Today I’m chatting with Nela Dunato, a mixed media artist, designer and writer from Croatia. Her lifelong fascination with mythology, folk tales and the unseen world shows up prominently in her visual art and other creative endeavors. She uses her dark, surreal and fantastical art as a tool for self-discovery and healing.

She just finished working on her first book “The Human Centered Brand”, a how-to guide for small business owners exploring the intersection of design, business, service and self-expression.

Enjoy our ramble through the Slavic myth of Cycle of Seasons as well as Nela’s relationship with her body and creativity.

Reciprocity & Appreciation

This is an ad-free self-produced podcast, and I’d love to hire people to do the editing and transcription, and eventually even be able to pay my guests.

If you appreciate the Wild Elixir podcast, please support the show at: or make a one-time donation with this paypal button:    

Also – there are some lovely perks to supporting the podcast on Patreon:

  • a monthly recording of a fairytale for you to listen to
  • access to my Honouring Your Anger ecourse
  • access to my Honouring Your Grief ecourse
  • At the $50 level, a monthly writing circle, in which we work with a fairytale and write and discuss (this is so rich and fun!)

It would mean so much to have you support the show:

Resources from this episode:

Connecting with Nela:

Connecting with Janelle:

Things we chatted about in this episode:

  • the Slavic myth Cycle of Seasons
  • On the necessity of destruction – in order for something else to grow
  • how we usually only want to see the growing side of things, but how destruction is essential
  • has a personal cycle of high energy followed by depression, and over again – knowing that it’s a cycle, that things are going to shift helps to accept the inner cycle
  • stories that speak in cycles speak to her and her own nature
  • the story of a dark and powerful goddess that is NOT a fertility goddess – has never really resonated with the archetype of mother, more interested in the other archetypes – dark underworld goddesses like Hecate and Persephone and Kali etc
  •  loves the transformation story of the goddess in Cycle of Seasons – a story of transformation from innocence and love, having betrayal change her, break her heart, to rediscover her powers
  • how she used her powers of ‘not good’ taking on the role of the hated character – bringing winter in – to do something necessary and needed, in order for the greater cycle to come into effect
  • the story also speaks to how we treat people in society who make mistakes – throwing them in cages instead of giving them ways of healing and becoming
  • relationship with creativity
  • on how creativity is the best relationship she’s ever had with anything or anyone
  • being a full time freelance designer and always creating personal projects all the time
  • has been writing her book lately (update: book now available)
  • didn’t always know she’d be doing creative work for a living – didn’t get much support to have a creative profession
  • came to her creative work later in life – went into electrical engineering first (3 years)
  • drawing became the most important thing in her life – finding so much joy and creativity in the process
  • dark grim images that were arising, was the perfect outlet for all of the repressed emotions that had felt stuck for so long
  • found a great source of healing from her drawing – learned about Art Therapy in this way
  • now art is less dark, going into the surreal fantasy direction – normal process of clearing out things and bringing things into light
  •  on envying people who’ve known from the start that they were going to be artists – being someone who does things in a roundabout way
  • on having always been very attracted to programming and flow charts and being able to hone those skills in electrical engineering school
  • uses structured approach in business and design – has a process but had to learn the value of structure in a creative pursuit – the old flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants isn’t very effective
  • on having the first kick of inspiration that shoots you forward fast – but then it runs out – you have to keep going in someway and this is where structure is important
  • uses trello (free project management system) and it now hold ALL of her creative art projects
  • on writing a book – started blogging in 2004 – writing keeps pouring out, can’t stop it – it’s really helpful because so many thoughts about so many things – the process of writing helps refine all the thoughts
  • also does a lot of journaling for self processing – before that just painted feelings, but learned more how to express through words
  • the book came out of all of her blog posts – branding for small business owners and creatives
  • how creativity is a source of hope and power
  • relationship with body
  • On how her body can get forgotten – just focusing on her brain and her hands in the world
  • body deserves to be more appreciated
  • took time to accept her body as it is – had a lot of insecurities about appearance when younger
  • didn’t like herself with glasses, was critical of her thin figure, got insensitive comments on the street – being told to eat more
  • the long process of appreciating and accepting her ‘thin body body’, doesn’t feel the need to justify or explain how she eats anymore
  • on enjoying walking in nature, riding a bicycle, swimming in natural bodies of water, being on the beach
  • on admitting to being lazy – feeling strongly about admitting to things – especially the taboo things
  • separating values of worthiness out from discipline and appearances
  • took a long time to learn to trust creativity enough to jump into the creative impulse/current