Cheap & Plastique interviews Ljubljana-based illustrator Zoran Pungercar for Issue 9. See more of his work on his portfolio website.

C & P: How long have you lived in Ljubljana? What do you like most about living there? Least? Did you grow up in the city?
Zoran: I didn’t grow up in Ljubljana, I grew up in small town called Rakek which is a 30 minute drive from Ljubljana. I moved to Ljubljana six years ago. The best thing I like about it is that in the last couple of years the center of city is slowly banning cars from the city centre which is great if you like to walk or drive a bike through the city. I think people feel more comfortable because of it. I don’t know what to point out about the dark side of Ljubljana. It’s not a big city and sometimes you get the feeling that you know everyone. I personally miss a record store. There is no place to buy records in Ljubljana which really bums me out.

C & P: Does being in Ljubljana inspire your work? 
Zoran: Funny question. I don’t think so.

C & P: Do you feel that there is a lot of interesting artwork being created in Ljubljana right now? What is your favorite artspace/gallery?
Zoran: For sure. One of the best things in Ljubljana is that there is lots of street art all around so I think the city definitely has it’s art vibe. Apart from street art there are lots of painters and sculptors and in last couple of years, there is definitely a big new wave of illustration. Almost every month there is at least one interesting exhibition in the city. I don’t have a favorite gallery but if I had to chose a part of town with lots of art to offer I would definitely point out Metelkova, which is a huge complex of music venues, galleries and studios. Walls of buildings are filled with murals and graffiti and there is a lot of different sculptures standing around. Every night there are music gigs in different venues. I guess you could easily compare it to Christiania in Copenhagen.

C & P: I have to ask you about the band Laibach and the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective, as I have a few US friends who are completely obsessed by the band and the NSK. Are both Laibach and the NSK well-known in Ljubljana? At one point, in the early 80’s, the band was banned from using the name Laibach because of it’s association with the Nazi/German occupation of Ljubljana during WWII but it seems that there is less controversy with the band and the use of the name Laibach now. Do people appreciate what Laibach have created over the years? 
Zoran: Laibach and also NSK, are some kind of Slovenian phenomena. As you mentioned they were banned during the communist era in Yugoslavia but now they are worshiped as rock stars and everybody loves them. I think they even played at national ceremonies in front of politicians that used to ban them from TV and radio. It’s kinda hilarious but they are definitely well respected. I have friends who never were into any kind of alternative music like punk, metal, industrial, etc. and they love Laibach. NSK is not that huge, but in art scene they are very respected. Their art is exhibited in National Gallery of Modern Art so like Laibach they emerged out of alternative scene and became part of bigger art world.

C & P: I need to make the trek to Slovenia and Ljubljana one of these days. Where would you tell a visitor, interested in art, design, and illustration, with three days to explore, to go? What are the most interesting/creative neighborhoods to explore? 
Zoran: I would definitely recommend Metelkova, I was mentioning it before. It’s the most interesting and alternative part of the city and everyone interested in any kind of weird music or art can find something for himself there. The other place to check out would be the Rog Centre, which is an old, abandoned bike factory which was later squatted by artists. It’s pretty similar to Metelkova, but they have more legal problems with people from the city which results in not that much stuff happening there lately. The third option is Kino Šiška which is a huge renewed building run by the city and their program consists of exhibitions, music gigs and workshops.

C & P: I met you when you were traveling in New York last summer, was that your first time in the city and in the US? What is your impression of the city? Is NYC someplace that you would ever want to live?
Zoran: Yeah, my first time in the city and first time in the States. I had a weird first impression of NYC. It reminded me of an abusive relationship. I loved it, but at same time there were some things that would probably stop me from ever wanting to live there. The huge mass of people is definitely one of the things that turned me off and when I heard how much people pay for rent I didn’t know what to say. But I definitely loved its art vibe, I was really happy to see Secret Robot Project, which I loved. The huge choice in art and music gigs, amazing food, and really friendly people are the things that impressed me the most. I guess if you want to make a living with your art, it’s one of the best spots on planet to live. After I returned home from the States, everyone I was talking to about NYC had the same problem. The first impression they had about the city was weird, but something kept them coming back and now everyone loves it. Six days were definitely not enough time to get the right feeling about it anyway so I want to get back in the near future.

C & P: Do you prefer one creative process (drawing, silkscreening, or painting) over another, do you incorporate all of these in your work? 
Zoran: I try not to be bored when I’m working and one of the ways to keep it interesting is to try new things and techniques all the time. I usually start with paper and pencils and end up on computer putting everything together. I love to experiment with mixing all of the techniques together.

C & P: Do you draw by hand? Do you use a computer when creating your pictures? Or both?
Zoran: Usually I start drawing by hand and then I scan it and continue the work in Photoshop. I use a Wacom tablet, I think it’s a great tool but I try to keep everything hand drawn and later transformed on a computer.

