April 28, 2011

Spontaneous Simplicity Made Super!

An Interview with Gemma Correll

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click on any picture to biggify

Gemma Correll has most likely enjoyed – as well as not enjoyed some – of the attention her ever-growing popularity as an illustrator has brought her! She has been called an ‘obsessive chronicler of everyday life’ yet her work is continually lauded by fans of some of the widest varieties of neat stuff you’ll ever find! Some fans respect her talents so much that they have even had some of her more iconic images tattooed on their persons! Yet, her talents are so obvious - and indeed unmistakeably promotable - it should also come as no surprise that some less scrupulous purveyors of goods – even from the so-called ‘High Street’ denizens – have blatantly copied her work for their own ill-gotten gains! Boooo!

With a ‘direct’ style that is both refreshing and yet challenging (trust me, try it yourselves!), Gemma’s work is one thing for sure and that is FUN! And despite what some would like to believe, she also has a BA in Graphic Design specialising in Illustration from Norwich (England) where she graduated with honors, or honours as we should say. She’s been featured in more magazines than you can shake a royal sceptre at and darned if her work doesn’t pop up on any number of ‘funny image’ sites on the Internet on an almost daily basis! We’ve learned more about tea towels and
tote bags and the amazingly large community of designers out there for these items than we ever thought possible!!

And as Gemma will attest, her job as an illustrator is indeed a ‘real’ one, despite rumours to the contrary that she is only in it to throw us off from her ‘very successful drug smuggling ring’. Even if by some twist of fate – and no doubt a bad Nic Cage movie to follow – it winds up that she is only pretending to draw things and is just distracting people with her trusty sidekick, Mr. Norman Pickles the Pug, it will never be able to be said that she wasn’t entertaining!

Ziggy Nixon was very lucky to catch up with the ultra-busy Gemma to share a few thoughts and even a daily fashion tip or two:


Hi Gemma, welcome to the show! Let’s jump right in and ask you how it feels to be quote, ‘possibly the UK's most prolific* illustrator’ (as indicated by
NUDE magazine, where your work graced their recent issue)?
*which according to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary means ‘producing young or fruit especially freely’... plus some other definitions I obviously didn’t read very closely.
Yeah... not sure about that. I’m sure there are other illustrators who are much more prolific than me. How about
Rob Ryan? He seems to produce an amazing amount of work given how intricate his designs are.

I do draw a lot, but it’s all pretty spontaneous... Which prompted one blogger to remark, “Gemma Correll’s work is little more than doodles.” I’d like to think that it is a LITTLE more than doodles...

While we’re talking about doodle-licious goodness, I love your comment on
‘I've been told that I draw "like a five year old". I don't think that those people get that I choose to draw that way. I *could* draw in (a different) style all the time, if I wanted to, but I don't’.
Why is it you think that there are those out there that just don’t – or won’t – get what your work is about?
I suppose it’s just the fact that my images don’t look polished – they look spontaneous and simple. Some people’s idea of a “good” illustration is something that’s realistic, with shading and correct perspective!

And while I understand that everybody has their own opinion, the world would be a boring place if all art was realistic. Plus, it’s a lot harder to draw the way that I do than it looks!

What have been your influences in helping shape your style? If you’re curious, I would draw very favourable comparisons to the works of:
- a past ZN interviewee who is really hitting it big,
Mike Perry;
- a number of iconic images from the 60’s and 70’s including Klaus Voormann’s ‘Revolver’ album cover!
- as well as having some of the line-work and imagination of the great
Heinz Edelmann!
Well, thank you, although I don’t think I’m quite in the same league of any of those folk. I think that my biggest influences have been narrative illustrators like
Tom Gauld and Simone Lia, both of whom seem to flawlessly combine text and image.

I think that a big part of my ‘strength’ if you will with my illustration is in my writing. Standing alone (without text) I don’t think my illustrations are up to much. I mean, just drawings of cats...

