Making an easel living of it
To say Palmerston North artist Jack Register has ‘‘quite a following’’ is probably a massive understatement.
His distinctive landscape paintings adorn the walls of businesses and homes all over the country.
He is also a dyed-in-the-wool Palmynaut with community connections that run deep.
He’s performed in gang shows started up by his friend Pat Snoxell.
‘‘Pat gave me a woggle and a scarf to take to the 1957 World Jamboree at Sutton Coldfield in Birmingham, England, with 200 other New Zealand scouts.’’
His father, Basil, established the Register name as an artist, while Jack went into business as a painter and paperhanger after coming across his longterm business partner, George Mason at Alexander Clarks.
‘‘We were two short guys, like a couple of little sparrows,’’ he laughs. ‘‘We didn’t have to advertise, we’d just go from family to family. We had a good business, and we were together for 28 years.’’
But good things do come to an end. George was finding his path was in golf and Paul Barnett had offered Jack gallery room at King and Teppett when it was still in Broadway.
‘‘That enabled me to paint full-time. Best thing I ever did. I wasn’t a hobby painter any more.’’
It also gave him greater control over his work.
‘‘Trying to get money out of galleries in Wellington, or Christchurch or Auckland for your paintings could be difficult.’’
The 79-year-old has a new lease on life too, recovering from an encounter with cancer, and having recent cataract operations that restored his colour sense and improved his depth perception.
Even so, he still remains slightly astonished by his success.
‘‘It’s a story of how this guy stayed in Palmerston North and now has instant recognition around the country. Palmerston North is brilliant for me – it’s so central.’’
One answer could be that the generation that grew up here during the shortages and rationing of the war years learned to be self reliant.
‘‘Suddenly we went from the 1930s to the 1800s. Anything you wanted, you had to make it. We had to make our own cricket bats, so you had to be creative.’’
His philosophy has never been about being high-brow.
‘‘I owe a great deal to another former pupil of College Street School, Pat Hanly.’’ The artist died in 2004
‘‘He said the idea is to get paintings on the walls of everyday people, and that’s what the mid winter studio exhibition is largely all about – getting paintings on walls.’’
He enjoys being able to talk to people about his paintings, and to maintain a connection with those who buy them.
There is also a bit of showmanship required. Painting he says, referring to his gang show and musical experience as a bandsman, can be likened to a street theatre performance.
‘‘All I have to do is set an easel up, say in The Square, and I’ve got an audience.’’
He’s bound to have an audience this Saturday too, with a variety of framed and unframed paintings for sale. Jack’s 10 Burfield Place studio is open from 10am to 3pm.
Looking for all the world like a mid-winter Santa Claus, the venerable Jack Register is holding his annual studio exhibition on Saturday.