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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

Need a gift? Sorted!

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Motivation, simple steps to consistently move forward

Motivation, find your why


My motivation journey

The back story to understanding my motivation or finding my why.

I’ve been struggling with my motivation for many years, I was actively making make work but my consistency was lacking and the meaning behind it changed quickly. I couldn’t figure out why I kept changing direction until I watched this TED talk from Simon Sinek. Hello! I didn’t have a clear direction because I didn’t know where my motivation came from. Simon’s video really resonated with me and since watching that and reading his book I’ve been trying to articulate my why.

Finding your why is very useful to everyone, not just artists.

As an artist I have gotten very familiar with what I do but not why I do it. I felt like a lot of whys were being put on me by external sources. Artist’s need to figure out why, how and what they do to make their work otherwise there is no collective feel to their work. I’ve been missing this motivation and searching for it.

The internal voices holding me back

Growing up I reacted to my parents’ criticism by not feeling good enough. I created this drama cycle in my head where I struggled to make good decisions about my life because I didn’t trust myself. The feedback loop was “you can’t make a living being a creative person it’s not enough you’re not enough” I kept trying to give up art because I could see no future in it.

Cue sadness, I’ve never been diagnosed with depression so don’t feel comfortable making claims in that direction. However, I do suffer from anxiety and went through a very difficult time after having my son. Parenting is really hard. The number of times I ended up at the doctor in tears… well there were a lot. The advice was always the same, you need to rest but you can’t get it because you have a young child and not enough help. When western doctors tell you to practice mindfulness it can make you stand up and listen. I really appreciate not being given a magic pill but mindfulness is a long road. Worthwhile but really long.

Reality check

Well, some of this drama is real. It is very hard to make a living as a creative. What would have been more helpful as an internal dialogue would be something like? “You might have to work a job that is just a job while you pursue your art career and that’s ok. There is no shame in having a day job. Actually, it can take the pressure off your more important work”.

Getting in the right head space to find my why

Two books that have helped me get out of my slumps over the years.

The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte

Big magic by Elizabeth Gilbert 

I’ve worked away at this for years. Things really don’t happen overnight for me. The struggle is real. But now that I’m in a more positive headspace and trying to put a lot more mindfulness and self-care into my daily routines. What I realised is for me the thing about my art that thrills me when someone buys my work is the connection we share. The piece spoke to that person about what it depicted to them and me. The common threads that we all have that unite us.

I want my work to break my cycle and help others by sparking conversations about the connections between us myself and them, them and others. All of us and our relationship to the subject matter. It seems so obvious now but it’s been a really difficult idea to get down into words. So many of the conversations I have seem to be about things which divide us, I’d like my work to be able the things that connect us.

It’s all about connections

My current version of “my why” is on my about page

To encourage people to look closer at their surroundings so that, together, we see that more connects us than divides us 

It’s taken many many tries to get to this and I think I might have finally hit it on the head. I’m not 100% that I’ve written it perfectly so I might tweak it after sitting with it for a while. What I’m really happy with is that I might have figured out the why behind my why. Haha, it’s like going down a rabbit hole.

This is groundbreaking for me. I can now choose my subject matter with greater ease because for me to see the connection between myself and others in something is all I need. I also know now that things which have repetition but variations are easier to start these conversations. Sometimes we don’t see the connections until we see something a few times. So how I choose the subject for my drawings and art makes sense to me and how I make my art also ties into my why. What I choose to make also comes under this umbrella. It all aligns once you have your motivation.

It also makes it easier figuring out how to talk about my work and find people who are interested in it.

Tools for finding your motivation

A website I found useful for working out my why. Go check it out and follow the suggested steps.

How to Find Your Why and Communicate Your Purpose

Step one: look to your past and search out that connection between moments when everything felt really awesome. Write down the common threads

Step two: write down a “why” that is about other people. Use Simons template and then mix and match it to make it yours.

Step three: get into a positive head space to live and find your why. For me, this was an essential step and I when I started to write down my why statement I couldn’t really get there until my mind was in a better place.

Step four: revise your why until it feels just right. Don’t worry once you have your why the what and how just comes naturally.

That’s it, four steps to finding your motivation.

for me the thing about my art that thrills me when someone buys my work is the connection we share


Please let me know what your why statement ends up looking like.

Kind regards

Ngaio Blackwood

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Top 5 things to do during your visit to Art Deco Napier

Art Deco Napier, Top 5 things to do

Art Deco Napier – get me to the Hawkes Bay

You love Art deco I know you do. Here are a few tips for your next visit to Napier. Are you bring the kids? Napier is super family friendly or maybe get some you time by going it alone. (You time is so important)

A little bit about my own journey to Napier

I moved to Art Deco Napier in 2016 from Auckland and I have zero regrets (other than leaving behind a few awesome friends). I knew that Napier had a cool Art Deco vibe but I wasn’t sure about the whole art deco festival, it seemed like an overwhelming event to me. I’m not into the party scene anymore, I know you hear me. Now that I live here that overwhelming feeling of the crowds from Art Deco weekend can be easily avoided, instead I get to experience all the beauty of art deco every time I walk out the door at any time of the year.

