Art has delivered Lyn Hewitson the most ‘‘extraordinary’’ life.
It has taken her all over the world, put her face on television and provided opportunities beyond imagination — all before she discovered strong family roots in Waimate and settled in the South Canterbury town.
For the past few decades, Hewitson has been involved in the arts sector, from curatorship to running her own gallery and practising as an artist.
For her, it was about getting artwork from the studio to the public.
But she has not always been so immersed in the arts.
During her teen years, Hewitson (nee Norman) enjoyed a decade of showing and training horses before moving to the United Kingdom, where she worked in a Northamptonshire stable yard, learning to drive carriage ponies.
She returned to New Zealand in her early 20s and married John Hewitson. The couple had two sons.
Her creative focus at the time was interior design, until her family emigrated to the United Kingdom for five years. They then returned to Auckland, the place Hewitson was born and raised.
With a paintbrush or a pencil always in her hand, she was involved in creating art, drawing pictures and painting murals for her two sons.
‘‘I always wanted to explore my artistic side.’’
When her two sons were older and her 40th birthday was approaching, Hewitson signed up for art school in Auckland —by then she had enough selfconfidence to realise art was more than just a passing interest.
It was a ‘‘complete revelation’’ and an unleashing of pent-up creativity, she said.
Art took a more prominent position in her life, though ‘‘art’’ was not quite the right word, she said.
‘‘I don’t know what the right word is, because art is a nothing word — it’s just a collective word.
‘‘When you say to people you want to be an artist, they roll their eyes and they expect you to become a floaty, hippy, scarfwearing person who is always on the breadline — but in fact, art has taken me to cathedrals and castles, and I have touched monuments and I’ve stood at the Berlin Wall and I’ve lived in a 14th-century castle in Germany and a monastery in Italy — all because I was painting.’’
To her, art was an umbrella term and something that offered opportunities, such as the opportunity to work as an artist in residence at the Kettering Buccleugh Academy in the United Kingdom for six years.
It was the ‘‘best job in the world’’, as she took pupils around Europe to look at art, hosted workshops and taught art.
She was exposed to historic and heritage cultural opportunities, such as discussing, looking at and being involved in restoration of works from the 1600s.
But when it came to retiring, Hewitson knew she wanted to return home.
For the past four years, Hewitson has lived in Waimate with her husband.
‘‘Waimate delivers an utterly delightful living environment — the people are great,’’ she said.
‘‘We are very happy to be here.’’
For her, there was a sense of coming home as she discovered strong family ties to the town.
Her late mother, Daphne Norman (nee Cottee), was born in Bathgate Rd in Waimate, where her family had a strawberry farm.
Norman’s father’s lineage came from a ship that arrived in Timaru in 1854, and her mother’s from a ship that arrived in Timaru in 1875.
Hewitson’s great-greatgrandfather William Cottee was a brick-maker who provided most of the bricks used in Waimate’s Queen and High Sts.
She said it felt very nice being part of something and discovering various connections to the land and people.
‘‘There may be a series of paintings to come out of it.’’
At the end of last year, Hewitson established the Beacontree Studio, where she will explore the New Zealand art palette and the photographic archive she has maintained over the years.
‘‘All of the things I have seen are just tumbling together in a revisit of my archives.
‘‘I can finally let all of that spill out and evolve into what happens next.’’
Hewitson’s work would be displayed in a solo exhibition, Sense of Place, at the Forrester Gallery starting February 12.
Through the exhibition, she would revisit the places in her archive, immersing herself in the memory of being there — from something as simple as ‘‘an utterly unique fleeting light by the river’’ to a spotlight on a valley in the distance.
Drawn to natural subjects, Hewitson held the ‘‘passionate belief’’ that drawing was the foundation to everything.
She used a ‘‘mix of styles’’, often drawing over oil paint, or washing it away.
Either way, the end result was only a small part of the journey — the process was the most interesting part.
Hewitson is speaking at the Forrester Gallery at 12.30pm on March 12.
Vaccine passes will be required for the artist talk.