“Leave your mark, and also be sincere.” – Nebojsa Markovic
Born in Subotica, Serbia, self-taught graphic designer and illustrator Nebojsa Matkovic is now making it work as a freelancer in Novi Sad. Graduating from university saw him take his interest in graphic design from a mere hobby to a serious profession. In his (nearly) eight years as a freelancer, Nebojsa has collaborated with various commercial and non-profit organisations.
Nebojsa sees his work as something that provides a purpose of existence and security. “There’s a sense of completeness when creation happens,” he says. We speak to him in depth about the inspiration behind his work, his style and what he does to keep his passion alive.
Punk culture is your foundation – Is there any particular incident that triggers when people ask about your interest in punk culture?
Everyone gets into trouble every once in awhile. I don’t think there are any particular serious incidents I can tell you about.
What you have to know is that the people at the top do not like thinkers. They like followers. I think I’m kind of the same as everyone else, but also different. To me, punk culture means aspiring for freedom – creating, not destroying. Punk culture means digging tunnels instead of breaking walls. Punk culture means being constantly on the move, and not giving up on the child within me.
You are an adrenaline junky – skateboarding, snowboarding and downhill biking, aren’t you? How does that sync with the artwork you produce?
Besides the fact that extreme sports help me to expand my inner boundaries and keep the flame inside me burning, I see many inspiring and creative aspects in extreme sports: people, places and personality.
I love to see a new skateboard, snowboard, bicycle frame, shirt or any other product design from this industry. In most cases, artists working for this industry speak freely and create some pretty amazing stuff. Seeing beauty and awesomeness created by other people intensifies my craving to design something great.
How has your art direction and style has changed over the years?
Direction expands as time passes. I feel like I’m getting better, more intuitive, more comfortable with ‘old’ techniques, using new techniques, experimenting… Things are still fun like it was in the beginning. I don’t just stuck to that ‘one way’ of design, I change courses.
Sometimes, it’s branding for a bakery and sometimes it’s a bloody illustration for a metal band. Both projects are treated with equal love.
Not many can do what you did – what made you decide to quit your job in design and focus on freelance work?
Moving from agency work to freelance work happened because I didn’t finish any design school. When I first graduated with an industrial management degree from college, I started to click around photoshop and watch tutorials because a punk band needed someone to design a poster for a gig and I thought I could do it.
I liked trying my hand at designing posters and continued to work on random stuff just for fun. A few months later, I got a job in a design agency and worked there for a year. The job was alright, but it was limiting what I can do. I had to go to work everyday and I had to be there whenever people wanted me to. What I really didn’t like was that people will put stuff on my desk and they would expect you to get it done. In most cases, I wasn’t in communication with the client. I just followed instructions.
Later on, I found this design contest website and won a few contests! That was when I realised that I can stay home, work whenever I want and still be satisfied. At first, it was all about winning design contests, but then clients started coming to me directly.
To be clear, I am not against teamwork and agencies. I collaborate with other people and sometimes agencies hire me. It’s just that I don’t like the formality and coldness of institutions. I feel that the minute I signed the paper I’m so busted – kind of like joining the army – people will smile at you until you change into your uniform.
I also noticed that when I started freelancing, I stopped looking at the clock and waiting for time to pass! (Don’t we all wish we could stop staring at the clock too!)
We would love to the know who are the people who inspire your works – maybe they’ll inspire us to do amazing things too!
The first person that popped up in my mind is my friend Boris Rajic. He is also a graphic designer. He was there for me in my first photoshop conquests, commenting on my work and encouraging me to stay on track. Never have I thought I would be a designer and making a living out of it. Boris believed in me more than I believed in myself.
Besides that, random people I meet everyday can be inspiring and constantly a reminder of how wonderful life can be. You can literally learn from and be inspired by anyone and anything.
Share the secret with us – where does your supply of creative juices flow from?
I’m not constantly creative.
Sometimes I have to push my limits to get it done, and sometimes I’m riding the wave, overseeing and enjoying each step of the creative process. This is one of the reasons why I love this job. Nothing is certain. I wouldn’t be able to feel whole if I were doing something repetitive.
I gained some experience during the years, and I realised that my process is sometimes pretty cliché. I try to break them during every project. It is somehow fulfilling to see my own pattern being broken. There’s a thought that keeps me going – is it a bug, a curse or a virtue that I’ve always wanted to reinvent hot water? In any case, this keeps me grounded and feeling hungry for more.
There are indeed times I need to step away from design work, and that is when advantages of being a freelancer becomes obvious. In my ‘dark days‘, I do other stuff, like staying on a mountain for a couple of days, snowboarding or going on a road trip.
When stepping away from design work, I think it is important for me to let go of my work completely. When I return to work, the emotions I attach to my work gets stronger.
Heard it guys? Work-life balance there! So, we speak to some of the youngest emerging artists in the world. What would you say are some of your words of advice to them?
Firstly, I would thank them for choosing this path. They’ve decided to go on a mission to make things look good in this world. What a call! By designing, you have chosen to make people happy and make yourself feel whole.
Don’t think about what other artists did – people would have designed something similar before and after you. We constantly live in an illusion that we are creators of something new. But the fact is, everything already exists. Just relax and get it out of your system. Leave your mark, and also be sincere. This is an advice for myself too.
Would you say you were exactly who you aspired to be when you were young?
When I was a kid, everything seemed interesting and mystic. I wanted to discover places and meet cool people. I wanted to always be on the move. I actually didn’t think about the future much when I was young, and I definitely didn’t think I would be doing this to make a living.
With that being said, I’m happy that I still preserve an inner child. I would like to keep things that way. It would be a shame to disappoint the young, aspirational kid in the past. ▲
Nebojsa Matkovic is a contributing artist to our Sticker Vampires Pack. Grab them now!