For Paul Cato an interest in painting began as a youngster. Keen interest soon became a passion after viewing an exhibition of John Constable originals (1776-1837, English). "It was the first exhibition of any of the old masters I'd ever seen, and my first visit to a civic art gallery. I remember wandering around the works in awe and imagining myself standing in front of the easel with a wet brush in hand. I was absolutely inspired!"
While still a schoolboy, and after saving up cash from his newspaper delivery route Paul built his own easel and bought oil paints, brushes and canvas panels and began in earnest. He received encouragement from some very successful painters who critiqued his early pieces. By Paul's mid-teens he was already producing some fine work and undertook an occasional commission.
Paul eventually applied his creative gifts in the commercial art fields of graphic design and lithography and later ran a very successful sign and display company for several years. Then throughout most of the nineties Paul and his family had a complete change and worked with an international Christian mission, spending five years on New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea, where Paul painted in his 'spare time'. It was during this period Paul made a transition from a 'broad-brush' technique to a more detailed approach - and with greater use of color.
This change was provoked by two independent catalysts, the first being some challenging art projects which required attention to detail. The second was a rediscovering of the great American painters: Thomas Moran, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and others of the "luminist" style and the "Hudson River Group" of America's North-East. The influence of these was, at the time, more inspirational than specific, however Paul continues to strive for mastery in portraying light and atmosphere in his work.
Now based in Queenstown, New Zealand, Paul Cato finds the spectacular and world-renowned scenery provides continual inspiration. Tranquil waters, sparkling reflections, snowy peaks and cascading falls are all local elements that repeatedly occur in Paul Cato's landscapes. Virtually just over the hill from Paul's studio is the edge of the World Heritage Area, "South West New Zealand" (or Te Wahipounamu in the Maori language). This includes the National Parks of Fiordland and Mt. Aspiring. Paul loves to paint these vistas and their unique light effects and he prefers to paint areas where there is little, if any, evidence of human interference. He masterfully captures the remoteness and apparent serenity as well as the tumult of the elements in his work.
This magnificent mountain region is bursting full of inspiration for a dedicated artist, however to find the perfect painting material still requires a search, and it usually involves scrambling just around one more bend of the river, over just one more hill or through another stand of trees. "Ask my wife or daughters!" laughs Paul, "They get fed up with all the extra delays when we go anywhere and stop for 'a photo or two'."
Paul's paintings are sought after by galleries in New Zealand and overseas and sales continue to keep him very busy. A significant number of purchasers identify themselves as investors, and his works are displayed in the private and corporate collections of discerning buyers in numerous countries around the world. "Realistic impressionism" is how Paul generally describes his work, "and sometimes with a touch of the romantic".