In addition, as a child I would read my dad’s “Far Side” annuals all the time. Although a lot of it went over my head, I think that it was one of my earliest influences, along with
Posy Simmonds and the cartoonist, Giles. I also read a lot of illustration and design books at college, so it’s hard to pinpoint every influence I’ve had, but some others, off the top of my head, would be - David Hughes, Quentin Blake and Jim Houser. Then there are fine artists such as Alice Neel (who by coincidence ZN met as a child while his mom was in art school) and Paula Rego, who I admire and who may have influenced my work in a more subtle way.

I am pretty amazed at the sheer volume of work you seem to churn out! Your
Flickr album is packed to the rafters with images; you run your own website, a blog as well as a ‘collective’ blog; you’ve been busy with exhibitions and more; plus you even keep at least one daily illustration journal/blog thingie that keeps everyone posted about your (mostly) boring existence! How do you manage all of that without just passing out from exhaustion? Because if it’s owing to your brand of coffee, I want to know so I can order some, too!
Actually, I think I was slightly burned out at the start of this year.

You see, I was kind of running on adrenaline all of last year. It was my first full year of full-time freelancing and I suppose I just wanted to get as much done as possible! Having said that, I do draw pretty quickly, which enables me to get a lot of stuff – well, personal work at least, not necessarily client work – done in a short space of time.

However, I was starting to find at the end of last year that I was spending less time drawing and more time just doing administrative stuff like packaging shop orders! In fact, around Christmas, I was having a hard time finding time to draw because I was always at the Post Office. I even got quite ill from overworking myself! So to help ease the pressure, I’ve decided to close my etsy shop for a while. It’s pretty difficult to run an on-line shop AND be a freelancer.

I’m hoping that this year I have more time to work on my illustrations and to just doodle in my sketchbook. I’ve always been a kind of workaholic, so I’m going to take more time out for myself this year. I think that time out will provide more inspiration and experiences for my work, anyway.

I do have really good coffee though! It’s a Peruvian roast from my favourite local café.

Concerning your ‘daily’ life and even ‘what I wore today’ illustrations, what is the impetus behind the ‘diary’ work (did we get both of those right? No, dialy dairy?)? Are you just making sure to stretch your illustrative muscles once a day or is this more of a kind of ‘endurance art’ project for you?
It’s really just a way to process my day. I tend to focus so hard on work during the day that I need to doodle to relax a bit. It doesn’t have to be a diary, but I enjoy drawing them.

I also have a pretty bad memory, so it’s a way of keeping track of the things I’ve done, too. I’ve been doing something similar since I was a teenager (although unfortunately those diaries have not survived).

It’s also in large part because I am an introvert. I think this helps me in fact process my thoughts by writing and drawing.

Continued in
Part 2

Spontaneous Simplicity Made Super!

An Interview with Gemma Correll

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any picture to enlargeticize

Gemma, so much of your work makes it abundantly clear that you have a deep affection for animals, be it for your lovely pug, cats of all shapes and sizes as well as the occasional bear. What has sparked this apparently happy union of your work with this understandable affection for our furry cousins?
I’m not sure – I think I’ve just always been a friend to animals.

I had a cat growing up (named Olli) who I absolutely adored. I was quite obsessed with cats in general, actually, although I had a dog, too (not a Pug) and I drew them all the time. I used to draw cat comics and such-like a lot. So I suppose nothing has changed.

Over the aeons, your work has appeared on any number of items including cups and plates, plush dolls, pillows, prints on textiles and paper, walls (graffiti? For shame! ^_^ ), murals and other exhibitions. With all these in mind, where (or how) is the one way you think your work is best presented? Are these your preferred outlets or do you have a secret wish to see your work presented in a different way?
I don’t really have a preference, I just like having
my work on stuff.

I’m not too bothered about what the “stuff” is. Of course, I’m always thinking of new ways to present my work. But it’s more a case of ‘does a client have a particular product that they want me to decorate’? All I have to do in most cases is produce the artwork.

However, murals and exhibitions are different and more personal. I’m not always keen on how my work looks ‘properly’ framed (or maybe that’s because I don’t know how to frame stuff properly). So I tend to either have unframed illustrations (dangerous, especially when there’s a private view involving free alcohol) or in random vintage frames.

