Art connects mothers and daughters

From top, This painting is treasured by the family as it was sketched by Lois and completed by her daughter. Jo’s latest work is influenced by the style of her mother. Above right, Olivia has inherited a love of woodland creatures, but paints them in her own style.

A strong artistic connection between mothers and daughters that spans three generations is best depicted in a painting by Lois Watkins that hangs in her daughter Josephine Davis’ home.

Lois, Josephine, and Josephine’s daughter Olivia Bezett, are all artists. Josephine (Jo) says her mother should have been a fulltime painter, however Lois was also a farmer’s wife who painted prolifically as well as bringing up four children and helping on the farm. Her paintings were inspired by a love of fantasy worlds such as that of Beatrix Potter. Jo remembers that as children there was a “fairy tree” on the farm where the adults would hide little treats for the children to find, as though they had been left by fairies.

Lois did a painting as a special gift for each of her children. Jo is the youngest and she says by the time her mother was creating a painting for her, Lois was suffering from dementia and the tunnel vision she had all her life had got considerably worse.

In the end, Lois completed a sketch and asked Jo to finish it for her. Jo says it was some time after her mother’s death before she could bring herself to finish the work. The painting is now a treasured family heirloom. “It’s pretty special as grandma started it and mum finished it,” Olivia says.

Jo has been interested in art all her life – her first job, at the age of 17, was in an art gallery. She remembers contributing work for a joint exhibition with her mother and sister, in Gisborne, when she was a teenager.

Like her mother before her, Jo painted prolifically before her children were born. Her career included many awards and exhibitions but she has only recently been able to devote herself fulltime to art, now that her children have grown up.

Later this year, she will hold an exhibition – ­ her first for many years. She says in the intervening period her style has changed, influenced by Lois’ work, to become more surreal.

Jo’s daughter Olivia, who lives in Gulf Harbour, wanted to be a chef – everyone else in the family was in the art world and she wanted to do something different. Jo says she tried to interest her daughter in art, initially without much success.

In the end, it must have been in the DNA as, at the age of 17, Olivia left college and committed herself to a fulltime career as an artist. She has become well known, particularly for her whimsical and surreal coloured pencil drawings of animals.

Recently Olivia and Jo collaborated on a fun project together, making Hobbiton out of sand for the Orewa Beach sandcastle competition, where they placed second.

Olivia says she hopes for many more collaborations with her mother. “We work together well and would like to do a joint exhibition one day,” Olivia says. “When we work together it flows really well. It’s natural and we don’t need to talk about it too much. We are on the same page.”