Sophia Rapata (Illustrator)

Sophia Rapata: An Interview with Sophia Rapata

An introvert's conflicted relationship with social media,
on embracing weirdness,
and dreaming of a treehouse.

Experiencing Sophia Rapata’s artwork is like stepping into a sweet nightmare. Though eerie and at times disturbingly frightening, there is nothing revolting about her works. On the contrary, there is something about her morbid paintings and illustrations that pulls me right into their dark surreal worlds and I can’t help but remain riveted. The characters she creates in her illustrations can be sinister and unnerving. And yet, they provoke a sense of solace at the same time. Perhaps in her creations, I see the true face of humanity and am comforted by this familiarity in spite of all its darkness. Regardless of the reason, her works provoke me to reflect on my own beliefs. Truly, how we view her works says more about us than it does about the works themselves. My relationship with her creations remind me of how the monsters of my nightmares resides within.

I had the opportunity to learn more about the artist who produces these thought-provoking works, her art, and her life as an artist.

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What is the most challenging part about creating your artwork?

Getting started. The hardest part of creating art is just getting out the paper and pencil and starting. Once I'm going I don't want to stop until I'm done.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think one of the most surprising things about me (besides the fact that I don't do drugs, smoke or swear) is that I was hard-core Christian from 6th-12th grade. I had Bible studies in my house, started the Bible club in my high school, went on missions trips, was on the worship/drama/dance team in my church and had "Jesus" in all of my passwords. Hardcore indeed. Best time of my life.


Can you tell me a bit more about the artistic process you follow when creating your artwork?

My artistic process varies from piece to piece. I kind of categorize my paintings into the "free-style whatever I'm feeling" category and the "take my time and actually sketch something out first" category. I enjoy the free-style ones most because they're fun and let out some steam. I'm often times more connected to those as well, even if they're super simple scribbles. Sometimes I'll just close my eyes and draw a face in 10 seconds, open my eyes and continue with what I drew. That helps keep things more organic and flowy looking.

The other more illustrative works aren't as fun but definitely more rewarding in the end. If I start a painting and don't finish it in one sitting it's extremely hard for me to go back to that painting and finish it because my mind is no longer in that same place. So when it's all over with I'm like ahhhh yes, okay, it was worth it.

Any particular artists you admire or inspire you?

The two artists people always mention when they look at my work are Tim Burton & Stephen Gammell. Of course, who isn't inspired by Burton? His sketches are super loose yet perfectly composed and the characters he creates are so flippin ridiculous, I love his mind. I didn't find Gammell until someone commented on my painting "This reminds me of scary stories to tell in the dark!". Looked him up, I died, so good.

Edward Gorey is one of my absolute favorite artists, Egon Schiele is inspiring, Salvador Dali was my favorite in high school, Crab Scrambly is who first got me feeling confident in drawing "dark art". I picked up a comic called Nightmares and Fairy Tales and was like YES. Cannot forget Jhonen Vazquez, GENIUS, his comics are gold. Arkham Asylum with art by Dave McKean, come on. There's also so many artists I've found on Instagram who inspire me everyday. If I had to squawk about one I'd choose Bill Crisafi, (@billsafi) who is the most hilarious being by the way. His ink drawings, photography, make-up skills, costumes, stop-motion and dolls speak to me in a way I can't even explain. Look him up.

I've had my ups and downs but I believe that's what builds character and all things happen when they need to.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

No one is better at being you than yourself. I don't even remember where I heard that but I believe it fully and always try to encourage people to be comfortable with who they are. To be unashamed of their weirdness, to embrace their quirks.

When you think of the concept of 'the artist's ego', what comes to mind?

The artist's ego is what drives the artist to do what they do. I think every human has an ego and being an artist is tough because if the art you're creating is work you actually love, that's basically like your baby. This is my art, this is my heart. Some people like it, some people hate it, others don't even care one bit about it. Personally, I think it's good to feel both confident and vulnerable in what you're creating and showing the world. Confident because that's you, that's what you believe in, it's what you needed to express and no matter what anyone says it doesn't need to alter the way you feel about what you've created. Vulnerable because you're not the greatest artist in the world and yes sometimes you're going to make crappola art or something that you and others believe could have been done better. Everyone has something unique to offer and everyone's poo still stinks.


