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Art is good for you

Art is good, Painting by Moana Munro

Art is good for you – Guest post by Emma Lord

The Spanish surrealist Joan Miró said, “A simple line painted with the brush can lead to freedom and happiness.”

Dog Barking at the Moon 1952 by Joan Miro

Dog Barking at the Moon 1952 by Joan Miró. Image credit: Artists Home

The benefits of painting and other art forms are well established. From concentration and fine motor skills to mindfulness and confidence boosting, the act of painting, sculpting, or making can be therapeutic.

Everyone can benefit from an art class

I recently joined a painting class with a friend. While I have a basic foundational knowledge and experience from high school art classes, my friend has never painted before. Although we’ve only been to two sessions, there have already been a number of “wow” moments.

In our first class, my friend whispered to me, as though it was a secret, “It’s so nice!” Her usual art practice is with coloured pencils, and she was surprised at the relative speed at which she could colour the background. Her sense of happy discovery was as good for me as it was for her. In that session, we both received an injection of joyful wonder at the world and what we were capable of, a shot of satisfaction within ourselves, and a dose of appreciation for the power of colour to affect us.

Art as play

“This is just playing for you,” our tutor said, watching me apply paint to the canvas for my background, before I knew what the painting would be about. The comment made me think of drawing with crayons, and that always gives me a little thrill of joy. For me, using crayons and paint really is a form of play, and that is something most adults don’t have nearly enough of in their lives. And you don’t have to be a ‘good’ artist to experience this. In fact, it’s precisely because I have no aspirations to produce great work that I am able to treat art as play. That’s the “freedom and happiness” Miró was talking about.

Stock image

But it’s not just the act of creation that can soothe and enliven us. The presence of art in our environment is vitally important to society, and can have a powerful effect on the individual.

Celebrating the David Fine Scholarship

For the past two weeks, the Hastings Community Art Gallery on Russell Street South has hosted an exhibition celebrating the first decade of the David Fine Scholarship, supported by local collective Iwi Toi Kahungunu.  David Fine played an important role in forming the Arts Centre, securing the the gorgeous Harvey Building as a designated art space, and creating the Hastings District Community Arts Trust. After his death, the Trust established the David Fine Scholarship in his memory. This ten year anniversary show of the recipients’ work drew me back again and again during its two-week showing.

David Fine and Hastings District Community Arts Trust chairman, Graeme Linwood in the Harvey Building, which houses the Hastings Community Art Gallery.

Many of the works on display, especially those from Iwi Toi artists, were an exploration of heritage and identity. This is something that always fascinates me. New Zealand’s colonial history has created (and still creates) a great deal of pain and division. Yet within nearly every New Zealander, whether Māori, early European settler, or more recent immigrant, is a combination of tangata whenua and manuhiri. Even the lives and identities of pākehā like myself with no Māori blood are deeply interwoven with the whenua and te ao Māori.

Living here means being ‘of’ here. I whakapapa to the mountains and rivers of my tūrangawaewae. I whakapapa to the journeys my ancestors took to get to New Zealand. I whakapapa to the distant and varied countries they started in. The knowledge of this connection to the land, and therefore also a connection to other people of that land, gives me a greater sense of belonging in this world. And belonging is good for us.

Moana Munro

One of the two scholarship recipients for 2019 is Toimairangi student Moana Munro. Her artworks particularly stood out to me as she combines iconic imagery from Māori visual arts with hints of Australian Aboriginal painting techniques, designs and colour palettes. The high-contrast landscape background of the painting below reminds me of my hometown. The way the stylised figures interact seems to represent the way I feel about the painting.

Art is good, Painting by Moana Munro

At the top of the stairs, presiding over all of the other work, was a painting of a tuatara by Wairarapa artist Sam Te Tau. I fell in love with him immediately. I say ‘him’ because in my mind, the painting is of Henry, the oldest tuatara at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill.  Henry is thought to be at least 150 years old. The painting is huge: about 5 feet tall. The tuatara looks as though he is about to crawl out of the canvas, prehistoric crest and all. Within the spots on his skin, the artist has included enchanting patterns like circles and korus. I can’t really explain it, but just being in the presence of this painting makes me happy.

Art is Good. Sam Te Tau, tuatara

When you see a painting you love, you feel good.

You are present, appreciating what’s in front of you. You connect with the artist, who may never meet or know you, and the artist’s influences, colours, shapes, ideas… this connection is powerful, and is what makes art so meaningful to me, and so good for me. Connecting with people, connecting with myself, and connecting with the real world is the cure for what ails me.

A big thanks to Emma for writing this post. If you have an art related piece of writing that you think would be of value to my audience. Get in touch. 

In her own words

Emma Lord is a work in progress. She loves learning, creating and sunshine. She lives in Hastings with her cat Galileo.

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Conversations in cloth: a New Zealand textile exhibition

X-Marks Conversations in cloth

X-Marks conversations in cloth exhibition flyer

Exhibition on until the 9th of December 2018

I was lucky that Cait from Fabricate Magazine thought of me and got in touch. I wouldn't have known about the exhibition otherwise.

