New wave of artists unveil their talents

This Little Red Riding Hood-inspired imaged demonstrates Hamilton artist Kirsti Wood's aptitude for the anime style.
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This Little Red Riding Hood-inspired imaged demonstrates Hamilton artist Kirsti Wood's aptitude for the anime style.

It's imaginative, evocative, eye-catching and often outstanding, and it's the work of a new generation of New Zealand artists who are just starting to come to the fore.

Four Hamilton artists are among dozens of creators taking part in a celebration of homegrown comic art, graphic and gaming design, and animation this Saturday and Sunday.

Held at Auckland's Aotea Centre, Chromacon is an indie festival of visual arts that celebrates creative innovation, artistic excellence and community within the realms of graphic art and design. Free to the public, the unique event is intended connects lovers of contemporary art genres with nearly 100 of the best homegrown illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators and video game developers.

This painting by Naomi's Whalley, called Sea, is one of the works that can be seen at the Aotea Centre this weekend.
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This painting by Naomi's Whalley, called Sea, is one of the works that can be seen at the Aotea Centre this weekend.

Artists exhibiting at Chromacon 2015 include luminaries like Hicksville and The Magic Pen creator Dylan Horrocks, Ben Senbeck (of Hellboy fame), Ema Frost, Tim Gibson, Weta artists Paul Tobin, Nick Keller, Jeremy Hanna and Stuart Thomas, and Toby Morris.

And also heading along to exhibit and share their wares are Hamiltonians Amy Her-Lee, Joshua Drummond, Kirsti Hogan and Naomi Whalley.

Her-Lee, 27, is the creator of Chubbis, a series of quirky comic vignettes and observations featuring short, large-jawed but undeniably cute folk. The series , which now has its own website at chubbis.com, was initially inspired by reading the Peanuts comic strips in the Waikato Times at a young age.

This image, called Artbook, showcases Naomi Whalley's illustrative abilities.
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This image, called Artbook, showcases Naomi Whalley's illustrative abilities.

"I used to cut them out of the paper and collect them. I thought it was so cool that someone could create such a thing and I thought it must be possible to do the same sort of thing here in New Zealand."

Her-Lee created the Chubbis concept in high school, initially to make a point to a disbelieving schoolmate that it couldn't be done, and the idea has slowly been developed from there - amid studying for her graphic design degree at Waikato University, which she has now completed.

"None of my characters have names. I'm really into snippets of ideas. Just what I think is really funny and interesting."

Hamilton artist Naomi Whalley is another of the featured exhibitors at this weekend's Chromacon event in Auckland.
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Hamilton artist Naomi Whalley is another of the featured exhibitors at this weekend's Chromacon event in Auckland.

Eventually Her-Lee wants to put the Chubbis concept onto a series of gift cards or, perhaps, include them as an alternative to the vague predictions that are found in fortune cookies.

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Drummond needs no introduction for many Hamilton residents, having carved a unique and newsworthy niche with his irreverent and iconoclastic works like Horrible Painting of Michael Laws and A Relaxed Painting of John Key, which featured the country's leader smoking what appeared to be some kind of herbal cigarette.

Drummond is also on the verge of launching a website - tworuru.com - that will showcase his work and has a new series of works that will be on sale at Chromacon called Birds in Hats.

Hamilton illustrator Amy Her-Lee is one of the artists taking part in this weekend's Chromacon independent art festival ...
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Hamilton illustrator Amy Her-Lee is one of the artists taking part in this weekend's Chromacon independent art festival at Auckland's Aotea Centre.

"It's just a concept I came up with and some of it is a bit of a play on words. There's Gandalf the Grey Warbler, for example. 

"To be honest, I feel a little bit out of my depth going to an event like this. There are so many talented people taking part."

Former Hillcrest high School student Whalley is also studying graphic design at Waikato University. Initially inspired by Japanese manga comic art, she has dabbled in many different mediums and has settled on water colour illustrations. Her ornate and often colourful works are inspired by the likes of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

One of Amy Her-Lee's popular "Chubbis" comic strips.
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One of Amy Her-Lee's popular "Chubbis" comic strips.

"I would love to establish myself as an illustrator of any kind ... although if that doesn't happen immediately, I might stick around at university and finish off my PhD."

Hogan, who completed her graphics degree at Waikato University last year, specialises in digital illustration and has a particular affinity for pop culture and anime designs. Like most of the other Chromacon participants she will have many of her prints available for purchase at the event.

"It is hard finding work as a graphic designer in Hamilton," she revealed. "There are a few smaller businesses that employ them, but for those of us coming into the industry that want to stick around in Hamilton, it can be tricky. I would love to find a job where I can also develop my own style a bit more."

Josh Drummond with Horrible Painting of Michael Laws. The work became a minor sensation on TradeMe, after Drummond put ...
Bruce Mercer

Josh Drummond with Horrible Painting of Michael Laws. The work became a minor sensation on TradeMe, after Drummond put it up for sale.

The intimate nature of Chromacon means attendees can meet and connect with artists they may already admire as well as discovering many others.

It is preceded by an industry symposium called Chroma-connect on Friday, that involved professional development and entrepreneurial opportunities through workshops, panel discussions, education and networking activities.

Then, on Saturday and Sunday, the free two-day exhibition of original artwork and creative projects opens. Attendees are able to purchase self-published work such as prints, art books, comics and even originals from the artists directly.

Throughout the weekend, there will also be live events, demos, gaming opportunities and discussions.

"I'm very excited about the diversity of artists in our curated Chromacon exhibition," Festival Director Allan Xia, said. "Whether illustrative, sequential, animated or interactive, their works represent the most innovative examples of visual storytelling in New Zealand today."

For more information, go to chromacon.co.nz or facebook.com/ChromaconNZ.

 - Stuff

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