Art inspired by nature

5 July 2012

Artist Denise Rush can’t imagine life without painting. “Me, I have to be painting most of the time. It’s relaxing and it’s a goal for me.” A longstanding member of Take 5 & Te Marama in Lower Hutt, an art studio for mental health service users, Denise first discovered her love of art in primary school.

Denise Rush, Take 5 & Te Whare Marama artist“I started using colouring-in books in primary school,” she recalls. “In high school, my art teacher really inspired me to do art and I just developed from there. I took a break after school, and then I came to the Take 5 studio.”

For Denise, mastering a new painting skill or technique, such as how to use colours or abstract shapes, helps her to set goals and focus. “I might start off thinking I can’t learn a new thing. But I stick at it, and in the end I can do it. Other things I can’t concentrate on but art gives me focus.

“I’ve learnt heaps of interesting new techniques in the studio here, like using colour and abstract patterns. Afterwards, I’ll practise a new technique and get better, and I’ll experiment – such as with colours and the size of brushes I can use.”

Denise’s work is inspired by nature. It features animals, patterns and bold, positive colours. “All living things, anything to do with nature is in my art. Animals give me a lot of pleasure to paint. I really like painting cats. I have four cats at home!

“I also really like bright colours in my paintings. I was just telling a friend today about why I like the sun. The sun likes to shine and it likes to be seen. It doesn’t like to be hidden. I like painting happy things, like a blue sky when the day is warm. All my paintings have happy scenes.”

The greatest reward

For Denise, a highlight of her artistic achievements was when the mayor of Lower Hutt, Ray Wallace, bought one of her paintings. Denise says that while it’s nice to sell paintings, finishing a painting, and having people appreciate it, is the greatest reward.

“I give a lot of them away just for pleasure,” she says. “It can take me one day or two days to do a painting, and I had one painting going that took me a year. When I finish, I feel really happy that I’ve achieved another painting. And I feel really proud when people say to me ‘you’ve done a really good job’.”

Denise’s work is featuring in a combined exhibition at the Take 5 & Te Marama studio with her long-time friend and painter Douglas McRae. Their friendship also stretches back to primary school. “I have known Douglas since I was five. He was my friend in school and we’ve ended up doing art class together here at the studio.”

In the future, Denise plans to do bigger paintings and expand her practical art skills. “I’ll try oils a bit down the track. I’m also going to try stained glass windows and sewing. But my main thing is painting and drawing. That’s what I’m really good at.”


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