My paint brush dances with the music...
Interview for Art Trails
, September 2010
-What is it like being an artist in New Zealand?
I think it is harder being an artist in New Zealand than it is in some other overseas nations due to the lower value placed on original art by kiwis compared to other countries. But this is changing for the better though as the understanding original art gradually changes.
To give an example years ago when I was a paper boy and every fortnight you could collect the money from 80 customers, it was almost as if every second household hall or lounge was the same when you peered inside, a photo of a racehorse, three ceramic, receding ducks or a cheap faded print. Households are gradually changing this though and replacing prints with original artwork and the reccedign ducks are now collectors items :)
-Since your first solo exhibition in 1994 your career began in earnest. How did you evolve from that time to your current working style?
I guess I evolved through my passion, read the book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ and left my job to become a full time artist. I can’t give up the sea completely as I love being at sea and so I balance the two passions by spending about two months at sea dn the reest in my studio.
If I look back at the paintings from my first exhibitions, I can see that my confidence and feel for watercolour has grown, Watercolour is a medium that has a temperament of its own and I feel that I have grown to understand it and to be at one with it.
-How did being selected as a finalist in the Wellington regional Telecom Art Award affect you?
This question is a coincidence as I have hung this award high up above the lintel in my bedroom and noticed it again this morning before I received your email. I felt chuffed and honored when I received it and never expected it but generally I don’t actually enter awards though just plod along doing my own thing.
-Is it difficult for you to handle the business side of being an artist?
I actually enjoy the business side of being an artist, I guess that I am a people person and enjoy this aspect of things. I have always considered that this is about 50% of being an artist. I do consider myself fortunate with my Dutch background and their heritage of being a trading nation has rubbed off on me, maybe an ancestor was a spice trader on a Dutch East Indiaman?. Some artists think that being an artist is spending all the time in the studio, create their art, wait to be discovered and then get frustrated when they are not. An artist actually needs to get their out there with their art, particularly in New Zealand.
-Some of your works really stand out from the rest by being a bit abstract in style. Please, tell about this style, and how you developed it.
I developed the abstract collage style a few years ago and really enjoy doing this although it is really mentally draining, I first do wild abstracts of colour and then tear and cut them to bits and then collage them together into a scene.
-Have you been exposed to much art in your childhood? Have you displayed an artistic talent at a young age?
We were brought up in a creative family with no TV, our huge lounge had two corners, one had dads painting table and the other had mums fabric arts corner. If we were ever at a loose end, our parents encouraged us to do something creative, draw, paint or make models, I treasure two particular memories of childhood
First - it was towards the end of a period of school holidays and I was bored, ready to go back to school, that afternoon I said “mum I’m bored’ She picked up a tiny vase form the mantelpiece, drop a small flower in it and set it on the table. Gave me some paints and paper and encouraged me to paint it, so I did. After I finished it, she found a tiny frame for it and set it on the mantelpiece – It was nothing but I was proud of it.
And second - Dad was also an artist and he used to set me on one corner of the big table in the lounge to paint a small version of whatever big painting he was working on. at the time. Step by step he would work through it.
-Your biography says you are “mostly a self-taught watercolour artist”. Does it mean that you have taken some watercolour lessons? If so, who was your tutor?
I have gone to a few random one or two day classes held by a few NZ and overseas visiting artists,
-You mentioned Nuggent Welch, Monet, Sydney Thomson, Austen Deans as being your influences. Which of them do you admire the most? When did you develop an interest in New Zealand art?
Austen Deans and Sydney Thomson are both NZ artists and probably influenced me the most, I love the clean confident large expanses of colour that Austen Deans uses. I remember at a young age being very inspired by one of Sydney Thomsons paintings of a garden scene with beautiful mauve summer shadows. This painting has always stayed in my minds filing cabinet picture file, one of the drawers of memory that hasn’t jammed and has probably inspired me most and still very vivid...
-Is there a dialogue between your painting and jazz music?
There is always music playing when I paint and often jazz. I particularly like playing and listening to Jazz as this is such a creative medium, one is not restricted to playing what is written on the music but permitted to be purely creative around the chord structure of the piece and melody. I thus enjoy listening to other artists creativity.
There have been other times when artworks get named after jazz standards.
Jazz is thus often playing in the background whilst I am painting – one of the paintings I completed recently was named after a jazz tune – ‘After Midnight’, I think my paint brush actually dances with the music...