Art Corner: Follow Your Heart, Act with Humility and Gratitude… Words and Interview from Broken Isn’t Bad.

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Broken isn't bad
Broken isn't bad

Broken isn't bad

24th July 2020, The world is a crazy place to be right now, let’s pause for art, beauty and truth – an interview with ‘Broken isn’t bad’.

Let’s face it, there is a lot going on in the world, so I wanted to write something a little different and promise not to mention Corona (Covid 19) too much but it is where this story starts so bear with me for a second.

Lockdown was a very personal experience for everyone, my time was relatively pain-free (you can read my impressions here) and led me to re-evaluate every area of my life, particularly how I spend my time and where I spend my money. With so much extra time on my hands and social media being a vice (for many, I’m sure) – I decided to ‘clean out’ my social media so it provides more value.

I started following more thought leaders, writers, poets and artists. I have always loved art but once I started following more artists, I realised just how much joy (and inspiration) art brings me. I stumbled across an artist that I loved on first sight, made better by the fact that all of the illustrations are accompanied by a wide range of deep, thought-provoking or spiritual poems and texts (all the things I love in one place). In line with reassessing my other value – ‘where I spend my money’, I decided to buy a piece of art. Only upon looking further at the Instagram account did I see that this artist was in fact, from Croatia and then after messaging, I discovered that Sanda (the artist behind Broken isn’t Bad) lives in the city of Čakovec (90 km North of Zagreb).

The account is called Broken_isnt_bad and has an impressive 525,000 followers, how could I not reach out for an interview? In these crazy times, where so many are struggling, particularly artists, I wanted to share a success story and hopefully some words of inspiration.


How long have you been an artist and where did you study?

I studied graphic design at the Faculty of Graphic Arts, University of Zagreb from which I graduated in 2012 and, in 2016, I opened my Instagram account and started posting my drawings under the pseudonym Broken isn’t bad, while simultaneously working in a big corporation as a graphic designer. It was a period of my life when I felt quite depressed and unmotivated. I was really unhappy with how everything works in those big companies where you cannot express your creativity as you’d like to, and where you must obey those above you who don’t have a bit of creative talent but think they know better than you. Also, my long-term relationship ended in quite a bad way and I felt really broken in a psychological sense, so it’s amazing how my artistic profile actually showed me how to move forward and regain happiness and peace in my life.

 Broken isn't bad, bloom.jpg

“Bloom”, Broken isn’t bad

Did you always know this is what you wanted to do or did you try your hand at other careers first?

Not at all. I never thought I would make a career as an artist nor had I planned it. I had been searching for my passion for quite a long time and since I’ve always loved creatives stuff, handcrafting and drawing, graphic design seemed like the best choice to study at the time. During my student years, I started to be more interested in art in general; especially illustration, tattoo and street art and I started learning to draw in creative software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I found a job as a graphic designer soon after I had graduated, but had never been able to fit in, so I started drawing as a hobby, just for myself, in order to find a way out of that uptight place that suffocated me, but have never expected it would lead me to the place I am right now.

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Cat girl, Broken isn’t bad

I see you have a strong social media following; how long have you had your Instagram page and when did you first start seeing movement on your page and reactions to your art? That must have felt so rewarding?

I opened my Instagram account in January 2016 at the urging of a friend who was among the first ones I showed my drawings to. As I can recall, it was only a few months after opening it that I started receiving positive comments, tattoo, and commission requests and started seeing a linear growth in following. Since then, everything has been surreal and happened so fast. I’m not sure how exactly I’ve built my loyal fan page, it somehow happened by itself, maybe because I wasn’t expecting anything and was true and honest with myself, so people found something familiar in my work, something to relate to. It has been definitely rewarding!

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“Happiness, Broken isn’t bad”

Being an artist or creative is never an easy path in regards to making a living, and Croatia is a country which can be tough in general. How has your journey been and can you make a living just doing what you love?

The first year (2016) was the most difficult because I needed to balance my day job and my hobby (I mostly drew in the late evenings and nights), but at the same time, it was most enjoyable because I was working just for myself and didn’t worry about how many people liked my work or were buying from me. But the most challenging was quitting my full-time and well-paid job in 2017. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to starting your own creative business, it’s impossible to manage another career/job. In other words, you have to quit your day job and walk away from a steady long-term opportunity for something unpredictable and scary. You never know how profitable your business will be in the future, will you be able to give yourself a pay-check every month or whether customers will like your products. That was the greatest challenge I’ve experienced so far, but I’m so happy I followed my heart.

In 2018 I opened a legal small business here in Croatia, and I am now able to make a decent living by selling my prints and working on customised artworks. It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable job ever. Being my own boss, I love that I have flexibility in schedule. Having that work-life balance keeps me engaged and excited.

Coming from NZ which, in general, has a very optimistic attitude and moving to Croatia, one of the biggest differences I noticed was the mentality. I dont know how many times I have heard the phrase “ne može to” or “that wont work” – did you find the same in regards to pursuing a life in the arts?

Being born in the northern part of Croatia – Međimurje, I am lucky enough to be raised with a different mentality than it is in the south. To be honest, I have never heard the phrase “ne može to” here where I live, and I didn’t have any difficulties in regards to pursuing a life in the arts – especially not coming from other people telling me that it won’t work. My family and my friends have never discouraged me, just the opposite – they have been there on my side from the first day. When I told them that I was planning on quitting my job before I found a new one – they were nothing but reassuring, believing in me, my talent, and abilities.

