Profile of New Zealand Artist John Burns

Photo of New Zealand Artist John BurnsI admire and am inspired in my art by people such as Pablo Picasso, Petrus van der velden, Colin McCahon, Marc Chagall and many others. To me their art was different from the 'norm' (whatever that was). Some have taken flack for their style of art, Colin McCahon is an example of that. I think art is a long term activity where one can become bolder over time - I certainly feel this applies to me.

I am greatly inspired too by my grand children's art and their thinking. With their open minds and need to experiment in their work and play. I think children are inherently artistic and creative.

As for me, my art career began with cartoon type illustrations. I enjoyed designing characters, animals and other odd things. I moved on to a period where I enjoyed painting minature works. Here, I could spend fourty hours each week painting an area the size of a thumb nail under a magnifying glass. In earlier times also I painted portraits. I have worked full time as a retouch artist where I colour matched and repaired cracks and missing paint in very old and valuable paintings. Through this work I was able to see how these masters had layered their paints and created some of those beautiful pieces.

In terms of my own art, I particularly like that I am unconstrained. At this stage in my life I do not have to produce what other people want. I create what I like, I can do what I want. So I am excited more in the experimentation aspects of my work, rather than the painting. In this way I think of myself as an inventor more than an artist. Usually I spend a couple of minutes on a sketch of an idea. The colours I might use become part of the experimentation process, I don't give thought to them initially.

I don't live for or think too much about the art I produce. Art is something I do and is now second nature to me. It is a part of my life - I do lots of other things too. I also, for instance, enjoy hunting and weightlifting, the mountains and - my favourite - an outside bath under the stars at the end of a day.

My work seems to be continually moving and changing. Most of all I enjoy creating whacky, crazy things - I've realised this is in tune with my heart. Being true to oneself probably applys to all individuals. I enjoy listening to music as I paint. In particular I like trance and electronic. The bands I especially enjoy are Creed and Rammstein. I like heavy stuff - it revs me up and gets me going. None of my art is drug induced, although I have been asked many times if it is!

I have never had an art lesson or been to art school. My work has progressed through trial and error. When I first started painting I used oils but I now prefer acrylics because they expand and contract.

In the beginning I thought art would be an easy activity but retropectively it would have been far easier to have had a 'real' job! I remember being told by someone after I had been painting for several years that they thought my work was a good beginning. At the time I felt insulted and frustrated, but now I understand. It has taken me about 30 years but at last I feel I am consistently painting the best work I ever have. No one makes it by themselves, it takes the support and advice of many, I think.

I live and work in Otira. It is an inspiring place to live and paint - van der velden found the same. The weather is moody, calm, hostile and sometimes outright daunting. The landscape is mountainous with deep deep valleys, rushing waters and surging cascading waterfalls. We love it!

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