Your landscapes are quite sublime – cascading waterfalls and mountains.
I grew up in Dannevirke on a farm, so that’s what’s inspired a lot of my paintings. They do have a romantic feel. That’s how I respond to nature: it is sublime, serene, balanced and peaceful. Zen. The whole symbiosis of these paintings is nature, right down to the wood-grain pattern. People get quite emotional about some of them.
Do you photograph the birds?
I have hundreds of stock photographs! Birds flit around pretty quickly. You can go to Te Papa and make an appointment to get any bird species you want to look at, which is quite handy. The bird studies are quite large – 1.2 metres. They have an impact, and they’re quite detailed.
Where do you work on such large panels?
I’ve lived in Paekakariki for 18 months. We used to live in Raumati South, and went on a bit of a safari around New Zealand for a couple of years, up to Kerikeri, Hawke’s Bay, back. I’ve got a studio at home with my partner, Kate, and two children, Finn and Hazel. They’re at the Steiner kindy. It’s one reason why we went back to Kapiti, because we’re interested in Steiner. I like working at home. These paintings take ages. A large one like Entrance was about 80 hours. Some are up to 120 hours.
And you’re doing a residency at Wellesley College at the moment.
For five weeks. In the fifth week the whole school does ‘art week’, and then at the end of that they’ve got this school exhibition, which includes all the things students have been doing, from music, sculpture, painting, kites, tree huts. My exhibition dovetails in for about three days. That’ll have work I’ve been working on through the residency, and some other bits and pieces.
Do you work with the kids while you’re at Wellesley?
Not really; I’m in the studio doing my own work. But the door’s always open and the kids come in to see what I’m doing. I ask them about their own work as well. Mostly I’m getting on with being an artist and they get the experience of having a full-time artist there. They’re always asking me, “How much is this going to sell for?” “How much do you earn a year?” So I guess they’re wondering if it’s worth being an artist!
You’ve had quite a bit of recognition for your work now.
The last two years I’ve been working more full time. I had a break for a couple of years and did lots of meditation, volunteered in a meditation centre for half a year, went to India, cooked myself a little bit too far, but it cleaned the slate. In the [New Zealand] Art Show in 2011 I won the People’s Choice Award. Two other times after that I won the same award, so it’s time to step down now and let someone else have a turn! It’s been a good springboard.
Do you have plans post-Wellesley?
The next exhibition is in a gallery in Napier. I’m also interested in a long-term relationship with a gallery in Auckland. I’ve just arrived at a point where I feel the artwork has matured. After 25 years of painting I feel like now I’m ready to start painting. It sounds crazy, but my old art teacher said, “It takes 40 years to know how to paint”. And I thought, “Nah, I can get this done in two”. But he’s right. There’s so much to explore and understand. Just maturing as a human being as well. There’s so much scope; it’s an ongoing journey.