Featured: Jenna Smith

Artist studio visit with Emma Huia Lovegrove

Ever wondered what shapes an artist's journey? For New Zealand artist Emma Huia Lovegrove, it began with childhood sketches and a love for art that never faded.  Emma's childhood was filled with art, from morning watercolour sessions with her dad to solo adventures with felt pens. After studying at Elam School of Fine Arts, she found her stride, blending her childhood love for illustration with newfound techniques. In this blog post, we'll explore Emma's evolution from a shy kid with crayons to a renowned artist celebrated for her intricate botanical illustrations.

A collection of original paintings in custom frames by Emma Huia Lovegrove.

What were you like as a kid?

As far back as I can remember I have been making art. I was very shy and happiest pottering about on my own with my felt pens and crayons. In the morning my dad would roll out big pieces of paper on the kitchen floor and we’d create huge watercolour paintings together full of flowers and animals before we’d had breakfast.

Did you go to art school? How did you start your career as an artist?

I studied at Elam School of Fine Arts from 2015-2018 and graduated with a BFAHons. While at Elam I experimented with drawing, painting, collage, cyanotype and installation art. My final projectBeings Around Me, Beings Within Mewas a watercolour, handmade paper and crystallised salt installation which looked like a huge mouldy lichen growth. 

I was lucky enough to work at Pauanesia while studying and once I graduated Heather offered me a collaboration. We created a gorgeous range of homewares and scarves with my paintings. I’m so grateful for this collaboration as it meant I hit the ground running straight out of art school. 

I exhibited this series in my first solo showWhenuaat endemicworld in 2020. 

Can you describe your style and how you came to it?

I would describe my current works as an illustrative and naive depiction of the natural world, exploring the chaos and harmony of patterns in nature. Illustration was my first love. Uni pushed me to try more abstract and contemporary art styles which was awesome for my art practice but I always yearned to return back to a more illustrative style.

What are the main themes/ideas in your art?

I am fascinated by microcosms and how a place can encapsulate in miniature the characteristics of something much larger.I’m also interested in the interconnectedness of all living and non-living beings and the symbiotic relationships between organisms.

What is your process for creating a new artwork?

Very little planning goes into my botanical paintings. I have a massive archive of foliage photos from my various walks. I will pick out a few photos of plants that I think will look interesting together then immediately start painting. I let the composition reveal itself as I go, patterns complementing and clashing. Plants and organisms grow and decay randomly as they would in nature, forming little ecosystems. I never know what the final work will look like. 

What materials do you like to work with when creating your art?

I usually do most of my painting in watercolours, then I like to do finishing touches with gouache as it’s more opaque. For example, I can grow lichen across a mossy background. I’ll also use coloured pencils for some extra detail and texture. 

What/who is your main source of inspiration?

Michelle Morin’s intricate foliage watercolours, Jen Tyers’ bold watercolours of the Australian bush, Marianne North’s extensive botanical painting archive and Henri Rousseau’s naive jungle paintings. The New Zealand bush is my number one inspiration of course!

Where do you create your art?

I do all my art in my home studio. I love having a cosy little space which looks out at our garden, solely designated to creating. When my partner and I were living in our van in 2021 I had to get used to making do with sketchbooks which was a real challenge for my art practice! 

What do you want people to think/feel when they see your art?

I hope people feel in awe of our natural world and inspired to go into the outdoors to see what treasures they can find.

What are your plans for the future or something you would like to work on next?

I’m planning on putting the botanicals aside for a while and revisiting my landscape painting. I’d like to try new mediums and explore the surreal, dream-like qualities of the New Zealand landscape. My partner and I find ourselves in incredible locations on our rock climbing trips, which I’ve been wanting to paint for a long time. 

In three words how do you like to describe your artwork.

Intricate organism accumulations.

As Emma looks to the future, she plans to explore landscape painting and surreal landscapes, drawing inspiration from her rock climbing adventures.