Melbourne based Antoinette Ferwerda is a firm favourite amongst interior designers, stylists and home decorators alike. Her happy, geometric abstract and landscape paintings powerfully use colour, adding elegance and energy to contemporary homes. Her works focus on luminosity and the geometry of shape and her love of colour are evident in all her works. If you are looking for a room hero, an original work by Antoinette will do the trick.
From childhood dreams of longing to be an artist to making this a reality, in our recent interview, Antoinette shares some advice she was given when starting out, her process in creating and inspiration galore in the lead up to our latest group show, Supernova.
What did you want to do when you were a child?
In my heart, I've always known that I wanted to be an artist. It's all I ever dreamt of and was the first thing I thought about becoming from a very young age. I remember telling my parents I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Funny how my working life had other ideas and after years of career twists & turns, I finally ended up back at the start of my dream and following my passion wholeheartedly.
How did you break into the world of art?
Art has always been my first love and it's been a long and slow process at times. I studied Graphic Design and Visual Communication straight out of school at RMIT (I never actually finished and switched to a different arts degree). I really just loved to paint. So, over the years, my paintings began to fill my home and those of supportive friends and family, which encouraged me to develop my business and create art for retail stores and galleries. My first solo exhibition was scary, but there was no turning back, which enabled me to break into the world of art with the beginnings of my professional artist reputation.
Who bought your first piece of art and what was it?
Not counting the works on paper I sold at my primary school annual market, the first painting I ever sold was called "Mako". I painted eight individual, smaller canvases then joined them to create one large mural and it sold to a friend for his corporate office space. I was really proud of it because I made the frames and stretched the canvases myself. Every panel was matte black with gloss black lines to create an outline of an abstract shark.
Name an artist, past or present, whom you admire?
Josef Albers, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Frank Lloyd-Wright, J.M.W.Turner, Bridget Riley, Sally Smart.
What was the first piece of art you ever bought?
My husband and I bought a little-framed etching together by Charles Blackman called “The Artist’s Studio”, which we came across many years ago in an auction house. It hangs in our front lounge room currently and always holds the most special place in my heart as our first piece of art.
What was your most recent art purchase?
My husband and I recently purchased a painting by contemporary Aboriginal artist, Mary Pityara titled “Bush Yam”. We love it and Mary’s work.
What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
"Keep your real job so you always have money to fund your hobby. After time, make your hobby your real job" (my Mum).
What inspires and motivates you to create every day?
I wake up thinking about and go to sleep dreaming about making art. I'm motivated by my passion to create and I'm inspired by what I see in nature, architecture, fashion, music, photography, design, form, colour and pattern. I observe changing light and the world around me. I'm fortunate to receive daily inspiration from my children's drawings and my own, previous artworks inform my observations of how I could make a painting better and build upon an existing concept.
What's your creative process in producing a piece of art or body of works?
My creative process usually starts after school drop off with a coffee in hand and the music is turned up loud in my art studio. Sometimes working on smaller versions or prototypes before moving to larger scale artworks helps with problem solving and investigation into my composition. Music allows me to quickly explore my subconscious state so pure creativity flows. Some prototypes remain in my studio for a while as inspiration and reminders for future paintings.
How do you decide what medium/s to create with?
I've always loved working with acrylic paint and collage. My technique of using mixed media on canvas always challenges me to investigate my layering process and achieves a transparent quality to my paintings.
Where do you paint/draw/sculpt/create?
I'm fortunate these days to lease a large studio space near my home, which is also close to my children's school. The building is old and I've renovated the front as a display area and office. I work from the rear studio space. There are drop sheets all over the wooden floors and large walls to prop my paintings when under construction.
What inspired your latest body of works for Supernova?
The "Nebula" series is inspired by the birth of stars. It's fascinating to know those same elements that exist in our own human bodies are also found in stars. Forces of nature combine to create stars, just as they do for human life, and I've tried to visually express these processes in my abstract nebula paintings. Just like stars, we are born and we die. I love our connection to the cosmos.
How do you think your art has evolved or changed over time?
My paintings have become larger in scale and I've enjoyed developing new compositional styles, moving ahead with new series but not forgetting my previous 'Hills' series. I'm really enjoying the freedom of my 'Nebula' series and now the intricacy & detailed pattern work in my 'Skull' series. I've always enjoyed working with paint and the simple flow-time and freedom of expression it provides each day.
How do you describe your work to others?
I think my paintings are more abstract-expressionist in style, with lots of layering using mixed media. My paintings encourage the viewer to look deeper through surface layers to find hidden stories of colour and form.
What is your no-fail go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?
My no-fail go-to when I need inspiration can vary, but my favourite ways of getting out of a creative rut include walking with my dog Pippa, or speed-viewing the pages of a great magazine. I prefer to look through books and magazines with beautiful photography. My own photos of travel destinations always reveal something different, despite having looked at them loads of times. I always seem to find a new detail, maybe a pattern or colour combination from which to draw new inspiration. My studio has music playing all the time so new songs and playlists are a regular feature, especially when painting for a show to keep the energy high. (A large bag of sour bear lollies always helps too).
What advice can you give our art buyers when choosing art for their home?
When you find a connection with a piece of art you love, it's a very subjective and special feeling. Even more special if you can meet the artist to gain insight and understanding of the inspiration behind the painting. Owning the painting you love will definitely bring you joy, which will send a powerful, positive reinforcement to the artist to keep creating artistic goodness.
What do you do when you're not producing art?
When I'm not producing art or running the business behind making art, I really enjoy family time with my husband and two children, simply taking walks together with our dog or bike riding on weekends. As the Melbourne weather becomes cooler, family movie nights snuggled on the couch eating chocolate together are lazy and indulgent but are a favourite time out for me. Life is busy with lots of social, family & school activities so taking time out with a good magazine or some exercise is important for my mind to stay focused but relaxed when I'm working on an upcoming exhibition.
What's something that you haven't done yet that you'd like to?
I'd like to enter a portrait in the Archibald prize and learn how to create a bronze sculpture one day.
How do you juggle family life and your evolving art business?
Juggling family life around my evolving art business and creating art is a tricky balance. Some days I paint and other days it's all about managing the business operations of art production, including framing schedules, couriers, exhibition deadlines, private commissions and online orders plus social media and marketing communications. Over the years my art business has evolved to include an art assistant, a sales agent and an operations/marketing manager, plus a bookkeeper. Having help with the art business administration and operations has enabled me to maintain my focus on painting production.
Is there a stand out moment in your art career that has really propelled you to keep doing what you love?
My stand out moment came when my husband told me he believed in me and told me I should explore my art wholeheartedly. It's not always been easy and it's taken many years of patience and creative development, but it propelled me to keep working really hard. I'm grateful everyday for this chance to follow my passion and live my dream life, calling myself an artist today.