As an artist, some of my favourite things about Napier are the little art deco details that you can find if you look a bit closer. The stunning street signs and the elaborate manhole covers. Don’t forget to look in every doorway and check out the ceilings in every building.

art deco napier, rothmans building, art deco, national tobacco company
Taken on an Art Deco tour of Napier, New Zealand, March 2010. By russelljsmith

How did Napier become the art deco capital of the world you ask?

In February 1931 there was a devasting earthquake and the city changed it’s landscape forever. When Napier went to rebuild they embraced the popular style of time which was Art Deco. It now has one of the highest concentrations of this building style in the world. I believe Miami in America also a place to visit for this style. Visit the MTG to learn more about the earthquake.

Visiting Art Deco Napier – What should you do?

MTG napier, art deco napier, pin wall, sara hughes, gregory kregar, napier museum
Sara Hughes and Gregory Kregar Pin Wall at the MTG

Not ready to just wing it? there are some great websites to check out that will help plan your visit before you arrive.

Some great options for things to do:

  • Art deco Napier walks and tours at all times of the day – Book these in through the Art Deco Trust
  • Vintage car rides – Book these in through the Art Deco Trust
  • Visit during the Art Deco festival, winter or summer for a full-on experience
  • Not particularly an Art Deco thing but Hawkes Bay has a number of impressive vineyards to visit
  • Walk or drive around and see how many seawalls you can spot.
  • Hire a tandem bike from Fish Bikes and go for a cruise towards Cape Kidnappers.
  • Get a fancy cocktail at the Emporium or Monica Loves
  • The MTG is free and has excellent merchandise and exhibitions.
  • Visit Te Mata peak for a view that has to be seen to be believed.
  • Hawkes Bay has lots of locations to check out, Havelock North, Hastings have lots to offer or go country and check out Puketapu.

Art Deco Napier, Hawkes Bay, Napier, get me to the hawkes bay, visitor guide, marine parade
Photo credit: Mundus Gregorius on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Check out my top 5 activites below

Great kids activities to try while you’re in Hawkes Bay

  • The skate park, Marine Parade
  • Visit our independent local bookshop Wardini Books in Napier or Havelock North
  • The fenced in Bike Track (For younger kids), Marine Parade
  • Fenced playgrounds for all ages along Marine Parade
  • The National Aquarium of New Zealand
  • Train world
  • Andersons park has a miniature railway train on Sundays between 11 am and 4 pm.
  • Love chocolate visit Silky Oaks
  • Splash planet in Hastings

How to get here and where to stay

There is a variety of accommodations options in Hawkes Bay to suit all budgets. If you are planning to attend the Art Deco Napier festival or the Mission Estate concert you need to book early to avoid disappointment.

Napier is on the East Coast of the North Island so a good road trip from Wellington or Auckland or a quick flight would be the best way to get here.

Art Deco Napier, visitors guide, hawkes bay, napier

My Top 5 things to do

  • Getting gelato and walking along Marine Parade is a very overlooked perfect Napier experience in my opinion
  • Drive or walk up to the lookout over the Napier Port, a perfect spot for a picnic lunch
  • Get a coffee from one of the many markets and browse the local stalls. (Check out the eco wrap by Lily Bee)
  • Drive out to Ocean Beach to get a surf lesson and enjoy one of the best beaches in New Zealand (Debatable I’m sure)
  • Visit as many art galleries as you can my top suggestions are, The Rabbit Room and Tennyson Gallery

Architecture – Art Deco

What makes art deco art deco?

Art Deco is dominated by simple lines, pastels and luxury it has many influences and crossovers with other styles. You can see in Rothmans building (Illustration below) has a lot of influence from Art Nouveau. Learn more about Art Deco on Wikipedia

I’ve really started looking closer at the buildings around Napier and I like what I see. The Details on the buildings show a real attention to detail and high level of craftsmanship.

Buildings of note to visit in Napier – Since you have an interest in Art Deco Architecture I highly recommend a walking tour as they also point out some beautiful Art Deco Sculptures.

  • The Rothmans building (National Tobacco Company LTD)
  • Napier Sound Shell and the Napier Arch
  • The Daily Telegraph Building
  • The Criterion Hotel
  • The Masonic Hotel

Rothmans building, tea towel, Ngaio Blackwood, art deco napier, National tobacco company
Tea Towel design by Ngaio Blackwood of the Rothmans building (National Tobacco Company)

Get on the waiting list for my tea towel designs.


See you in Napier soon


Ngaio Blackwood


Please note none of these links is paid for in any way they are just my personal recommendations.