ADRIENNE PAVELKA

By Sue Wild

Adrienne Pavelka’s love of colour showed itself early. At the age of three, she crayoned the newly-painted walls of her bedroom! “From that moment I knew I would be an artist!” Her first career was as a commercial artist working on fashion drawing and book illustration.

In 1979 when Adrienne was travelling in Canada, she bought herself a small kit and began painting the old cabins and spectacular vistas of the Yukon. She was spotted by the owner of the Yukon Art Gallery and given the buzz of encouragement that decided her future. In 1980, she attended a workshop tutored by Austen Deans who became a lifelong friend and mentor. She made a policy of not copying others’ style, not reading art books, not watching videos by artists. Instead she taught herself, developing her own unique style.

For 35 years painting and tutoring have been Adrienne’s work and her hobby. “You meet wonderful people from all walks of life, with a common denominator.” She has tutored all over New Zealand and lead painting trips to the Flinders Ranges, San Francisco, Rarotonga and Norfolk Island. She has judged competitions and won awards.

She is especially proud of being joint winner of the Watercolour New Zealand Supreme Award at the World War 1 in Watercolours at Splash exhibition in April 2015. She has featured in several books of New Zealand’s foremost artists. She has exhibited in many galleries, currently in the Bryce Gallery, Arts in Oxford, Kiwi Arthouse in
Wellington and Alfred Memelink Artspace Gallery in Petone.



Watercolour is Adrienne’s medium. She might occasionally use pen and wash when painting en plein air, but does not use other media. “Watercolour is a very challenging medium. You can’t control it. I like the risk, the challenge. I’ve done the flowers and portraits, I’ve done oils and acrylics. But there’s nothing like watercolour!”

Adrienne loves painting plein air, though she does only a quick small version, then gets away from wind and sandflies to complete the work in her lovely studio at home. There she makes a very simple pencil drawing, “omitting the matagouri and fence posts – just the bones.”

She tosses the photo away and works from the sketch. 80% of the time taken to make a painting is in visualising exactly what she wants to achieve. She works out the underpainting, where the soft areas and the hard lines will be. She always stretches her paper and uses exclusively Saunders Waterford 300gsm rough. “It has consistency and the right absorbency.” From the moment she begins to paint, colour is her focus.

“It’s definitely landscape that I want to do; it’s that last sliver of light on the side of a hill that gives me a buzz. I get great satisfaction from capturing the spirit and the light of the landscape.” Her greatest love is the South Island high country. “Staying in a hut up the Dobson with a group of friends, being there in the early morning or late evening to catch the strong shadows – that’s heaven! I could sit there and cry, because it’s such an emotional experience to be amongst the grandeur that will be there for a million years after I’ve gone. I always want to keep on moving, constantly motivating myself.

My best work?... I haven’t painted it yet!”

Christopher Moore, arts editor of the Christchurch Press, described an exhibition of Adrienne’s work: "A sumptuous exhibition of watercolours by one of Canterbury’s outstanding watercolourists. Each work distils the essence of the landscape into a glorious passage of colours and forms which sing from the paper’s surface.
Watercolours either work or fail – in Pavelka’s hands, they triumph."

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