Por­trait champ makes move south

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By CHE BAKER

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.

Photo: CHE BAKER/FAIR­FAX NZ

Life­style change: Leading New Zealand por­trait pain­ter Stephen Marty Welch has made the move to Wanaka.

Busi­ness­man Michael Hill and his por­trait, above.

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