Loving the idea of the show and have contributed a small sampler. See below.

 The exhibition


Conversations in cloth

  • Date: 9th September – 9th December 2018
  • Venue: Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi Exhibition Gallery

An exhibition of historical and contemporary New Zealand textiles.

X-Marks Conversations in Cloth, Jo torr
Artist Jo Torr for X-Marks - Conversations in Cloth exhibition

How I approached the project

I've always been intrigued by samplers and have wanted to do one of my own for so long. I let myself play with this piece not really worrying about the end result too much. That's the beauty of a sampler for me it's a working reference piece it doesn't need to be a finished art-work. So I let it be that.

x-marks conversations in cloth, ngaio blackwood sampler
My 2018 sampler for X-Marks - conversations in cloth exhibition.

x-marks conversation in cloth detail of ngaio blackwoods sampler
Detail of sampler by Ngaio Blackwood

Have you ever stitched a sampler? let me know below.


-Ngaio Blackwood

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5 Best reads of 2017

best reads of 2017, book suggestions

My best reads of 2017

I hope that this might spark you to think of your best reads of 2017. Did we read some of the same books?

Growing up we went to the public library frequently. I have my mother to thank for this and my father was a great reader too. I'm endlessly grateful for being introduced to books and seeing my parents read. I can't imagine not having a book on the go. The only time I can remember not reading every day was just after my son was born. It took me a few months to have the energy to do anything other than just getting by. But man I missed it!

best reads of 2017, reading

When I read time just disappears. I think this is called being in the zone or something. Unfortunately reading itself is not a career. You have to do something with it to make a living from it. For years I've worked in libraries on the basis of a love of reading. That's right I'm that cliche.

Unfortunately, librarians have very little to do with reading in their daily work. I have known many librarians who don't even enjoy reading. Personally, I question if they are in the right job but hey we all end up in interesting places and stay for various reasons.

I read a variety of things and currently being a school librarian I spent a lot of time reading young adult fiction. Generally, I find contemporary fiction bores me as I like to use reading as an escape. I'm not very interested in reading about the current world we live in. I have to deal with that every day... But of course, when I force myself to read it I normally get something good out of it.

Reading for pleasure is about following your own reading journey.

Without further ado. In no particular order, here are my top 5 books of 2017

Long way down

Long way down, best reads of 2017

I've never read a book in verse before but man this one was a good place to start. What a fast-paced read! We journey down an elevator with the main character as he has a ghost of Christmas past experience. Every stop brings a new piece of information to aid his decision, to avenge his brother gang death or not.

long way down, Best reads 2017


They weren't meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken

to follow.”
― Jason ReynoldsLong Way Down

Six of crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows, best reads of 2017Crooked kingdom, best reads of 2017

Everyone loves a good heist and I'm no different. I loved the Grishna trilogy so getting to delve back into this universe was awesome for me. If you liked Oceans 11 you might want to check this one out.

Fantasy, Magic, Crime, Heist

best reads of 2017, book suggestions, six of crows

“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
― Leigh BardugoSix of Crows

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The hate u give, best reads of 2017

I loved this for so many reasons. It really made me think of my prejudices and what I can do to become more aware of them. The story is the fall out after Starr watches her childhood friend be fatally shot by the police.

racism, family, prejudice, America

The hate u give, best reads of 2017 by Ngaio Blackwood

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
― Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give

The Collapsing Empire By John Scalzi

The collapsing empire, best reads of 2017

There is a bit of swearing in this book. Personally, I don't mind a bit of cussing but everyone is different so thought I better mention it. A Science fiction future that seems very possible with a lot of black humour equals an excellent read. I've wanted to pick up a John Scalzi book for ages after really enjoying fuzzy nation years ago. Now I want to read everything he's written.

Science fiction, space, humour, politics

collapsing empire by John Scalzi, best read 2017

“I’m continually confronted with the human tendency to ignore or deny facts until the last possible instant. And then for several days after that, too.” Attavio”
― John ScalziThe Collapsing Empire

Strange the dreamer By Laini Taylor

strange the dreamer, best reads of 2017

I picked this up because I loved her other books. It's the story of a librarian who joins an expedition to help a neighbouring city (the lost city of weep). We uncover what happened in this city's past and the issues they are dealing with currently. Gods, strangeness and egos. Oh my!

Gods, dreams, fantasy,

best reads of 2017, lani taylor, strange the dreamer

“I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.”
― Laini TaylorStrange the Dreamer

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

scythe, best reads of 2017

Please please read this right now. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the 3rd instalment. It covers so many things but really it's about ethics, morality and mortality. Big themes and questions about right, wrong and power?

best reads of 2017, Scythe

“Therin lies the paradox of the profession,' Faraday said. 'Those who wish to have the job should not have it...and those who would most refuse to kill are the only ones who should.”
― Neal ShustermanScythe


I'd love to hear about what you're reading. Leave a comment below.

-Ngaio Blackwood

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