About the artist

This week’s interview is with Nicole Christophe. Nicole lives in the Netherlands, close to Amsterdam. She has an MA in philosophy and has been taking pictures for as long as she can remember. After discovering the possibilities of digital photo manipulation she has been reusing her images, existing and new, to create original artworks. Nicole’s work is often self-reflective, exploring the dichotomy between herself and the viewer.

Subject and object. Feelings and observation. Looking at it from both sides, because many times I as the artist am an observer too. – Nicole Christophe

How did you first get into digital art?

I have always been taking photographs, developing them myself and manipulating the images in the darkroom. Blending, putting objects directly onto the photographic paper and generally working on changing the original picture. I tried to reproduce that in Photoshop when it became available, but it always felt like there was too much distance between me and the image. I couldn’t ‘paint’ what I wanted with menu items and a mouse. When I first got an iPad the possibilities of digitally changing my pictures by almost directly touching them with my own hands opened up a whole new level of inspiration. It didn’t take long before all of the art I was making was digital.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

It almost felt like digital art chose me. I have always been a photographer and fascinated with how far I could go beyond merely registering what was happening around me. Taking pictures, on the one hand, you show a slice of the world around you as it is, but at the same time, you interpret it by choosing what you capture, or which piece of the world. It is framing the moment. Creating digital art is a step further in that process, because now not only do I choose what I picture, I can better decide how to present it by manipulating it.

What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?

Intellectually I love Surrealism. As a philosopher, I have put my thoughts in words much longer than I have put my thoughts and feelings in art, and Surrealism feels like philosophy in an image. It never fails to shift my awareness of reality. Emotionally I love Impressionism, especially the late paintings of Claude Monet, that are almost abstract but still so recognisable. I also find myself drawn to Modern Art because it never fails to surprise me.

For myself, I work in many different styles; I don’t know yet whether I want to gravitate towards and stick with one that best suits my way of expressing myself. I do a lot of black and white photography; the simplicity of it enhances the impact of a picture. Macro photography is also a love of mine, as it teaches me yet another way to look at the world. But most of the images I create are manipulations of multiple exposures, consisting of self-portraits and scenes and places that inspire me.

What inspires you?

The people I meet and the feelings they leave with me are a constant source of inspiration. I also find inspiration in the city around me, an appealing thought in a book, nature and other people’s pictures and paintings.

What is your artistic motivation?

I use my art to translate my feelings, mostly for myself. To investigate how I relate to the world and how, in turn, does that reflect on me? How do I see others and how do others see me and then how do I see me?

Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?

It is hard to say; maybe one I made last year called Clouded: a picture of a man, in blue, surrounded by clouds. It is a blend of several images, all with memories attached. In a way, they sum up who I was at that particular moment in time when I made it. Although this image is not in the choices for this interview, it is part of the picture A Trail of Memories, Part 2.

Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?

Personal, versatile, thoughtful.

What noteworthy responses to your artwork have you had?

There is no one time I can recall but I find it astonishing whenever somebody tells me I inspire them. To be able to move people with my work is such a fantastic feeling.

Name three artists who inspire you.

Just three? That is an impossible question! If I had to name three now, it would be Magritte, Bill Viola, Joseph Turner. And Adam Lambert; as a singer, he inspires me to feel and create.

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

It feels like I am still at the beginning of my journey, experimenting, finding my style. There are so many things I still want to try, ideas I want to develop, experiments I want to do. I already know my craft a lot better than in the beginning, but it would be best to ask me this question again in 5 years. Although then I will probably still feel the same.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?

I would give myself the advice to start without hesitation. I didn’t dare to create for a long time because I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ artist. Now I realise that if you don’t start creating you’ll never be a creator. I will say to leave the verdict to other people whether I make good images, or whether I am a ‘real artist’ or not.

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

I am using an iPhone currently. One day I would love to experiment with creating on a bigger surface again though.

Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?

I use many different apps, but I always come back to iColorama; almost everything I want to do I can do with it.

Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?

I only use my pictures. Inspiration often arises from the situation in which I took them, so they are an essential part of what I create.

And finally, do you find that people often dismiss digital art as a valid art form?

Yes, I think it’s because there is not yet enough vocabulary to distinguish between what we consider as ‘real’ digital art and random images created with simple filters; although even those could be art, depending on concept and context

It could also be that people find it difficult to assess the value of digital art, purely because it’s challenging to identify the traditional traits of artwork, like unicity, context, craftsmanship.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, Nicole!

Where to find Nicole’s work online