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I paint acrylic on canvas and the themes of my paintings include rural landscapes, New Zealand bush and other Botanic Garden striking foliage. My paintings have been selected for numerous Art Award & Member group Exhibitions at the Pumphouse, Mairangi Bay Arts, Northart and the Flagstaff Gallery.
2012 was an exciting step up from doing singular works, to preparing a body work, for my first solo exhibition, at Northart. A Highlight since then was being selected as a finalist for the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award 2013.
Originally I graduated as an Architect 1984 at Auckland University and previously have worked as an architect until 2002. I then became a business owner and have since enjoyed sharing my time between two passions , business and art.


Richard Higham,
acrylic on canvas artist,
based in Auckland,
New Zealand.

Education: Bachelor of Architecture 1984,
Auckland University

Finalist : Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award 2013


Can you tell us what about the landscape and flora that you love? That you find unique from many parts of the world?

I think it has a lot to do with the two North and South islands. The diverse and very long coastline, that these two long islands present on their dominate west coast and east coasts.

The North Island and South Island are two very different experiences, with the scale of the landform being one of the key differences.

I love our forests and the variety and contrast we get from the dominate Beech forests to smaller remaining North Island Kauri forests and South Island Rainforests.

Regard uniqueness to New Zealand, I guess it must be our location and climate. The length from top to bottom of both islands, gives us enough variety of climate and seasonal contrast, to grow such a variety of flora and to make it unique to us.

How would you describe your art philosophy?

My art philosophy is very much one of always striving to allow my personality, style and creativity to come through in my work. My work is a mix of realism, representational and impressionism. I do not endeavour to replicate nature, as it exactly is, or to a photographic reality level. Although, I do get comments that my paintings look like photos and perhaps they do from a distance.

I am always striving to simplify the forms and colour to get to the essence of what I would like to say in a painting. Although I do some bigger scale landscapes, a lot of my subject matter consists of examining smaller aspects of nature, plants, leaf forms and smaller sections of the bush.

Capturing the way the light falls, its intensity and the effect it has, a sit lands, reflects, filters, shines, backlights, onto, off, around and through the subject matter I paint, is what I am passion about, in my painting. If this is done well it will make the ordinary, extraordinary and the work will hopefully sing the song of nature.

You work with acrylic and watercolour. What do you love about these media for nature-themed artworks?

Yes, I use Acrylic, which is a bit more of a challenge than oil, as it dries quicker and workability is a bit more limited. But Acrylic allows one to work more continuously on the work.

I have done some oil painting and found it great to work with, and would probably prefer to work in oil, but the acrylic is more convenient, quick dry, easy clean and wash up and is odour free.

Watercolour, I do love this media for nature-themed artworks. I can work smaller on A3 and A2 size and enjoy the fun and opportunity to do these smaller works, amongst my main larger acrylic on canvas work.

The watercolours I do tend to be quick and spontaneous. It is fun to see how they end up, with the wet into wet technique; there are always some good surprises. By the way, the colour spreads and mixes together.

You studied architecture and worked in the architecture field for many years. What prompted you to leave your career and concentrate on painting?

After twenty odd years in architecture, working in larger practices, small practices and then in my own practice, I felt I was content with what I had achieved and happy to move on.

In the years leading up to leaving architecture, in 2002, I was doing some water colour and acrylic painting, and enjoying some success selling some paintings of the local landscape and landmark buildings around Birkenhead, where my practice was located.

Looking back, how big and challenging was the change? How did you overcome the challenges?

Leaving architecture and trying to make ones way in Art, is a difficult ask.

The challenge of this switch is a good one and one that drives me to succeed. It is my love of art, from an early age and having parents that have both been active followers of NZ art and are still active painters themselves, ( now in their mid to late eighties) that created the interest and environment for me to participate and pursue art.

I fall back on this lifelong interest in art and knowledge gained from being around my parents and self-learning from the many gallery visits and artists we have to meet over the years.

One particular NZ Artist, that I was privileged to know personally and gave me some one on one time and encouraged me to paint, the late Louise Henderson, is one of my main influences and her work ethic and energy, is always well remembered.

I also fall back on my Architectural degree. There is a lot to draw on from this, from the design, drawing and sketching, through to all the other aspects of architecture that overlap, regards to working with colour, shape, form, texture and training one's eye to look at many things in many ways.

The other thing I guess that can make the transition hopefully smoother is the subject matter that one chooses to paint. Where I draw on my architectural background for the technical and theoretical side, I found the source for my subject matter also from my previous experience. In this case my interest in gardening, plants and the NZ native bush and landscape.

My parents again lead me into something that I become passionate about. It was not long before I, as an early teenager, began growing every vegetable and then every shrub, tree I could. This lead onto landscaping other people’s gardens and then landscape design that helps pay for the early years of my architectural education.

For paintings like Waipu Bush 1 and 2, and Tropical Feast, what’s your process like working on the paintings?

Waipu Bush 1 & 2 are a start of a new series, with a new look about them. Tropical Feast was also a new direction as well, which is a bolder and brighter.

Waipu bush 1 &2, developed from a small work that I completed in 2015 called ‘Dance of light’. This too, has its inspiration sourced from the same native bush located near Waipu Cove beach, in Northland, NZ. With ‘dance of light’, I endeavoured to capture the light, I saw one day while walking in this patch of bush, containing Rimu trees and tree ferns. I was taken by this stand of bush that allowed the afternoon sunlight to penetrate it and glance off the various tree fern fronds and undergrowth, to give the effect of a dance of light, around the taller Rimu trees.

