We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniela Radovic Hess and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniela, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Balance has been an elusive term for me. To some people, it comes naturally while others need to work on it! I used to be, for a long time, always on the go, regarding work, studying, living, not thinking of the balance nor protective boundaries. Living that way, I burned out and had to go and stay in an explicitly relaxed mode for some time to recover. My system needed it. Our bodies know that, if we don’t listen, if we don’t pay attention, ignore the clues, our system stops us on its own. So, I think learning to listen to our body and needs closely, is the way to go. I was reminded lately again of the Taoist principle, that balance is not static, but dynamic equilibrium. It is all about feeling the edges but not going there, being perceptive and aware of the edges we can play more and closer to them but know where we need to stop and step back, to not go out of balance… That resonates well with me. I think this is very important for creatives and entrepreneurs, whose work and life are often inseparable. Good balance is always needed! I’m rather mindful of that.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I picture a long hike, complete with rises and falls and I see myself, rather clearly, along that path, climbing… An abundance of weaving paths waiting to be discovered, with powerful/amazing vistas to be reached. I am looking forward to exploring them all, so much good and growth is to come, while I enjoy, very much, where I am right now, there is absolutely no rush. When I have my self-doubts (which are not rare) I try to tell myself to look back and see all those paths that I had I already walked; that helps and encourages me to take the next step, to explore, pause and express.
What sets me apart is staying true to myself. There is pure beauty and amazement in each of us when we allow and acknowledge the authenticity of ours, and learn how to express it freely! It takes time and diligence to find our way, and courage to express it more in our work. In my case, what is distinct is my rather versatile and complex background, all different worlds in me, all the places I lived, cultures I’ve admired and learned from, people I met… That all reflects in my work as I am constantly searching and trying to connect the dots of my life and express them through my art. Being a rather open and sensitive person, easily influenced by everything around me, helps me channel it through my work. The bigger project I have been working on for some time now and possibly a long-term project is the series ‘Quo Vadis’, which is Latin for Where are you going? It is about my memories and subconsciousness, emotions, and images that appear, ideas that want to be expressed, stories to be told. I often approach it as creating a storyboard on the canvas. It starts loose and intuitive, images and ideas keep showing up, I observe them, help to shape them, they change a lot, some stay, some go (they are all part of the painting although not visible) until the story crystalizes into what wants to be at the end. It is a rather long process and often emotionally hard, but I feel like a director of the pieces of my life, which is often liberating and cathartic.
I like to work on many different subjects, influenced by the happenings around me. For example, in springtime, I usually have a period when I paint expressive flowers; or during the first months of Covid19 isolation, being indoor, in the small home studio I was painting some whimsical miniature interiors, colorful retro design, inspired by Roy Lichtenstein and Wes Anderson’s cinematography, probably to complement for more color and fun in our lives. And as much as I like to try different subjects and mediums, I always find myself back with my most favorite subject, people. Figures and portraits, they are always with me. I’m eternally intrigued by people, our relations, connections, emotions… Last year I had a solo exhibition “Exploring the mind and soul of the human face”. It started as a series of portraits, exploring different techniques, looking for more expressive ways. While working on them, I started thinking about our emotions and the way we express them or not, and the idea came to explore that concept further, and make the portraits all about that. It ended up, with each portrait having two titles, both based on the songs that reminded me of (or influenced) the painting, where the first title was about what each of us chooses to show to the world, or how we want to be seen, and the second title about who we are when nobody is around. The visitors were supposed to choose which title they prefer or add their own. It was an interesting and engaging experience.
I usually paint in acrylic on canvas, and sometimes wood. These days I am in a phase of exploring more expressive drawing/painting on paper with mixed media. I’m loving the unexpected results of mix of ink, charcoal and paint on paper, abstract shapes, figures, ambiguities, emotions. There is always something new to explore.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
What I love a lot about San Diego, besides our gorgeous weather and the beaches, is its versatility. Visiting different parts of the cities (neighborhoods) you get a feeling that you are visiting different towns, sometimes even countries. I like to show that for my visitors. I would start with a day in Balboa Park as the cultural heart of San Diego, enjoying the architecture, browsing museums (SDFA and MOPA), the international cottages, the rose and cactus gardens, ending up with a happy hour at The Prado or a drink at Panama 66 (we might get lucky and encounter Besos de Coco, a jazz trio there). South Park, one of my favorites, and where we happen to live: South Park and North Park, a nice walk admiring old Victorian and Craftsman, and some Midcentury and Spanish style houses with panache, and enjoying some quirky local stores. A stop for a cappuccino at Caffe Calabria in North park, or coffee at Communal Coffee’s patio, a nice dinner and a cocktail at Kindred or with fine wine at the Rose. Or great Italian food at Buona Forchetta… Oh, I can’t make up my mind now… Beaches… I hope we find the time to visit more of them. We could start with Coronado, a half a day trip, a nice walk along the main Coronado beach. We could check out the Del Coronado hotel. If time and energy allow, it’s nice to experience the view of downtown San Diego from Coronado’s northern shore. So another stroll, and a dinner at one of the lovely restaurants there. One day for La Jolla. La Jolla Cove in all its beauty, with a stroll to Windandsea beach, and drink and lunch at one of the local fine eateries. Then farther north, Encinitas and Solana beach – we could start at the Self-realization Temple, its beautiful garden and ocean vista. Then continue with a stroll along HWY 101, enjoying local cafes, vintage stores, and beer gardens, with a visit to Moonlight beach. Torrey pines trail hike – we must do that, a hike with the best view, then tired, happy, and hungry, we go to Il Furnayo in Del Mar for early dinner, the beautiful sunset view from the patio. Did I mention Little Italy, how my European friends are always in love with it? Everything is super cute, colorful, and tasty there. Yes, we can go there, after a few hours of sailing in Mission bay, (hubby likes to sail and take our guest to see San Diego from the other side) — Lastly, how can you get the real San Diego, without experiencing the heart of the Mexican charm and culture? So we could visit Old Town (with all the tourist attractions), or spend Saturday evening at upcoming Barrio Logan, enjoy some nice art happenings at Bread & Salt, BasieIE, and a plethora of fun Mexican art galleries. With fish tacos at Salud! The best.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I will start with a shout out to my very important art teacher and mentor, Olya Losina, from Prima Materia! She is the one that thought me how to see, who opened gates that I had never known existed, to let me fall in love with my creation and me creating, instantly. An amazing teacher, highly recommended.
The book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – is a gem and a treasure of fun, wise and inspiring ideas, and quite a few nudges and strategies when you need them.
Of course, my husband and son, who have been my biggest supporters, help, and encouragement along the way, with all my friends, family, and fellow artists without whom I would not be where I am now.
Photos by Daniela Radovic Hess