INTERVIEW | Neva Hosking talks being an Artist in the Digital Age

Conor Hudnut 07/04/17

"I think the internet has been invaluable for unestablished artists (especially the introverted ones...)"

For many teens - including myself - the way we access are is evolving. With the increased use of social media as the preferred method of exploring art, we are discovering new art via our iPhone screens. This has caused many artists to have to adapt their art so that it translates nicely onto a phone screen - and this adaptation is something that Neva Hosking has mastered.

The Sydney-based visual artist and current art school student creates beautiful and technically precise drawings that she shares on her Instagram - and has grown a cult following, raking in over one hundred thousand followers. And how does she adapt to being an artist in a digital age? Hosking employs a heavy use of negative space, and the selective choice of only creating drawings in black or blue - resulting in a feed that both pops from the blue while remaining minimal because of the negative space.

Should art have to be commodified as to receive likes and shares on Instagram or Tumblr? For Hosking, the answer is a selectivity when deciding which of her works she wants to share, as she is aware that some pieces just won't translate onto a phone screen. I sat down with Hosking to discuss her experience of being an artist in the digital age.

INTERVIEW

CONOR (Popdust): Many of your drawings are made on grid paper - is this an aesthetic choice? Functional? A little bit of both?

NEVA: Mostly aesthetic I'd say, I started collecting graph paper years ago, and would draw on it partly because it excites me, and partly because it's a lot less intimidating than a blank page. I'm especially into the old graph papers that had a practical use until everything became digitized, I feel like I can relate to them.

CONOR: Most of your drawings are made in either black, blue, or both -- what draws you to these two colors?

NEVA: I've always felt a bit overwhelmed by color so I tended to stick with the black and white and muted tones. Lately I've been a bit braver, fell in love with ultramarine and never looked back! I'm hoping this blue can hold my hand into a wider spectrum eventually, but at the moment I'm just obsessed with this color.

CONOR: Many of your drawings show a heavy interest in the subject's eyes, what about eyes do you find compelling or worth drawing?

NEVA: I think it's just a natural human impulse to be drawn to the eyes, it's how we read people and how they read us etc… Could potentially be overcompensating for my inability to handle eye contact in real life.

CONOR: Many of my favorite of your drawings depict faces covered in thin netting - where did this idea come from?

NEVA: It's really quite grim actually! Stems a lot from nightmares I'd been having about a specific murder (don't fall asleep to true-crime podcasts and forensic files ay) and my own feelings of entrapment and anxiety. I feel like I haven't managed to convey that very successfully yet, but still working at it. I've gotten a bit obsessed with nets visually and just wanna keep pushing it

CONOR: You recently shared on Instagram that "working with different materials has given me so much new energy, glad I got (temporarily) a bit fed up with drawing" -- what caused this frustration with drawing, and what different materials have you been experimenting with?

NEVA: I've really struggled with my attachment to drawing through art school, I've spent so many years teaching myself to draw and developing my style etc that it became more of an emotional connection than anything else. I felt like I was going around in circles and finally just thought 'sod this!' and started working with fabric and plaster and anything else that would keep me away from pen and pencil for a bit. I've been printing etchings onto cotton, embroidering nets with coloured threads and plaster casting etchings, having a lot of fun

CONOR: You have a very large following on social media - with over 100,000 followers on Instagram. How has your experience been as an artist in the digital age, and do you ever consider how a piece will translate onto a screen when drawing?

NEVA: Yeah totally, which is one of the reasons I don't share much of the work I'm doing in art school on social media, I don't want it to be influenced by the pressure of being ~consumable~, you know?

I think the internet has been invaluable for unestablished artists (especially the introverted ones aha) and I'm super grateful for it. I feel very connected to a bunch of artists around the world, gives me a constant supply of motivation and great advice (Caragh Savage, looking at you.)

Art theft is a definite negative that keeps popping up though. I'd like to think it'll improve as we adjust to a post-internet creative world, but it's been pretty disheartening. In saying that though, I'm pretty much constantly overwhelmed by how supportive and kind strangers have been, (in fighting art theft and in general) so there is always a balance!

CONOR: You also create some pretty awesome shirts for your website, does this come from an interest in fashion or just a way to showcase and sell your art?

NEVA: More from an interest in T-shirts than an interest in fashion I'd say, I've been collecting t-shirts I find interesting for a while and they've inspired me a lot in terms of how I make my own. But of course the side income has been super helpful, allows me to buy art materials that I wouldn't usually be able to and explore a bit more. Also just the idea that people want to wear something i've made is ridiculously lovely ahh.

CONOR: Who are some contemporary artists you are very excited about?

NEVA: I'm always excited about Julie Mehretu, Anthony Cudahy, Susan Worsham…. pretty much everyone I study with and my girl Alicia Jalloul in Glasgow who just graduated with some amazing work

CONOR: What are you doing when you're not creating art?

NEVA: Gardening! I just moved into a place with a proper garden for the first time, which is so exciting. Been spending most of my time taming it, planning a veggie patch, feeding the birds and sun baking with my bunnies (dream come true honestly)

CONOR: Thank you so much again for sitting down with us to do this interview, and what can we expect from you down the road?

NEVA: Thanks so much for having me! More textile work I think, more stitching, more plaster casting, more t-shirts!