Home art supplies sparked artist’s love

Artist Rebecca Gilmore (right), of Roxburgh, and her mother Geraldine Gilmore, of Otatara, at the Southland Women's Club Arts and Craft Circle last month.

RETURNING to her home town at the invitation of the Southland Women’s Club Arts and Craft Circle last month, artist and crafter Rebecca Gilmore delighted attendees with a diverse range of her creations.

From detailed paintings to dog collars and paper crafts, Gilmore shared her creative journey which began in Otatara.

Now a resident in Roxburgh, along with her husband Greg Slui, a landscape photographer, the duo use the old post office they converted into Endemic Studio/Gallery to exhibit their work.

For Gilmore, it was in the leafy suburb of Otatara, near Invercargill, where her passion for art was ignited.

Her father Jim, an artist and teacher of hundreds if not thousands of school pupils and others, provided an amazing grounding, she said.

“My dad was a big influence, especially as he was an art teacher… and has been supportive all my life.”

Growing up, there was no shortage of art supplies.

“It was a great start to my life of art.”

Being surrounded by native bush and birdlife was another enormous influence which would lead to her lifelong love of nature.

Her mother, Geraldine, was also an influencer.

“My mum was into leatherwork and, as a child, we were always making things… for the dogs and horses.

“Crafting always featured in my early life,” which led to creating felted animals and soft toys and eventually fridge magnets which were sold at markets.

“I didn’t want a real job… I really wanted to do my craft work.”

In-between, Gilmore trained as a dog groomer, attended university, studying zoology and plant biology, as well as heading overseas for a few years with Slui to explore India, Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom.

It was during this time, she really missed her craftwork.

“I have a desire to create things.”

and settled in Queenstown, Gilmore took up painting endemic birds on New Zealand flax paper, and was surprised how popular her series was when 14 paintings sold in two weeks in a cafe exhibition.

The popularity of her work was endorsed when 18 paintings were sold during an exhibition in Invercargill, and another 42 commissions, including her Cosy Nook and Colac Bay stone series and ever-popular native birds.

That was 20 years ago.

Since then, the talented couple had set up a gallery in Old Cromwell, before relocating to Roxburgh.

As with most artists, her work through the decades had evolved, from a basic stylistic form to limited editions of more extraordinary detail, painted in acrylic on stretched canvas which could take hundreds of hours to finish.

Many hours were spent on preparing each piece, which could take several days to compose using combinations of sketches, photographs and observation, she said.

The desire to accurately record New Zealand’s flora and fauna showed in Gilmore’s meticulous detail, meaning each piece could take several months to complete, such as a New Zealand falcon painting, which took 400 hours.

Even after all these years, Gilmore stills credits her father for his advice.

“Dad is handy. Sometimes when I need to know what colour to use he will suggest something… and it will pop… lift it.”

Gilmore and Slui print and frame their work to a museum standard which can be seen at their Endemic Studio/Gallery in Roxburgh.