Creative drive reawakened

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Alexandra artist Allan Johnston says a recently conferred honour might spur him to start creating artworks again.

Johnston was recently made a life member of the Central Otago Art Society (COAS) for his 16 years’ service to the organisation, an honour he said was humbling.

“It was a big surprise. I was blown away; I was speechless.”

As well as being an unexpected but “lovely” recognition of his voluntary work, the award might spur him into getting back into his art, he said.

Johnston started painting after he retired, mainly in pastels and acrylics, the works often featuring landscapes.

His late wife, Gwen, encouraged him to attend a night class tutored by Alexandra artist Neil Driver, and he found the influence helpful, Johnston said.

“Neil’s classes were very relaxed, allowing us to choose our own subject and medium. However, he watched our progress with a critical eye, gave advice and showed us techniques that enhanced our work.”

But since his wife passed away eight years ago, he had lacked his earlier enthusiasm, only completing two artworks during that time, he said.

He acknowledged Mrs Johnston, who was the “driving force” behind his art, would have wanted him to get back into his art and he thought it could finally be the right time to do so.

His art society colleagues were also encouraging him to start creating artworks again, and his first plan was to “retouch” some of his earlier pastel work.

After that, he was thinking of doing some more painting, but was unsure what the subject matter would be; it was more a mood or feeling he tried to capture in his paintings, rather than deciding to paint a portrait or landscape, he said.

“It’s got to come from the heart. It’s about the mood more than anything.”

Having previously followed a realist philosophy with his paintings, Johnston said he was now interested in doing more “stylised” work.

He has sold a variety of artworks in the past, but is now wanting to paint only for enjoyment, and not intending to sell his works.

COAS president Nigel Wilson said it was with “a great deal of pride” the society had awarded the life membership to Johnston, who was the longest-serving society member Mr Wilson recalled. Johnston knew a lot about the society’s history, including having been involved in the shift from its former premises in Tarbert St, Mr Wilson said.

During Johnston’s time with the society he had been extremely active “and steered much of the direction of the COAS”, Mr Wilson said.

“He’s kept his eye on things and is still full of ideas.”