I also tend to draw at a small scale, so I’m still not sure about my work in mural ‘form’. I enjoy drawing them but I don’t know if I like my illustrations at such a large scale! I feel like they lose some of the fun.

What kinds of other things do you make?
I make screen-printed tote bags, greetings cards, badges, pocket mirrors and ‘zines. When I say make... I mean, design. I don’t actually physically make any of my products anymore.

Plus, I was recently commissioned by the site
To Dry For to design a commemorative Corgi Royal Wedding tea towel for the upcoming Royal Wedding!

I used to do the screen-printing and the badge-making, etc. but it got to be way too time-consuming. I do usually still photocopy, fold and staple my ‘zines, though. I think that’s part of the whole ‘zine making-process.

I find that my eyes are particularly drawn to your use of patterns, including both the use of fine-texturing and your larger prints of same, as well as what could be considered an understated or best said limited use of colour. What attracts you to both of these ‘tendencies’ do you think?
I love vintage children’s book illustrations, which I think explains both my tendency to use texture and limited colour. I like to use pattern and texture just to add ‘interest’ to my work.

Also, I like to keep things as simple as possible. Overworking an image has always been a problem for me - the more I work on an image, it starts to lose the sense of spontaneity that I think defines my work. Limiting the colours helps avoid that, too.

How important is getting the typography ‘right’ for your work? You seem to have an amazing knack for this as well! Did you ever study typography specifically or has it been a ‘learning on the job’ aspect of your work?
I have never studied typography, it’s just something that comes naturally to me. I usually draw my lettering freehand. Since words are often an important part of my work, I need for them to integrate into the image. I hate it when the text and the imagery in an illustration clash, or don’t work together.

But since I’m not really much of a “planner” I usually just go for broke and draw and write and hope that it all works together. It usually does...

You are also employing agents to help support your work, including both
NB Illustration** and Anna Goodson Management. I only ask because at least in my experience not a lot of ‘free-lance’ illustrators have agents. How does that work for you? Are you still able to maintain the ‘free’ aspect or how do you balance that exactly? Sorry for being so lost about that, but I’m serious, no one else brings this up much!
**I found their descriptive of your work interesting (‘naive’ and ‘stylised’)!
I work exclusively with Anna Goodson for US and Canadian clients. I find some of my own clients in the UK and Europe and also sometimes work through NB.

I love my agents because they find me work and clients that I otherwise wouldn’t. And like the administration tasks I mentioned before, they handle the financial side of things, which I really dislike. Case in point, I just spent an entire Saturday doing my accounts. The less of that I have to do, the better!

You also recently completed your largest work yet for the
Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff in celebration of their 40th 'birthday'. How did working on that project compare to a nice comfy day spent in the warmth (?) of your own place with pug in tow while doing your own work? I’m also curious: when that show is over, what happens to the mural?
The mural has actually been painted over now. It was just up for six weeks, which I knew when I created it.

I quite enjoy drawing murals just because it is so different from sitting indoors at my desk. Doing the Chapter mural gave me a chance to travel to Cardiff (I’d never been to Wales) and work in front of an audience which was a little daunting! I’m used to my only audience being Mr. Pickles, who’s generally more interested in licking his bum.

But anything that takes me out of the studio for a couple of days is a welcome break, usually and if I get the chance to travel, too, that’s great. I am a fan of travelling. So, anyone who happens to be reading this, why yes – I WOULD like to come and spend a week in Mexico or Florida or Spain to paint a mural at your gallery/arts centre/school. Let me just grab my suitcase...

You obviously had a very business 2010 and your calendar for 2011 seems to be filing up rapidly! What are then your main projects or even priorities coming up in the next months?
Well, I’ve literally just moved to Germany (Berlin) a few weeks ago. I’m not sure yet if the move is forever, or just for a while...

But for the first 2 months I’ll be here, I’m pretty much concentrating on a big project! In fact, it’s the biggest project I’ve ever done, which is a bit daunting! It’s a book based on my “What I Wore Today” series and it’s going to be a journal that readers can fill in. I’m looking forward to just focusing on one thing for a while, rather than 20,000. Plus, later in May, I’ll be appearing at the
Apple Store in Munich, so come on out, it’ll be fun!

