Gardening & artists who garden | NZ Fine Prints

For some people gardening is a chore, for others it is a sandpit for adults. 

Pohutukawa Tree in Blossom
The Garden by Barry Ross Smith
The intersection between human habitation and our natural environment is where the intrinsic beauty of plants meets our unique among animals impulse to re-order what nature has created in what appears to us to be a more aesthetically pleasing (and productive) way.  
Wheelbarrow in Garden
Detail of Lazy Bones & the Pleasure Garden by Hamish Allan

It is fair bet that those of us who have been bitten by the gardening bug might also want to bring the outdoors inside when it comes to art, decorating our walls with botanical posters for instance. And it is not too far of a stretch to imagine these flora fans are also buying prints of birds in such vast numbers over the past few years as we celebrate the fact that native birds of NZ are being seen in increasing numbers within the gardens of our towns and cities thanks to both pest eradication but also the deliberate creation of habitat in domestic and public gardens.

Blossom Trees and Mount Fuji
Japanese artist Hiroshige, the epitome of gardens as art
But as part of a small campaign to exercise our print buyer's more whimsical choices (he jokes that sometimes he can't resist buying what he thinks people should want rather than what they actually do) we have dipped our toes into offering a new collection of wall art - prints of gardens and gardening (we have also allowed him to buy a large range of retro/vintage music and film posters) but he will now be back on the straight and narrow for the next
few months!

Dick Frizzell "Incinerater" Ltd Edition Print
Backyard Incinerator by Dick Frizzell 

There are artists who garden,
most famously Claude Monet whose garden at Giverny was, as we would say these days, part of his practice. But local kiwi painters like Jeanette Blackburn are almost as well-known for their garden art galleries as for their work. And then we have Hamish Allan's carefully composed renditions of what could only be a New Zealand backyard, Dick Frizzell's "backyard" series like his prints of lawn mowers and the incinerator pictured here - and then the doyen of NZ garden painters Karl Maughan from whom we still have just the single offset print available, "Riverhead".

The impetus for putting together our new gardens/gardening art collection really came from seeing how the posters of Japanese woodblock prints brought together artistic merit with a celebration of gardening as art, as the gardens in Japan are surely the epitome of the landscape as art. And we thought that maybe people who are into gardening but not so much into art would like to see just how well Japanese style wall art would suit them but they would not think to search for this kind of artwork in our online catalogue.

Gardens are such a fascinating glimpse into the way we imagine we would like to live, from the garden that is neglected to one that is bursting with this season's most fashionable colours how we garden says so much about the people who live in it.  We hope you enjoy our new collection of garden art prints - it is not just for those of us who are into gardens and landscaping, surely there are plenty of folk who may enjoy a garden when it is an artistic expression of aspects of what a garden is framed on the wall rather than being out there pulling out the weeds every weekend!

Film & Music Posters - How we select vintage wall art design

The all encompassing term "wall art" is becoming a more prevalent shorthand for what were once

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

exclusively referred to as art prints and posters.  Like when what we thought should be called fine art by NZ painters a decade ago started getting referred to as "kiwiana" alongside the more obvious tiki paintings, four square man etc New Zealand Fine Prints are happy to move with the times and be guided by our customers what they would like to call what we sell even if this new phrase takes a bit of getting used to!

One of the advantages of the expanding definition of wall art (eg from framed prints to wall charts, prints on canvas and even wall decals) is we have been able to expand what we sell beyond the traditional reproduction prints of paintings, maps etc into other things that can go on the walls of kiwi homes and offices, but without straying too far from our core values as a business.  It seems obvious that those folks who show more than an average interest in art would also be interested in music, theatre and film and those of us on our wholesale buying team certainly are into the broader arts as well for sure.

Poster for Fritz Lang's Metropolis

But we believe that delivering value to customers is not just in a good quality item from a production standpoint, it also about selling decoration that will endure not just physically but also continue to be enjoyed as an artwork (ok, wall art) for many years.  This means selling prints by artists who have something to say, prints of places that mean something to New Zealanders and trying not to promote more ephemeral  watered down or generic designs that are, as we say, to match the curtains.   We don't want you to buy an artwork for your walls that "fashions out" really quickly.

