Overcoming Trauma: How Adriano Rodrigues Found Hope Through Neon Dreams


My name is Adriano Rodrigues. I am a Neon UV visual artist and am part of this year’s Top Talent, born in Brazil and raised in Albany, NY. I began my career as an illustrator, using Copic markers to create dark, surrealistic, images. In January 2015, I enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College to earn my degree in Digital Media.

One of my projects that I had created earlier in the semester featured a lava lamp which is one of the trickier things to photograph because of the hues and vibrant colors. I worked with the image in Adobe Lightroom and I learned that with some tweaking, the vibrancy of the image spoke to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that lava lamp was the start of the next phase of my career. 

I used the inspiration from the lava lamp to stage my first Neon UV photoshoot. A simple class project quickly became my first series, Neon Dreams. When I posted this series on social media it caught on like wildfire. Within 48 hours, my work was being viewed in Brazil, Japan, UK, France, Portugal and China. I learned that Neon UV photography was a niche market that wasn’t oversaturated. A simple project for school turned out to be something fresh and exciting in the art world.

Despite my passion for Neon UV photography, my health and injury from a previous car accident prevented me from producing Neon art as often as I wanted. 

In 2014, I was on the way to the gym when an impaired driver smashed into my car while traveling at 100 mph in a 40 mph residential zone. I didn’t realize that this would be the biggest obstacle in my life. I’ll never forget how my life flashed before my eyes.

 As a result of that single moment, everything in my life changed. I required multiple surgeries and endured a traumatic brain injury, PTSD and chronic pain. It took three long years before I finally decided that I didn’t want to be upset about my circumstances any more. That is when I found my strength in neon UV photography.

For 2 years, I was only able to create one neon series every six months because each photoshoot I did would take between 8-14 hours to complete and this length of time would wreak havoc on my spine. I still felt the lasting effects of the car accident everyday, but after discovering a platform that was so unique, I was determined not to give up.

Whenever something challenging happens in our lives, we tend to think to ourselves,“Why did this happen to me?” Would it have been better if it had happened to some other stranger? I struggled to wrap my head around the what ifs. What if I was 30 seconds earlier or 2 minutes later driving down that road? Could I have avoided the entire situation?

I’ve realized that if it didn’t happen to me, that impaired driver could have hit a single mom, dad, baby, someone’s younger brother or older sister. I was alone in my car at the time and physically fit enough to withstand a collision of that magnitude. It was a blessing that I got hit because I saved someone else’s life that day. I would’ve never known who they were, but it was someone who was fortunate enough to go home to their loved ones that evening.

After I graduated college in 2017, my memory slowly started to improve. I was able to push further and study more and my skills in Adobe Creative Cloud continued to grow. The crash was absolutely a life altering moment for me, but I am grateful for the way a difficult experience motivated me to work harder and chase my dreams.

Adobe saved my life. When I was waking up in pain every morning and forced to go to the emergency room at all hours of the night, I spent the time working on my art.

People who deal with post concussion syndrome and TBI (traumatic brain injuries) tend to have memory loss, and I wasn’t an exception to the rule. Prior to the crash, I had knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, and was on my way to becoming a creative  professional. Instantly, I lost everything I had learned before the accident. I went from a graphic artist to not knowing how to use layers overnight.

After the accident I had time on my hands and plenty of skills I needed to re-learn. Adobe Creative Cloud fueled my passion amidst the physical and emotional pain. When traumatic events happen, it is completely natural to feel like you’re constantly gasping for air.

 I felt lost. I felt alone. I needed a purpose.

Due to my circumstances after college, I was unable to apply for a full-time job; however, I didn’t give up. I created my own path towards my dreams. I found my path by using social media and Behance to showcase my art and find community. I followed every Adobe social media account I could find and checked their pages every day. I participated in monthly theme contests with the Adobe hashtag and my series VIXEN was eventually found by Adobe Creative Cloud and was reposted to their Instagram account. 

From this experience, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons. One of my biggest tips for fellow artists is to use Behance religiously and check it every day. It was paramount to my success as a Neon UV visual artist. I studied it and I learned how I could improve on my layouts, lighting, and presentation skills. I received more exposure for my art from being featured on galleries such as the “Best of Behance.” 

Along with posting my work on Behance, social media helped my growth as well. Posting my art was my way to share with people about the struggle that I was going through. When the medical community ignored my chronic pain because it didn’t show up on tests, Neon UV Photography was my voice. 

I like creating complex Neon UV series because it’s eye catching and intriguing. Those two elements are important to include in your work because it keeps people coming back to your art. As humans, we always want to know what’s at the next frontier. It motivates us; it pushes us to the brink of what is possible.

Another tip I have is to master your tools and keep striving for improvement. I believe that in the art world if you stand still for one minute you’ll sink. I’m not saying that you need to reinvent the wheel, but it’s necessary to learn as much as you can about the software you’re using, the field you’re trying to get into, and how others succeed or fail. Watch others and learn from it. Use their mistakes as lessons, so that you don’t make the same mistakes.

As individuals, we will always be advantaged in some ways and disadvantaged in others. Each of us has a choice to use disadvantages as a way to propel us forward to greatness. We all have the tools within us. I’m living proof of that. If you’re going through pain or struggle and are hurting from it, then gain something from it and DON’T GIVE UP.

Many of the greatest artists we admire find a way to create through unbearable pain. Struggle does not have to be a negative. It’s not only shaping you into a great artist, but it is building character and creating the person that you are becoming today. My last bit of advice is that you have a voice that carries weight. Someone is always listening to your message and it’s your choice whether or not you use it to lift others up

Find Adriano Rodrigues here:

Website: www.adrianoINK.com | Behance: www.behance.net/adrianoINK

Instagram: www.instagram.com/adrianoINK | Podcast: https://bit.ly/2mGH12F

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