Still, even while trying to take it a bit easier, I might be a little distracted by the proliferation of coffee shops that Berlin has to offer!


In order not to cause any conflict – or let’s say more conflict than usual – let’s see what Gemma’s agents have to say about her, which we present in this only very slightly abridged and otherwise unmodified form:

Gemma Correll is a freelance illustrator currently based in the UK (well, no, she’s now physically in Berlin ... or is she?). A graduate of the
Norwich School of Art and Design (BA honours Illustration, First Class, 2006), Gemma's work has a strong narrative basis. She specialises in hand-drawn comics, characters, typography and pattern. She has exhibited all over the world, including in China, the US and Europe (which we are led to believe are all parts of the world, though we’re not sure about this whole ‘China’ rumour as we’ve never been there). She was the recipient of a Young Guns award from the Art Directors Club of New York in 2010.

The ‘usage’ of her work (huh?) is seen as being ideal for both magazines and editorials owing to her ‘naive’ and ‘stylised’ style that features such a wide variety of subjects as ‘objects, icons’ and ‘people’ (again, huh?). Furthermore, Gemma is known for her "quirky characters in strange situations". Her work has been featured in magazines, books and in advertising, as well as on products ranging from tee-shirts to umbrellas.

And despite her etsy shop currently being closed (this bit is ours by the way), you only have to type in Gemma Correll in Google to find any number of fantastic ways to enjoy her art for your very own!! You’ll be very glad you did! Oh and if you DO get her stuff tattooed on you, send her a line!

Please check out all her links and more today!

Flickr Gallery

Blog ‘A Chronicle of a (Mostly) Boring Life’

Blog (collaboration with other artists) –


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Gemma Correll, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!

April 13, 2011

A Colourful Sense of Freedom

An Interview with Artist Bonnie Coad

Part 1 of 2 (link to Part 2)
Click on any image to embiggenate

I’ll tell you point-blank: Bonnie Coad’s art has had a profound effect on me.

Sure, I could use this moment to raise the classic discussion question – ‘In what way does art affect people?’ An excellent topic after all if we happen to have a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon or a case or two of properly chilled Crémant sitting close by. And yes, the safe (sober?) answer would/should include some acknowledgement that the potential responses are as varied as both the types of art ‘forms’ one could identify as well as the individuals viewing said creations (or creating said viewings). That there could be an infinitely wide range of emotions as well as physical or unconscious reactions to the equally immense amount of glorious design, clever or vapid commercialism, stunning and stylish illustration, music that flies as high as a Zeppelin or sinks as low as a Bieber, and all the rest from the world of ‘art’ that we are exposed to every day. That there is no limit to how art does or could affect us at any given moment or even how the same art could affect us later, yada yada yada. Aw heck, let’s leave it as ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!’ That works for me at least, especially if the wine is starting to run low.

Having said that: how has Bonnie’s work affected me? Well, let’s keep it as simple as possible: she makes me want to start painting again. Now, don’t take that lightly please. Painting has always been for me one of those things that come with a large warning label: ‘DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON! YES THIS MEANS YOU!’ I enjoy painting, yes, however there’s just something extra... hm... personal about the process that literally scares the beejeebers out of me. It’s a nagging fear I have that if I got too much into it, well, I’d wind up making someone like Vincent Van Gogh look well-adjusted. And I look weird enough as it is with two ears, so there’s that aspect, too...

Have other guests here at ZN HQ also affected me in such a positive way? Of course, almost without exception. I can’t even begin to count the number of terrific works and fascinating artists I’ve ‘met’ through the blog. So many that have inspired me – successfully in that at least I have more often than not given it the old college try (or intend to as soon as that Lotto ticket finally comes through) – to sketch, illustrate, or even convert my daily thoughts to framed storyboards, fancy meme’s and more. I’ve been thoroughly motivated more times than I can count to invent and convert plus cut up anything recyclable I can get my hands on and sculpt with whatever I can get to stick together!

