Kerry Fenton-Johns

This morning I meandered down to the small village of Ocean View to visit Kerry Fenton-Johns. Kerry warmly welcomed me into her home and we went straight to the studio. Well I prompted the direction, as I was keen to see what she was currently working on!  Kerry sat down at her work area and showed me a kowhai painting she was making minute alterations to. It’s her practice to hang a painting in her lounge for a few days when the painting is complete. And seeing it in a different light and setting she, along with her husband, pick on it – in the nicest possible way! Then it’s back to her studio where she lightens, tightens or makes the minutest of alterations until she is 100% happy with it.

Before she became a full time artist ten years ago Kerry’s paintings were primarily for family and friends. She happily accepts commissions and has had a few interesting ones. One time while hanging a cow painting for display at the Karamea Information & Resource Centre a woman came up and asked her if she painted jersey cows. She had a passion for them and directed Kerry to the location of three local herds. Many photos and one painting later one very happy West Coaster headed home with her ‘jerseys’ tucked under her arm.

Kerry was one of the instigators behind the Artist in the Terminal idea at the Dunedin International Airport. She held an exhibition there after the inaugural artist, Sam Foley. “I painted pohutakawas for a year for that exhibition and I tell you I was sick of them after that,” she laughed. I noted there were none on her property. “No, I photographed them from all round the neighbourhood.” Kerry wandered over to the kitchen and returned with a mug. “This,” she said pointing to the word pohutukawa, “is a kind of joke.”

When asked how she coped with paintings that weren’t going her way Kerry said she just persevered. “The more you carry on the better you get, you don’t achieve anything by giving up.” Sometimes she has a love/hate relationship with her paintings – worse than a teenager with an on again off again relationship!  Working from home Kerry is very disciplined, not in making herself paint but making herself stop! Painting is her passion but she works hard to keep a balance. Summer surfing, working in the vegetable garden, catching up with friends, and playing the ukulele all offer relaxing alternatives to painting.

Kerry tutors adult art classes at the Green Island Gallery every Wednesday from 10am-12noon.  “It’s one way I can share my love of painting and everything I’ve learned over the years,” Kerry said. And her ideal painting scenario? “I prefer to work on one painting at a time, on my own, with just the radio for company,” Kerry stated. “Right now I’m working towards 2013 exhibitions and ideas for the haiku work are gently brewing in the background,” she smiled. You can find Kerry here  but watch out for her new website which she hopes to launch shortly.

Last year Kerry fulfilled a long-time ambition, by travelling through Europe. She allowed me a glimpse of one work which resulted from that trip and my immediate reaction was “WOW, show me more.” Kerry wasn’t giving much away but I think there’ll be a lot more paintings resulting from the sights she captured in Europe. Winters travelling and summers at home painting, now wouldn’t that be the ‘perfect’ lifestyle we agreed as I farewelled Kerry and headed for home.


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