2012 review and plans for 2013

Published by Nela Dunato on in Personal, Thoughts

I know, it’s so tacky to write about this subject at this time of year. I usually make my review and planning around my birthday, and this October I still didn’t have a blog. And it sucked, because I didn’t like the review. Actually, not having my new website or blog done by my birthday is precisely what frustrated me so much, and pushed me to finally make it happen.

The past year has been pretty challenging for me.
After having a good financial situation for a couple of years, I found myself in a place of lack again. There were some circumstances I could not have predicted, but I do think I could have minimized the damage if I was more proactive. For several months I was worrying if I’d have enough money to cover food and rent, and the thought that some people live like this all the time freaks me out quite a bit. And as much as that feeling sucked, I kept reminding myself that I actually have it good compared to most people in my country, and it did bring some consolation.

In the midst of that, I got an offer from my friends to accompany them on a trip to the mountains in Serbia. I took the remainings of my savings and went with them. I needed that trip desperately. I needed to remove myself from my day to day environment and all the people I know here. And I needed to climb that mountain.
I’m so glad I did. I’m sure that opportunity to clear my head was what saved me from freaking out in the next couple of months, when things got even more stressful.

While I was away, my landlord tried to reach me. We met when I came back, and he told me I had to move since he’ll be living in that apartment now. He gave me plenty of time to find a new place, but still finding an apartment is so stressful — when I remember what I went though to find that one, I started feeling desperate. I hated leafing though the classifieds and calling dozens of people every day.
I tried a different approach this time — I put up a Facebook status, hoping somebody would point me to a good apartment I could move into. And someone did. A friend of mine messaged me a few days after that, and told me he’s currently renovating his late uncle’s apartment. I checked it out, and although it wasn’t finished yet, I decided it’s exactly what I need. It ended up being everything I wanted — 15 minutes walking distance to the city centre, spatious, full of light and air. And it has a dishwasher!
I finally had space for a proper work desk. After working on my bed or on the floor for a couple of years, it sure was an upgrade.

October was the usual hectic month, because of a sci-fi & fantasy convention I’m organizing with some friends. In the midst of all that chaos was my birthday. The birthday when I faced everything I thought I would do and failed to do this year. All my abandoned projects and dreams. I was beating myself about it a lot, and I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and how can I fix it.

I was also feeling very lethargic, and had a bad relationship with my body, so I decided to start doing yoga again. It’s been 2 months since I started and I feel much better already.

There were several projects I have hoped to complete this year:

  • Finish the script for my graphic novel and draw it
  • Finish the remaining paintings for my solo exhibition (15 of them)
  • Make an elaborate cosplay costume to wear on Eurocon 2012
  • Finish my new website

The last one was the only one that got done, and only recently.

My graphic novel

I started writing the script during NaNoWriMo 2011, and then I got stuck. I wrote down everything I had in my head so far, but my story didn’t progress farther than that. I have serious plot issues. There is no way I could finish this script unless I dedicate myself to it, and I’m sure I won’t be able to do it this year, either. So this project is officially on hold.

My solo exhibition

I’ve had over 15 new paintings in my mind for a long time. Like, several years long time. The reason I haven’t done them yet is that I think my drawing skill is not yet on the level where I can be confident that I won’t screw it up. In other words, I don’t think I’m good enough. That’s why I thought it would be better to practice drawing a lot first, and then when I get my anatomy issues fixed, I’d paint the real paintings. You can predict how that went. I ended up neither practicing as much, nor painting any of the paintings I wanted. I painted some other stuff instead.

My art was taken in a completely different direction than I intended. I avoided doing the difficult paintings that are more emotional and “deep”, and I’ve done the less challenging paintings that are more stylized, and have less of a story to them. It’s not how I want my art to be. So, this is going into the next year. By my next birthday, I want to be done with most of the paintings I have planned so far (at least 10 of them, which is one per month). I know that painting them all would be a stretch, I don’t know if that is physically possible, especially if I continue freelancing. Let’s be realistic, but accountable.


The costume I wanted to make requires shopping for some things that aren’t cheap, so I always put it off until the last moment. Of course, it’s not the kind of thing you can do at the last moment. I’ve planned to go to Eurocon 2014 in Dublin, so my goal is to make it by then — not this year.

My new website

Want to hear how I made it happen? It took me less than a month.

I wanted to start around October 15, but because I really needed money, I worked on freelance design projects instead. Only when I finished a certain project I managed to fully engage in making my own site. I wrote several blog posts and most of the content ahead of time, so I don’t burn out after the site launch.

It took me several days to make the design in Photoshop. Then my computer broke down. Luckily I have a laptop I use at the office, so I took it home with me and continued coding the templates. It took me about a week to code the HTML templates, and then a couple of days more to code them for Webiny.

After that, I had to create all the pages – and there’s over a 100 of them now. Even with copying some information from my old websites, it was a lot of work.
When I finally launched the site, I had to redirect all the gallery pages from InObscuro to here, which I had to do manually for every page.

After the launch, my laptop died as well (who the hell breaks 2 computers in 2 weeks?). My boss borrowed me his backup laptop, and I continued tweaking my site.

And still, overall it has taken me less than a month. A month that I dedicated to getting my website up and running, working 14 hours a day — at my job and at home, over the weekends too. A measly month, compared to the previous 3 years that I wasn’t working on my web site, even though I wanted to. How can I not be mad at myself at least a bit?

