Francis Rei Paul Hamon

LATE STARTER: Rei Hamon began creating art at the age of 46.
LATE STARTER: Rei Hamon began creating art at the age of 46.

Francis Rei Paul Hamon, artist: Born Auckland, December 17, 1919; died Thames, August 16, 2008, aged 88.
Rei Hamon, of Thames, was a self- taught artist whose accomplished pictures were as surprising to him as to his family and his mates.

The former Ministry of Works roads and drains man was 46 when he found he had the power to create pictures that captivated viewers.

In 1965 he began creating images from millions of dots using a ballpoint pen, and later, pen and ink. The technique is known as pointillism.

"Someone must have been lending a hand," he said in a 1975 interview. "Until I started I had no idea I had the skills."

And, not to put too fine a point on it, the sale of his bush, bird and animal works made him a small fortune.

Just as well. Hamon and his wife and family were on their beam ends. He had a crook back and medical insurance payments were not going far.

The prices for his work bolted. Many took hundreds of hours to complete. A work priced at $2500 in 1974 (today, $24,300) would be dwarfed within four years by a $10,000 work and a $20,000 price tag on a painting in 1975 (today, $113,000).

Prints of originals flew out the door, and his books did, too.

Hamon's motivations were the destruction of native bush and the flattening of bird and animal habitats. He said the destructive nature of the milling fraternity made him feel ill.

In another life he had been a bushman himself and, typically, he illustrated his concern by recalling his involvement in the destruction of native forests.

When he was manager of the Thames Sawmilling Company he had the job of supervising the felling of a large kauri above Tapu in 1961.

He recalled: "When that tree fell, it had been standing there for maybe a thousand years. I went back later to where it had been standing, and there were birds fluttering around there, kaka and kereru, that had nested in that tree for generations.

"That was the finish. I handed in my resignation. I vowed never to fell another healthy tree."

He became a birdspotter and a campaigner for the conservation of Coromandel, and for the conversion of the peninsula into a forest park.

Hamon never moved far from his patch. There was enough subject matter in his backyard, he said. His most productive work was done between 11pm and dawn, a period when he was freed from the attentions of his family.

Rei Hamon was an official in the Mormon church. He had been afflicted with arthritis and since 1982 his output was severely constrained. A gallery bearing his name in Dixon St closed that year.

Hamon was awarded a CBE in 1981. He is survived by his second wife, and their sons and daughters.

Sources: Dominion Post library.

The Dominion Post