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I trust you, Broken isn’t bad

Social media is a powerful platform (its how I found you on Insta!) has this been one of your strongest tools or how else have you marketed yourself and your art?

Instagram has definitely been my strongest promotional tool since I opened it in 2016 and it keeps being such. I made Facebook page a year later, but it’s not that powerful and I don’t spend as much time there as on IG. I get most inquiries for commissions, tattoos, and prints, as well as nice words of support from my followers, via Instagram and it’s the easiest way to communicate with them.

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Love is Love, Broken isn’t Bad

You have some beautiful, thought-provoking and powerful pieces; I loved seeing the same-sex option for your artwork in regards to love. In a very conservative country, this is a bold (and beautiful) move, what are your thoughts on this?

Sexuality for me means revealing the inner self and showing your vulnerability but at the same time, embracing it as your greatest strength. Most of my illustrations depict naked women and I try to mix eroticism with familiarity and surrealism – to show we are so much more than just skin and bone. With my illustrations I try to help individuals feel good about themselves, to find that invincible power which connects them with their inner selves in order to create a positive relationship both with themselves and with their partners – and I don’t want it to be exclusive to heterosexual people/couples – we are all human being and deserve the right to express our own sexuality.

Fortunately, majority of my following is from the US, Australia, Canada or Western Europe where those “controversial” pieces aren’t an issue. Growing up in Croatia where everyone who does not look or behave in accordance with general social norms provokes negative glances and cannot feel safe in their own neighbourhood, definitely plays a role in what people find offensive, provocative or controversial. I understand my work can be seen as a direct insult to peoples’ religious beliefs, but I try to ignore the negative comments and reactions and focus on an audience that values freedom of expression.

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“Lotus Man”, Broken isn’t bad

I saw on your page that you are inspired by your own thoughts, experiences but also by a lot of poetry are these your main inspirations and who are you favourite poets?

For me drawing is a form of meditation. I mostly create for myself (at least that was in the beginning) in order to express what I see and feel for my own self-healing purposes. Ever since I was little (and used to read a lot more than nowadays), I have been writing all those wise words from books, articles, songs, movies in my diaries. It was the quotes that led me to drawing and made me discover my true passion, so for me, it isn’t just about quoting somebody else’s words, it’s about creating something out of it and healing myself at the same time.

My greatest source of inspiration has been words from poets and writers, like Rumi, F. Pessoa, P. Neruda, M. Angelou, E.E. Cummings, R.M. Rilke, O. Wilde, R. Payne, H. Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few, but I am also interested in yoga philosophy, astrology and spirituality, therefore, the quotes from motivational and spiritual speakers/teachers have also influenced my work quite a lot.

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“Meditation”, Broken isn’t Bad

Which Croatian artists or authors do you admire or have been the greatest inspiration for you?

My greatest inspirations have been tattoo artists across the world who I have been admiring on Instagram and other social media for years. I’ve been always a big fan of tattoos and would say that tattoo art actually drew me to my style. Unfortunately, not many Croatian tattoo artists are there that would inspire me, since the scene is still quite small in our country. But I’d love to mention a few other artists who I admire very much; Korovles, Maja Tomljanović, Lara Zigic, Kvar illustration, Klarxy, 3Oko, Hana Tintor…

In these crazy times of the coronavirus pandemic, many are losing their jobs but I see it could be an opportunity for some especially in regards to online work or using social media to our advantage. If you were to give one piece of advice to the youth of Croatia in regards to the opportunities that exist (if you believe they do), what would that be?

I would say go for it! Go for your dreams and follow your passion – there’s nothing to lose! Honestly, I don’t think I would have an art career without Instagram. It has definitely been vital for turning my hobby into career, and I’m always happy to see and be able to follow new young illustrators/painters/DIY workers/musicians/hand-makers etc., especially from Croatia.

Permanent Internet access and use of social media have played a big role in artistic world and have opened up the opportunities for many people to curate their own personal gallery on social networks, build their own client base and spread their artistic message into the world. Even artists who use traditional techniques increasingly use digital technology to expose their work making it more approachable to a wider audience. Art is becoming more popular and we are starting to see a wider array of artist and their vision that otherwise would be overlooked.

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“Escape the Ordinary”, Broken isn’t bad

What would you say to anyone else who has an artists heart but doubts they can make it?

Do not compare yourself to others, you are neither better nor worse than those next to you – we all have our place in this world. Pave your own way and most importantly – be honest with what you create, stay humble, grateful and aware of your mistakes as well as your achievements. It always shows new potentials and ways to evolve and grow your craft. Magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid.

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“I don’t owe you”, Broken isn’t bad

Closing comments

The world is undoubtedly an uncertain and scary place at the moment but words (and art) like this remind me that there is still beauty in the world. This is by far one of my most favourite interviews, a breath of fresh air with honest and inspiring responses – follow your heart, stay true to yourself, take the risk, act with humility and gratitude… timeless messages that we all need to be reminded of from time-to-time. If you want to see more from Sanda, you can find her works on Instagram under broken_isnt_bad or check out her website for prints and more information.



All images were provided by broken_isnt_bad and are subject to copyright.


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