— You’re about to meet the extraordinarily talented featured artist of Issue 30 of Living the Photo Artistic Life magazine: AWAKE artist Anna Czekala (of France). Having only started with Photoshop a little over a year ago, Anna’s work has soared in a very short time, proving an immense inspiration to the 2017 group. It was exciting to be able to interview her …
Q. What got you started in digital photo artistry?
About 3 years ago I discovered Photoshop through my flatmate, a graphic illustrator by profession. I remember being impressed by his computer, a superb Eizo 32″, but was also fascinated by his skills and knowledge in graphic illustration. I spent a lot of time watching him work, and this was my first visual contact with what he called “photo-bashing,” or what we describe as “photo compositing.”
Digging deeper into this universe a bit more I was immediately attracted by the work of talented French digital artists like Sebastien Lecouffe Deharme and Sebastien Hue, and I found myself dreaming of creating my own images. (And how funny to think I would eventually study under yet another Sebastian!)
I started watching videos tutorials on YouTube and tried to use my Gimp software to make simple collages. After a short while, I subscribed to Serge Ramelli’s newsletter and received an invitation to join the Photoshop Grunge Course with Sebastian Michaels. I was really in awe of the presentation of the content, and went and bought a new computer for the adventure ahead.
I was more than ready to jump into something “designed to teach you the most important pro-level Photoshop techniques that will transform you into a serious photo-artist and have you creating amazing works beyond anything you have ever accomplished before.”
Who can resist to such an invitation?
So I started the course in July 2016 without knowing anything about Photoshop. And given the extent of the content, I decided to drop all my external activities, and over the next seven month or more I worked day and night to learn and master the material. I have always been artistic, and I am also pretty handy with my hands, but somewhere along the way those times of creativity always ended up lost in the busyness of daily life. So in January 2017, I took the plunge, and I joined AWAKE. And that’s when I really reconnected with my artistic spirit in a big way.
Q. What do you feel supports you creatively? And how do you cultivate it?
I believe that life and art are one and the same thing. They are both the fruit of our creativity and our unique set of gifts, talents, preferences, and tastes — all being focused and applied to make something.
However, there are so many ways to get creative in our lives. Not everyone can be an artist by profession, nor does everyone have talent in the arts, and for me, living a CREATIVE LIFE means first living a life in which the primary thing that I value is the creative process itself, in any and every area I can apply it.
I have always had an interest in how creativity and self-awareness go hand in hand, and I wanted to explore for myself how this could work for me. When I was in my twenties I had the good fortune to be introduced to various forms of contemplation and I am deeply grateful for that firm foundation of learning to be still, letting go, and being present to make connections in ways that I have never made before.
We carry our creativity inside ourselves, and for me inner silence is the best way to bring it out.
It is an extraordinary tool no matter what medium we work in. When we are cut off from major sources of sensory input (such as other people, devices that connect us to social media, even the sound of our own voice), we disconnect in a way so as to reconnect to our inner selves … and all of a sudden we feel the drive to create … to fill that space we’ve made available. I believe that when we explore true silence and stillness we never loose our motivation and our ability to tap into our creative flow.
In this process, I also have learned to develop the discipline to stay on it, to not waver, and to move forward with focus and clarity. Starting with the moment we wake up in the morning, everything we do needs to feed our creative soul and give us the energy and motivation to continue to act and to grow — to truly BE an artist all day every day, all our lives.
Q. What does it mean to you to “live the photo artistic life”?
First, despite the barrier of language, I have learned to be social in sharing my art and sometimes my thoughts and feelings, with confidence. I am a sensitive but social introvert, which means that the world frequently exhausts me. Although I love community and social interaction with other artists, my long-term well being depends on managing my personal resources carefully! Being connected with a worldwide community of AWAKE artists provides me a meaningful source of support, strength, and inspiration in my new artistic life. I really appreciate that, even if I also have learned that if I visit Facebook first thing in the morning or several times during the day, it takes my focus away from creating! So it’s all about finding the right balance.
Living the photo artistic life is also a place where I can nurture and take care of my artistic inner-child, the little girl who loves playing with ideas, shapes, colors, and light. Working with a medium (a support) that allows me to be the storyteller of my inner worlds and where I can choose either to be a painter, an illustrator, or a photographer, is now a very exciting and playful way to shape my artistic daily life.
For inspiration, I am usually drawn by my inner world, my mood, and the moment of the day. Poetry, music, the work of other artists that really challenge me. I am a great collector of images and I love to scroll down my Pinterest page as well as explore our monthly magazine filled with the art from the AWAKE group. All these things provide visual emotions that somehow then inspire my own creations. I also began incorporating long walks as part of my creative life when I discovered that it was how most of my best ideas came to me. All this is part of my artistic life now.
Q. How do you approach creating your compositions?
I create from feeling not from seeing. It’s the most direct way for me to enter a state of flow, which feels like the meditative state . . . and it’s so much more fun that way!
For now, I am still exploring a “freestyle” mode of creation, exploring blend modes, gradients, and all the Photoshop basic tools, wandering through various styles and techniques before being satisfied with the results. I don’t really have a specific process, as each image develops on its own. Many times I start with a specific idea in mind, but ultimately it finds its own way and ends up rather different.
I often begin with a simple background and the main subject, and then simply go with the flow until I see some shape or some information that catches my fancy. At the end of the process, I always take the time to clean up my layer palette by deleting anything no longer needed (hidden or unnecessary elements, irrelevant adjustment layers, and so on), and put in any finishing refinements.
Q. What do you see as your next step as an artist?
After a full year of intense learning and creating, I feel like I am at a turning point in my creative life, and would like to bring more intentionality to my art — mainly to express the force and the beauty of spiritual awakening in our human journey.
All along my life I have been strongly influenced and shaped by my involvement in spirituality and by my interest in transpersonal psychology, and going forward I hope to find my own artistic voice through this expression.
Then when the time is right I which to publish a book around this theme, something simple even, short reflections or quotes illustrated by my images. And of course learning how to promote my work is also a part of the process. There is still so much ahead to excite me.