Another week, another Aussie artist whose work we have well and truly fallen for! Today, meet Antoinette Ferwerda, the Melbourne talent behind these beautiful paintings. We think you’ll love the story behind her becoming a full-time artist, proving that science and creativity aren’t as far removed as you might think.
Antoinette started creating works of art aged around three, all over her parents’ walls! Luckily, they forgave her and fostered her creativity. “I was constantly drawing, sketching, painting and writing and illustrating stories,” she says. “I even drew up plans for my dream home. I guess there was never a time when I didn’t think of myself as an artist. At eight years of age, I received my first microscope. This was a pivotal time in my life. My early observations of insect wings, flowers and water droplets started a lifelong obsession with pattern, art, design and science.”
So it’s perhaps not entirely (if a little) surprising that Antoinette ended up working in pharmaceuticals. Although she was passionate about being an artist, the sensible side of her thought she’d better get a ‘proper’ job to pay the bills. “I’m not the only artist to grapple that challenge, and I won’t be the last. Working in the corporate world of ‘big-pharma’ in sales for over 10 years saw me develop my career, while still creating paintings. I learned valuable business skills — sales, product development, budgets, marketing and people management – all skills you need as an artist too.” In the evenings and on weekends, she painted, determined to sell her work and one day start her own art business.
It was becoming a mum which finally allowed her to transition into a full-time artistic career as she negotiated small children. “Having a very supportive husband, somewhere amongst the nappies, feeding and sleep cycles, I managed to carve out creative time in my dedicated art studio. My passion to focus on creating art as my vocation evolved over time and I’m extremely grateful that I have successfully created a business that satisfies my artistic drive and stirs connections in others.”
That was 10 years ago. During this time, Antoinette says she’s learnt a lot about herself and her creative abilities, while saying ‘yes’ to just about every creative project going to grow her skill base and build her confidence. “Becoming a full-time artist seemed to open up opportunities for me. There have been some intensely enriching moments, like my very first solo exhibition after months of late nights in the studio. Nothing will ever replace that memory of sold-out sales of all of my original artworks.”
There have been a few bumps in the road along the way too, of course, like the first time she saw one of her designs ‘borrowed’, slightly altered and claimed by someone else. Antoinette was frustrated and disappointed. “Working as a full-time artist requires every ounce of my passion, dedication, determination, courage and trust in myself that I can innovate faster than others can imitate.”
She describes her style as abstract impressionist and her paintings combine mixed media on canvas or linen. “Many of my paintings contain abstract shapes with layers of colour blocking. For many buyers who are attracted to my landscapes, their abstract yet somehow familiar interpretations of the Australian outback and coastline seem to really resonate. I like to think my style evokes hopefulness, positivity and pure pleasure.”
Her inspiration comes from nature, science, architecture, fashion, interior design, family history, psychology, travel, cultural tradition and sociology; pretty much everywhere! “My art and design practice really are triggered by simple, random observations – the colour of a flower in my garden, shapes in clouds or the patterns on the sand from waves washing the shore. Surface patterns on living and non-living things are one of my obsessions. I’m inspired by my children’s drawings, stories or when they read poetry, paint or even build Lego. I also often listen to music whilst I paint which helps me find the subconscious space where my painting takes over.”
Antoinette’s rightfully proud of her latest prints, pictured here, which combine her science and art backgrounds beautifully. They’re a curated selection of limited edition reproductions from her original 2015 paintings for her ‘Alchemy’ solo exhibition. “Early chemists, known as alchemists, were inspired by ancient traditions and attempted to transmute base metals like tin and lead to form noble metals like gold. I was fascinated by their work and incorporated gold, silver or copper metallic leaf in my works. I loved exploring the transmutation and colour change process using mixed media. My New Galactic prints and the symbolic We Have Met Before butterfly print are just luminous.”
She’s happy to be able to open up her work to more people and make it more affordable. “Selling limited edition art prints has been a satisfying process in showcasing my art and introducing my painting style to diverse art buyers. Offering an accessible price point has been important for my business growth. I’ve enjoyed a successful association with wholesaler representation. Greenhouse Interiors has styled my art prints alongside gorgeous homewares, and this has led to greater awareness of my artwork.”
“Art and interiors are intrinsically linked, whether a room is designed around a painting or a painting is hung within a space to create colour, evoke feeling or start a narrative,” she says. “Art is personal and subjective, it may hold great meaning or sometimes be something you simply loved at first sight. When choosing art, I like to feel a connection with the piece – maybe it’s the colour or the composition, the technique or subject matter, the artist’s story or the title of the painting.”
If you’re keen to start an art collection and have limited experience, she recommends starting at your local gallery. “Supporting existing and emerging artists is a great way to build your confidence and appreciation for varied artworks and styles. Ask questions of the gallery staff as you grow your understanding of the artist, their process, and themes and mediums used. You may be surprised by how comfortable you begin to feel within the gallery space — just keep following your instincts, and enjoy the process of opening yourself up to artworks.” From a more practical perspective, think about where you will hang the painting, what mood it bring to your space and if the dimensions will fit your wall.
“Be brave, a little spontaneous, carry your measuring tape, remain open-minded and you could be on the way to starting your own art collection… you are in for a wonderful journey!”
Antoinette is also the creative talent behind towel brand Ninnho.