In this interview with digital artist Athina Neocleous, we talk about what it takes to embrace the label artist. #artistinterview #artiststrong #quotesbycreatives #artistquote

Athina Neocleous is a visual artist.

She has always been passionate and intrigued by art and artists, but it was not until after acquiring her degree in Mathematics and Statistics and moving to London to obtain her qualification as a chartered accountant that she decided to explore the art and photography world a bit further.

As a result, she started creating images where these two worlds crossed. She currently takes photographs and then digitally manipulates them in a pictorial way. She is deeply inspired by humans, the human experience and everyday life.

Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?

I kind of always knew that art was important to me – I was always drawn to it and as a kid. I was always the one who was drawing, painting, making things but I was never taking it seriously – it was always just for fun.

So, it was much later in life that I started realising art’s and photography’s importance in my life – it was when I took this film and darkroom photography course in London – that is when I started getting that feeling that there is more into this than what I thought – I realised I wanted to spend more time with it – I wanted to learn more about it – I wanted to do it more intentionally and more regularly.

Carrie: How would you describe your art?

Fine art photography or pictures taken by me composited and digitally manipulated in a weird pictorial way. 

Carrie: What does your workspace look like?

I don’t really have a dedicated workspace to be honest but I will describe how my workspace  looks depending on where I am in my creative process. When I am taking pictures, it usually is a room with a white wall or any white background and a big window with lots of daylight.

When I am working on the pictures, that could be anywhere as long as I have my computer and my Wacom. I love coffee shops and places with background noise.

Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?

Ok…So…I have an idea. Ideas can come at any point or place by the way, so I tend to have something with me to capture them somehow – a notebook, a piece of paper, my phone. Then I try to visualise this idea in my head and then I try to describe it (in words) or sketch it.

Once I know what I am trying to do then I take the pictures I need (this part usually doesn’t take long). And then, I spend most of the time in photoshop creating the images I originally had in my mind.

And that’s the ideal scenario in an ideal world because things can get messy at any point – I mean you may have all the images you needed and then you are in photoshop and you start trying things and you end up in a totally different place than the one you originally intended to be!

So, if I were to describe my artistic process in one word that would be: Play! 

Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?

I have been saying that I would like people to feel a bit puzzled when they see my work – I would like to make them look twice to understand what they are looking at. But the truth is that I hope they take whatever they need to take!

I mean you make something, you have an intention, you may even try to say something through your work and you are responsible for that, that is your part of the conversation. The other part is up to the viewer, they will take whatever they need to take!

I remember I was volunteering in one of RPS’s (Royal Photographic Society) exhibitions and people would come and talk to us about what they had just seen and each one of them would be fascinated by something different – I thought that was very interesting because it made me realise that art is a conversation – it is not an one way thing.

Carrie: In private conversation, we’ve discussed how you are grateful to have your day job. How does that impact your art? Would you share a bit about this here?

Yes…Well…I started the year with a 30 day video challenge and as I was making some notes on what I wanted to say and as I was going back to how I got creativity and art back into my life I discovered this immense gratitude for my day job.

I realised that while I was discovering the photography and art world again, my job was taking care of everything else – it was paying the rent, putting food on the table, paying for the courses I wanted to take – it paid for my camera.

So, I wouldn’t say that it impacted my art as such but it gave me the opportunity to explore my creativity in my own time at my own pace without anyone’s permission or time frame – and for that I will be forever grateful. 

Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?

  1. It’s a process. It’s a messy one. And, it takes time. 
  2. You can’t avoid doing the work. So, Start!
  3. It will definitely get difficult at some point – stop, acknowledge what is happening, take a deep breath and keep going.
  4. Know your Why! Why do you create?

Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”

Well two things – it may sound weird but it’s Start and Stop.

Start – I find that when I feel stuck and then I just start working – as of magic – I get back into flow and one thing brings the next one and then I am suddenly back into creating. And then is

Stop – taking long walks is one of my most favourite things, talk to someone about something else other than art – in other words I try to take some distance from everything and then come back to it with a clear mind.

Carrie:  What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?

A lot of things come to mind but I will talk a bit about photoshop. Photoshop is one of my main creative tools but I was really intimidated by it. Honestly – all these tools with their intended use! So, I was opening photoshop, looking at it, then closing it and leaving!

Then I started looking at some tutorials and courses but usually in these courses they just talk about the tools and what they do. I wanted to create the things I had in my head!

So I started thinking a bit differently and I said to myself – start simple – think what you want to accomplish and then think what tools would you use to end up there – use whatever it makes sense to you. And then, keep going back – keep trying – keep finding new ways to do things – you will never know everything.

For some reason it worked – knowledge accumulates and as you keep going everything gets more intuitive and then you start building on that. I am not going to lie, I am still a beginner but at least now I am not intimidated by it – I embrace it and I try to find new ways of doing things.

Carrie:  What is one creative resource you can’t live without?

I will say my notebook – you need something to capture those ideas when they find you.

Carrie: Who/what inspires you?

I am inspired by humans who are courageous enough to follow their own path and walk towards their own dreams – however scary or difficult that may be. 

Carrie:  What does the word artist mean to you?

Anyone who makes art. If you make art you are an artist!

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Instagram: @athinaneocleous