By Cynthia Daly.
When you look upon one of Emma Evangeline Gustafson’s paintings, she hopes that you will feel at peace and then be inspired to go out and see for yourself the beauty around you. Her message is also one of gratitude for this place we call home, Aotearoa.
Several of Emma’s works, reproduced on canvas and framed prints, will feature in the Whitianga Lions Art Expo at Whitianga Town Hall on Matariki Weekend (July 13-16). A percentage of all artworks sold at the exhibition will go to Project Mammogram.
While Emma can’t remember a time when she didn’t draw or paint, even declaring as a seven-year-old that she was going to be an artist, her bold step to become a full-time artist and children’s books illustrator is relatively new. It follows studies in graphic design and the realisation that, that job market was full. It seems it was definitely meant to be. It gave Emma the freedom to leave behind Auckland as Covid lurked and move to Whitianga, a special place where her mother loved to holiday. They are now together here sharing the DNA passed down from an artistic grandmother to mother then daughter. Emma’s mother also paints, mainly beach scenes. Her grandmother was a cake decorator and florist who painted landscapes in oil as a hobby.
“When I was really little, my grandmother always had things out for me to do, little paintings and drawings. She passed away when I was seven so Mum took over and was very encouraging,” says Emma.
Without any pressure, Emma found she had a natural talent for art and writing stories.
“As I got older, I got quite into the realism side of things, particularly in high school and I went through that classic phase of drawing celebrities. Then I got into more still life and surrealism like Salvador Dali, then psychedelic art. By the time I was at uni I was doing a mixture of botanical art with a bit of surrealism. I did a series of still life paintings of antiques. I was always very detail orientated.”
That attention to detail now takes the viewer deep into lush native bush where you might see Emma’s favourite bird, the piwakawaka (fantail) or a glimpse of something mystic as she captures Waiomu Valley Track with its kauri grove, creeks, crystals and overgrown milling ruins or other familiar bush scenes. She’s equally at home close to the sea edge of Coromandel bays and beaches and her gratitude to live here is reflected in the light on water, clouds, sand and distant islands. You may even discover her in these places plein air painting, quickly trapping a moment of light before it fades.
“When people look at my paintings, I want them to feel at peace, that they are in their happy place and that it will inspire them to go outside and be grateful for what we have here. Often when I’m doing these paintings, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to be in this area, and I think gratitude is such a powerful force. The more you feel that in your life, the more good things can come your way.”
Caption: Painted Cat Rocks.