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Casey's mesmerising nature studies

09 Nov 2017

Casey McLeay’s mesmerising artworks depict the beauty and fragility of the creatures around us. The Hawke's Bay artist is exhibiting her work at her old school, Eskdale School, this Saturday (November 11, 11am-4pm), when she will also announce an arts scholarship for the school and its community.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

I have always loved drawing and was encouraged to keep it up by friends and family. I started to paint when I was about 16. I can’t say that it agreed with me at first, but over time I came to really enjoy the art.

It wasn’t until I met fellow artist Sallie Dunford that I believed I could make my passion into a career. I began as a mural artist and learned a lot along the way. I now have a studio of my own so am able to regularly work on my artworks.

My favourite subject is nature. I love to paint the animals and creatures that live among us and show how beautiful and yet fragile they are.

How has the style of your pieces evolved? What has influenced your work?

I remember being so nervous when I started painting murals. The idea of someone watching me paint made me feel quite exposed. When I look back on artwork done seven years ago I see how unsure I was in my ability, but now I have developed my skill to a point that I feel comfortable enough to show people. My hands have become steadier.

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up surrounded by something I fear the next generation won’t see much of – nature and wildlife.

As my family started to plant the paddocks around us into native bush, I was introduced to our lovely native birds, so I started to paint them. I think we all can think of a bird which means something to us, reminding us of a place we went to as a child or a certain time in our lives. For me, it’s the tui, a bird that still migrates to our family home in the winter to feed on the winter flowering gums.

How do you incorporate Resene products and paint into your work? 

I started using Resene paints when I was painting murals with Sallie, I got used to them and loved the selection of colours to choose from. When I started to paint finer, more detailed work I stayed with Resene paints as they work a treat.

I became interested in airbrushing and stole my brothers airbrush; he never got it back. I worked out how to use Resene paints with an airbrush and over time learnt how to create out-of-focus backgrounds so that the main subject in the painting features more prominently.

Each time I produce a painting, I learn new techniques to make my pieces more realistic and more refined. I know for sure I will never stop learning.

Do you have a favourite piece?

It changes over time. I am loving the stag I’m painting at the moment.

And a favourite colour?

My favourite colour is green, in particular Resene Japanese Laurel.

See more about Casey and the art collective she belongs to at Forum Time

Portrait photograph: John Ireland