Rachel McPhee

by Sue Wild

At the Watercolour New Zealand safari in April we had the pleasure of having a young family amongst us. Rachel and Braeden McPhee’s first baby was due in eight weeks. Rachel donned her backpack of art materials, climbed the hill for a landscape view and clambered down to paint the creek and bush. I was keen to know the background to Rachel‘s interest in watercolour.

Rachel has been interested in art since a very young age, but it was at high school that she began to seriously pursue an education in art. Rachel spent her high school years at International School Bangkok. Her father’s work took the family to live there for 3½ years. The art teacher at the school believed in giving students wide exposure to a variety of media, from batik to pastels. This programme launched Rachel into fine art, a path not trodden by other members of her family.

Returning to New Zealand for her university years, Rachel studied law. At Canterbury and then Waikato universities, she gained a B.A.L.L.B., taking English Literature and Mandarin as her majors and finished five years ago with a Masters in Law. “If I had known about a design course, I would have taken that avenue!” She now works as an inhouse lawyer for the Inland Revenue Department.

Rachel did not have much spare time in between study and work to paint and draw, and after university she started work in Brisbane. Moving around a lot meant that it was difficult to keep a good supply of art materials. But when she returned to New Zealand and settled in Wellington in 2008, she began frequenting the art supply stores and got back into painting. At first, Rachel painted in oils and acrylics. Then she came upon a “Splash” exhibition, enjoyed the display of sparkling watercolours and was offered a membership brochure.

Since joining Watercolour New Zealand Rachel has taken every class that she can accommodate in her busy life of work and sport. She enjoys learning from a range of people and each course has given her something new to experiment with. “I like to play with the paint and see what evolves. I haven’t developed a particular style as yet.”

Rachel is hoping her baby girl will be a good sleeper, so she can find time between feeds and nappies to paint. "In the future, I would love to be able to work part-time and paint.” In the meantime, however, Rachel is keen to develop her skills and form her own style.

"Watercolour New Zealand is made up of such a fantastic group of people and I have learned so much from so many of them in a short space of time."

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