“My solo exhibition last year at The Ministry of Art in St Kilda was the most amazing, daunting, rewarding, fulfilling and truly incredible experience, providing me with recognition for my artistic passion,” says artist Antoinette Ferwerda. “When I committed to the show date, there was no turning back - it became gruelling to paint late into the night for months.” But once the works were complete and hung and the first painting sold, Antoinette relaxed and reconsidered her career. While she started a visual communications degree at RMIT, she transferred mid course to a BA at Deakin University, majoring in psychology and neurological impairment. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 14 years while maintaining an art practice in her spare time. “Somehow, every creative pursuit over the years had come full circle in that one night and I felt a sense of calm being right back where I belonged - I was an artist.” The show sold out and now Antoinette has a selection of works available through Greenhouse Interiors and a range of towels with Ninnho. Her next exhibition will be in November at The Ministry of Art.

Which five words best describe you? Artistic, passionate, imaginative, intuitive, optimistic.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? From a young age, doing arty stuff was a very natural part of daily life, particularly as I had the good fortune of having an art teacher as my mum. I studied art throughout secondary school, particularly loved art history and English literature, then went on to uni to study graphic design. Somehow, my inner creative felt disconnected so I switched unis, finished a different BA and found myself working for the next 14 years in the scientific, corporate world of pharmaceuticals. Painting had become my weekend hobby and I’d managed to sell a few artworks to family, friends and corporates over the years. I painted in my tiny flat and then moved house to paint in my garage, working on large private commissions and creative projects for around 10 years whilst juggling my corporate career. When I was lucky enough to have my beautiful children, spending time at home allowed some space which triggered my inner creative to switch on loudly. My painting technique and style had developed over those 10 years, the timing was right and I started to work hard to finally call myself an artist.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Say yes to every creative job opportunity, then figure out how to do it and what you like doing best later. Each time you try something new, you challenge yourself and grow creatively. Stay positive and keep trying - things always work out.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My sold-out first solo exhibition at Ministry of Art last year and deciding to do my second exhibition at MOA this year in November.

What’s been your best decision? To start my family, to pick up my paintbrush instead of my pharmaceutical bag and to launch my designer towel brand, Ninnho, with my business partner Angela.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about creating and the emotional process I experience in the production of a painting. My painting is life affirming and energising; it guides me in a unique story of teaching through creation.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Carl Jung.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Building a family home that contains a purpose-built and very spacious art studio - one day!

What are you reading? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - again: love his writing style and drawings.

images courtesy of antoinette ferwerda and greenhouse interiors; photography zoë mongey, styling fiona rattray