Artist finds garage inspiring

James Ballantyne makes the most of the six-hour painting window he has each weekday. This subject is a beach at Shakespear Regional Park.

Click on the image to zoom in

Family members make great subjects for James’ paintings. This is his daughter Chloe.


Having moved to Orewa from the North Shore recently, artist James Ballantyne says he has found new inspiration.

A fourth form teacher “who could actually paint” encouraged young James, who moved from pencil sketching into painting in oils.

He has barely put down his brush since. “It’s addictive,” he says.

Although he trained and worked as an animator, painting was never far from his mind and eventually it took hold.

Having converted half of the garage in his new Orewa home into an art studio, the stay-at-home dad is able to paint uninterrupted for around six hours every weekday while his preschooler Jack is at kindergarten. He says during lockdown, this time reduced significantly and he completed just two paintings although he was glad to be there for his children.

Landscapes and portraits are his specialty and he often works on commission – even painting animals on request.

He works from photos. “I like to paint what I see, but I am leaning towards the more impressionistic – I can do hyperrealism but I like something with more layers.”

“As I’ve progressed, my skill has increased and so has the speed I can work at,” James says. “I’ve also learned to know when a work is finished.”

When it comes to sales of his work, he says every year gets better and better – mainly thanks to posting his work on social media.

There will be an exhibition of James’ work at Estuary Arts Centre later this year, with the timing still to be confirmed.


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