Esmeralda Raven Aponte is an Australian born, Sydney based, full time, surreal artist. Her imagery evokes a world of unfolding whimsical stories through her use of symbolism. She brings to light a mix of Colombian folk and Renaissance art.  She finds inspiration through her dreams composed of fantastical creatures and other-worldly settings. Her beliefs into the mystical forces greatly influence her paintings and allow her to explore their blending together with the aspects of life. Her world full of wonderment expresses different states of experience and exposes the strong relationship between plant, animal and human world. 

As a child, Esmeralda was first exposed to the art life by her father. She enjoyed sitting with him to watch him work as an illustrator. Inspired by him she would draw and paint her fantastical creatures influenced by the stories from her favorite book of Greek mythology. 

At the age of five, she started sleepwalking and continued for many years. It wasn't every night, but it happened sporadically. When she wasn't dreaming, she was sleepwalking and was very physical, dragging furniture down the hallway to discover in the morning her room half emptied. At the age of 18, she started to paint during her sleepwalk and would find paint-covered hands, clothes and bedding, and a completed abstract painting. These sleep works were usually painted with her hands. They became her first art sales. It lasted a year and she sold every painting except for one which she kept. 

Esmeralda’s upbringing was influenced by her rich heritage. Her parents were born in Colombia, South America, which had strong ties to the Spanish culture and the Chibcha tribe from the Amazon which stemmed from her great grandmother. She believes it is the Chibcha heritage that connects her to nature and its mystical ways. It is the doorway to her dreams and runs deep in her blood. She says, “it pulses in my veins”.

After her sleepwalking activity stopped, she continued to just dream. It's how she works now. Her dreams are full of color and surreal experiences and upon waking she makes notes of them with planned sketches and detailed descriptions. The need to paint these dreams are important or they accumulate, and the dreams stop until she catches up. Once she does, the dreams start up again.

Esmeralda’s art depicts a mystical world that not many are in tuned with nor aware of… a world where entrance is often by invitation.  A spiritual quest that is found in the depths of one’s soul after an awakening, whether sudden or gradual.  Her rich and intricate details convey a sense of innocence, openness, tranquility, empowerment and enchantment.  An image alone can transport you to a magical world that most likely does exists in another dimension…and if it doesn’t, somehow, it is magically created in the inner depths of your mind and soul.   

"It motivates me and benefits my creative process to pursue and find value in an emotional engagement within myself. I can’t avoid feeling experiences. Art is my personal language and I’m eager to translate to those who can understand and respond. For me, it is important to find a connection with the emotions of another being. It allows me to engage. There is something deeply primordial in it, as the source of all life on Earth."

Q. Tell us about your beginnings, how were your first steps in the art world?

A. My love for art led me to explore different forms of expressing it. I went on to study graphic design, photography and fabric design which I then applied aspects of them into my developing signature style. The popularity of my work began to take hold allowing me to become a full-time artist. 

Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

A. It is a solitary type of profession, but I am a solitary type of person, so it suits me well. I am quite the hermit. I like to keep to myself and I find I can’t help but be engrossed in the work I do. I really love what I do.

Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art? 

A. Art is poetry. It is meant to be felt and exposed through a true heart. Therein lies the strength and the passion to achieve. True Art is not only about suffering or discomfort but an assemblage of emotions. It is a transfer to its audience and this transfer of emotion can only occur if the artist is honest and openly vulnerable to their emotions. It may be a feeling of love and joy or sorrow, and only until someone feels for the art does it become really good art. I like to think of myself as a passionate person. 

My art evokes emotion. It is a visual healing that I expose to my viewers and often paint commissions for those looking to find strength or a sense of peace in their personal stories. My art has its own vibration and it matches to the person who connects to it emotionally. 

Q. What does success mean to you? 

A. Success is not just monetary. Sure, to make a living off what you love doing is success but on a deeper level success to me is when a person connects to my paintings. 

Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such as memorable moments?

A. I remember a moving experience that changed my direction rapidly. I had gone through a personal trauma and felt like giving my art life up. I felt like I should just change my life drastically, illogically, when suddenly I received a message from a lady asking me to do a painting for her. She told me her story of battling cancer and was going to have an operation. I agreed to paint for her, and she was most grateful. I had thought it would be my last painting. I heard from her again and she told me that she used the image of the painting to think of as she went into the operating theatre to give her strength. She then proceeded to tell me the operation was successful and was in remission. I was so moved by her story I broke down to cry. I had the realization of my purpose and it was to paint. I unpacked my brushes and paints and began to work again. I’ll never leave it again. 

Other great moments were when my paintings were used for 9 covers of Horizons Magazine, also when I did a solo exhibition in Santa Fe, and another was being selected three times over a few years for group exhibitions of 50 best female artists in Australia at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney. To be included was incredibly humbling for me as entries to be selected were against a high number of 10,000 artists. 

Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone in particular?   

A. I find inspiration from the paintings of the Renaissance period. I love their colors and fabrication. Many artworks of the period were portraits of royalty and so the fabrics painted were quite lush and detailed. I find that intoxicatingly exciting. I am known for the detail I put into my work. It is extremely fine, and I require using bushes that are 10/0. My preferred medium is Winsor & Newton gouache paint. I love the richness of the colors and when sealed it looks like oil paint. 

Another inspiration is Fernando Botero. A Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. His style depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. He paints intuitively. I also paint intuitively. When I’m going to work on a painting, I get a vision of the final piece in my mind. It is only while I’m working on it that changes occur to some of the detail. I use my intuition and feel how it is meant to be. All my symbolism helps tell the story. I like that my paintings are like puzzles to figure out. 

Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing? 

A. I have a real love for music, movies and really good food. Singing is something I do a lot. I’m a bit of a songbird. I’m always learning a new song to sing along to. Well, music and movies, who doesn’t love them? As for food, I used to photograph food and drinks for many publications, so I was lucky to be exposed to methods of cooking from chefs and also from my travels around the world. It’s always been important for me to submerge myself in each country I have visited and then to take a piece of that world with me by learning how to cook something traditional and delicious. 

Q. What advice would you give to the next generation? 

A. I think the best advice I can give is to have passion for your work. If you have passion, then you have drive. Believe me you need drive when you choose being an artist for a profession. It takes determination, and constant looking for ways to sell your art. It can be disheartening sometimes when you start but as you keep at it, you’ll find that people will start liking and buying your work. So, don’t lose faith and believe in your work.