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About the artist


"Making art has always been my favourite activity, so I am very fortunate to have been working as an artist for most of my adult life.  

Growing up on Auckland's North Shore, as a child I always enjoyed creative pursuits above other activities and would often spend hours drawing and experimenting with making things from a variety of materials. I learnt from a young age from my parents and some of their friends that it is possible to earn a living using ones craft, and I was encouraged in a practical way by my family to do so. I began working with stained glass soon after leaving school and worked for a Leadlight company in Auckland for several years before starting my own small business.

In 1989 I moved to the Coromandel Peninsula, which as a community and environment I found to be more supportive and inspiring for a self- employed artist.

My glass business, 'Moonstone Glass' grew in the early 90's to include my partner Scott, and together we supplied galleries throughout New Zealand with a unique range of glass pieces including window hangings, mirrors, and jewellery boxes, as well as undertaking numerous private commissions for windows, lamps and other pieces.

Glass was a real passion for me; it has a beautiful light reflective quality, intensity of colour and wonderful textures. Working with glass helped refine my design and composition skills as it involves the discipline of stylising and simplifying to create an effective design that can be cut in glass. The way changing light effects colour, and how colours effect one another are both important factors in design that I have now carried through to my painting work. I feel deeply influenced by colour and have learned to appreciate its potential.

Feeling the desire to work with a less restrictive medium and to 'free myself' creatively after 15 years working with glass, I began to paint with a local group tutored by Tairua artist Paula McNeill during 1997. During this time I immersed myself in my painting work with enthusiasm, loving the freedom of 'playing' with paint and learning new techniques, and it wasn't long before my own distinctive style began to emerge.

My paintings often depict the New Zealand summer and beautiful coastline, and I am particularly drawn to paint the light either end of the day when the sun is low and golden and the shadows extended. The 'bent' line that emerged in my compositions, especially in my earlier work, could have been a reaction to working with flat, two-dimensional glass, but it also creates movement and character, and can emphasise perspective. I use my camera a lot to capture ideas which I take back to my studio as reference for light and form. The planning of each work is important and I always complete a detailed pencil drawing beforehand to explore my subject and create a composition that has good balance and 'rhythm', once I feel satisfied with the drawing I can begin working on the painting.

The subjects I paint vary from land and seascapes, trees and birds, to portrait and figure studies, but whatever I choose it has to be uplifting as I 'feel' it as I paint it. There has been a theme of seaside baches and caravans running through my work for some years now which returns for a bit each year and I can't resist painting a few more... They are about my environment here on the Coromandel and are also a remnant of the past - the old baches are fast disappearing these days and I feel that perhaps I am recording a few of them for history. There are many caravans in this area and they are such great characters to include in a painting, - everyone has fond memories of family holidays at the beach bach or caravan when they were kids! I enjoy creating images that have a unique 'kiwi' flavour - one that can evoke a warm sense of nostalgia for the viewer and be a reminder of somewhere close to their heart."

Rachel Olsen Artist New Zealand
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