So as we grow our range of film and music wall posters we had to devise a criteria that would satisfy demand for a broader range of poster choices without going too far down the path of stocking modern day music posters created for fans (or more cynically created by publishers to cash in on what's popular right now). Drawing a line between what we call the "social expression" market (the teenager whose choice of music or movie posters are a visual shorthand to tell people what kind of person they are) and the broader decorative - ie wall art - market where a poster is there both for its aesthetic merits as well as for its content/subject or design theme.

The Supremes UK Tour Poster
The Supremes UK Tour Poster
Our wholesale team have therefore decided that we won't - at least initially - stock music posters that are designed purely to demonstrate that you are a fan of a contemporary band or a singer or love a just released film. Musically these are the posters that are a photograph of the act (or actor) doing their thing on stage/film set or showing their attitude or style accompanied with the name of the group, rapper or singer or film.   Given the size of the New Zealand market and the order minimums that make sense when importing posters it just doesn't work for us to try and pick trends, there is nothing less saleable than a cutting edge music poster after the band's popularity has peaked!  But we believe there is a sweet spot where a music poster captures both the spirit of the band/singer with an iconic retro/vintage design aesthetic that makes it more broadly interesting than just to fans of the group. So we are stocking retro or vintage designs that have stood the test of time already and that we believe will continue to resonate for the life of the posters on your walls.

Obviously we would like to have a diversity of designs and acts from around the world and across different genres, so we have lined up four different wholesale suppliers across the US, Australia and Europe to try and achieve this aim.

We think in particular that vintage music poster designs for concerts and album releases are true to the spirit of New Zealand Fine Prints, they fit with our extensive range of vintage travel, tourism and advertising posters from what are now well-known graphic designers. This is where we offer a good quality reproduction of an authentic poster design, a replica as close as we can get to the original - ie without Photoshopping the imperfections.

Illustrating this post are examples of some of the new movie and music posters that are now in stock at New Zealand's wall art specialists since 1966, please check out our music and film poster collection to see everything we currently have for sale.

Common Mistakes When Choosing Wall Art | New Zealand Fine Prints

Common Mistakes When Choosing Wall Art

When looking at inspiration for wall art online, it’s easy to feel like the choice of art doesn’t matter, and most examples online look great because they’re in an expensive home! But the truth is, if you’re smart about the art pieces you choose to hang, you can make an interior look more incredible than you’d guess. No matter what your home décor looks like, putting some thought into choosing wall art can elevate your space, and transform your interior into something spectacular.

Below, we’re going to cover some of the common mistakes you should avoid when choosing art to hang on your wall, so you can get the most out of your home!


The Wrong Art for the Wrong Room

Step one is to make sure that a piece of art matches the room it’s in. A lot of the time, people will choose art pieces that look good online or in a store, but don’t match the room they’re being purchased for.

Professional interior designers or decorators usually approach this by first focusing on the function of a room. By understanding what each room is for, you get a better sense of the atmosphere you want to create with certain pieces of art. Sometimes this can require some experimentation, but there are some rules of thumb you can use as a starting point. For instance, a lounge is more likely to have a piece that’s colourful and dramatic than the bathroom, where it’s generally preferable to hang more relaxing or straightforward pieces.


Misusing Wall Space

One of the easiest mistakes to make when hanging art is underusing or overusing the space you have available to you. One piece hanging alone in the middle of a large wall will feel odd, as will many pieces covering a wall completely. You always want a bit of open space to let the pieces breathe, but too much can be distracting. 

This can depend on personal style; some people go for a very cluttered look on purpose, and this can work occasionally! But for most people’s homes a balance is preferable.

Generally speaking, more open space on a wall is more soothing. This means that louder, more dynamic pieces of art might look better with nothing around them than a more subdued, tame piece of art, because the emptiness balances out the noise of the piece of art. It often depends on the colours of the art and how they contrast with the colour of the wall. A lot of contrast can make one single piece of art pop, while pieces that are a similar colour to the wall will blend into it if surrounded by nothing but empty space.


Setting the Mood for the Wrong People

This mistake is more common than you might guess! When choosing wall art, homeowners often pick pieces based on the impression they want the space to give to guests and visitors. While this is important, and very much worth factoring into your decisions, it’s a mistake to prioritise this over choosing art that makes a good impression on you! And there’s a simple reason for this; you’re the one who has to look at it the most. 