In this case though... well, it’s a little different, because I’ve been a little bit down this path on my own before. But what is so enticing? Is it Bonnie’s use of such a wide palette of colours, forms and textures? Without a doubt! Is it her interest in experimenting with different bits and bobs that she sometimes throws into her compositions for that extra special flair? Of course! Could it also be her easy-going, down-to-earth approach to the whole crazy process, which I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know via Facebook and other forums? Again, spot on! But there’s more to all of this and I’m not even close to being sure how to sum it up. So instead, I’ll step back and let you enjoy, too. Oh and pass that bottle this way if there’s any left, cheers.


Hi Bonnie, welcome! To start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how your art career began?

Hi Ziggy! Great to have this awesome opportunity to chat with you!

Well, a bit about “me” and my “art career” ... First, let me just say that inside of me is a shy person who hates to talk about herself! I am not a natural in the limelight and I am oddly uncomfortable with praise. In fact, since you ask I have to say that this has probably been the biggest obstacle for me on my journey as a self-taught artist. You see, for years I didn’t even like to admit to people that I AM an artist. I don’t know why, it was only close friends and family with whom I felt comfortable sharing my art; it made me feel uncomfortable to admit to strangers that I was an artist. Perhaps I felt subconsciously that I didn’t really deserve the distinction.

But with constant practice I eventually got over this. I reached a point where I realised if I didn’t control my insecurities I would never achieve any acknowledgement as an artist. And my art had also progressed to a point where recognition was important to me. I am quite happy to admit it these days, though I do occasionally still feel an involuntary shudder, a regression if you like back to my shy ways.

So having said that, a little about me: I was born in London while my “hippie” Australian parents were enjoying their long honeymoon trip around the world. My mother once told me I was conceived on a beach in Morocco (or is that too much information?). It all sounded very romantic when I first learned that... until she went on to say she could distinctly remember dropping her birth control pill in the sand outside their tent and couldn’t find it. So I guess I was a happy accident – which is ironically also how I often describe my art!

My parents came to New Zealand in 1978. We settled on the West Coast of the South Island in a relatively isolated spot with no power or phone service. We lived basically in the middle of nowhere, near a rain forest and close to the beach, with a river on the doorstep. Still, it’s this environment to which I credit my creativity! You see, when you’re stuck in a small shack and it rains for weeks without a break, you have to find ways to keep yourself sane. In my case, I would draw for hours on end! And when the rain did finally let up, I would go out and find all kinds of treasures on the beach, which I would use to build driftwood huts and more. It was a great, idealistic childhood!

Funny enough though, I never wanted to be an artist growing up; I wanted to be an archaeologist! I was always very good at art in school; however, I never liked sticking to the lesson plan. I’d go off on my own crazy tangent and not apply myself to my given tasks. Plus, I made the very silly decision – though it seemed like a good idea at the time! – to leave school at age fifteen, move away from home and get a job.

In fact, it wasn’t until my son was born in 1996 that I took up painting! It took me a few years of experimentation to develop my style. At first, I played with portraiture and landscapes but found them far less than satisfying. However, through constant trial-and-error I developed a love of texture, colour and experimental paint application. Now I can’t imagine living without painting! I am constantly thinking of my next project.

I apologise for my naiveté, but I know very little about New Zealand other than it’s a fantastically beautiful land with very nice people and that it tends to sport very good Rugby teams. Besides the great folks like yourself and all this wonderful nature around you, what is the art scene like there?
Ah yes! New Zealand: the land of flightless birds, countless sheep and epic movie trilogies about small people with hairy feet looking for magic rings!

Well, now that those clichés are out of the way, I can assure you that New Zealand has much more to offer than just great Rugby teams. We have a diverse and dynamic art scene and there are some very well known New Zealand artists to boast of, such as Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, Frances Hodgkins and Ralph Hotere to name a few. Plus, in every corner of our lovely green Island Nation you will find local art societies, theatres, all sorts of beautiful Galleries full of wonderful art and people with a hands-on passion for creating. There are plenty of vibrant art ventures embracing every sort of creative medium you can imagine with lots of annual festivals and awards to celebrate the arts, such as the Wallace Awards and The Auckland Fringe Festival.

