Tanja Gant is an impeccably accurate and realistic pencil artist working mostly with graphite and coloured pencils. A true master in the art arena, Tanja’s journey began before the Bosnian war and endured the challenges of that time and beyond. Tanja is fearless in her approach to her work as she hopes to also master the paint medium in the near future. Join in the discovery as we take a look into the mind of this magnificent master pencil artist.
Interview with Tanja Gant by Cindy Wider
Q: Please tell us your preferred art name, year of birth and country of origin (where you were born and raised and where you are living now).
A: I’ve been known as Tanja Gant since 1999 when I moved to America. I was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia) in 1972, as Tatjana, where I grew up and met my American husband. We both worked in the Human Rights Office that was part of the International Police Task Force in 1997 and 1998. I was one of the three translators. My husband and I first arrived in Florida but have since moved several times only to settle in Mississippi about a year ago.
Becoming a Pencil Artist
Q: Tanja could you tell us when you first realised that you enjoyed creating art as a child and you were supported in your decision, if so by who?
A: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. It all started with cartoon characters and then progressed to comic book heroes. I even gave some serious thought to creating my own comic books when I was in elementary school. Drawing has always been something I’ve had to do but the unspoken “understanding” was that I would eventually have to find a different profession. My parents always made sure I had plenty of pencils and paper, though. Even during the Bosnian war I had plenty of drawing materials.
Q: What journey have you been on as an artist? For example when did you first begin to create art as an adult? Did you study at all and if so where? How was that experience?
A: My journey as an artist has been solitary pretty much my whole life. Growing up in Bosnia I had very limited access to art education and art books in general. I knew I had very little chance of getting into an Art College so I signed up for English classes instead. I wasn’t able to do art full-time until after 2008 when I quit my last job. Having never studied art, or even been around artists, has left me questioning everything I do.
Motivation Behind The Modern Marvels
Q: What is the primary motivation for why you create art? For example; Is it income or a burning passion to draw/paint?
A: My primary motivation is a desire and need to create. I have something to say and drawing is the best way I can “say” it. Of course, the goal of every career is monetary success, and I’m still working on it, but at this point in my life I’m just happy to do what I love.
Q: What goes through your mind while you draw/paint, is there a calm silence, do you listen to music or do you experience doubt, fear or any emotions at all? If you experience fear or doubt what do you do to overcome these feelings?
A: I tend to overthink every aspect of the drawing process, so in order to rein in those thoughts I listen to music or watch TV, mostly true crime shows. I’m always excited to start a new drawing but doubt usually sets in midway through the process. What helps me overcome that feeling of being stuck is knowing what I want to accomplish, and sheer determination. I have a clear idea of what a drawing is supposed to look like and leaving it unfinished is not an option.
Creating Creative Balance
Q: How do you make time to include art in your life, do you have any suggestions to help others manage their creative lives?
A: I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family and art on a daily basis. Art is usually the first thing that suffers. I’m fortunate to be able to do it full-time, but finding an outlet for your passion, even if takes half an hour a day or a few hours a week is imperative. Sometimes just sitting down to draw is a big chore but essentially that’s what it takes.
Q: Is drawing and creating artworks your only profession or main business. If not, what else do you do for work?
A: Drawing is my profession even though I don’t make enough money to call it my main business. I’m hoping that will change in the future.
Q: Do you have any special unique advice or skills you are willing to share with other artists who are learning to create artworks at this very high standard that you are working at?
A: This is a question I get asked a lot. As a self-taught artist I feel like I’m still trying to uncover the “secrets”. In my case it comes down to observation and patience. I know that smooth application of pencil doesn’t do much good if the drawing is not accurate. What I do is time consuming and tedious and that’s something I still struggle with. Slowing down and having a clear vision of the final product helps.
Art making Achievements
Q: Tanja please tell us about any significant awards you have won or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life. Are there any significant appearances in magazine articles, interviews, Television, radio, News papers etc. Tell us how these have helped to advance your art career.
A: Out of the many shows and awards I’ve been given and participated in the one that stands out the most is The Best of Show in the Richeson 75 International Figure/Portrait Competition, where my graphite drawing, “Waiting”, took the top prize against all other categories. Another personal major achievement was winning a Finalist spot in the Portrait Society of America’s Members Only Annual Online Competition with my drawing, “1992”. But the moment that changed it all and propelled me into the world of professional art making was when my drawing, “Galen”, was selected a Finalist in the Artist’s Magazine’s 27th Annual International Art Competition in the Portraits/Figures category in 2010. My drawings have been published in numerous books and art magazines: Strokes of Genius, The Artist’s Magazine, Poets & Artists, International Art Magazine, to name just a few and they have all helped put my name (and art) on the map.
More Media to Come
Q: What major and significant goals and influences do you have for your art if any? Tell us who or what inspires you to be the best you can be as an artist.
A: My biggest goal is to learn how to paint but until then I hope to improve on what I do now, keep entering shows, and potentially teach workshops. On Facebook I follow many incredibly talented contemporary artists who work in different media and genres and they, and their work, inspire me every day.
When it comes to pencil work my biggest inspiration is Justin Balliet. His charcoal drawings are mesmerizing. He makes it look effortless. It’s an honor to know him and own one of his original drawings.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about your art journey so far and your inspiration to create art, that I could include in your interview to inspire others?
A: You owe it to yourself to do what you love, whatever that may be. Art has helped me express myself, it has helped me through some hard times and now I finally feel like I belong. Find that which you’re passionate about and embrace it.