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Meet the Artist Part 3: Dick Frizzell

It's the starting that stops most people. In all art – songs, poems and plays, too – people say, “I’m not ready. I haven’t done enough homework. I don't feel suitably informed. I don't think I'll have to write it.” And I'm thinking, “Just do it and see what happens.” We're all geniuses when something’s in our head. But when you pull it out of your head and put it down, externalising it, then you can see it and react to it and start editing it. But you can never react to it, or edit it until you get it out of your head. There's just no way.

On unwinding …

I love music – I always have. I used to write reviews for rock magazines and was always ahead of the game, the first in town to have the new Grateful Dead LP and everything. I still like keeping up. I'm looking forward to the new Nadia Reid album. But sometimes I just turn the music off and listen to Jesse Mulligan.

On artists of significance…

Well, Colin McCahon is always there. I mean, he's the rock that every New Zealand artist, every serious New Zealand artist has to go through, or around, or over, or something. You know what I mean? He's just like there, and how do you deal with him? Frances Hodgkins – I have a lot of respect for her. And then there's all my fellow New Image artists. We had a little group of us, about six of us, back in the seventies where we sort of hunkered down and gave each other psychological support. And I still hang out with Denys Watkins from that movement.

TOP RIGHT: The chair Dick painted for Auntie Nora. ALL OTHERS: Dick Frizzell's Auckland studio.

On someone who made a positive impact…

Auntie Nora, my father’s sister, was a school teacher. She was kind of arty, Bohemian really, was fantastically literate and always showed me Peter MacIntyre books (the landscape painter) and things like that. In fact, I've got a chair in the studio that I painted her name on.

On collaborating with Great Full to support Bowel Cancer New Zealand…

The reason I'm willing to support a project like this for bowel cancer is because of its clarity. The condition as defined by the title, the charity, everything is quite transparent. You give the money, it goes to the research, the research works. It goes straight to the source and then it helps bowel cancer – that's the whole point. 

On the inspiration behind the Kingfisher artwork…

My mother went to art school – she was arty. She used to copy Goldie portraits onto wooden bowls and get them French polished. I used to watch her, painting, wetting the brush and everything. Because {the Great Full project} is a repeating motif, I went back into my drawers, looking at other designs I've worked on and I had that lovely one of the Kingfisher, which is based on a design that my mother used to paint. So I had my mother's Kingfisher and worked out my repeating motif based on that.