Most challenging part about being an artist?

So many things! Not throwing my phone out the window for one. Dealing with social media and selling is the hardest part. Being true to what I believe, yet not being true because if I were true I'd be painting in a treehouse trading art for food. It's a battle everyday inside. I would love to hide away and just create all day. Hand my work off to someone else who could take a photo of it, post it, write about it, sell it, ship it & do all the business part of it basically.

I suppose I could hire someone to do that but then there's the other part of me that wants to be involved in that whole process and know my followers, respond to comments, package everything myself and make everyone feel like they just got something really special when they receive my art in the mail. "Like a gift from an old friend" a customer wrote in a review once, things like that keep me going on social media. I'm the biggest introvert with the fattest heart.

Why do you think there is a growing interest in macabre art?

I think there's a growing interest in macabre art because it's considered weird/different/strange and people can relate to that. Macabre art takes everything that's considered taboo and puts it on a mantel. It says, it's okay to be unusual, you're not a cookie cutter clone. Instead of hating on the flaws, this type of art accepts them, maybe even enhances them.

Society has changed so much in such a short time. Back in the day it was kool to be a rebel, an outcast. Now it seems like there's more rebels and outcasts than your average girl next door. It's almost like the plain and simple lifestyle and conservative art has become nearly extinct. Maybe they're the rebels now? Something to think about.


Any future plans you intend to pursue with your artwork?

I'd love to publish a storybook or some type of comic and a stop-motion short film with handmade dolls I create of my characters. Maybe finally get some t-shirts done with my artwork. Open an art gallery in a treehouse in New Zealand.

This is sort of just a fun question for readers to get to know you better :) What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the 'boogeyman'?

I think of shadows. I remember jumping into bed because I thought there may possibly be something under my bed just waiting to grab my ankles. Also, to this day, cracks in doors make me paranoid. I feel like someone's watching me from behind the door, so if I'm awake I have to either keep it all the way open or closed. Also, let's just say dark hallways make me walk fast.

What would you do differently if you knew 10 years ago what you know now as an artist?

Let's see, 10 years ago I'd be starting my second year of art college. I would live in my school and never leave. Listen to my teachers instead of trying to do my own style. Not let people take advantage of me and my art. Other than that I don't think I'd do anything much different. I've had my ups and downs but I believe that's what builds character and all things happen when they need to.


What terrifies you the most?

The thought of losing my family terrifies me. I love them all so much. I can't imagine how it'd be to have a child. I'd want to keep them on a leash at all times ha, I kid, but for real. How do parents let their kids go?! I have a cat and I can't even let him outside because I'm afraid he's going to get run over by a car or picked up by an owl or poisoned or hit by an asteroid.

Has there ever been a time when you felt uninspired or felt like quitting? If so, how did you overcome this set-back?

I feel uninspired all the time. I feel like quitting social media and selling sometimes but I will never stop creating. It's in my blood, it's an essential part of living. Eat, sleep, bathroom, create something. I usually alternate between making art and making music. The more I hang out with people, the more uninspired I feel because humans drain the life out of me. The more alone time I get, the more inspired I'll be. If I don't stay home and recharge I won't create anything. So my favorite thing to do when I'm feeling all glum is lock myself up in my studio, ignore everyone, meditate, talk to myself, play some guitar and then I'm all good to go.

What is the most interesting compliment or criticism you have ever received?

The most interesting "compliment" is when people copy my work without crediting me and say I should take it as a compliment. No, I don't see it that way. If you like my art and want to try painting it yourself that's kool, I'm honored. I actually love when people send me photos of their paintings that were inspired by mine. What I don't understand is how someone could duplicate another artist's painting and not even mention the name of the artist they just copied, instead they act as if they created the idea all on their own. How could someone be proud of that? Wouldn't you want to give respect and credit to the artist who initially inspired you?

Other than that my favorite criticisms are when people just get way too creeped out and walk away from my studio or tent at festivals. They'll say no....no and make the most disgusted face haha. But there's been so many incredible compliments I've gotten over the years it's overwhelming just thinking about how many souls I've touched in some way through my art. I have the best genuine followers on the planet, still can't wrap my head around how blessed I am.

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