lot of yoga and it's principles are key in my work. I'm also an occasional professional wedding photographer. 

Thank you again, Stanka!  To learn more about her work and to see images, please visit her website at

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