Rosielea is a painter and 'art adventurer' based in Auckland, New Zealand.
Why and when did you start painting? it seems to me like you came to it a bit later in life and I am really curious about how you made that decision.
I started painting at around 45. I had wanted to do art all my life, but never thought I was one of ‘those’ clever kids! I couldn’t keep still anyway, playing sport, and always running about. It began with my buying art supplies for my kids. I loved it so much, the look of pastels in the tin - creamy vibrant colours all lined up, fresh and new like the pages of a new diary, or lines of sharply sharpened pencils in a box. Tins and boxes - my grandad’s tools of the trade. Tobacco tins and boxes of secret little things that he used for his fishing line in little boxes. It brought back happy memories. I grew up in London - I am a true cockney in fact! It was much rougher then that it is now. I started to buy little tins of art supplies just for myself. I stored them for years, just to get them out and look at of a Sunday morning! It was my luxury time. I had three little kids, and one chronically/ seriously ill, so there wasn’t a lot of time. I was also learning the violin and had horses. I was a riding instructor at the time and one of my pupils was an architect. I told him that I had always wanted to learn how to draw. He told me not to wait for lessons, or go for lessons, but to just do it. I thought, one day, I’ll learn how to draw, and then I’ll paint. I had a big canvas in my room and some art supplies sitting next to it. One day, I was practising my violin, looking at this canvas leaning up against the wall. I put my violin down, walked across the room, and went nuts with the paint, just moving it around the canvas. When it dried, I painted over it again, not covering all I had done before. Then it took me hours to learn how to draw a simple ghostly figure, which I then added to the painting in amongst this snowy abstract forest. My violin teacher saw it and told me to apply for an art scholarship with TLC (The Learning Connexion). So I did, and was successful. Seven years of part-time study later...
What is the art scene like in New Zealand? Do you think there are specific concerns that unite artists in your part of the world?
The art scene is quite lively here with all sorts going on which is awesome for such a small country. I don’t think that there are specific concerns that unite artists. Making art and making a living could be one of them! We have three university based fine arts schools here, and several other tertiary level fine art schools not connected to the universities.
Where do you find your inspiration? What artists have informed your practice?
I find my inspiration in the expression (or hiddenness) of human emotion and, the ‘underneath’ of things. I like to paint about the pain we hide, the experiences we keep hidden, the places we lock away in our mind, the dreams we have. I am also inspired by the places I have seen and lived in, the experiences I have had, and have witnessed. I also paint in a few different styles so it can be hard to stay focused at times, always working on a thousand projects at a time, a state that most artists juggle with I think! I like and admire so many artists, and it is hard to say who has informed my practise, but definitely Rauschenberg was one of them!
I am always struck by the beauty of your portraits of celebrities such as David Bowie or historical figures, how do you go about capturing such icons and giving the work something new when we are so familiar with their image already?
Gosh what a huge compliment, thank you! I am not really sure how to answer that, other than to say that I feel my way through it, it’s an intuitive thing. I research the person I am commissioned to paint and find some way to connect to that character emotionally if I don’t feel that already. Of course this is a remote emotional connection because obviously I have never met Schubert for example, but he is one of my favourite composers and I paint the way I feel his music. Sometimes that connection comes naturally, other times I have to look for it. I am not a rich artist by any means, but I have turned down commissions that I just don’t ‘feel’ for.
The mediums and surfaces you use tend to be rather varied. Are you attracted to experimentation beyond the canvas?
Oh yes!! I love to experiment with all sorts of mediums, and surfaces! I also like to work in 3-D, using plaster, clay, plaster of Paris bandage. I collect small bits and pieces from building sites, and make 'industrial pieces with them. I paint on sack, wood, plaster and cotton cloth soaked in gelatin and anything else I can think of to mix and match and work with. I made a little book with plaster of Paris bandage, and good old kiwi no.8 wire, lol, and painted little illustrations on the pages using collage, wax pencil, paint and wax and oil paint. Oh I love wax too! and ink! Oh ink!
What are you plans for the future? You graduated recently, how are you finding the transition to professional artist?
I am finding it so much fun. I am free to carry on experimenting, continue studies in an informal way, and to paint and make whatever I like. I plan to carry on teaching a little bit, and working on several different lines that I have on the go, and to finish a couple of commissions that I have. Like making art itself, there are so many exciting ways to explore how to make a living with it. When I get there, I’ll let you know lol!
As well as working on portrait commissions for several clients, Rosielea is currently developing a series of ten stylised paintings, ‘The Happy Socks’ series, and a 'Harlequin series', focused on process and materiality. She is also creating illustration characters and hope to be turning them into puppets. Find out more about her through: Rosieleaart on Instagram and Rosielea Art on Facebook.