The process for the Waipu bush paintings is pretty much working from the background to the foreground. I build the sky and the main bush background up slowly, firstly with quite a bit of underpainting and layering of darker colours. At the same time starting to sketch in the main elements, tree trunks and important foreground. This process continues with a lot of brush work and sponging, working with lighter and lighter colours and adding highlight detailing.

Tropical Feast is very much similar process, but with this painting, I was bit bolder. This painting was inspired from one of many visits to the lovely Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Cuningham conservatory that has an awesome display of tropical plants.

For those who want to discover the native flora of New Zealand, where would you recommend them to visit? Please name 3 places.

New Zealand is abundant with a rich and diverse range of Native Flora. We have the dominate Beech forests that cover the main mountain ranges of the North and South Islands and provide some great walks and trekking destinations. We also have the great Waipoua Forest in the north of the North Island which is the best preserved and largest of the remaining Kauri Forests in New Zealand.

It is hard to single out only 3 places to visit when there is so much to see and experience. As a starting point, to perhaps experience some of what we have on offer, I would recommend:

Starting from the top of the top of the North Island, a short walk into the Waipoua forest to see the giant Kauri tree ‘TaneMahuta’ and experience around it some of this rich well preserved Kauri forest.

Secondly, then head down to the top of the South island and do a section of the Queen Charlotte Track, in the Marlborough Sounds, to experience some of our beech forests and lush coastal forest.

Thirdly, next, to give a taste of our rainforest flora and the dramatic west coast of the South Island, a visit to the exhilarating West Coast Treetop Walkway, just south of Hokitika would be worth doing.

Where in New Zealand do you like to go to spend time out in nature?

I live in the North Island, in Auckland city and depending on the time I have, there are a number of places that I love to go and spend time in nature. Close by, we have some lovely city parks and botanical gardens.

Within an hour’s travel, I can be walking in the native bush in Waitakere ranges that border our city on the western side, or visiting the rugged west coast beaches. When venturing further afield, I will travel north, to spend time and enjoy the beautiful east coast flora and beaches.

Do you have your own garden? If yes, how does it look like and what plants do you have in your garden?

Yes, I have a garden. The garden and house are new, only three years old. We have a large site that gave us the opportunity to develop four separate different areas and type of gardens to the front, back and sides of the house. The house has a large simple elegant shed type form and the large scale of it, required a garden to help it sit well into the land, but also, be in scale with it.

On the public, Westside / North-west corner of the house (the driveway and entry) getting this scale right was particularly important. To do this, we have used a lot of large rocks specially placed on the banks, leading up to the house, with tropical themed plants, including palms planted amongst them.

To the rear of the site, south side of the house, we have a large open grassed area with a long planted mound that I created along the rear boundary. I was able to treat this separately planted area differently and plant a lot of New Zealand native trees to create my own little New Zealand bush.

On the East side the house, we had a long strip of land and built a raised planter box type garden for ornamental shrubs and also some fruit trees and vegetables.

To the north, sunny side and front of the house, to which our living faces and outdoor living is, we have some native trees and also an area for citrus trees.

What’s your typical day and week now as an artist?

My typical day is always pretty busy. Art today is very different to years gone by. The big thing is that the process is so much more visible and accessible to the public.

With social media and the internet, the public is able to see more of the artist and watch them actually working on their work and interact with them. This all adds to the many things we do in a day and a week.

I tend to try and paint mainly either early morning or into the night when it is quieter and fewer distractions. The middle part of the day is always good to catch up on the business side of it which there is always plenty to do along with, documenting, social media, photographing work, organize framing, visiting and delivering work to the gallery, research and field trips for paintings.

Tell us about your studio. How does it look like?

I have recently relocated my studio, from home to a separate space in a commercial building nearby. My studio now occupies a large upper floor (ex-office) area that I am converting into a studio. This large open space has good floor area and hanging wall space.

I have plenty of space to wrap paintings and get them ready for delivery and to have them hanging while I am not working on them.

I tend to have 3-4 paintings on the go at one time and it is good to have the space to hang them in the studio and contemplate the progress and plan the next work on them.

I do prefer a quiet environment to paint in, especially at night, though I always have some good music on in the background.

Once I have it all organized I plan to start having open days to the studio for the public to visit.

2012 October , Solo exhibition, Northart , Auckland
2013 Finalist , Molly Morpeth Canaday Trust Art Award
2014 July , Group , Nature Notes Exhibition, Northart , Auckland
2014 November, Selected for Hibiscus & Bays Art Awards, Estuary Arts Centre, Orewa
2014 November-Dec, selected for Kina NZ Design + Artspace 200x200 exhibition
2015 January, martakana group exhibition , Matakana
2015 January/February, single work in Northart Members Show 29th Jan - 15th Feb.
2015 July- Three large works hanging at the Urban Cafe , Newmarket, Auckland
2015 Oct - onwards selected works at Flagstaff Gallery
2015 November - Single work hanging at the Taranaki National Art awards Exhibition
2015 November - Selected for Hibiscus & Bays Art Awards Exhibition.
2016 January - Martakana Hospice fundraiser Art Show
2016 April 7th - May 3rd - Joint Exhibition - Flagstaff Gallery, Devonport, Auckland
2016 19th Nov. - 11th Dec. - Pocket Edition . Small Works for Large Walls -North Art
2017 21st & 22nd January - Martakana Art Show - Matakana School Hall

2017 19th August - Flagstaff Gallery  - The Art of Bringing Together - Group Show

Finalist : Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award 2013