Jel Ena (Jelena Markovic) is a Serbian-born, classically trained artist now living in L.A. She creates sensual, feminine, bizarre portraits in acrylic/oil paints, pastels, graphite, and colored pencils. Her work can be found online at jel-ena.com.
Can you name some of your influences?
They change often but a few have stayed with me since I was a teenager. Some come from cinema, like Anderi Tarkovsky, Sergei Parajanov, Kubrick, Terence Malik, etc. When it comes to visual art it is hard to choose. I am fascinated with art history and the perpetual inspiration it provides, but I’ll say that the number one spot still holds J. S. Sargent.
Do you draw ideas from fiction? If so, which authors do you find inspiring?
I draw a lot of ideas and inspiration from mythologies, especially Greek mythology. I’ve been fascinated with it since I was a child.
Also, several years ago I stumbled upon the writing and poetry of Scott Reeves. Everything I read from him was perfectly matching my moods and what I was creating at that time. Since then his “captions to our shared madness,” what he tends to call his form of writing, has become my treasure trove of inspiration. We started collaborating in 2010. Scott drew as much inspiration from my work as I did from his; hence in 2012 we published the first fruit of our collaboration, a book of graphic poetry called The Blood of Lost Gods. We continue working together, and we plan to publish more of our collaborations as well as continue exhibiting them together.
Your art is quite dark. What is the attitude toward this in Serbia?
I wouldn’t know too much what the attitude toward dark art in Serbia is since I moved to California twenty years ago and I am immersed completely in LA’s art scene. I did continue to show my work in Serbia, and feedback that I got was mostly positive and encouraging. I will have a solo show there in 2014-15, then I’ll have much more to tell you.
You have done some digital illustration. For you, how does this compare to the traditional experience?
I love painting digitally, and I treat digital tools the same way I do traditional. Of course there is way less mess, but also no physical contact with materials like paint and canvas or paper which I like to touch a lot, or smudge with fingers as I create.
This year I didn’t have much time to do digital painting as I was committed to a lot of art shows with traditional art. 2013 was one of the busiest and most fruitful years for me so far; I have shown in galleries around the US as well as other countries around the world, which is a priceless experience, plus my art is now collected worldwide. I hope for this year to be even better; anyway I am working on it.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Hmm . . . that would be like answering Mary Oliver’s central question: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Find a way to do what you love, never give up and be insanely persistent about it to make it happen. I am living my dream: I make art, I live from it, I support my family by doing what I love the most to do, and I hope for it to continue ‘til the day I die . . . and after. Who knows what the afterlife will bring! Haha . . .
Thank you Julia and Nightmare Magazine for having me!
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