I will never forget my first art critic; it was a moment that has shaped my work and focus ever since. The year was 1947 and I was 10 years old.
Growing up I lived in the small town of Trogir, Croatia. It was a beautiful area and I was enrolled in the local primary school, located right on the Dalmatian Coast. As with most primary schools, our teacher taught us every subject, including art. Art was always my favorite part of the day and with her direction, I greatly excelled.
I remember we had just finished doing a charcoal study of a set of three vases, when in walked the man who would become my first art critic: Marshal Tito.
Marshal Tito had recently become the head of the Communist state, so he was well known, even to us 10 year olds. To say we were shocked beyond words is an understatement!
The leader and his large German Shepard walked through the classroom, looking at each of our drawings. We froze in our seats, waiting for him to speak. He came to mine, pointed to it, and said "Good work". Then, without saying another word, he turned and exited the room. Although it was such a brief moment, its power and significance has continued to live with me to this day.
It has been many, many years since then, but here I am, still doing what I love: art; and I've used my love to continue the education I once received as a young child. Marshal Tito's actions proved to me that kind words and gestures can spark greatness; and I truly feel that it is my mission to continue inspiring confidence and greatness in others. Often times, kindness shown to children can be viewed as inconsequential, but it can produce lifelong accomplishments, as it did with me. Because of this, it has become my passion to pass this along, and I've done so through my exhibitions.
My most recent exhibition in the U.K. was at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The show, Exposed: A Secret Garden, featured a selection of my newest paintings of vivid and colorful flowers from various world cultures. The paintings comment on the universal dialogue I feel flowers provide: one that represents a language of love, compassion, peace, and friendship.
The show was a very big success and it drew in hundreds of thousands of visitors and many noted art critics. In addition to this, I was able to accomplish something very dear to my heart: I was able to extend my passion of education.
During the exhibition, the Saatchi Gallery and I hosted a workshop to inspire artistic learning within the community. Young children from the Park Walk Primary School were invited to tour my exhibit to learn about my inspiration, artistic direction, and the meaning of my work. Afterwards, they were encouraged to create their own visual language inspired by my paintings. They created intimate drawings depicting their own understanding of my language of flowers. In addition to the works being completed at Saatchi Gallery, the children's drawings have a chance to be exhibited at a gallery in New York City. This will further the sense of accomplishment and confidence I strive to teach.
I thoroughly enjoy working with children and will never underestimate the power that art can play in one's life. It is my belief that fostering creativity in young children is of utmost importance. Marshal Tito's words instilled in me one of the most essential traits for success: confidence; and his message inspired me to continue with my passion for art. As I continue painting and exhibiting around the world, I hope to endlessly inspire confidence in all those who see my work; and I strive to provide the same confidence and direction to children as Marshal Tito gave to me.
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