Nebojsa Matkovic on Art Obesity and Authenticity

by Shaz Hassan

"I feel that when you get to the bottom of who you are and where you want to go, things change drastically. That authenticity can kill the creative pain that I feel often. With that authenticity, you just channel stuff through you, become more spontaneous... like a kid that is playing in his backyard."

Serbian designer Nebojsa Matkovic recalls his beginnings and how "art obesity" can be bad for you.


ignorance & bliss illustration poster


How did you get started and when did you first develop an interest in illustration/graphic design?

As a kid, I loved to draw. But when I got a bit older, video games covered pretty much all my needs for visuals. I feel that I got a bit lost because of that though... I went to all kinds of schools just to get some kind of a degree but nothing was driving me 100%.

As I played in a few bands, we would sometimes need posters for our gigs, so I gave it a shot. This was happening during my last year of college and that's when I discovered photoshop. 
That first poster sucked but it was fun for me. I continued to experiment with fonts and photos and this grew into a passion. It definitely replaced video games... Friends and parents were very supportive which meant a lot in these first steps. At that time, I didn't think that I could make a living out of it but 6 months later I got a junior position in a local design agency. They almost rejected me because I didn't know any vector programs. I convinced them and they gave me two weeks to figure out Adobe Illustrator. Of course, two weeks was not enough but somehow I got the job.

This is the short version of the story - thanks for asking me about this - it was fun to go back in that memory lane. 



Are there other artists who you're particularly interested in at the moment, or who have influenced your work?

There are an endless list of designers and illustrators that I like and some of them I follow for years. It's fun to watch how style, inspiration, and expression changes and evolves through time. What I discovered is that too much influence is bad for you.

At the beginning of 2020, I kind of got into an "art obesity" phase and I felt that I should stop looking so much what other people do and focus more on where I should go.

Maybe the right expression to call this phase is "to grow up" and this is still happening. Anyway, here is a very short list of designers/illustrators that I like, and that list is random in order:

Christophe Starace, Selin Çınar, Jonathan Lax, Michael George Haddad, YOK and SHERYO, Pedro Oyarbide, Ian Jepson, Andrew Fairclough, Florian Schommer, Palehorse, Richey Beckett, Godmachine, and the list goes on....


How does the recent pandemic affect your current and future projects?

PLANdemic?  It didn't affect me, business is as usual but I'm aware that a lot of people got a strong hit from it and I really hope that this madness will end soon. For the future, I have a plan to work more on my personal stuff within the Ortus project (apparel, posters, stickers, etc) but I will see what tomorrow brings.

Some say that an economic crisis is upon us which potentially might slow down this idea.


logo designs


What projects that you are working on right now? 

At the moment I'm working with two craft breweries and I really enjoy it. Within this industry, I get to combine my love for illustration and typography. 

I also have a few small logo design projects and when I have some free time I work on my personal project/brand ORTUS

As I mentioned, I hope that one day Ortus will become my number one project  and that I will work on client projects only if I have free time or if I really like their idea.

Do you remember the very first paid job?

Haha, yes! It was a flyer for a car wash from my neighbourhood. It meant the world to me... I had zero software skills and the enthusiasm of a future world champ. I spent 12+ hours on it. I bet that owner didn't care or wouldn't be able to see the difference if someone more experienced would have designed it.

You have to start somewhere though.

And right now, I try not to accept everything that comes my way. Ideally the project should be fun and it should improve me as a designer. We all want for each project to be super hot and interesting and represents us and great for sharing but that's far from reality. Saying that - I'm super grateful for each client that has reached out to me.


by the horns graphic design cans


devilstone paper cup illustration coffee


What is your favourite piece of work you've done and why?

It is very hard to say... I love all my children equally :)

If I have to pick one it would be Sick Snowboards logo. Now in 2020, that's not because of the design itself but because of the story behind. Sick Snowboards logo was done within a logo contest on 99 designs in 2012. The theme was Sick Resorts, which is a web portal that tracks the best resorts for snowboarding. I didn't get the prize but I liked the design so I changed the name to Sick Snowboards, expanded into the full branding concept, and posted it on a few design portals. A few weeks later I got featured on Behance network in the branding section. This got me a lot of exposure and I started to receive projects. I guess that was a turning point where I stopped doing contests and clients started coming to me directly. 

Another one is definitely the Ortus logo because it's personal. It reflects me, it became my foundation and a signature for my personal work.... there's a long story behind the brand and the logo but I don't want to bore you with that here.


Ortus stickers black and white


What is the most difficult part of being an independent artist?

To find your way of expressing your inner being. For that to happen one must find and accept himself 100%. I feel that when you get to a bottom of who you are and where you want to go, things change drastically. That authenticity can kill the creative pain that I feel often. With that authenticity, you just channel stuff through you, become more spontaneous... like a kid that is playing in his backyard. I see this ability in many artists... Myself? Not quite there yet but I'm enjoying this journey. 

From a material point of view, sometimes you need to work on a project that you just want it to be over and move on with your life. It took me years to be able to detach emotionally from client work and to understand that I'm hired to translate their vision. Some clients are better than others. Better clients are those who allow you to be an artist, to do your thing.


ortus print artwork

What challenges do you face today that are different than when you started?

Consistency... I don't have it, I don't practice that much and sometimes I do not draw for a week or more. There are artists out there that can do the same motif in the same style over and over. That definitely helps one to polish the style, be faster, more accurate, etc. but when I'm in this process or repetition it's boring for me. It becomes like labor and that’s a struggle.

This relates to my personal work as well. When it comes to client work each case is a bit different but I see a relation.  It usually happens that I get hired by the work that I put out there. For example, I did a branding project for a burger restaurant and after that, I did burger restaurants for the next 2-3 years. After the 3rd burger restaurant, you will definitely start to repeat yourself unless the client is very open.

Right now I'm working with craft breweries. It's still fun but after a few more I cannot guarantee that I won't start to repeat myself. People that look at my work don't have a problem with this but for me, that knows what is behind the scene, can get a bit repetitive. Feels like cheating.

Is there anything that you want to share with other independent artists across the globe?

Stay free, keep rippin' and thank you for existing because you're making this planet more interesting.


You can find more of his works on his Behance portfolio or follow his creations on Instagram.  If you need to commission him or you need something from our creative studio: motion graphics / animation / shooting / editing please email us here or schedule a conversation with us.