I came across the work of Erika Brinkman whist browsing though artists on Instagram. A name I didn’t recognise, I was surprised to discover that Erika lives in Byron. I was even more surprised to learn that she has only been painting for a short two years - a thought almost unimaginable when considering the polished professionalism of her clean and creamy oil paintings. Falling instantly in love with her work, that illustrates the desert scenes from where she grew up in Mesa, Arizona, I contacted her for a chat, only to find that Erika shares the same passion as her equally gifted partner, Isaac Petersen. Growing up on the coastal shores of New Plymouth in New Zealand, Isaac’s love for the ocean is recognisable through his refined representation of pools, waves and seascapes across the globe, captured in a precise photorealistic style and often picturing Erika, his constant muse. Both supremely talented artists, the chilled-out pair have come from opposites sides of the map to find common ground in Byron Bay, where they have been living and creating for the past few months.
Walking into their home is like walking into a gallery. On opening the front door, I was met with a vibrant onslaught of colour in the form of “Peach Lilies” - an enormous floral canvas by Erika, in lively rouge hues perched casually against a wall. The sheer number of paintings in their home shows just how prolific this couple is, but the fact that their approach to quietly creating so much beauty is so laid-back and so humble, truly amazed me. The ability to reproduce a moment in time so intricately with a paintbrush is a feat in itself. Erika and Isaac share the talent of not only capturing the visual beauty of a short moment in time, but also transporting you to that memory, to make you feel the simple joy of a sunny day by the backyard pool in the middle of the desert, even though you were never there. Perhaps Vincent Van Gough hit the nail on the head when he said, “What’s done in love, is well done”.
Emily. There's definitely a sense of similarity between your work. Do you tend to draw inspiration from each other's art when you are painting?
Isaac. Erika does abstracts as well that are real colourful. So, sometimes I see her abstracts and I’m like, “Wow. I really want to put more colour into mine”.
Emily. Would you say your style is based off real life more than anything else?
Isaac. Yeah, for sure
Erika. My abstracts are mainly about colour and, like, feeling. Then my realistic work is kind of the same, but just based off an actual photo.
Emily. You have a definite botanical element in your paintings. Is that something that really inspires you?
Erika. Yeah. My first oil painting was of an Agave. I only started painting more realistic stuff like, probably not even a year ago.
Emily. So how did the style you have now come to develop so quickly from painting plants and abstracts?
Erika. Um ... Well I started out doing abstracts, but then I guess from seeing Isaac paint, I just wanted to start realistic painting and yeah, I’ve just been addicted ever since.
Emily. So, do you think that being an artistic couple helps you both stay motivated to keep creating?
Erika. Yeah, definitely.
Isaac. Yeah, for sure. Even just spending more hours in the studio helps. Being by myself, it was kind of like if Erica wasn’t painting with me, I'd want to go hang out with her. But now we are both together all day. We’ll just paint and then I'll look over Erika’s shoulder and see if she needs any help. But she’s such a natural anyways.
Emily. How long ago did you each start painting?
Erika. Me probably ... I kind of just dabbled in it maybe two years ago, just doing abstracts and stuff.
Isaac. I’ve been painting for 13 years full time, but I painted through school and as a kid. I could always tell that Erika would be good. I kind of got her to come and paint with me. We met surfing at home and I would go paint and she would get a bit bored I guess. So, I told her to come paint with me.
Emily. Did you ever try out anything else before a career in art?
Isaac. Yeah, I studied Graphic Design through school. I always loved art at school but I didn’t think you could kind of have a job from it. I was lucky enough in my last year of doing a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, somebody asked me for a commission. They must have just known I could paint, so I did a commission for them. Then somebody saw that one and wanted a commission and then I had a little windowto display in town.
Emily. So it sort of all just grew from there …
Emily. What's your creative process like? How do you both find inspiration to start painting?
Erika. Um mine is probably just nature and natural landscapes. Same with abstracts - picking out different colours and things from nature. Yeah, I guess creating a certain feel with all the flowers and natural kind of stuff.
Isaac. Similar sort of thing. I grew up living right on the beach and I was always looking out to sea and just enjoying the ocean and the beach and that. And then I started painting it and I've always been inspired by that. If there was a nice sunset or something I would quickly run down the beach and take some photos. Just moments like that make me feel good, so I want to put that into my paintings.
Emily. So it's all about capturing that moment and that feeling …
Erika. Yeah, that moment in time. And like, other people have those same feelings about certain things too, so they can kind of get that same kind of mood through the painting.
Isaac. And also, other artists, like the masters - Van Gough and all the colour he uses. We were in Europe last year and coming home after that I got really inspired and wanted to paint more colour and things like that.
Erika. Yeah, traveling helps so much to open your mind. New things to see and new nature and landscapes.
Emily. Drawing on that, has your style or your approach changed at all in the few months that you’ve been living here in Byron?
Erika. Not my style, but I’ve just really being looking forward to painting the scenes of Byron.
Emily. Your imagery must have changed a lot since painting Arizona ...
Erika. Yeah, I actually did a lot of the desert, which is where I grew up. And I did a few of Europe, because we just got back, but I've done like three of Byron now.
Emily. Cool! So, what’s your favourite spot in Byron?
Erika. Probably Whites Beach. I'm doing a painting of it right now!
Isaac. All the spots are so nice. Every time I go to a beach I'm like, "This is my favourite spot". I say that every time. They're all so good.