Emma Fick: Serbia Inspired Me To Start Drawing Again

Ema Fik (Emma Fick)

Ema Fik (Emma Fick)


For the Serbian version, please click HERE

Za verziju na srpskom, molimo kliknite OVDE

Emma Fick is an American illustrator living currently in Serbia and teaching English on a Fulbright scholarship. Her passion and love for travelling and illustrating she combined in an interesting way, creating sketches, illustrations and paintings in which she shows places, people and the details of every day life she experiences during her travels. For her illustrations dedicated to Serbia, Emma Fick (22) is preparing a special project with the help of the US Embassy in Serbia. How and why this interesting young artist came to Serbia, how Serbia inpired her to start drawing again, exclusive for AAM, Emma Fick

  Hello, Emma, welcome to Serbia. What brings you here? Is this your first time to visit Serbia and the Balkans?

Hello, Avant Art Magazine! I arrived in Serbia for the first time in September 2013. I received a Fulbright scholarship from the United States to teach English in Serbia. I applied to Serbia because I have family history here—I actually met my elderly relative in Belgrade for the first time last year!

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You teach English in Novi Pazar as a part of your Fulbright Scholarship, but what brought an attention to you is your other “job”. You make extraordinary illustrations of common life, places you visited, food, costumes, monuments, people you met, and adventures you had. How all that started?

  I’ve always loved to draw, but I studied literature and didn’t have time or mental energy to be creative. When I came to Serbia, I was inundated with all these amazing sights, sounds, people, and cultures. The mental images were so vivid, they simply wouldn’t stay in my head–so I started putting them down on paper. The illustrations started simply at first, little line drawings, dashed off at the end of a long day. But they quickly became more essential to daily life in Serbia, and I spent more and more time on them. Illustration is both a way for me to make sense of the complex and fascinating world around me and a way for me to share Serbia with people abroad.

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Is this some kind of travel guide you make with your illustrations? Do you only draw or you also write about all what is interesting in your travels? Do you maybe think of making a travel book with all this? 

As I illustrated Serbia, I fell more and more in love. You could say Serbia inspired me to start drawing again. My Fulbright scholarship ends in July, but I’ll spend October of this year to February of next year living in Belgrade and traveling around Serbia, illustrating life all over the country!

I don’t want to say too much right now, but there are two exciting potential projects for travel books in the near future! One would be an illustrated guide to Belgrade, the other an illustrated story of Serbia.

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And the photography, do you like it?

I do appreciate photography, though I am not a photographer myself.

 How people react to your illustrations?

 People are overwhelmingly supportive of my illustrations! In Novi Pazar, people often thank me for helping them see their city through fresh eyes. Those are the best compliments to get.

One of my favorite stories is about a shoe cobbler in Novi Pazar. I did a very fast drawing about his store—honestly, it wasn’t good, very simple and hurriedly done. I posted it online and forgot about it. Then, about a month later, I was walking by his shop, and on the walls I saw…two framed copies of my drawing! I almost fell over with surprise. Someone must have shown him the drawing, and printed it out for him. We can’t communicate—I don’t speak much Serbian and he doesn’t speak much English—but we always smile and wave at each other. I went in the store to “talk” to him about the drawing, and he was so grateful and happy with it.

I felt bad about the bad illustration, so the next week I made another, better illustration of him. I printed a copy and gave it to him—his smile was unforgettable.

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What did you expect and what did you get in Serbia?

 I had no idea what to expect from Serbia, but what I got in reality exceeded even my wildest expectations. One of the first things I tell people back home is: you’ll never believe the Balkan hospitality!

 According to your illustrations, while here, you have visited a lot – Sarajevo, Kotor, Ljubljana, Zagreb, lot of historical monuments, monasteries, old towns… What was the most interesting travel during your stay in Serbia?

 It’s impossible to choose just one “most interesting” travel. Everything is so different. Because I love Byzantine art, I love visiting all the monasteries, especially the ones with preserved frescoes. I love Novi Pazar because it is a great mix of cultures—I can visit mosques and the most ancient monasteries all in the same place. I’m biased, of course, from living here, but it does have spectacular and ancient culture!

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After the Fulbright program, you are preparing a new project together with the US Embassy in Serbia. What is it about?

Next year, I’m collaborating with the U.S. Embassy on a “Snippets of Serbia” illustration project. I will travel around Serbia, talking to people and observing culture. I’ll learn about the art, eat the foods, and learn the history of different cities and regions in Serbia. All the while, I’ll create illustrations about what I see, and publish them online for others to enjoy. Eventually, I hope to create a small illustrated book about these months in Serbia.

I’ll also run illustration workshops with American Corners in Serbia. The U.S. Embassy is supporting the illustration project because they believe in the importance of communicating Serbian culture to America, and also showing Serbia what their country looks like through an American’s eyes.

 What travel plans you have these days?

After a year of lots of exploration, I’m spending these last two months staying still in Novi Pazar! My family will come to Belgrade in June, and after spending a week there, I will take them on a three-week tour of the Balkans. We’ll see Zagreb, Istria, some of Dalmatia, Mostar, and Sarajevo.

Once you said you live two different lives – one of the isolated artist, and the other one – of an absorbent observer. Is it difficult to put all that together?

It’s always a balance. Some days are hard, and transitions are always difficult. The few days separating travel and solitude, or the few days after solitude leading up to travel, are always the most difficult. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!


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Do you make some money of your illustrations and do you believe that in future you will be able to make living of that? Would it be a dream come true job?

 As of right now, I do not make money off of illustrations. It is, as they say, a labor of love. But I’ve only been illustrating for a few months, so I hope all that will change as I become more experienced.

Being able to travel and illustrate for a living would be an absolute dream come true. Next year, with help from the U.S. Embassy, I’m living that dream—now I just have to find a way to make it last!


Suzana Spasić


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