Top of the South

BY JAN THOMSON

Moving overseas five years ago from Wellington to the Mainland was to be the beginning of anew chapter in our lives. In actual fact, it turned out to be a whole new library! I was unsure how it would be to work fulltime as an artist in a place where I knew hardly anyone, with no idea of the local art scene…

Nelson/Tasman, which encompasses Golden Bay, Motueka, Nelson and Nelson Lakes down to the West Coast, is an artist’s paradise. From the moment you land at Nelson airport and spot the paintings from the featured artist of the month, or admire the local sculptures and jewellery on display, you know that you’re in for a treat.

Everywhere you go you will find studios and galleries. (It’s worth picking up a copy of the Nelson Arts Guide) From painters to sculptors, silversmiths to glass artists, potters and textile artists – there is something for everyone. Many are open studios where you can call in and meet working artists.

The region abounds with art organisations – some are collaborative groups to support local artists. Art Council Nelson organises Art in Windows as part of the annual Nelson Art Festival. RADI holds the Nelson Art Expo each winter, featuring 100+ selected South Island artists, and of course, the Suter Art Society offers members exhibitions, talks and critiques.

Other groups organise Art in the Gardens, street art markets etc. As well, there are numerous local art groups, who meet regularly, including a weekly plein air group. But I haven’t tracked down a watercolour group yet!
There are many opportunities to attend workshops - this month’s list includes jade carving, raku pottery, textile art as well as painting options.

On a more personal level, this is indeed paradise. From our home at Nelson Lakes within a couple of hours I can be in Golden Bay, the Motueka valley, the West Coast, the Kaikoura coast or the Sounds – or drive the four wheel drive road through Rainbow/Molesworth stations. There are stunning landscapes all around me, from the golden beaches of Abel Tasman, the Moutere vineyards, to our mountains and lakes. When driving to the supermarket is a 200km round trip, a painting friend from Murchison or Hokitika is just down the road!

I’ve found myself painting on the top of the St Arnaud range while a friend fixed the snow making machines at the skifield, sketching in shearing sheds and at the bull sale, taking the water taxi up the lake to spend the day painting in the Travers valley. I will never run out of subjects.

I run watercolour workshops from my studio, so am slowly building a group of enthusiastic beginners. I’d love to meet any other local watercolourists - please get in touch: email Jan Thomson.

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