Mackay artist with Asperger's syndrome receives award for achievements

When the scattered afternoon sunlight seeped its way into a restaurant in the heart of Mackay, Nekea Blagoev's creativity, widely splashed across the walls, came to light. 

According to Nekea, the first milestone in her life did not involve walking or talking.

Instead, her earliest memories involve painting and drawing.

"Mum was always constantly painting the walls because I was always drawing on them," Nekea said.

"It was more of a hobby when I was a kid, and it just developed into something bigger than I could have ever dreamed of," she said.

It was not until five years ago that Nekea decided to take her creative side seriously.

I take impressions from this world and put it together into a world you don't really see with your own eyes.

Nekea Blagoev, Mackay artist

She has since gone on to showcase her artwork around the world, and one of her artwork designs was recently used on a stamp in the United States for Autism Awareness Month. 

Most recently her accomplishments have led to the Mackay artist being named the 2015 Individual Achievement winner at the Autism Queensland Creative Futures Recognition Awards.

"[I was given the award] for my achievements and being an inspiration and role model to my fellow community members, and my artwork on top of that as well just goes hand and hand with each other," she said. 

Diagnosis gives artist a voice

Growing up, Nekea was a shy, softly spoken person, quite a contrast to the woman she is today. 

"I wasn't the best of talkers," she said. 

"I found out in 2011 that I was diagnosed with Asperger's. It's a syndrome that affects many people in different ways, and it affected me with my speech, communication and socialising skills."

Following her diagnosis, everything changed for Nekea. 

"Most people that get diagnosed ... it's a bit devastating for them, but for me — going so long living with this and not knowing what it was — it was a liberating experience for me knowing that I finally got the answers," Nekea said. 

An additional boost of confidence also came after she listened back to a radio interview she took part in, in Mackay. 

"I heard my voice for the first time and thought, 'Oh my god is that me? I sound normal'," she said.

"Since then I haven't been able to shut up," she laughed.

Nekea said she had since gone on to be a role model for other people living with Asperger's by talking about her personal experiences on radio shows, both in Australia and Canada.

Artistic influences 

A number of artists Nekea admires include Salvador Dali, James Gleeson, Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci.

"I'm a bit old-fashioned there but I sort of like the old generation of the way they thought and the way they expressed themselves," she said. 

"I'm well-known for my tree designs. A lot of people have told me they bring you off into another world. I take impressions from this world and put it together into a world you don't really see with your own eyes.

"It's a good experience and it's very rewarding to know that someone else wants to put my artwork on the wall, and they love it, and have fallen in love with it."