Hands-On Creator: Barbara Hranilovich

Without her hands, Barbara Hranilovich’s joys in life would change dramatically.

“I like my hands in stuff: dirt, clay, knitting, dough, on the computer or piano keys,” said Hranilovich. “Everything is on the creative end.”

The next thing Hranilovich wants to get her hands on is learning to play the French horn. Although she used to dabble with the guitar and banjo, currently she only plays the piano.

“I like experimenting with different things and not knowing where I’m going,” said Hranilovich. “I make up recipes, knitting patterns, a little of everything.”

A commercial illustrator and painter, being creative in her professional life is a must for Hranilovich as well. Aside from working with the arts, she has also published a book, E is for Entrepreneur, and recently finished a book on the subject of gouache, which is written as a workshop on the painting medium.

“Now my head is empty,” Hranilovich joked, claiming she dumped everything that was in her head into those two books.

Hranilovich’s adoration for the arts started at a young age and stuck with her, taking her through college at Western Michigan University where she received a degree in fine arts and oil painting.

She moved to Lansing with her husband Tom 22 years ago. She never anticipated Lansing being a permanent home, but soon found that Lansing was an ideal place for self-employment, and her opportunities grew as a commercial illustrator.

“When I was in college, I thought that people who did commercial work were kind of the prostitutes of art,” said Hranilovich. “Now I find it much more appealing, I make more commercial illustrations and then merge them with fine arts.”

She has clients nationwide, including The Washington Post, Biggby Coffee and Zonderkidz. One of her biggest successes was being a part of the Zhu Zhu Pets illustrations for what the home of a hamster would look like.

“It’s a riot to see one of the things you’ve worked on become toy of the year,” said Hranilovich.

Hranilovich likes to say that finding her way into commercial work was “serendipitous,” and that she finds she is still being true to herself. She still dabbles with fine arts, selling her paintings online and in a few locations in Lansing, including Mackerel Sky Gallery of Contemporary Craft and the Lansing Art Gallery.

“I wear a lot of hats,” said Hranilovich. “I really like the idea that I can pivot at any point and that every day is completely different.”

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