title photo by Dea Jagić

Art empowers her intuition: Petra Balekić

Mar 22, 2024Marijeta Duvnjak

Title photo by Dea Jagić


In the realm of animated films, a few names resonate with creativity, innovation, and storytelling expertise. One such name is Petra Balekić, a female animation director, illustrator and independent artist who wholeheartedly welcomed us into her home. We also had company the whole time of the interview and it was her adorable and playful dog Bela who likes attention. Amazed by her living space that oozes with art from all directions, we had the privilege of sitting down with Petra to discuss her journey, inspirations, and the unique perspective she brings to the animation industry.

The Genesis of a Storyteller

Petra studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and graduated from the Department of Graphic Arts and the Department of Animation and New Media, so her work combines the knowledge and experience gained from both fields. She says she usually introduces herself as an animator because it's somehow the shortest and most understandable to people. Her area of expertise is much bigger than animation itself. Besides being the author of animated films, she is also in charge of writing scripts, directing and creating designs. Other than that, she works with other forms of visual expression, primarily in the form of drawings.

Animation for the project "Od vlastite učionice do vlastite sobe"

Breaking Barriers

Petra remembers that as a graphics student it was difficult for her to make a series of works that are similar in the matter of style. It’s because she was always drawn to try something new and experimenting with different techniques was very natural to her. Then she smiled and confessed that a lot of those works turned out to be pure disasters, but in the end it was good for the development of her personal style. Through this personal searching process, she acknowledged that she is artistically predestined for figuration versus abstraction, that means she takes more of a graphic approach versus painting. She claims those as her foundations that she stays true to, and she continues to explore different possibilities within those boundaries. In her opinion, every creative process itself is “thinking out of the box”, because in this way, an individual can explore different styles and techniques, experiment with variations. Her biggest coming out of her comfort zone was making her first movie which is quite experimental in a way of using a technique that nobody used ever before.

Animation for the project "Od vlastite učionice do vlastite sobe"

Behind the Scenes of Creation

When we asked her about what motivates her to create, she said that sometimes she’s driven by the need to create, but also jokingly pointed that there is a bread to win every day. Petra is filled with energy and likes to have a daily routine that keeps her in check to fit all the important tasks in her day. She is up early and ready for work every morning, but she emphasized how important is for her to set aside enough time during the week to have a healthy balance between both work and personal life like socializing, sports activities, walks with Bela, reading and contemplation. Besides that, she is generally fulfilled with her work, and it makes her especially happy if she’s satisfied with the result. From her perspective as a graphic artist, she sees things in a simpler manner because the result is quickly visible, and she can make a new version if she’s not satisfied. However, making an animated film is a long process that includes several components and requires the synergy of the screenplay, design, animation, editing, sound, etc. Petra confessed that making changes in the animation can be quite a tedious task because you can’t be sure if all the elements work together as a whole before the film is finished.

Petra has always looked at art as a kind of way of connecting with people that she has a lot in common with. That means you sometimes feel a deep connection with the author of a film, a song, a picture, or a book that makes a great impact on you. She added that it’s like a bond as if all your personality is woven into that piece which was created by a stranger, and not you. In her opinion, passion for creation is simply a matter of character and a certain outlook on life in general. Then she proudly said that art gives her the freedom to constantly make something new, to explore, to grow and get to know herself better through the process of creation.


Drawings and graphics

Future Endeavors

Petra is currently working on her new animated film, and in addition to that, she has been writing and illustrating her first book. She also does work to orders and told us that she just finished the animation for Vox Feminae. This animation will be part of the exhibition "Od vlastite učionice do vlastite sobe" in the Croatian School Museum at the beginning of April. She confessed with a smile that as of lately, a lot of people have been contacting her via Instagram for drawings of dogs.

Reflections and Advice

For young artists that are just getting ready to embark on a creative adventure she thought of a quote from an interview with John Clees where he says: "Nothing will stop you from being creative as effectively as the fear of making a mistake". She strongly agrees with that saying because her philosophy is that any advice along the lines of "do this" or "don't do that" would be inappropriate because it creates the illusion that things need to happen in a certain way to be successful. Her advice is to simply listen to your intuition and go where it leads you.

In the matter of role models, she claims to have both female and male role models in the artistic world. But when it comes to animation, she immediately remembered three short films by contemporary female authors that left a strong impression and inspired her for her current film. She highly recommends "III" by Marta Pajek, "Happy" by Alice Saey and "Egg" by Martina Scarpelli.

When we asked about dealing with criticism, she casually pointed out that it’s inevitable for anybody. Sometimes it is positive and aimed at making you look a little deeper into yourself and be more liberal in your work, but sometimes it makes you think about how to make the audience to like you. She advised that it’s important to recognize where the criticism is coming from and with what intention and then decide whether you want to accept it or not.

From the animated film "The Stranger in My Head"

Closing Thoughts

At the end of our conversation, Petra pointed out that it’s difficult to talk about the role of art in general because of its very broad concept. The opinion about its purpose and its existence in general has changed a lot throughout history. Her understanding of this issue has always been close to what the movement of larpurartism dictates - that art has its purpose in itself and therefore is freed from moralizing, politics, ethical constraints, etc. She once again emphasized that her sheer need to create is what motivates her to create and that she sees it as a basic human need which sometimes people neglect. After spending some time with this creative and inspiring young woman, we came to a conclusion that art is liberating her through the empowerment of her intuition. She is constantly in touch with herself, and she trusts her decisions in every step she takes. We strongly agree that is the perfect formula to make a harmonious living, letting art into every aspect of your life.

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