Natalie Tate     Artist
Notes from the Artist and Mission:Dyslexia

Painting to commission is an art school in itself. A client's brief can challenge my technical skills and concepts. The exacting accuracy of portrait observation is a severe discipline and hugely skill- building. In contrast, to be admitted to the wondrous world of archetype and metaphor I make the time to explore painting spontaneously. My website's section on Creative Exploration reveals progress there, becoming archived as the parade of paintings pass with the years.

Let's pick up the trail. Pre 2007 I painted as a freelance artist from 1980, having returned home to NZ after painting in the UK. I painted to commission in public studios, portraiture my mainstay, Auckland's Titirangi my home base while I worked in Auckland etc for public exposure. 1996 I escaped the city gridlock to paint from my bach on a Whangarei Heads bay for 10 years. There I expanded my genre. I had nurtured a dream to live and paint on the road. The right travel partner was crucial.

2007 to 2011 I toured NZ in a mobile studio-home, fulfilling that dream. My partner Laughton King, educator of 35 years, specialising in children's learning difficulties, recognised the need to bring the inside story of what it is to be dyslexic. Dyslexia being then politically unrecognised in NZ, Lort took his self-funded message to the coal-face, to where the teachers and parents were working with children failing our language-based education system. Laughton personally visited every NZ school that we could reach. We visited, and presented at community after community. Laughton became a legend. The website evolved, as did his insights, further illuminating this confusing arena. Books were written on the road, illustrated by me.

For an artist, the varied locations and people were endlessly fascinating. I was able to steadily paint as well as provide full support for the Dyslexia Mission. One of my highlight adventures On Tour was a commission to paint a wild horse muster. I had demonstrated my art at a hired stand at the Mystery Creek Agricultural Field-days (a tent-city phenomenon). A Maori whananga lecturer from Ruatoria, the Maori community near Mt Hikurangi on the East Cape, responded to my offer to paint heritage NZ portraits.

5 years later, with my mobile studio and Lort, I took up Jimmy's challenge. We rode the muster; an amazing experience. I painted the boys who participated, boys posted in the numerous holes in fences supposedly to prevent the thundering mobs from escaping. The canvas was painted over weeks parked up between the pie shop and the dairy, and sometimes in the pie shop. Hoards of boys on horseback (who needs a bike) regularly checked on progress.

We were entertained with invitations to the Marae (a priceless cultural wealth), taken to stay at the local wild beach (crayfish), up Mt Hikurangi then closed to tourists (phenomenal Maori Millenial sculptures up there), and to community christenings and local rugby empires. Lort was appointed physio for both sides (he happens to have a healing gift, channelled by training in 'authobionomy'). Very handy for an artist to have on hand. So to for the hefty dreadlocked rugby bodies I often found stretched out on the truck floor, Laughton ministering for a sack of kumera or some other treasure.

Maybe our stunning 12 day ride through the Southern Alps two years later superceded the muster. But no. That muster, the community and the painting challenge gave that experience the life stamp of authenticity. The alps ride demanded involvement too, and scenic wonder beyond belief, even riding escapades that would have smarted OSH's eyes, but it missed the human involvement factor.

Lochmara Lodge afforded a 3 month stint in civilisation, reachable only by boat 20mins from Picton on the Malborough Sounds. With a high bush studio overlooking the deep green cove and a decent Gallery to stock and man, I entertained the international visitors by painting live in the excellent restaurant the 16 hospitality staff living on the resort-cum-wildlife preservation centre. A baby bellbird lived at my kneckline. Lort and I were respoinsible for the rescued birds brought in. The triptychs were born at the Lodge. (Creative Exploration section). Nearly everything I painted sold.

Back on my trail, 2012, Lort is building a poured earth home on his 26 acre lifestyle block on the Pataua estuary, Whangarei Heads. Lort has nursed this dream for over two decades. He still consults re Dyslexia. My temporary private studio on this land was a converted shipping container with a clearlite roof; the best studio of my many over the years. We lived in a shack. Living primitively without power and amenities at 60 does no harm. The stars are closer. And it's good for the knees.


Natalie Tate (O'Callaghan)
09 434 0066     Mob 0274 826 545