Kapiti Kids Motivation Trust —Mixing Art with Kids

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Official Defence Force and Otaki artist, Matt Gauldie and some Te Horo School pupils surround his motorcyclist mixed media painting.

Children at Te Horo School were intrigued and fascinated the wide variety of artworks by artist Matt Gauldie during his visit to the school with the Kāpiti Kids Motivation Trust.

Captain Gauldie used a power point video, sculptures both completed works and works in progress, mixed media, oil and water-paintings to show the pupils examples of his work. Dressed in his army uniform “to show I was in the army, but now I’m the Official New Zealand Defence Artist. So there’s a little bit of Defence Force (work) and a little bit of my artwork here.”

With both his parents’ artists, he was given plenty of opportunities and encouragement from a young age. Among his early work he showed his Superman drawing at age five and a spider with movable legs which were riveted on from scrap roofing iron, made at an art workshop at 10. He brought with him two bronze sculptures of a World War I New Zealand soldier and an Australian soldier and he is part way through another of two soldiers supporting an injured mate in the field. This work was still quite rough and only to the “wax” stage. The finer points and model are still to be made before it can be cast in bronze. From his paintings he had with him a landscape painted in water-colours as well as a mixed media picture of a man riding a Harley Davidson motorbike. This was painted in oils and used “chromed” metal for many of the metal parts such as the exhaust system, plus a bit of “decoration.”

Using power point to show pictures on the screen, he showed the well known WWI picture of Simpson and His Donkey painted by army engineer, Sapper Horace Moore-Jones. There was also one by WWII artist Peter McIntyre of NZ soldiers building a railway track through the Alamein desert in North Africa. He talked of another WWI painting, “During the Gallipoli battle, Sapper Moore-Jones was sitting on top of a hill, drawing and painting the scene, when he was shot through his hand! Fortunately it wasn’t serious and didn’t stop him from painting,” Mr Gauldie told them.

He also showed some of his own paintings from Afghanistan. One that particularly interested the pupils was of murals he and some of his fellow soldiers painted for the orphanage children “to brighten up their place”.

Although he knew little about the army, he joined up and completed his basic training at Waiouru Military Camp, before being posted to Timor and the Solomon Islands. “Here we learnt we all belonged to one (Māori) tribe — Ngāti Tūmatauenga — the tribe of the God of War. This brings us all together; the marae in Waiouru is where we start our army career,” he told the pupils. After a few years he was moved to the NZ Defence Force, which combines the army, navy and airforce, as their official artist. Over the years he has completed 90–100 paintings and sculptures for the National Army Museum in Waiouru and recently has been working on a commemorative painting of the WWII Bomber Command for the 70th anniversary of WWII. During a question session, he spoke of some of the activities of the Defence Force — “We help people. After the 2011 earthquake 18,000 NZ defence people were in Christchurch to help people. We protect our (offshore) fishing limits and take part in search and rescue.”

He admitted to working nine to 10 hours a day in his studio — this is his full-time job — which often left little time with his young son. “They take a lot of work, the motorcyclist took weeks.” Yes, he did take photographs of people and places to use as references when working on a painting later. Working with oil paints uses a lot of paint as it’s done in layers — one good point — make a mistake and you just leave it to dry then paint over it, something you can’t do with water-colours and pen and ink wash!“My father told me a long time ago — it’s called painting for a reason — use plenty of paint!”One lad asked what inspired him to paint “Something comes from inside you and makes you want to paint,” he replied.

“We can make art out of anything, there’s no right or wrong in art,” he encouraged them and with the pupils discussed the many art forms — painting and sculpture, illustrating, woodcarving, mixed media — painting something, putting “real” forms, on such as metal and fabric, pottery, live theatre “There’s no right or wrong way to express yourself,” he said as the session came to an end at the end of the school day. But a stray comment “that’s a painting” on seeing some of the children walking with the school’s pet lambs and quickly accepted a loan of the reporter’s camera to catch his shots!

The visit was organised by the Kāpiti Kids Motivation Trust, which brings top and well known sports people, artists, singers, musicians, dancers and writers to schools along the Kāpiti Coast, encouraging children to aim high and “chase their dreams”. The Trust is supported by many businesses, Kāpiti Coast District Council and Community Boards.