This is why you’ll hear people saying it’s important to limit how eye-catching art pieces are in places like the bathroom. While it might seem like a fun idea to throw caution to the wind and put a really arresting piece of art in the bathroom, there’s a real chance that you’ll get sick of looking at it while brushing your teeth every day! So, most decorators opt for calming décor in the bathroom, and save more dramatic pieces for rooms where the owner will spend less time, like a hallway near the front door. 

Again, it’s ultimately up to you, but it’s always worth thinking ahead and considering what it’s going to really be like looking at a piece of art every day.


Ready to choose some art for your home?

The NZ Fine Prints collection has a wide range of art pieces, in varying styles, moods, and materials, including some of the best canvas art prints in NZ, from celebrated Kiwi artists. No matter which room you’re decorating, we can help you take it to the next level. Take a look at our site and explore our categories today!

How Does Landscape Art Contain Emotion? | NZ Fine Prints

How Does Landscape Art Contain Emotion?

Painting of NZ landscape with sea surrounded by hills

If you’ve ever looked at landscape art you might have wondered what the artist was trying to capture. As with most art, understanding an artist’s intention can require some time. Look long enough at a landscape painting, and you might be able to feel the emotions that the painter was trying to capture! Landscapes make popular art prints for their ability to evoke emotions. In today’s blog post, we’re exploring which techniques artists use to create evocative landscapes.


The history of landscapes

The most famous landscape artists are usually associated with the Romanticism movement in art. There’s a whole range of styles within romantic landscape paintings, from peaceful, pastoral visions of nature, to awe-inspiring visions of mountains and storms. A lot of romantic landscapes were used to comment on religious or philosophical ideas, but it was in this movement that the association between landscapes and emotion was forged. This association more or less still exists today; we still expect contemporary landscape art to evoke emotions when we look at it. In many ways, the Romanticists set the blueprint for the common techniques used in landscapes, especially in regard to capturing certain emotions. Below, we’re going to look at three.


1. Colour

The colours chosen by an artist can have a huge impact on the effect it will produce for the audience. One of the most famous landscape painters, Joseph Mallord William Turner (usually just called Willian Turner), was a master at using colour in landscapes. In fact, Turner was a key reason that landscape paintings became popular in the first place. Turner painted both sunsets and sunrises over Venice multiple times in his life, and in all these paintings the colours aren’t necessarily realistic. Often, he painted scenes like this with a reduced palette. All the bright colours are used to depict the rising or setting sun, and the rest of the image is grey or yellow, almost unfinished looking. This forces the eye to focus on the sun, just like how a real sunset or sunrise captures your attention; everything else around you seems to fade away. A lot of early landscapes also used warm colours to create feelings of nostalgia or comfort, especially when depicting the countryside and trying to foster a sense of kinship with the land.


2. Brush techniques

The brushstrokes also change the way a landscape feels. Harsh, sharp brush techniques make the bristles of the brush stand out a lot more in the paint, and this can dramatically alter the atmosphere of a piece of art. One of the most interesting things about this is that the effect can change based on the context creating a sense of grief, or chaos, or even awe. Landscape painters in particular tend to use visible brushstrokes to reinforce the power of nature.


3. Scale

Landscape artists often choose subjects that are overwhelmingly big, like mountains, the sea, or the sky, and all these subjects have roots in the romantic origins of landscape paintings. Romanticists were fascinated by an emotion that they called the “sublime”, and this was true of Romantic poets and writers too, not just visual artists. To the Romanticists, the sublime was best described as a feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale and beauty of the world. You may have even felt this yourself, when looking up into a clear starry sky, or down at a rolling view from the top of a mountain. It’s an experience that makes you feel tiny and insignificant, but also enthralled by the beauty of the scene. For the Romanticists, it usually had an explicit connection to Christianity too; they felt they were experiencing God through the majesty of nature, so in many ways, the sublime was a spiritual experience. Quite a hard thing to attempt to capture in a painting! To try to replicate the unique mixture of powerlessness and euphoria, early landscape artists chose to paint things that were massive, and usually tried to show this to the audience by painting tiny people into the scene for scale, showing them dwarfed by the scene around them.


Interested in landscape art for your home?