Getting back to your journey as a ‘self-taught’ artist: do you come from an artistic family?
Yes, my family is both very musical and also quite artistic. My great grandfather was a musician in the Australian Army Band in the First World War. My Great grandmother played the piano and taught her daughter who in turn taught my mother who then passed the love of music on to her children. I did learn to play by ear and by what I picked up over the years being around my musical family. But, as with school in general, I lacked the drive to study music. I can still fudge and slur my way through a piece of sheet music but it takes me a few days to learn it!

My two youngest sisters have learned how to play several instruments and have even studied operatic singing. They apparently got some ‘talent’ genes that I missed out on! My mother does dabble in painting and creates beautiful water-colours, so I have that connection to her talents! My father is also a jack of many trades: he is a builder, even creating his own house plans. He is always making something, from furniture to even wine, and constantly has a project on the go!

How about your influences from the art world? Did you have a favourite artist or art outlet as a younger person that most swayed you?
Not really, I can’t say I have any favourites; I love so many different artists’ work and enjoy so many different art genres. I’ve even dabbled in poetry, plus I love literature and have incorporated this into my art at times. I’ve done a little carving, as well as sculpture. I did Modern Dance as girl and I play a little piano as I’ve mentioned already. Still, like my taste in music – which ranges from classical to heavy metal and everything in between – my love of art is extremely varied.

It’s just that I’ve always believed that there isn’t anything to be gained from limiting your experiences in life. Even if a piece of art doesn’t personally appeal to me in the sense of ‘would I hang this on my wall at home?’ I still like to challenge myself to find some aspect of it that I can admire.

Continued in Part 2

A Colourful Sense of Freedom

An Interview with Artist Bonnie Coad

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlargenize

Bonnie, your work shows hints of cubism, modern and abstract art and even impressionism, as well as in some cases strong flavourings of the Orient. Did you privately study these styles or has your knowledge grown as you’ve developed as an artist?

Apart from a couple of night classes learning about using water-colours – which I would note my mother had to drag me along to – and what little I learned in art class in school, I have had no formal training. Instead, every little ounce of ‘knowledge’ and experience I have gained has been through reading books, speaking to other artists and again lots and lots of hands-on trial-and-error. And there has definitely been plenty of error along the way!

I do love Cubism; being able to break things down into simple, recognisable shapes fascinates me. A lot of my art includes images or forms that are mere hints or suggestions, where I try to draw the eye in and make people look and choose for themselves what they take away from it. I like to challenge people to have a reaction to my art, good or bad. To me, it doesn’t matter what their reaction is as long as they feel something.

In terms of the oriental ‘flavourings’, my mother lived and worked in Japan for two years during her travels. She came back absolutely loving Japanese textiles and their culture. As such, we had a lot of Japanese items about the house. I think the flamboyant colours and free shapes and designs must have rubbed off on me.

Both colour and texture are obviously very important elements of your work. Why do you think you have developed such an intensely colourful palette?
Through my experiments learning to paint, I discovered that I love playing with colour! I love opposing colours, clashing colours! I like yellow and purple, I like orange and green, I like colours so bright you can almost hear them hum!

I really love to combine lots of different colours in a composition! To me, they are so happy, so vibrant, so challenging. I find using intense colour extremely satisfying, and I think that when you get it right, all these crazy colour combinations can actually come together to form an image that is quite calm and reflective.

So after that great big release... I guess you could say that I have developed my intensely colourful palette out of self-gratification to please my own tastes! And is there a better reason to develop something that that?

I understand that you also like to ‘experiment’ with paint applications and new effects, even including grain and rice in your pieces to add unique textures. How did you become interested in trying out different ‘additives’ to your pieces?
I learned about these kinds of ‘tricks’ through researching more about art and also of course talking with other creative people. I discovered there was no end to the things you could attempt, that the only boundaries in art are the ones you place in front of yourself!

I have to confess, my love of experimental paint application has reached almost obsessive levels! I can’t go anywhere without finding something I see as potentially useful. You should see my guest room (at present, I don’t have a studio and this spare room has become my art room): it’s full of boxes of old sewing patterns, sheet music, bags of fine and course sand, bubble wrap (used, for example, in the picture above) of every shape and size plus a thousand other possibly useful things I intend to use one day. I pity any poor guest that has been squeezed in there while visiting us!

