Introducing Gabriella Lewenz, the delightful artist who welcomed us with open arms into her stunning home and studio in Waiheke, NZ.
Whilst location scouting for our 'This is Bobo' campaign, the sight of rustic, rendered walls, reclaimed timbers and native plants drew us in to this incredible property. Here, we discovered an interesting story, of how Gabriella and her husband came to create a life in Waiheke.
Tell us about your childhood. Where did you grow up?
I had an enriched, multicultural upbringing. I was born and raised in Greece of American parents, living in Athens until age ten when we moved to Pakistan for three years. My years in Dhaka were intense, divergent; a diplomat’s daughter witnessing daily poverty and street people stricken with leprosy. I was just beginning to speak Urdu when my parents had to move to Washington D.C. due to my father becoming terminally ill.
Were you always a creative? When did you start to notice your artistic abilities? How did your career progress?
My father was the cultural attaché in Greece and Pakistan. He would often include me when he would host or visit the many artists he knew. They were poets, writers, playwrights, musicians, sculptors and mystics. We would visit their studios and creative spaces together; from a very young age I knew I would either be an artist or a monk. Gently, my father had to explain to me I couldn’t ever be a monk - in the Catholic tradition - but perhaps I could become a nun, which also very much appealed to me at that age. I later chose the artist’s path and career.
What inspired you to move to picturesque Waiheke? When/how did you end up here?
Waiheke Island was a kind of calling. I have always loved islands, having spent childhood holidays on many of the Greek Islands. I imaged someday owning a home on a hill overlooking the sea, reminiscent of my childhood. In 1997 when my husband and I decided to migrate to New Zealand, we were living just outside of NYC where I had been exhibiting in several galleries. We knew our decision would lead us to a life-changing adventure. With a leap of faith, we headed to the other side of the world to build our earth-brick home and studio.
We are so captivated by your studio gallery and home, situated on a pastoral hillside with panoramic views of the sea… How does your home and natural surroundings inspire your beautiful artwork?
We feel so fortunate to have found Waiheke. We have the best of worlds here, island life with a subtropical climate, rural surrounds, and views of the sea, yet only a 35-minute world-class ferry ride to Auckland.
The beauty of the land and seascape inspires my work. I am attuned to the changing qualities of the passage of the seasons, the changing winds and certain aspects of island light that paint a dramatic spectrum of contrasts, hues and color. These elemental qualities are deeply rooted and influence my paintings.
What are some of your favourite Waiheke pit stops?
Favorite spots on the island? So many to choose from. But the 3km coastal walkway that starts just up the hill from our house is spectacular. Every other year, it is the site of one of NZ’s pre-eminent sculpture walks. I try to walk this daily always with a journal at hand. We also walk the white sandy beach on Onetangi and following either a great coffee or glass of wine.
What else do you draw inspiration from?
While painting, I listen to podcasts or video interviews on accomplished women artists and spiritual seekers. This inspires me during the many solo hours I work in my studio.
Tell us about the commissioned work you do…
ArtStay offers a unique approach to creating a commission work of art for my clients. These commissions are incredibly rewarding and a journey of discovery on many levels. With ArtStay I invite my client to come and stay in my private guesthouse for three nights, complimentary, as my guest. They enjoy a relaxed and restorative time while exploring other island attractions as I begin their commissioned painting. These commissions often commemorate a special event or life transition, or to celebrate their journey here. I give my guests a lovely writing journal to take notes in while they are here. It becomes a time for them to reflect and pause from busy lives. They have the option to share excerpts from their writings – the notes that might weave certain inferences into their painting.
My guests then come into the studio and have an opportunity to see and experience the beginning stages of their commissioned painting. I offer three price points to choose from and is explained on the website. Prices include shipping of their artwork to their home.
What advice can you give to emerging artists?
I’m reluctant to give advice. Yet, happy to share what I’m learning:
Emerging takes Time & Flow, Uncertainty & Seeding, Doubt & Tending, Persevering & Focus and… it's never complete, you have to start over again each time.
We believe your studio gallery was the perfect location for our ‘This is Bobo…’ campaign shoot as we believe you too, embody the spirit of a Bobo… What is your ultimate life motto?
Always listen to and honor your instincts. Your wiser self knows.
To learn more about Gabriella, see her incredible portfolio and to have the opportunity to stay at her picturesque Waiheke home, visit ~ lewenz.net