Here at NZ Fine Prints, we have a whole collection of contemporary New Zealand landscape art, showcasing our own unique environment and its beauty. Browse our collection to find some of the best landscape canvas art prints in NZ, like Dale Gallagher’s Majestic Fiordland, and Church of the Good Shepherd Lake Tekapo. Landscape prints can bring true character to your home or office and make a great way to celebrate the stunning environment here in Aotearoa. To find out more, feel free to contact us today!

Portraits: Why Are They So Common in Art? | NZ Fine Prints

Portraits: Why Are They So Common in Art?

Painting of knight in front of castle surrounded by other people

There’s no doubt that portrait art is one of the most common art types, and that this has always been the case. But why are portraits so prevalent, both in the history of art and today? In this blog post, we’re going to explore why portraits are so popular, and so common in many different movements of art!


1. Making portraits paid well

Historically, painters could count on portraits when they needed income. This idea grew out of the practice of ‘court painting’, wherein painters like Fransisco Goya were kept on retainer to create paintings of royalty. For a lot of history, commissioned work like this was basically the function of art; the idea of ‘personal inspiration’ is relatively new to modern society! A huge amount of historical art began not with the painter themselves, but with someone else paying the painter to create a piece. It's probably worth mentioning that this idea is drawn mostly from the European tradition of art, which we’re focusing on in particular, because it’s more or less where a lot of the formal ideas about portrait painting come from. Many of the most famous European paintings of all time are, in fact, commissioned work, including the Mona Lisa! And it’s easy to understand why people were eager to pay artists to paint themselves or their families, because it was the only way to keep images of loved ones before photography existed everywhere in the western world. The movement away from commissioned portraits is though to be relatively slow. It began as a practice reserved for the rich, but slowly became more accessible for lower classes in European societies, until eventually, painters simply began painting portraits of people they knew, or even strangers they happened to see.


2. People like people!

The next big reason portraits have always been popular is very straightforward; we’re social creatures! Humans enjoy looking at other humans, and portraits were one of the first ways we could reproduce the experience of looking at someone. There is more to it than that, of course. On a deeper level, portraits can also reveal all sorts of interesting things about their subjects. Part of this lies in the decisions that are made by the artist. How have they chosen to represent the subject of the painting, and what does this say about how people viewed the subject at the time? With older paintings, it can be a full-time job investigating the historical context surrounding these questions, but they are still engaging to think about for anyone, whether they collect art or not. Portraits can also tell us a lot about someone from the level of detail alone. A great example is the oil painting Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck. The painting depicts its donor, Joris van der Paele, and modern medical experts now believe that they can guess how he died from the details in the painting alone. The two biggest clues are the spectacles he carries, and an enlarged vein on his head, which suggest he suffered from temporal arteritis. Jan van Eyck’s paintings were known for this level of minute detail, and it’s incredible that his portraits can tell us things about their subjects that the people of the time didn’t even know. Overall, it will always be true that people are fascinated by other people, and portraits give us a window into how other people think, showing us either how the subject wanted to be seen, or how the artist wanted to show them, or both!


3. People like painters

This final point is an extension of the one above, with a twist. It’s true that people are social beings, but it’s especially true that we tend to be fascinated by the painters themselves, and self-portraits have always carried this mystique with them, offering us a glimpse into the creative mind. Just as portraits can tell us about how their subjects were viewed, self-portraits can tell us how artists view themselves. A lot of painters painted self-portraits during their careers, but Frida Kahlo is probably one of the most well-known artists of the form, creating over fifty self-portraits during her life. The Two Fridas is one of her most analysed self-portraits because she painted two versions of herself; one in European clothes, and one in traditional Tehuana clothing. The meaning behind this has been discussed for decades, and many different theories have been proposed, including by Kahlo herself, who said it was representative of a memory of a childhood friend.


Do you like portraits?

These are just a few of the reasons that portraits are so common and have been so influential. However, art comes down to taste a lot of the time, so no matter how popular they are or have been, they’re not for everyone! On the other hand, if you’re not a fan, you shouldn’t give up on the whole genre straight away! Portraiture contains so many different styles of art that there’s always a chance you’ll find something new and fall in love with it! Portraits make great additions to your home too. Here at New Zealand Fine Prints, we have a range of portraits available under the portrait category on our site. You can also find some classic portraits in our framed wall art collection, including our largest portrait print by CF Goldie, who was best known for his portraits of Maori dignitaries. To find out more, browse our range today!