In the moment

Esther Bosshard settles into her new studio space. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Esther Bosshard settles into her new studio space. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Artist Esther Bosshard with some of her work. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Artist Esther Bosshard with some of her work. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Papatuanuku and Ranginui (Mackenzie Country). Photos: Supplied
Papatuanuku and Ranginui (Mackenzie Country). Photos: Supplied
Blue Landscape.
Blue Landscape.

Growing up in a creative family, it is no wonder Esther Bosshard discovered her talents lie with a pencil and paint brush. She tells Rebecca Fox about experimenting and finding her way.

Looking through Esther Bosshard's sketchbook gives you the impression she is a portrait painter, but there aren't many people in her paintings.

''I've done a few experiments - a few little figures have appeared in my landscapes. I think I'll get there; I'm just not there yet.''

Bosshard, the daughter of film-maker Andrea Bosshard and granddaughter of jeweller Kobi Bosshard, is still experimenting with styles and mediums.

She grew up in Wellington in a home where art was part of life.

''We had these art-making days. Mum would bring a friend around and every two weeks we'd do book binding or marbling, sewing bags or fabric printing.''

For her, painting was always there one way or another until one day she did a piece and realised it was ''slightly acceptable''.

''After a while you do it because it's just what you do.''

After completing high school, she took a gap year and, on her return, decided to expand her horizons from Wellington.

With her grandparents living at Middlemarch and an older sister living in the district, she searched art schools on her computer and, to her delight, found one in Dunedin.

For the next three years, she emersed herself in the Dunedin art school community and the opportunities that having teachers on tap provided.

''You have so much time to dedicate and experiment. Now I've been out a couple years, you realise how hard it is to balance working and making [art] and still having a life. You don't appreciate it until you leave.''

It was at art school where she put aside her acrylic paints to try oils - a medium she had previously thought too hard.

''It was an eye-opener. They [oil paints] move in different ways. You could drag colours through other colours, mix up all your beautiful colours, created ridges and shadows. It was really exciting.

''Since I had the space and the teachers it gave you the bravery to try new things.''

At art school, she mainly did still life paintings because she did not want to paint from photographs.

''I wanted to actually look at things. It was something I could do easily and constant so I could experiment with oil paints.''

Only then she found she was stuck inside most the time - only seeing the sun from the window.

''I thought if I did some landscapes I could go out and make some drawings and photographs ... I guess it seems like I'm working my way through all the traditional genres at the moment.

''I feel like they've been done for so long there must be something inherently good about them, so I'll give them a go too.''

She sees herself as mostly someone who draws. Her sketch book is full of people sitting in cafes, although that does not translate into her paintings - yet.

''I'm digesting, maybe.''

For Bosshard, the best painting time is when she gets so immersed in what she is doing that nothing else exists.

''All that exists in the world is that tree you're painting or you have to be so present to respond to what is happening in your painting. Often a painting won't turn out how you expect it, but you have to constantly be aware of how it is changing and respond to it.''

Her upcoming exhibition is of work she has completed in the past year. The title of the exhibition, ''My hair is longer and the plums are ready now'', comes from the realisation that time has passed and her work had built up.

''I suppose it is about observation. Amongst my observation for painting I noticed that my hair had grown and that there were plums at the market again.

''I find hair growth and the arrival of fruit is a good way to tell that time has passed.''

While she is still painting in oils, she is also experimenting with embroidery - a craft that has grown out of a pastime of making felted baby booties.

''They're quite similar to my painting and drawings, they're just made out of colour. They're like little colour studies.''

The felted baby booty hobby came about when her mother made a pair as a prop for a movie.

''I thought they were so great ... I've been making them ever since.''

She liked the idea of someone having something special they could treasure and hand down through generations.

The embroideries have been inspired by what she is reading or time spent outside - by rosehips picked at Twizel, dancing at the Whare Flat Folk Festival and pet sheep wandering under apple trees.

''It's just drawing with lots of colour - it's just felt and thread. The same as drawing with lots of paint.''

She has also been working on smaller-sized works.

''Sometimes a big blank canvas can be a bit overwhelming so it's easier to do a small work.''

Another medium she has been experimenting in is gouache, which she describes as a ''whole other board game''.

''It's so different. You have to plan out beforehand what you are doing instead of putting it on and hoping things work.''

However her time making art has now been curtailed by the realities of life outside studying, although this year she has found ''amazing hours'' at organics shop Taste Nature, which enable her a couple of days a week to paint.

''I'm so lucky. Last year I had two jobs, both casual with hours all over the place. It was chaotic. So this is good.''

She also has a newer, smaller studio space with plenty of sun. Bosshard prefers to keep her art and home life separate so she is free from distractions when painting.

''I'm very excited. It'll be easier to heat.''

However, she is leaving behind the good job and studio for two months on the road.

''I realised I have not seen very much of New Zealand.''

She is packing up her painting gear in preparation for some wwoofing (volunteering at organic farms). She will be leaving behind the oils and focusing on acrylic - a more portable medium - for the trip.

''Wet oils and cars don't mix. I think I'll give acrylics another go and gouache.''

The best thing about being an artist for Bosshard is that there is always something to be excited about, even on a cold winter's day.

To see
‘‘My hair is longer and the plums are ready now’’, new paintings by Esther Bosshard, Inge Doesburg Gallery, February 17-23.

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