I love how painter Eunike Nugroho identifies herself as a full-time mother, part-time illustrator because she touches on the often challenging balancing act faced by artists or by anyone pursuing a dream.
Being a relatively new mother, an artist with a young child, I imagine, brings with it a significant period of adjustment not merely with regards to finding time to create, but also with regards to the amount of energy and focus one is able to bring to that creative time.
I admire Eunike’s talent, and also her continued pursuit of her art, for that talent and the work it allows her to create is something that deserves to be shared.
I have to admit, although I love how beautiful flowers can be, I have never really paid much attention to them when it comes to their names or their seasons. This disregard is not a result of a lack of appreciation as much as a childhood spent avoiding much of the environment due to severe allergies. And one of my biggest childhood triggers was any flowering plant. As an adult, though still allergic, I have spent more time being mindful of all wildlife than in my youth, and some of my favorite subjects to photography are botanical. But Eunike takes mindfulness of the natural world to a level that is truly special.
Several of the artists here on Other Cool Birds are exceptional illustrators. Their work with picture books and magazines and advertising is really quite something, and I was quite aware of those different formats when I first came across Eunike’s work. I’m a little embarrassed to say that in all the years I’ve looked through text books and the like, I was always so focused on the words that I never really gave much thought to the artwork that really set the whole thing off in the first place.
I love how, on Eunike’s blog and on her Facebook page, you don’t just see examples of the polished, finished paintings. You also get a behind the scenes look at her work-in-progress. You are able to see how the work transforms and becomes that stunning piece in the end. She even has some videos of her process, and occasionally she also posts photographs of work that doesn’t turn out the way she had hoped. She doesn’t mind sharing unexpected challenges and I admire her willingness to do that because she’s also enlightening others, informing them of potential obstacles she hadn’t been aware of, giving them an advantage she didn’t have until her struggle.
Take a look at the detail of her paintings, the vibrant colors, the realism. In some instances, the work is so spot on I wouldn’t know it was a watercolor painting if not for the brushes in her photo. Many of her paintings look like photographs, like with the Fire Salamander, Alpine Ibex, and Peregrine Falcon she created for Technologist Magazine.
Of course, on that same spread there’s also a Lady’s-slipper orchid and a black-veined white butterfly.
You can tell Eunike spends a good deal of time studying her subjects and her models are also often visible in the images she provides of her work in progress.
Like many artists I know, despite her prodigious talent, Eunike didn’t always feel like she had any. She writes, in an email interview, that when she was a teenager, she was “called a spoiled child with no talent like my old siblings. I endured a period of lacking confidence due to my repetitive failure on tasks (or opportunities) given.” She mentions that while her parents paid for lessons with tutors in everything from music (piano, keyboard, flute) to tennis, to languages (Mandarin, English), Eunike met with failure. As a result, she says, “I thought I didn’t have any talent.”
Fortunately for the rest of us, when she was fourteen, Japanese comics/magna experienced great popularity in Indonesia. “I found the drawing exciting,” writes Eunike, “and I started drawing like what I read and saw. It made me feel that finally I could do something good enough and have something to ‘fight’ for.” She adds that although her parents didn’t seem happy to see how she was spending her time, she spent a significant amount of it “drawing manga in classes, after school, within ceremonies at church, anywhere . . .”
I for one am glad she did. For about nine years, however, Eunike’s passion for painting waned and she took a break, in large part due to a demanding office job she had at the time. Like many artists, myself included, it’s very easy to put the creative pursuits aside, or I suppose I could say, very difficult to find the time and energy to maintain a consistent practice.
In 2012, after nearly a decade away from painting, Eunike “had a chance to live in Sheffield, England.” And there, she says her passion for painting returned. She continues, “I think I might have been longing to do art,” but while living in Indonesia she lacked the opportunity and th inspiration until she got the chance to live in the UK. “I took a short course and joined two botanical art societies, where I learned how to paint watercolour properly (the chance was rare in Indonesia).”
Since then, she has continued to paint and has returned to Indonesia “with a new passion of botanical art and a new aspiring profession I really enjoy.”
When asked, what she is painting for, Eunike admitted that she is driven, in part, by the feeling that “there’s still the ‘untalented child’ deep inside my heart and I still have to prove that I can do it. Thus, I feel like I need to be better and create more remarkable works to prove that I can live on painting.”
She is motivated to prove to herself, in particular, that she has the talent and ability to make a living doing the thing she loves, despite the fact that being a visual artist and illustrator is not a profession traditionally looked upon with good favor in the Indonesian culture. Eunike, says that perception seems to be changing and that it appress likely that her child’s generation will enjoy more career options.
Her other reason for painting? “Beside that urge,” she writes, “I also find happiness just by painting. I feel calmer and more content.” The act helps her offset the frustrations and challenges of daily life and “to stay positive all day.”
When asked what part of the process of painting she likes most, Eunkie alludes to overcoming challenges, then qualifies her response to say, “For me, a challenge could come from small or daily things, for example being in these early years of having my first child.” As with all new moms, she continues, “painting is a luxury and I don’t really have a ‘me time’ anymore.”
She goes on to say that she has relied on trial and error with regards to making that time. “I manage to keep painting by being more adaptive, from changing my sleep time/daily routine, my standard of working to my painting technique (so that I can quickly stop without ruining my watercolour painting, anytime my child abruptly calls).
Living back in Indonesia also seems to bring another obstacle to painting. Humidity. In a recent Instagram post, Eunike addresses the way the excessive humidity can impact the process of working with watercolor.
I alluded to her gorgeous plant paintings above, but it’s also her paintings of animals that captivates me. From her beautiful birds, to bears and butterflies, to the wonderful tiger found here.
When I asked her if she was aware of something people might not understand about art, Eunike’s response was this: “There’s a common assumption that being an artist is free and easy, it’s just about talent. I think art is not a pent-up potential wanting to be expressed. Being an artist means to learn/labour/practice very hard. I think there’s a quote, no human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.”
I hope you’ll visit her blog, as well as her work on Behance and Facebook and Instagram (and be sure to check out the image gallery below). I’m sure when you do, you will recognize that Eunike puts great labor into her paintings, but I’m also sure you’re realize that hard work wouldn’t mean as much if not for her wonderful talents.
Of course, don’t tell her I said that. After all, I for one, hope she continues to be driven by that need to prove herself to herself. And by the fact that doing so brings her happiness!