I live in the west coast town of Raglan and moved here a few years after graduating from Elam art school in Auckland. There my painting tutors were Garth Tapper, Bob Ellis and Don Binney. By the time I was at Elam, painting techniques were no longer taught and artists’ learning had to be self-motivated. There was an explosion of avenues of artistic expression in the 1970’s and painting was perceived by many as an outdated medium. A group of us students spent many evenings at the local Kiwi tavern passionately discussing art with Don. Garth’s life-long love affair with painting taught us about the dedication needed to be an artist.
After Elam I had a family and put aside the vision of being a practicing artist to run a leather design and manufacturing business. My move to Raglan in the 1990’s coincided with the inspiration (and time) to begin painting again. At first I was just keen to relearn forgotten painting techniques and searched the local library for books on watercolour - a medium I felt I could use in my tiny bach without disrupting family routines. Raglan’s rugged coastline and harbour provided many subjects and some sell-out shows over the following decade.
Once my children were a bit older we began heading across the Waikato to the Coromandel for summer holidays where I gathered photos to paint from in the winter months. I had “roughed it” during university holidays in the Coromandel many times in my student days and we now enjoyed the gentler climate, the east coast sunrises, tiny islands, white sand beaches and turquoise sea. Each visit built on memories of the previous summers as we rented baches from Whiritoa to Whitianga and took day trips to as many beaches as those few weeks allowed.
In the last several years I have spent less time conveying these beautiful coastal vistas as my concern for how we are affecting our natural world has grown. An essay by Don Binney accompanied my exhibition which I titled “There Is No Planet B”. “It is a bit of a miracle I guess,” he wrote, ”that such a relatively generous portion of this natural world has endured cycles of assault from man, fire, rat, axe, gun and Ministry of Works”. Don has now passed away and I am grateful to continue with my art. It is a wonderful process to constantly need to clarify and understand my perception of life, art and the environment – a work in progress.