I’ve been admiring the incredible talent of Adoni Astrinakis on Instagram for quite some time now, always amazed by the intricate brush strokes and almost hauntingly beautiful realism in every piece. Take his “Dylan” portrait as an example, the raw emotion, the heaviness weighing in Dylan’s furrowed brow, the honesty in the painting draws you in. It’s hard to believe Adoni created this piece in 2013 after a fifteen year break from painting. At thirty years old, after having not touched a paintbrush since High School, he turned to art as an escape from his corporate job running the family business. The result, you could say, changed the direction of his life.
I recently caught up with Adoni at his home studio and was awestruck seeing the piece in real life, larger than I had anticipated and even more stunning. It was an absolute pleasure to meet and talk to such a talented and humble fellow Tasmanian and to share our chat with Almost Famaus readers – minus the Tassie gossip, that’s off the record!
So, why Dylan for your first painting in fifteen years?
I was just tying to get away from everything workwise, and I’m sort of a black sheep in that business world in the way that I ran things, so I started exploring those types of people in history. I saw a doco that Martin Scorsese directed on Dylan, which really unveiled what he was like and he was a pretty wild dude.
But it was actually Bec (Adoni’s fiancée) that wanted the piece. She found something similar – a photo in an interior design magazine – that she wanted but she couldn’t find the image to purchase it anywhere. I was so stressed at the time, reality wasn’t really in my world and I thought, ‘I’m just going to paint it’.
Bec had no idea that I could paint like that, and I actually didn’t know either that I could do it at that degree at that stage, so I don’t really even know how I painted it. You know when you’re just really in your element and you don’t really know what’s going on?
It took three days, which is really quick and I just did it, and for the first time I felt really proud about some work that I did, which was just the best feeling ever. I was shy about it as well, I would just show family. I’m still shy, if I don’t like a piece I’ll just chuck it out and no one will see it.
I’m shy about it because it was a personal thing, it was never supposed to be for a career. I always thought maybe one day I would paint when I retire, but I ended up doing a few more pieces and Bec said ‘Look, I just have to put you out there’ and set up my social media and it just went crazy.
People were saying ‘you should do this full time’, and that’s such a big commitment to make, so I just kind of kept plugging away and then the decision was made for me really by the amount of demand I was getting, and not only that but by people telling me I was inspiring them to pick up a paintbrush or a pen and I realised this is really having an impact on people and they’re emotionally responding to it, which is an awesome feeling. It’s just the best, and I guess the best part about it is I literally was just painting whatever the hell I wanted, I wasn’t trying to be like anyone else or paint anything anyone else was doing, and I wasn’t doing it for any reason, so I knew that what people were responding to was what I wanted to do and that’s a really comfortable feeling.
So, it really happened like that and it was almost like push came to shove and I thought I just have to commit to doing this. So, I took the plunge in February this year and committed to doing it full time, and if it fails it fails, I will have given it a go. It’s so cliché, but I can always still do it, it’s something I can do until I can’t see anymore.
I never studied to be an artist, I never decided to be an artist, so the fact that my art is now just about sustaining me when there’s all these kids who have studied and decided to become artists so early and they’re not making a living from it, I do feel about guilty about that, but at the same time it was a courageous move for me to start doing this.
You’re kind of like that person who tags along with a friend to an audition and ends up getting the part in the movie!
Yeah! That’s kind of what it feels like.
But it was never going to happen if you didn’t have the talent to get you there.
That’s right, and I think obviously passion is thrown around a lot and of course passion is important, but I also think it’s important to give yourself a chance to do something that you feel confident at, and I feel confident when I paint. If you’re in a game where you feel like you’re really battling uphill the whole time, you’re making it harder for yourself to win.
Between fifteen and thirty when you didn’t touch a paintbrush, how did you suppress that passion for art? Did you miss it?
I wouldn’t call it a passion. Now I could more easily say that, but then I didn’t know. I always drew, my family always knew I could draw so one Christmas I drew my Grandfathers for my Mum and Dad, so I did little thing like that. But I guess the way I suppressed it was I always thought that one day I would do it.
It seems stupid now. It wasn’t until after it all happened that I realised it had all been pushed down and I’d been trying to be somebody else.
Since Dylan, all your pieces aside from ‘Corn Kid’ for Bec have been commissions. Next time you have time to do a piece purely for yourself, what would it be?
I’m starting to think about an exhibition, so I have a few ideas. But if I was going to do a piece just for myself, there’s a piece of Kate Moss that I really want to do where she’s naked, not completely naked, but it’s an incredible piece and I would do it really big.
And then I’ll come and steal it! (In my introductory email to Adoni I had told him one day when I have a grown up house I was going to commission him to do me a piece of Kate Moss)
Oh yes, Kate Moss of course! I’ve had that tucked away for a while, and if everything dries up and I want to do something for myself it would be that piece. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. (Insert sound of my heart breaking)
Well Adoni, congratulations on all the success and for taking the risk to go out as a full time artist, good luck with it all!
Thanks Alex, I really appreciate it. The best part is, the response I get from people and how massively supportive they are, it just helps build the confidence, which is so good.
Keep your eye on this guy everyone, I see big things to come! But no one beat me to that Kate Moss commission!
Feature photo (top) credit – Eleanor Landford