C & P: Do you have any formal training as an illustrator? 
Zoran: Actually no. I finished the University for Graphic Techniques which was more about printing processes than about drawing or painting.

C & P: Your illustrations are populated by somewhat dark figures and creatures, such as crows, owls, wolves, figures in creepy masks, a man dressed in Klu Klux Klan garb, Norweigan churches.  Why are you drawn to dark imagery? Is there any hidden meaning in this imagery?
Zoran: I honestly don’t know. If I had to blame one thing it would probably be music, but I like very different kind of music and not all is dark and gloomy so I guess I just like my stuff dark. But I wouldn’t think about myself as some dark character. It has some meaning to me but I’m not sure everyone sees it, I hope everyone gets some personal impression and sees his own story within my art.

C & P: You collaborated on a zine called Satanic Diarrhea, how did this collaboration come about? Where were these zines distributed?
Zoran: Satanic Diarrhea was collaboration between four friends. We all grew up going to hardcore and punk shows and we still meet each other at those same places. Since we all do some kind of art we decided to make something together. The title is just a stupid joke, we couldn’t find any other name so we just went with the most stupid title we could come up with. We gave the zines to people for free since we didn’t have big expenses printing it. We just wanted to do something and put it out there.

C & P: The style of your images recall flat, 1950’s style illustrations but with a dark, evil twist. What illustrators/artists do you admire? Who is your biggest inspiration?
Zoran: I don’t know about inspiration, it’s everything around me I probably don’t even notice. If I had to choose one thing, that would probably be lyrics from the bands I like. I even made one zine that was based on my favourite lyrics. But usually I just walk my dog and get some idea in my head and when I come home I draw it down. When I work a on poster for some music gig I try to listen a lot to the bands that are playing and I always try to transcript the music into artwork, but still within my style.
I admire a shitload of artists but if I have to point out couple of names that would be Maxwell Loren Holyoke Hirsch, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, Evgenia Barinova, and Justin Bartlett.

C & P: Do you have a narrative in mind for each illustration?  Are the characters in your pictures purely fictional/from your imagination?
Zoran: It depends. Usually there is a story behind, but sometimes the image just pops in my head and I draw it down without thinking twice. I make up all the characters in my head.

C & P: You have created many posters for bands outside of Slovenia (such as Wolf Parade, Dum Dum Girls, Dan Deacon). Do you do work for a certain club in Ljubljana or have the bands contacted you to do posters for them when they are playing in town?
Zoran: I am working for musical promoter from Ljubljana called Buba and it is one of the best client-artist relationships I ever had and it’s still going on.

C & P: What people / music / places / things inspire you?
Zoran: It’s mix of all things I consume in my life. From lyrics to other people’s art, music, movies, record covers, books, dogwalks to good coffee, seeing different places and people.

C & P: Do you currently spend your days creating artwork or do you have a “proper” job to support your art habit? 
Zoran: Right now I am working as graphic designer at a marketing agency. I do all illustration stuff in my spare time. I would definitely love to support myself only with illustration and that is my goal for the near future, but let’s see what will happen.

C & P: How your work been commissioned by magazines/bands/other companies? 
Zoran: I did couple of record covers and t-shirt designs as well as some illustrations for various magazines I design at work, but mainly my work was commissioned for gig posters. I would love to do more other stuff too, editorial illustration is one of the fields I would really love to work in.

C & P: Are you a magazine/zine junkie? What are some of your favorites? 
Zoran: I really enjoy stuff published by Nobrow (who are also featured in Issue 9 of the magazine), Think Faest, Nieves and Svart Konst. But usually I buy zines directly from artists, when I stumble across their work online. Magazines are also one of my obsessions since the company I work at works mainly in magazine publishing field. I love to read well designed mags and sometimes I love just to flip through magazines because of the design, even if content doesn’t interest me at all. I regularly follow Creative Review and Computer Arts which are a kind of bibles if you work in the design industry. Recently I discovered New American Paintings Magazine. I also love how Bloomberg Businessweek looks like and I love to go through it every time I get the chance.

C & P: You have a portfolio website, a Twitter account, a Flickr stream, and a Tumblr blog. How long have you had all of these? Does your internet presence help you to find people to collaborate with? Do a lot of people outside of Ljubljana find your work through these sites?
Zoran: Publishing your stuff online is the best and easiest way to get people to see your work. I published my first portfolio website a year ago. Before that I published all my stuff on flickr. Tumblr is the latest addition, I mainly got into it because it’s the most popular blogging platform at the moment and people can find your work through it way easier than through other blog providers like Blogspot or WordPress. People I collaborated with so far are my friends, but lots of people got in touch through each of the web platforms.

C & P: What could you imagine doing, if you didn’t do what you do?
Zoran: Tough one. I can imagine doing everything, from be a professional dog walker to being a bad writer or just working at a coffee bar.

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