Portrait champ makes move south
A 10-year apprenticeship not earning a cent was a long time for leading New Zealand portrait painter Stephen Marty Welch, but it paid off.
The self-taught artist’s work now fetches up to $20,000 a piece.
‘‘There’s just something about painting flesh that’s quite rewarding,’’ Welch said.
His most well-known work is a portrait of Willie Nelson and he has also been commissioned to paint Saudi kings and GovernorGenerals as well as those who want a lasting painting of family members.
However, ‘‘everyone deserves a portrait’’, and he has also taken his time to paint homeless people, he said.
At present his favourite subject is women with tattoos.
However, getting the tattoos perfect could be hard work.
His work sells for between $3500 and $20,000.
For those who thought it was pricey, Welch said the artwork would last more than 400 years.
‘‘Once people realise it’s going to outlive them they like the idea,’’ he said.
Portrait paintings were in higher demand in places such as Britain and not as common in New Zealand because of the low population and the large land spaces.
In the United Kingdom the population was much larger so there were far more people to paint and in New Zealand there was a lot more open space to paint, Welch said.
While Wanaka was renowned for attracting landscape artists, it also caught the eye of Welch.
Welch, winner of New Zealand’s top portrait award, The Adam Awards, in 2012, moved to Wanaka in December with his partner Amanda and two of their sons after wanting a change from their Auckland lifestyle.
He has set up a studio and was in the process of setting up his business in Wanaka. He has been enjoying life here. ‘‘I love the people. ‘‘The lifestyle is just brilliant,’’ he said.
Welch was a part of the TV series called ‘‘The Sitting’’ which involved filming as he painted portraits of New Zealand’s top actors, artists, musicians, sportspeople, chefs and television personalities.
Those involved included Petra Bagust, Mark Sainsbury and Sir Graham Henry and not everyone had been pleased with the end result, Welch said.
The portraits were auctioned off at the end of the series and more than $130,000 was raised for Starship Childrens Hospital.
Replays of the show were being aired on the Heartland Channel on Saturdays at 7.30pm and three showings on Sundays.
Some of Welch’s work will be on display at the Wanaka Fine Art Gallery and the Artbay Gallery in Queenstown and he hoped to have an exhibition in Dunedin later this year.
Lifestyle change: Leading New Zealand portrait painter Stephen Marty Welch has made the move to Wanaka.
Businessman Michael Hill and his portrait, above.