It took me failing to fulfil all my plans for the past year, to be able to say to myself — it’s now or never. Stop putting it off. Get that thing done, or you’ll be sorry you didn’t.
And apparently that’s what it takes to get this girl going.

The most important lesson

The most important thing I learned last year was: you don’t have to be really, really good to succeed. You just need tons of motivation, and a strong drive. Which is apparently something I lack.

I want to do more art, and right now I’m not doing it. But some things started to show up — specifically, people online I kept stumbling into, and I noticed a pattern. They were people that to me seemed totally unremarkable. Not especially talented or smart. Nothing extraordinairy. And yet, they suceeded. How did they do it?

Turns out their secret is not holding back. Not feeling inferior. Or doing stuff even when you do feel inferior. Staying committed to your dreams, even when your dreams seem impossible.

All this time (since around 2007) I felt inferior and didn’t allow myself to show everything I have to offer. I realized how full of flaws my work is, and it stopped me from working. Before that, my outlooks were great — in 2006 I landed a really cool job with a UK based publishing company, and in 2007 I got a national SciFi award, and several of my illustrations published on book covers. Since then, almost nothing. As my self-confidence tanked, so did my opportunities. No book illustration jobs, no art shows, nothing. All my wishes were placed too far in the future — when I have improved my drawing skill, when I have done A, B, and C…

This year I received another award, this time from the European Science Fiction Society. That’s kind of a big deal. However, I felt I didn’t deserve it. I know that there are people in my own country who are better artists than I am. My competition from other countries was pretty good as well. But I won based on votes from dedicated fandom people, and they have voted for me because I’m so active in the fandom. I am aware of that, and that’s why this award is so bittersweet – it’s an awesome accomplishment, yet I don’t feel I’m living up to the standard. I’m not living up to my own standard.

It took me awhile to look at myself and say: screw your standard. Screw your fears. Stop dreaming, and commit yourself to doing.

More things to do in the next year

There are a few more things on my wishlist that I would really love to see happening in the near future.

  • Make drawing a daily routine

    So far my efforts to draw at least one drawing a day have failed after a couple of days — with the exception of my summer vacation, when I did nothing but draw every day and hang around with people, and often both at the same time. I really want to improve my drawing skill, so this is a top priority! I will try to draw every morning, or at least before I go to bed. I set up a daily reminder on my phone, and so far it’s helping.

  • The Sketchbook Project

    I’ve received the sketchbook in the mail in spring, and I haven’t even started yet! I must send it by January 15th. Frantic drawing time!
    You can follow my journey on my sketchblog, and I’ll probably post a complete review here when it’s done.

  • Illustrate a children’s book

    It doesn’t have to be a children’s book, something like Brom’s books would be awesome as well haha. I adore illustrated story books, and I’d never had a chance to do that. I would like this to be a physical book, because eBooks are just so intangible — I cherish my lovely hardcover books, and I would be thrilled if I could be a part of such a project this year.

  • Illustrate a CD cover

    This has been my wish for a long time as well. I got several inquiries about this in the past, but nothing came through. We’ll see if I’ll be of better luck this year.

  • Improve figure and portrait drawing

    I was looking into life drawing classes in my city, but there are none that use models — only still life, boo hoo. I draw my boyfriend occasionally, but I have a difficult time talking him into posing and being really still. I hope someone will open up a figure drawing class some time soon, I seriously need it.

  • Draw a short comic

    I want to practice drawing less demanding comics before I get down to drawing an entire graphic novel, so I’m trying to think up short stories that can be drawn in 10 pages or less. I do have one such story written, so I suppose it’s time to get crackin’.

I already started on some of those (and other) things way before the holidays, and as I manage to get one thing into a habit, I add another one. It’s impossible to change your entire life in one day. But here I am, writing in public on what my plans are, and in a year’s time you can call me out on it :) I count on it, actually.

Thanks for staying this long with my ramblings, I applaud for your patience.
I really wanted to write a newsletter this weekend, but I just didn’t have the energy for it. I hope I’ll send it this weekend. I feel really tired these days, must be the pre-holiday work stress, sugar withdrawal and bad weather.

I wish everyone relaxed, peaceful and creative holidays :)


Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

9 responses to “2012 review and plans for 2013”

  1. Thank you! :) Yeah reviews like this give a lot of clarity to your goals.
    I wish you the same :) Let this be a very successful year for all independent creatives.

  2. You go girl. :) You can do it. I am so proud of you! You ARE really, really good in everything you’re doing and an inspiration to so many people, including me. :) I wish you a great year.

  3. Potpuno te razumijem vezano za vlastite strahove i osjećaj manje vrijednosti. I sama radim na tome…;) Bilo kako bilo, drago mi je da sam naišla na tvoj blog, od sad pratim! Puno sreće i uspjeha u svemu što si naumila, ne vidim razloga da ne isfuraš sve to! Držim fige! ;)

  4. Bok Lana, drago mi je da ti se sviđa moj blog! :D
    Hvala ti puno na lijepim željama.
    Jedna doza samokritičnosti je zdrava, bez toga nema napretka, ali ponekad znamo u tome pretjerati i onda se dogodi ovo što se meni dogodilo… potpuna paraliza. Nadam se da ćeš i ti svoje blokade s uspjehom riješiti! :)

  5. That’s what I found here…your creativity and your dedication to design. BTW I like to travel around the world, and want to get up with my blog page. I will do that pretty soon though.

    Great to be here!!!

Leave a Reply

If you're new here, please read the commenting guidelines before posting. By submitting your comment, you consent to your comment and personal information being collected in accordance with the Privacy Policy.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *