Heather Chontos

by Nisha Btesh September 08, 2018

Heather Chontos


What struck me the most about Heather the Artist was that her work felt incredibly and eerily relatable - it was chaotic and free. It was totally nostalgic of childhood scribble sessions juxtaposed by the honed talent and restraint of a disciplined Artist. I was drawn into her world immediately and magnetically through her stunning abstraction and color play. That's me! That's EXACTLY how I feel! Who are you Heather Chontos?! And how did you get inside my head?!

BUT what struck me the most about Heather the woman (after an admittedly obsessive few hours of investigation...) was discovering that she had suffered from an illness which caused her to become blind for an entire year of her childhood. A work of abstraction herself, Heather's sight recovered and she used her different perspective to pivot, finding a new appreciation for light and color. This multi-media Artist creates with the intention of building an emotional climax in her viewers...stroke by layered stroke. She hopes to create an intimate dialog with her work vs. a passive lackluster "meh". And well I'm probably her biggest fan... sooo there's that. 

Her works can be found in the permanent collection of Kate Spade Inc., The New York Public Library, and The Soho House in both New York AND London just to name a few. An Artist, a mother, and a force to be reckoned with, Heather proves that putting down the cell phone to become your own "Influencer" is the surest path to success and self-discovery. 

Who is Heather Chontos? Where are you from? How did you become the woman you are today?

Who am I? Good question... that is something I am perpetually trying to figure out. These days I feel very much that I am a mother, caretaker, responsible adult, disaster relief manager, banker and then in between all of that, I am an Artist. Art is what makes me breathe.

I am from New York, the Hudson Valley area. It is a beautiful part of New York State and close enough to NYC. I grew up taking trains to Grand Central Station on my own without my parent's knowledge or permission, but that’s how it was back then. Always had quarters in my pocket for payphone calls.

I suppose I became the woman I am today by making a ton of fuck-ups in my life and learning from them. I travel a ton and always have, since age 13, on my own. I like traveling alone. I want it to be my experience. I am not a tour guide and I don’t want to be. I like to absorb and process my surroundings without talking about it.

What is the message you're sending into the universe with your work? Why do you feel so strongly about this message?

I wouldn’t say I am particularly sending a message into the world with my work. There is no underlying theme. It is rather a record of moments and sensations, feelings, and thoughts. When I am painting I feel most calm, and most purely myself, I am really just being, rather than putting any sort of effort into it. My work is
very impulsive and intuitive. And so I am putting myself out there, rather than a message. I am both hiding and exposing myself all at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about what drew you to your medium. Did you choose to work with said medium or did it choose you?

I think when I discovered paint as my medium, it chose me. I had always like to draw and cut things up, like in collage. I really enjoyed that because I am a bit of a control freak and could manipulate those materials just perfectly. Paint gave my “control issues” a new challenge. How could I manipulate this medium when it had a mind of its own? I enjoy the fact that I can move with it, it's more harmonious with me and I love that I can layer it and build its textures and colors and that it both absorbs and reflects light.

You have an amazing sense of style yourself, how does fashion
dictate your work, if at all?

Fashion does not dictate my work whatsoever. I just love design in all its forms and want to inundate myself with it at all times. I do not care for trends, but rather what is truly good design.

What do you want the younger female Artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the art industry in general?

This is a good question. I don’t think it only has to be relevant to being an Artist, but rather being a woman or a girl in any industry and in this weird time of social media and the bombardment of what is out there. Everyone can be an “Artist” now with an Instagram account, but it's not real, because being an Artist is not an image it is something that is very deep and personal with oneself, something that can not be ignored internally.

I would say that you must not fall into the trap of what you think you “should do”.
It sounds sort of silly, but you truly need to be devoted to yourself and who you are, which is something that takes time. Don’t let “trends” or “influencers” dictate what you do with yourself, ignore the noise and go for what makes your heart sing.

What do you know for sure?

I know for sure that life is better with our eyes and ears open and aware, that paying attention to all the things that flow around us and learning to communicate with each other face to face is the greatest gift we have as human beings and we should not take it for granted. Its all about connections to one another.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as a female Artist to date? What are some of the biggest mistakes you've made and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge as a female Artist is being a single mother. I have two daughters, but one is in a University now in the Netherlands. So I have one person to take care of every day. It is hard, there is no other way to put it. I love my children, but it is very difficult to always have the time and mental space to be someones “everything” and also be able to create my work freely, but we have a rhythm to our life and it works. It took time.

Biggest mistakes I have made as an Artist, probably giving away my work too easily at the beginning. I wanted it to be seen, to get it out there so I was a little too open to just giving it away and not putting the value into it that it deserved. As you grow older and you experience things and you talk to people you learn and so you grow and things change. I am feeling very wise, I just turned 40...

How do you stay motivated? What does your daily routine look like?

My daily routine revolves around my 10-year-old daughter's life. Just normal stuff, breakfast, school bag packing, snack making. We live in an area of Berlin that is very green so I often go for a run or a bike ride. It feels like once she is at school there is always a yoga session at home and then I paint.

I paint every day, sometimes just small works on paper, sometimes large works on canvas, but I am always painting. There is often a daily trip to the post office to ship work out and a lot of admin comes with being a working Artist. There is a ton of communication involved. I have to stay current and make sure that my work is out there, being seen.

Give us three of your favorite/most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

Andy Goldsworthy’s work and the filming of him working. It blows my mind what he does in nature. Nature is also my greatest inspiration.

Have you seen Chef’s table? I love them all, but the most recent one, the dessert one? It features Pastry Chef Jordi Roca from Girona, Spain. He uses his sense of smell, his nose to create this magical worlds of flavor and nostalgia, he is a true Artist. I think I am slightly in love with him, to be honest.

And then there is Ottolenghi the chef, his food, what he creates is incredible. I am a huge foodie. Cooking is one of my great passions and Ottolenghi always inspires me. Cooking and art go hand in hand for me.

What are your future plans for your work? Where do you see
yourself going 1,3,5 years from now and how do you plan to get

I don’t know. I am trying to just live in the present without too much ego or expectation. I can’t plan. All I hope is to be healthy and for people to still enjoy my work as it evolves and grows.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

“Put your oxygen mask on before helping others”
To learn more about Heather and her work please visit www.heatherchontos.com

Nisha Btesh
Nisha Btesh


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