A self-taught artist from Dunedin, his story is similar to many in Queenstown. “I came here on holiday 25 years ago.” He tells us with a smile. “I didn’t want to leave.”
Since his mother first took him painting at five years old, he’s spent decades honing his technique and exploring new art forms. Typically working with oils on large canvas, his paintings are hugely popular with both locals and international customers.
Humble and cheery, Graham doesn’t strike you as a stereotypical painter. “People don’t think I’m an artist when they meet me. I don’t quite know what they expect. Paint-splattered perhaps, and a bit Van Gogh-like.”
Having both ears might disappoint those die-hard art fans, but his paintings won’t. We catch up with Graham to learn more...
Interview with GRAHAM BRINSLEY
What’s the first painting you ever sold
I was 14. I would set up in Wanaka in January time, propping my paintings against the fence. It was quieter back then, but I’d sell a fair few.
Why do you love this area to paint in?
Definitely the landscape and the seasons - they’re so different! My favourite is winter, as snow is really fun to paint and I love skiing.
You never get tired of staying here. Queenstown is also close to the Fiordlands and the west coast - I like to go up by Fox Glacier and paint there.
What inspires you to paint?
The light and the landforms. I’ve started to work with a thick palette knife, where you layer the paint so it’s almost like sculpting, which is great for rock formations.
What do you try and achieve with your art?
It’s not about trying to get a photographic image. You want to capture the essence of the landscape rather than the literal and not worry about every detail.
I like to look at a landscape and paint as if it were 200 years ago. Leave out the tourists and roads and lamp posts and just paint what was there.
What makes your art unique?
I guess my method is quite unusual. I like to do acrylics as a base to build up the colour and then add oils. I’ve used oils most of my life - I blend them when painting water to get a nice glaze, it looks good for underwater rocks.
I also haven’t seen a lot of palette knife work - I don’t know why. Not many artists do it.
Top tips for beginner painters?
Set up around Wakatipu along Frankton road and sit there for a while - it’s a great view. Or Bennett's Bluff along the Glenorchy Road.
Queenstown is perfect for artists, it’s just a shame it’s an expensive town to live in. But it couldn’t be better with all the scenery and there’s so many people coming you’ve a ready market for selling.
You can see a range of Graham’s work at Central Art Gallery at 71 Beach Street, Queenstown
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