Bonnie, you also act as the ‘house artist’ for the Riverside Café which is located in the Moutere Valley, between Nelson and Motueka (ok NZ Tourist Board, I linked all of that so don’t forget my check!). What exactly do you do as the ‘resident’ clever person for a cafe that isn’t even open year-round?
The Riverside Café is a beautiful old (1860/70) cottage which was converted into a café/restaurant in 2000. The award-winning gardens are lovely. They were recently voted “The People’s Choice” for best rural café in the local Nelson and Marlborough Magazine “Wild Tomato”. The café is an off-shoot of the Riverside Community, originally established by Christian Methodist pacifists in 1941.

You’re right, they’re not open all year because the economics just wouldn’t work. In fact, during the winter, they are only open weekends to cater for the locals and they even close down completely for one month of the year. Being a rural establishment there is simply not enough human traffic to keep it running during this time and with the current economic situation things have been even slower than normal.

When they are open, I exhibit my works there, adding fresh works periodically as well as selling my art in the more affordable forms of cards and calendars. Plus, each October, I hold an opening to launch the new season’s exhibition.

Can you talk us through a typical creative ‘process’ for one of your pieces? With some of my favourite of your works, you mention having even started from scribbles or doodles! Wow!
Yes that’s right: sometimes if I’m in that sort of mood, I will do a big scribble and look to see if there is some aspect of it that I like. I find it’s a good way to unblock myself if I am getting a bit frustrated with a piece that’s not working out the way I want. I think the human brain is always looking for shapes it recognises! So, if I see a face or the outline of a woman in one of my doodles, I’ll build it up from there.

In fact, very few of my works are planned and neatly laid out from concept to the finished piece. My working style is very “organic”. Sorry, I don’t mean to get all arty on you. All I mean by that is that many times my paintings continue to grow as I paint them. Often, I only have a very vague idea of what I am going to do and sometimes not even that. I just let the paint take me where it will. In terms of how I work, well, I am an early-riser and get up around four a.m. most mornings to get a bit of painting in before I go to work. I like to listen to music and even sometimes talking books while I am working; it helps to clear my mind. In
fact, I once did a series of paintings in response to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (also the name of my piece here). I had the CD on repeat for about three days straight!

Concerning my process per se: I normally start with a textured base. Tissue paper is a favourite of mine. Then I’ll use cutlery, bubble wrap and anything else I think will create an interesting effect to apply the paint. Plus, I’ll normally have about three paintings on the go at once.

I was interested to see that you stated ‘I don’t believe in painting chiefly for profit and reproducing works to order.’ Why is that?
I think it takes away from the creative process and the artist’s integrity. Sometimes people will ask if I could paint them a copy of a painting that I have sold already, maybe because they liked that one. Or they really like another one BUT the colours are wrong for their decor. So they’ll even ask ‘could I paint it in blue?’

I’ve even had people come to me with quite detailed concepts and ask if I could do these for them. To be honest, I find this sort of thing a bit insulting. If my heart is not in a painting, no amount of money will convince me to do it. I think we live in such a consumer-driven world these days that people sometimes forget that there are limits to what you can buy. At the end of the day, the pieces that result from my creativity are only for sale on my terms.

In addition, I don’t think its fair at all to previous clients who have brought work to have that same work reproduced for someone else. I mean, I don’t disapprove of making prints and selling them as such or even as greeting cards, especially to make the art more affordable and accessible to more people. Still, a print like this will never be the same as the real thing.

Your pieces quite often feature women, sometimes very clearly as a portrait or even merely hinted at in a dancing or otherwise graceful movement. Is it important for you to include women in your artwork or is this more of a case of painting what you know?
It’s definitely more a case of painting what I know. The female form is so familiar to me that I see it in everything; so, when I am painting it often just jumps out at me.

Also, I guess I’m a bit lazy at heart, too: I let my works breeze in like old friends instead of agonising over them for hours and hours. Well, sometimes there’s a bit of agonising!

