Beginning a Creative Project

Episode Focus: Going Deep

Mindfulness: 4 simple mindfulness practices that I do that you can try too

Podcast chat: Paekākāriki-based artist Emma Hercus

Productivity: Setting intentions and goals

Click below to listen

Podcast chat with Emma Hercus

Emma is an artist who does basketry and more recently painting. She works out of a studio above the cafes in Paekakariki, alongside other artists. Her paintings are done with acrylics and inspired by people and animals from the New Zealand environment, but Emma prefers a freer look – rather than making her work look realistic.

In our chat Emma shares a bit about her creative practice, what a day in the studio looks like and where she goes for inspiration. Tell us a little about your creative practice – what does a studio session look like for you and how to do go about getting your inspiration?

Emma also talks about what she enjoys most about living and creating on the Kāpiti Coast!

Jordan: Well Emma,  welcome to the podcast. It’s very cool to have you. You’re an artist of multiple talents, including painting and willow basket weaving. Tell us about the work.

Emma: I started with the willow basketry and I met this guy Eddie, who’s been doing it for 40 years, and he lives in Otaki and he’s awesome. He taught me how to make baskets. 

This was just after my youngest had started kindy. So I had a little bit of time. I started learning how to make baskets and then I started making light shades and began to sell it in the Collective in Paekakariki, which is cool. And then I kind of outgrew that space and I didn’t like the whole retail aspect of having to be there on the weekends and sit there the whole time. And I couldn’t really make stuff very easily while I was sitting there.

So I went across the road to  this cool studio upstairs above the cafes an  I had a chat to the artists up there they were like, ‘oh, you can have a room, we’ve got one going’. And so then I just was selling stuff from there.  I have always painted like at school and in my flat, you know, with my friends, we would be having drinks and I’d be painting in the living room.

But this is the first time I started painting and kind of hanging them on the walls and putting a little price sign on it. And then I sold one and I was like, ‘oh, I’ll just keep going’.  But it was about four years ago that I started doing the painting side of things. I just love it so much. 

Jordan: From your Instagram feed I would have guessed that you would have been painting for longer than just four years because you look quite prolific.

Emma: Yeah, I am prolific and quite fast!

Jordan: How would you describe your work?

Emma I like to chop and change my painting, but generally I, I paint with acrylics and then I might go  over it with oils and I like it to be really kind of free and not realistic. And I love having a story in my work. People and animals and and it’s all kind of based on New Zealand and the environment that we live in. And because I love being outside. I grew up on a farm.

Jordan: Fantastic.  So tell us about your creative practice – what does a studio session look like for you? 

Emma: Well, I always like to take the dog for a walk in the mornings. Sort the kids out. By the time I get to the studio it’s like about nine thirty, ten  o’clock.  And then I have a coffee and then I just start painting. I get interrupted quite a lot because we have people come through. But that’s nice too. You know some days are busy and sometimes no one comes through and I just paint until about two thirty and then and then go pick the kids up. And then sometimes I do stuff at night if I’m busy or if I’m inspired. I’ve always got a sketchbook with me. 

Jordan: How do you find the process of going from sketch to painting?

Emma: I always paint the background a colour – often it’s bright red because I’m not really into painting on a white backdrop. And I like it to come through and then I’m quite loose. I’ve been using these acrylic pencils. And I do a sketch of the composition on with that because I can paint over it and it doesn’t matter. And then I just launch myself into it.

Jordan: Would you consider it quite an intuitive process when you’re painting?

Emma: Yeah. Usually I have a little picture and it’s a bit of a plan, but then if it doesn’t look like once I’ve painted it in the colours, I’ll go and get inspired by Pinterest or Instagram or see an artist that I love, like Elizabeth Cummings. Her work is amazing and she has such incredible colours. But then my style is completely different from hers.

Jordan: There’ll be some element you love….

Emma: Yeah, those colours together. So you start using them and then as it goes along, I’ll be like, well, I might need a little bit of red in it and then a little bit of pink or whatever. You love pink eh?

Jordan: Yes!

Emma: I’m always drawn to that smoky blue and light indigo and stuff.

Jordan: Beautiful. Now do you think there is a connection between creativity and well-being. Do you find painting puts you in a good space?

Emma: Sure. Because you just kind of think about what you’re doing and it’s quite relaxing. And then at the end, if you just keep going until you are happy with it, then it gives you a bit of a buzz.  When we sort out a painting and it’s like, yeah, that’s right. That’s good. I feel like for me, I’m doing what I what I’m really passionate about and it just makes me happy.

ordan: How do you know when you’ve sorted out a painting?

Emma: When it doesn’t annoy me! When I look at it and I’m just like, yeah that’s OK. But I often paint over paintings…and then it’s quite cool anyway because you have little bits of that old painting come through

Jordan: So for people who are interested in creativity but not necessarily artists, would you have any tips to help get them on their way?

Emma: Maybe just have a sketchbook to doodle with when you’re in meetings or you’re bored. But you can also be creative in your home and your clothing and your garden. You don’t have to be painting a picture or taking photos. There’s so many ways to be creative.

Jordan: I’m interested in this idea of working as a collective. How do you find it working with a group of people in the same space?

Emma: It’s really fun because we all have such different styles. They really good with critiquing. We often will pass each other’s rooms, and we’ll be like, “Oh, that’s great, I like how that’s going”. Or, “It would be quite cool if you did this.” Alan’s been there for about 12 years and he’s been a practicing artist for maybe like 40 years. Making a living out of it. So he’s he’s really amazing and he’s got a great sense of composition. And and Chris has been doing it for years and years as well. And he  knows how to use the paints and he knows how to stretch the canvases and all those little things that I kind of I need help with.  And  Allen does lots of carving too. So that’s been good. So I’ve just learnt lots off everyone.

Jordan: That’s very cool. Finally, what do you enjoy about living on the Kāpiti Coast?

Emma: I love the beaches. And I like, you know, running and biking and walking with the kids. It’s just a cool place to be. People are really laid back and it’s a bit warmer than Wellington. There’s lots of good little, markets and restaurants and cafes. Soon we won’t even need to go into Wellington!

Jordan: So tell me about what you’re doing at the Learning Connexion.

Emma: I’m doing a diploma. And the  Learning Connexion’s really cool if you’re interested in getting into creativity and you don’t know where to start. There’s this course that you can do and it’s for one year – Certificate in Creativity. That’s what it’s called. And you can do ceramics, photography, illustration, print making. And so it’s cool if you don’t know what you’re into and you just try everything and then and then narrow down what where you want to go. And there’s loads of different people, all different ages and backgrounds and stuff. So it’s fun.

Jordan: Well thank you Emma. All the best with your creative journey.

Emma: Thanks!

More about Emma

If you’re interested in finding out more about Emma and her artwork, 

Follow on Instagram: emmahercusart

Visit Emma in her studio: 1 Beach Rd, Paekakariki, Kapiti Coast New Zealand. 

Artworks in this post (from top of page): kotuku wahine, Hongi, She’s an x-bird,

Rescued by the brave sparrow.

Let's stay in touch! Subscribe to my monthly updates and quarterly mini-magazine

Subscribe to my monthly email updats and my quarterly mini-mag, Earthed. Published every quarter, it's a celebration of nature, creativity and wellbeing. Be inspired by simple delights and get the latest updates on new artworks, podcast episodes and courses.