Annika Gustafsson is happiest hanging out in her garden, spray paint in hand. The artist is making a name for herself through her creative and original use of unusual artistic mediums where she creates unique colors and textures that beg to be touched.
Gustafsson grew up in Sonoma and fell in love with creating art from an early age. While attending after-school art programs at Flowery Elementary, Gayle Manfre, a longtime art teacher in the valley, fascinated her with painting, especially watercolor.
At Sonoma Valley High School, her peers voted her the most artistic. She worked at the Riley Street art supply store in Santa Rosa and took many classes. In her final year, she won a scholarship for an art project that was presented at the now defunct Sonoma Salute to the Arts Festival in the Plaza.
At the time, Gustafsson drew and painted all the time, but did not call himself an artist. She was just doing what made her happy: being creative and following her pure inspiration. It was just the beginning. This creativity would continue to flow from her fingertips, helping her build a world where she could be sublimely happy, working as an artist.
She studied Art Direction at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and has been an accessory stylist for Julie Atwood Events for almost a decade. She has designed labels for local wine and olive oil companies, such as Finnella Winery. She also did custom work for Elaine Bell, SIGH and Landry Farm & Ranch Management.
Gustafsson also continued to create works of art in his spare time.
âI wanted to paint, I needed to paint, really,â she said. âSome people feel the need to organize their books or their homes, or people have things to do, like it’s right in them. It’s painting for me.
It’s almost usual, a need that inhabits him.
“Like, I’m going to brush my teeth, walk into my living room and look at a painting and then it’s’ Okay, I know exactly what this needs”, and 30 minutes later I’m still in front of the painting , using the blue paint I thought she needed, with the toothbrush in my mouth, âshe said.
She likes to use what’s on hand and easy to access when she feels inspired. She especially likes spray paint. It started out as an inexpensive medium that she picked from Parson’s Lumber and it turned into a way to do amazing things on canvas.
âNow I’m at Parsons between one and four times a week buying paintings,â she said.
She is drawn to less conventional mediums.
âI used to paint a lot of feathers on old pieces of barn wood. I would use caulk, like you’re gonna caulk your tub. I used it and spread it out so that it looked like a feather and then hit it with spray paint because it was the easiest way to get the shadows I wanted.
She used caulk first because she didn’t have other art supplies at the time, but felt compelled to paint in the middle of the night. When she’s inspired, she doesn’t want to stop and go to the store to buy things, so she says she’ll just use whatever is around her.
âI used nail polish in paints because it’s just enamel,â she said. âI also used ink, watercolors, spirits and a lot of house paint.
This industrial mix makes some of his works safe to hang outdoors.
One of its mediums, isopropyl alcohol, a key part of hand sanitizer, has become difficult to find during the pandemic.
âWhen you pour it over certain paints or inks, it will create different patterns or separate paints so that the lower layers can come to the surface,â she said.
In the area, she lets her inspirations and the paintings guide her.
âA lot of it is about playing with what the different types of paint will do, like how they will react to each other,â she said. “I fall in love with a certain type of blue or a certain texture that I pull out, I don’t know, like mixing a rusty metal primer with some beige milk paint and it does the coolest things, like make opalescent swirls, âshe said. .
She painted abandoned buildings around Sonoma, including an old dance hall.
âIt had fallen and doomed and I just loved, the texture,â she said. âI took a pot of iron paint, which smells of rotten fish. It’s one of the worst smells, but it produces the coldest black I’ve ever seen and can oxidize.
She loves to paint skulls. They appeared when she was doing portraits and was not happy with the way they turned out.
âI decided that I had to scrape the paint to the bone, the skull, so that I could correct the placement of the facial features, and then I liked how they looked,â she said.
Some of his works represent images of animals. âOne night I decided I wanted to paint a life-size miniature donkey,â she said. âI used caulk on the head and on the tail. When he dried it was like a super thick texture and you could touch his head and smell it and you could touch his cock and smell it. When I finished it I liked it so much that I decided I wanted a herd.
She continued to paint more donkeys, to build her herd, but it took her a long time as the pieces continued to sell.
âA lot of my art is about texture,â she said. “I feel like it should be seen in person and touched.” She had her art in the Top That frozen yoghurt store, with signs saying âplease touch the artâ.
His work has been exhibited in several locations around Sonoma such as Barking Dog Roasters, Jacob’s Restaurant and Sandbox. She had a booth in the Plaza during the 2019 art nouveau exhibition. As the restrictions are lifted, she is looking for her next public wall space.
Selling your work is still a somewhat new concept. She just loved hanging out in her yard and painting, but friends harassed her that she was missing an opportunity to capitalize on her popular work.
She finally took the plunge at the age of 30. It was a good decision. She started posting her work on Instagram where it often sold out within hours. She also receives many requests for commissioning work. She signs her art with her age and now at 37 she has many numbered pieces hanging on the walls of the homes of local art lovers.
âI realize now that people want my art, which encourages me to paint more of the weird things that I paint for myself,â she said. âReally, I’m just a selfish little kid who likes to hang out around the house on my own playing with colors. I mean, this is really it. My phone is off, I am the only one spray painting in my garden.