While we’re on the topic of truly ‘artistic’ endeavours, you’ve mentioned you’re also involved in the local wine industry?
Ha ha ha ha! While wine-making is rumoured to be a very artistic pursuit, take it from me: WORKING on a vineyard is nowhere near as romantic as some people assume!

But yes, I have been working for Wither Hills Winery for about seven years, simply because a mortgage is a hungry wee beastie that needs to be fed!! While making a living with my art is my dream, as many artists will no doubt confirm, the reality is that the cash flow from art can’t always be relied on, especially in the current economic environment! New Zealand is no different to the rest of the world in this regard: things have slowed right down and people are strapped for cash! So, what’s the first thing you cut from the budget when money gets tight? Exactly...

Even with the slowdown though, 2010 and the first few months of 2011 seem to have been very busy for you, with lots of shows and even a well-deserved ‘Best of Show’ award. What big events have you got planned for 2011 and beyond?
Yes, it’s been busy lately but a lot of fun! I recently exhibited in Auckland at the 2nd Pink Noise Art Show and I am working on a solo exhibition to be held locally here in Marlborough. Plus, I just signed with an art agency in Auckland called ‘Art and Soul’ and have been busy getting my some work together for their promotions.

I have also been invited to exhibit in Fusion Gallery & Studio’s “Undy Four Hundy” art show. In addition, there are several other group exhibitions I have been invited to enter my work in ... and if you want, you can add that I need to come up with approximately twenty new works for the next café season, which will kick off in October 2011! So all in all I am going to be terribly busy!!!!

I’ve been involved as well in work for a couple of on-line magazines:
Pink Noise founded by Katie Robinson, and also Rem Magazine, which is the brainchild of Orchid Tierney. Orchid has asked me to be part of the editorial board for Rem in the role of a ‘blind reviewer’ of submitted artworks to help in selecting work for the magazine. Both of these are non-profit magazines so there is no payment involved. But they are good exposure opportunities and they are full of wonderful and interesting arty stuff! In fact, my own work was featured Pink Noise’s zine #4 & #5 and Rem magazine’s first issue. That was fun, even though I will now no longer be eligible to submit work for Rem, as there would be an obvious conflict of interest.

Where would you like to see your art ‘career’ head over the next years? Are you looking to expand beyond the local market or just take it as it comes?
I am expanding out a bit this year. After all, being a successful artist is about exposure. Again, it does take me out of my comfort zone putting myself forward for exhibitions and more; but if I don’t make an effort to get my work out there, who else will? I have always been a bit of a “take it as it comes” sort of person but I think now is the time to step it up a gear. I would ultimately like to one day make a living from my art.

Finally, what is the one thing that you would like for ‘viewers’ to take away with them after enjoying your art?
I would like for people to feel the sense of freedom my art gives me when I am creating it; to feel the freedom to do things differently, and not be limited by what has been done before.


Bonnie Coad is the proud owner of a – if not precocious then I suspect somewhat aromatic – cat nicknamed ‘Farty Moo’. No, I’m not making that up and yes, I did think that would be a more interesting start to Bonnie’s biography section than with the usual fluff. Though I suspect he also causes enough fluff as well...

A self-taught artist, Bonnie’s work continues to gather accolades for its originality, unique expressionism and creativity! She has been featured in a number of publications throughout New Zealand and has recently also graciously contributed her work and time to the cause of raising funds for the Christchurch earthquake victims.

Bonnie loves to include copious amounts of bright colours and interesting textures in her work. Her ‘experimental education’ in the arts has led to a sense of innocence in many of her pieces yet she offers a style that is both aesthetically pleasing and definitively professional in its execution. Despite the prolific number of pieces she has created in the past months as a result of what seems to be an almost obsessive work ethic (we didn’t even know there was such a thing as 4 a.m.!), her works continue to show a wide variety of novel themes and distinct constructions. She has a particular knack for capturing the soulful reflections and moods of the women and other subjects she paints.

Bonnie’s career will certainly be one to keep on your radar for many years to come! We wish her all the best of luck and want to thank her again for her time spent on this interview!

Profile: http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/profile/bonnie-coad/30579
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All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Bonnie Coad, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!