1. What have been your greatest inspirations in your line of work?
I love painting, so my greatest inspiration has been the enjoyment and challenge of the process of creating art work using that media. I am never bored with painting as it presents a lifetime full of questions and things to pursue. The challenge of always producing better paintings; ones that are more beautiful, more interesting, more conceptually developed, more layered, and that always inspires me to keep working.
Being in nature and watching contemporary film are sources of visual inspiration and of course looking at other people paintings. That makes me want to rush into my studio to make them myself.
2. How/what was the first things you did in setting up your first studio?
When I first set up a studio I made sure I had the right furniture and equipment that I needed, so it was a really comfortable and inviting place to be. I have rented many studio’s over the years, but found I very much prefer having a studio in my home that I can pop into anytime and for short bursts.
I have a few trolleys so that I can move materials around easily depending on what I am working on. I bought very strong lights – 2 x 500 watt halogen lamps that are attached to the ceiling and I love the ultra brightness of them. I do not like sunlight in my studio as it is not an easy light to control. I always have a large roll of newsprint so I can have a pristine surface on my table. The walls have rows of permanent nails which makes moving work around easy. Most essential is a great sound system as painting would be unthinkable to me if I didn’t have music.
3. Was there a important reason or influence in you starting your journey?
My journey as an artist started when I set up my first studio in the laundry at about age 11. I loved escaping in there and being able to make a mess and have the solitude. I did well at school in art, winning prizes and getting the top grades in my year. But I didn’t really consider going to art school when I left school, I was much more interested in being financially independent and travelling. Going straight into a tertiary course really wasn’t an option that I ever entertained. After I had travelled and worked overseas for 4 years, I did a 10 day non-speaking meditation course in India. During that course I asked the question of what I should do when I returned to NZ, and the answer was loud and emphatic, train as an artist. I started at Elam in Auckland the following year, at the age of 23.
It’s really hard to make a living from art in New Zealand, due to the very small population base, but luckily quite easy to get noticed for the same reason. I have done well from art awards and had years when I have sold quite a lot work, and other years when I haven’t sold any.
I am lucky because I love the balance of being an artist and having a job which takes me out of the studio and into the world interacting with people. So really there was no pressure to start a ‘business’ when I was well supported as an art educator and had my studio expenses paid for by research grants. Having said that, I am enjoying not having to work full time anymore and being able to be more relaxed in my studio with more time available, and I can have a wider range of creative projects on the go. I recently have been shooting film and it's strongly related to my painting, which is a nice reflection back into what my central concerns are.
4. What have been some of the greatest struggles you've had to deal with?
I have had stages where I have not liked my own work at all, when I have felt like a failure and untalented. One time I had a solo exhibition that was not that well received, so that was hard. Since then, years later, people have wanted to buy that particular work, so it really is a fickle business and you can let other peoples responses deter you from just getting on with the work and doing what you want to do.
I am in a good place now. I accept that sometimes I am really on form, and other times I’m not. Sometimes I can produce excellent work, other times what I do is not so good, so it gets destroyed. I try not to let those things affect me emotionally, or my decision to be an artist, as they are just feel like any experience of life - it’s never all roses. When I do a painting I do really like I am very happy, but that wears off and I have to paint something new.
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