Going for an idea sets you free

WORK ETHIC: Geoff Noble with a painting at his Tahunanui studio.
WORK ETHIC: Geoff Noble with a painting at his Tahunanui studio.

Nelson artist Geoff Noble is the ultimate Yes Man, who has created a career out of a toolbox of wide-ranging skills, writes Anna Pearson .

There are bound to be various strings to Geoff Noble's bow, an artist, father, surfer, handyman and technician are a few of them.

His split-level Tahunanui studio is home to his first skateboard, from age 4, tacked to the wall. And there's the surfboard he got when he was 11, sitting in a rack. Tools for surfboard repairs on the bench.

A picture of legendary surfer Kelly Slater. More surfboards, more skateboards. And paintings. Lots of paintings.

Noble's creative journey began at high school in West Auckland, as a 13-year-old, with an art teacher who recognised his talents. "He took me under his wing and really pushed me through high school to make art. He introduced me to a lot of art and took me to shows." After high school it was off to Dunedin to study at art school, as a 17-year-old, but "it wasn't for me".

Noble travelled around, working odd jobs, surfing and painting, before settling in Lyttelton.

It was there he met - saying he doesn't want to name drop - some "high end artists", and ended up working with one.

It was his first taste of the art industry, with Noble saying he was "walking blind" until then.

He learnt the importance of having a strong work ethic, which rings true for him today: "Ask my wife, mate." Noble works until midnight most nights, with an apple and a bottle of water to keep him going, after tucking his kids up in bed.

Noble's next move, after Christchurch, was the West Coast.

"I got tired of living in Gotham City and being in a scene. I had itchy feet, so ended up moving to Karamea." He "hunkered down" to paint as much as he could, met his Dutch-Indonesian wife after she walked off the Heaphy Track, and started a family.

It was, he says, an "epic" time of his life.

"I could afford to live there and make art. It was cheap."

Six years after he landed there, Noble and his family left Karamea for the bright lights of Nelson.

He had his first solo show under his belt, at the Left Bank Art Gallery in Greymouth, and took a job boat building.

Then there was a stint in the art department with the World of WearableArt, before a job at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

"The experience of being a workshop technician at NMIT was great, because I was around art all the time and getting paid."

But five years after arriving at NMIT, he was made redundant.

Noble says its was a blessing in disguise, as it led him to set up Tahuna Studios to push his fine art painting and charge himself out as a "commercial" artist.

He creates props, provides technical and creative support to artists, galleries and institutions, repairs surfboards, runs boutique skateboard business The Good Board Company, and works on his fine art.

He also creates murals around town, like the 30-metre one he completed at Brightwater School earlier this year. His artworks are vibrant and characterised by fine detail and heavy paint application.

"Every week is sort of a different project. It's always changing. It's exciting. It comes and goes, but you can survive. You have got to take risks. You have kind of got to be a Yes Man," he says.

Noble, whose show opens at designroom in Nile St West today, says a creative lifestyle requires constant application, but picking his kids up from school every day and heading out for a surf when it's on makes it worth it.

"You are always working, but it's not really like work. You have got to take chances. That's something I have learnt from painting. You get an idea, and you have just got to go for it. It sets you free."

  • Geoff Noble, designroom in Nile St West, opens 5.30pm today and runs until December 21.