HOCU | The world is her canvas: Naturalistic artist Sarah Marjanovic


Angel Saldivar

Multimedia artist Sarah Marjanovic creates artwork inspired by nature and science. Marjanovic’s passion for art began during her childhood and would lead her to participate in an event held at Link Gallery called 8 to Create.

By Izzy Perpich, Contributing Writer

Painting through the natural shapes of her carefully cultivated stencil and bringing to life a mesmerizing collage, Sarah Marjanovic participated in the 8 to Create event at the Link Gallery outside of the Krannert Art Museum on March 26. During the event, the detail-oriented artist thoughtfully articulated the intersection of science and nature from raw materials. 

Marjanovic found conservation, nature and science-based art in multimedia an extremely significant part of her identity. Some of the mediums she uses include hand-crafted stencils, a sewing process, paints and natural dyes.

Her artwork is mainly about environmental awareness, and she advocates for the world and its inability to speak for itself. Her career as an illustrator and graphic designer for Living with Wildlife Illinois, an environmental outreach program, is found at the crossroads of her values and identity.

Marjanovic’s passion for creation and conservation began in early childhood. 

“As soon as I could hold any utensil … I had these stories in my head that I would want to illustrate,” Marjanovic said. “I could easily occupy myself with some paper, sketchbook and a pencil or some clay.”

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In rural southern Illinois, Marjanovic’s family owns a farm that is partially dedicated to habitat restoration. She said her family’s farm is one of the most influential aspects of her artwork — a unique passion absent in most landowners. 

“As a family, we are very passionate about conservation and land stewardship,” Marjanovic said. “We plant prairies, restore wetlands, and it is a privilege that we get to do it on our own land. A lot of my artwork comes from working with my family to restore habitat.”

Alongside creation, time management is a challenge for any artist. Marjanovic commonly faces time management problems within her career at Living with Wildlife Illinois. 

“I’m also trying to push myself outside the box and see what in my process I can edit out,” Marjanovic said. “That must be part of the whole experimental process and how you’re figuring out what works best for you as an artist.”

She said she experienced transitional periods where she could have used her creative process as an outlet. Later, however, she found herself again through art. 

“After grad school, I moved up here to Champaign … there was a lot of uncertainty,” Marjanovic said. “It was a stressful time and probably a time that I should have leaned into making art. When I started making art again, I was finding a part of myself.”

With the uncertainties, frustrations and appreciative moments that accompany creation, she said growth is often rooted in failure. 

“You have to let yourself fail occasionally and know failure isn’t a bad thing,” Marjanovic said. “It’s a way of moving forward and a learning opportunity.”

Similar to the creative process, she said life experiences and perceptions are ever changing. She stresses how keeping an open mind is essential for exploring and finding oneself through an individually interpreted definition of success. 

“Your idea of success is going to change as you move through your life,” Marjanovic said. “There are no rules. I really struggled with the idea of what was success. It might look different, but it’ll be a great fit eventually.”

Pat Baron Monigold, artist and friend of Marjanovic, described her appreciation for Marjanovic’s vibrant intricacy she has while creating.

“She just has a singular talent for doing it with such delicacy,” Monigold said. “And then, of course, you’ve got the addition of stitching and the use of thread. It really was a revelation to see the work together.”

Monigold acknowledged the meaning of their shared love for gardening and highlighted another method of utilizing the Earth as a canvas and reconnecting with nature. 

“I think it’s the beginning of a very nice friendship,” Monigold said. “Even though there are many years that separate us, it really is promising.”

Heather Sandy, friend of Marjanovic for the past decade, explained Marjanovic’s great eye for detail. 

“She is a person that as she’s walking around, just casually, with some of those invasive species, points out what you would normally walk past,” Sandy said. “She’s always on alert and she has such a great eye for detail.” 

Sandy said she is fascinated by Marjanovic’s use of natural dyes and mixed media.

“She’s into mixed media and can use so many different materials,” Sandy said. “She’s very open-minded, and she embraces lots of different materials. She has an incredible background in figure drawing and representational painting.”


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