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Gwyn Hughes


How would you describe what you do?

What I do is live my dream. I began my art career in the mid-eighties, and I express myself through my creativity. Be it life’s highs, lows, goals, aspirations or fears, there’s nothing that can’t be expressed through creativity. I am fortunate I have been able to pursue a career in the arts, firstly as a ‘freelance illustrator’ and then as a Fine Arts painter. I paint land and seascapes, and portraiture. While I’m well versed in most mediums, I prefer to work in oils, and on occasion, mixed media and graphite. I produce both original pieces and commissioned work with a style of developing a narrative in my portraiture through layering elements of the sitter’s character, spirituality and mahi within piece.

What was your most recent project?

My recent completed project was that of my submission for the Adam Portrait Award 2022, through the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. INK- A Portrait of a Creative Soul. (model- Rosie Edwards; a ta moko artist and carver) I was thrilled to be awarded ‘Runner Up’ in the ceremony on 25.05.2022. The most recent project is an oil painting for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. This is a montage of multiple portraits of the current NZSO musicians and is nearing completion. It will be gifted to NZSO as a fundraiser to celebrate the orchestras 75th anniversary.

What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

I think for an artist, to step back and say- “yeah, that’s awesome I’m proud of my effort” doesn’t ever come easy. It’s far more common to feel you could always improve your work in some way, and equally difficult to get to a point to put your brushes down and be satisfied. If I had to state a specific project, I think it would be a painting I recently did of actor, entertainer Mark Hadlow NZOM. I’d like to think it’s an impactful thought-provoking piece, depicting our sometimes-silent struggle to mask the inner turmoil, angst and demons, and present a jovial, carefree, upbeat facade to the world. After a compelling photoshoot with Mark, the concept quickly fell into place and I enjoyed the thoroughly ‘entertaining’ Mr Hadlow, as he drew on multiple characters in his impromptu skits. I was ‘happy’ the way the piece came together, and even more delighted that it had Marks full blessing.

What is essential for creatives to have in their life?

Courage, with a good dollop of patience! Surrounding yourself with people who support your creative endeavours and encourage you to take risks and challenge yourself.

What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

The resilience of its people. The sheer tenacity to build better communities and better lives, for themselves and others. The support they freely extend to one another.

What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

Always strive to improve on your last piece! Self-doubt will always be your biggest art critic.

What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

That it comes easily to me, because I have a talent or a gift. Most people assume that artists pick up a pencil or brush and the creative juices flow and a masterpiece appears. The truth of the matter is, it requires an incredible amount of discipline, and courage! I paint ‘full time’ and there are days when there is no juice flowing, and the frustration and doubt creeps in. To approach the easel, every day, and pour a piece of yourself into an artwork often does not come ‘naturally’ or without effort, as some may think. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing!

What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

I think we are incredibly fortunate to have many, many creatives in our midst. It would be a challenge to name a few for fear of leaving any out. I think Simon van der Sluijs (from Little River) is a creative genius, and a bloody lovely bloke!

What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

There are many songs, paintings and concerts that have impacted my life and shaped my thoughts and feelings. To name a couple – Heart (Jason Bonham on drums) and accompanying choir’s version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ live at the Kennedy Centre. And Prince’s tribute to George Harrison – While My Guitar Gently Weeps. 2004 inductions with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood , Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison.

What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

That it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration

What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

The walk along the crater rim. It’s a perfect place to take in the spectacular views, and a fantastic opportunity for some creative thinking time.

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