Emi Goodwin is an international abstract artist. Born and raised in Japan, moving to the US to study then continuing on to NY to work with designers such as Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. Emi’s painting career started later in life after the birth of her first child when she was living in Japan. One to go where life takes her she has an incredibly rich tale of chance and what can happen if you go with your creativity. I sat down with Emi in her Sydney studio to speak to her about her work and her creative process.
L: How did you get into your art?
E: Well, it's sort of a long story. I wanted to study in America and I had to choose a subject for it. I’d always liked art and I wasn't good at studying. So I applied for Boston University and choose an arts degree. The school I went to was quite academic, very traditional, following the traditional techniques and methods and I was one of the worst students, I was really bad.
I was really put down by regular teachers but there were two guest artists who came from New York every week to teach. They were the one’s who encouraged me to continue. But I didn't pursue art; I finished school and then moved to New York with no plan. I didn't even know if I wanted to live in New York. I just knew that I had to go there to challenge myself. I thought if I could survive NY, I could do anything.
I ended up working in the fashion industry coordinating for a Japanese design team, and stopped painting for a long time. I started painting again when I had my first child jack. He is 13 now. While I was breastfeeding, I started to scribble and then it started to develop into certain shapes. Someone recommended I should do more art in a studio. So I did an intensive in Tokyo.
I met a great teacher that does abstract art and I started doing abstract paintings. She really encouraged me to find my style.
L: How did you break into the industry here in Australia?
E: Well, I don't think I have yet. I've had a few agent galleries one in Melbourne and the second in Sydney. I have a few regular customers here in Australia as well. One main client is a winemaker. He purchased my art then contacted me to see if I would like to make art for his label. Since then he buys a piece every year. But I’m still building my clients.
L: How did you make your connection with the French gallery you are currently showcasing in?
E: I worked with Louis Vuiton for a while in Sydney. They got me on board for a couple of projects including painting live customized artwork on their products for special events. There was a French lady who was with the company for many years, from Paris, head office. She fell in love with my work and is one of my biggest supporters. When she went back home she talked about my work to her old friend, who happened to be in the art world. Her friend also loved my pieces and they asked to showcase them in Paris.
I think when someone is really passionate about my work, and they connect with someone else, that’s when things happen.
L: It's like they're doing your marketing for you.
E: Yeah, when I have tried to market to Galleries on my own it’s never happened. I think there has to be a personal connection. One of the top galleries in Sydney told me they loved what I did, but couldn't see any relation to their clients. It's strictly business; you have to make something their client’s want. It's quite commercial in the way.
L: What gives you the courage to keep going when you get knock backs?
E: I think it’s when people connect to my work. I feel quite connected to my clients because I know they’re really feeling something through my art. They say my work makes them feel happy, or calm, peaceful. Even surreal, as if they are in a different place.
L: Where do the ideas for your paintings come from? You say it's a fusion of the Japanese art. When did that come into the picture?
E: I always loved Japanese art. The simplicity and everything about it but I never knew how to do it. I went back to Tokyo one summer and took some lessons from other teachers. I've been applying all the basic techniques to my work ever since. I’m not working in a traditional way, just applying traditional techniques to my style.
I never have specific ideas in mind when I paint. I realized ideas are already in the past. So I just start and see where it takes me. But I normally don't finish in one go. A long time may go by and I will feel like a change. The piece maybe nice but sometimes you have to take a risk to bring out your best work. I’ll paint everything white again if I'm not 100% happy. It’s interesting because something comes out from what you've created before; usually that’s when you see a wow result.
If a piece doesn't speak to me I’ll just leave it. I do several pieces at once so I don't spoil them. I don't force it. Some times I will just look at a painting for hours and won't do anything. When I do paint, I will paint almost all day. It depends how I feel.
The piece behind me I left for half a year. And suddenly, I felt like working on it again.
I work with my intuition. So I can never make the same thing.
L: Where do you want to go with your art?
E: Right now, I want to develop more connections in Europe. And then maybe come back here. It depends. Sydney, even Australia in general is quite conservative.
I would like to finish some of the art I have already started. There are a couple of old paintings I might just paint over. I have a bit more time at the moment so I want to make something, but I want to take the time to make something good, that I can confidently sell. You have to be confident with your work.
L: How did you find that confidence within your work and yourself? Did it come from your parents?
E: No, absolutely not. My dad was just normal working class. My mom was a hard working lady. And you know, I think they knew I was crazy. People around me told me how unique I was, how I was going to be an artist, before I was even doing art. People seemed to know it before I did.
Over time I became more confident by working on myself. I do a lot of meditation. Everyday you grow, where you focus your mind, determines what your day will look like.
As time goes on you get more responses from the public and clients. You see it in your work; you know when you feel ready. You established a certain level as a professional. Only you can tell.
As an artist you have to be strong. You should be proud of your work.
L: Do you have bad days?
E: Of course, but you just have to accept it. I’m not happy when my ideas don’t come. I just sit and wait, you just have to accept it, its just life, you know? You have to be patient.
L: Do you have any advice for other creative’s?
E: Try every thing that inspires you, I don’t think we should stick with one thing.
When you believe you are not good at something that's often your greatest talent. That's the secret. Oh and if you want to make good art, don’t rely on it for a living.
- Emi Goodwin.
See more of Emi's art at http://emigoodwin.com
Photos by Lila Marvell.