When you are raised in a small town, you will develop one of two mindsets. The first of these mindsets is that moving elsewhere is not an option. Your birthplace is the place you remain, because it was the first place you ever knew; therefore it is your home. The second mindset is held by a very marginal collection of people. These people feel imprisoned by the dusty customs and officious beliefs they are expected to adopt as their own when they live in one of said small towns. This feeling of imprisonment often results in the mindset that ones’ current home has nothing more to offer and that to glean any sort of fulfilment from life, one must leave. My mindset is that of the latter, and I am one of the people who left behind my small town.
Te Awamutu – my previous home – is a town where tradition will always be favoured over innovation and originality, and where physicality is valued more than intelligence. I was always a “weird kid”, who’d prefer to read fiction and write poems instead of playing sport. “Weird kids” – the kind of kids who grow up to be artistic outcasts – are not truly welcome in small towns like Te Awamutu. They find these towns suffocating, anyway. I found my home suffocating, so I set out to find a new one.
Wellington provides me with the freedom I need to live a life where I can “breathe”; and by breathe, I mean “express myself without fear of oppression or dismissal”. Wellington is where I belong.
Here I can aspire to be like the people I have idolised since I was very young.
Neil Finn, who escaped from the same small town as I did and managed to “make it big”.
Chris Riddell, who found a niche in the field of illustration and used his work to inspire children to explore their creativity and aspire to great things.
Tony DiTerlizzi, who created other worlds with ink and brush in order to keep alive the imagination of any child who felt they might be losing theirs.
And Chuck Jones, who “took his work, but not himself, seriously” (Chuck Jones), and inspired me to do the same.
These four men have been my constant sources of wonderment, laughter, and hope. I want to influence others the way they have influenced me. If my art – whether it be illustration, painting, model making, or digital design – can be somebody’s reason to smile, to strive, or just to keep breathing, I will have reached self-fulfillment. The leaving of my small town will be justified. I will be content.