An artist in Seatoun
Time & Tide
In summer, artist Lynne Sandri tops off her morning run with a leap into Wellington Harbour and a wet jog home. The inevitable chill doesn't faze her. She's also willing to tolerate those embarrassing moments when curious passers-by turn and stare at the dripping runner.
"I look like a drowned rat," she says. "And it is freezing. But I hold by the premise that we live in paradise and you've got to be out amongst it all the time."
Lynne's version of paradise is a three-bedroom, sage-coloured weatherboard bungalow in the suburb of Seatoun with an art studio in its adjacent, recently converted garage. Fourteen years after moving there with husband Graeme and daughter Brearna, Lynne says the novelty of seaside living still lingers.
Seatoun's village feel and proximity to the central city suit her. "I've found my place. I fit in, I feel part of something. My heart and soul's in Wellington."
The former banker is similarly enthusiastic about her artistic calling, which re-emerged after 15 years in the banking industry. At age 15, as a sketch-mad teenager, she had resolved to give up her art books for the corporate world and wound up with a head office management job, "trying to break through the glass ceiling" with ANZ Bank.
But the creative urge refused to die and she began attending art school at nights and on weekends. In 1996, Lynne took long-service leave from the bank to finish oil paintings for what turned out to be a sell-out exhibition. "I never looked back. I had wanted to be an artist since I was five but I had hard-working parents who wanted me to get a decent career and a real job."
Not that she regrets her first vocation. Thanks to her banking background, she can manage and market her small business. The corporate years instilled a respect for deadlines that she now applies to full-time painting.
But it was art that led her home. Graeme and Lynne were living in a nearby subdivision when she was commissioned to paint 25 panels reflecting a Seatoun client's family life and surroundings. She already knew the area well; it was a favourite spot for weekend walks. "I used to say, I'd so love to live here. I grew up near the sea in Cockle Bay, Howick [Auckland]. I think once you've had a smell of the sea in your system, you always gravitate to the water."
Lynne threw herself into the art project with gusto and even painted her own car into what turned out to be a prophetic streetscape. Once the artwork was finished, the owners celebrated its arrival with a neighbourhood gathering. A guest mentioned plans to rent out his newly renovated home so, after the party, Lynne and Graeme strolled down the street to take a look.
"It was 11pm," says Lynne, "and we'd had a few wines. We walked from the front door to the back and said, ‘We want it'." She also realised that her newly hung painting depicted her car parked outside the very address she had just agreed to live in.
Six months later, the couple knew they had to buy the house. Sun hit all the right places during the day. The kitchen was ideally situated in the home's core and the back garden was appealingly secluded. What's more, her builder father deemed it solidly, properly built.
"Every day we woke up, pinched ourselves and realised this was what we had always dreamed of. We begged and borrowed and swallowed very heavily and thought, are we doing the right thing? Then we thought, we've found our utopia. Let's give it everything we've got."
Lynne still feels that way about the century-old house and pities her husband, who has to don a suit and leave it each day. Meanwhile, she can duck out of her studio for summer lunch breaks in the yard or grab a bite from the pantry before hunkering down again in the studio.
The house and its contents also inspire her work. Her painting of grass and daisies, entitled This Bit I Own, the Bank Owns the Rest, is one of a series to be shown in an exhibition in November.
Her fascination with time, which inspired earlier paintings, is responsible for the clock collection that has spilled out of her studio and into the house. The same thing happened with the bird houses that line a living room wall. Last year, the obsession was preserving jars, which stemmed from her mother's bottling and developed into an artistic study of conserving moments in time.
"So I collected jars and now the place is full of preserving jars. It's art imitating life and life imitating art. I start looking at things and how they work and how they're shaped and how the light falls on them.
"The things around me have all featured in paintings. So have Graeme and Brearna."
When a model was required for her piece No One Ever Died of Hard Work, Graeme was collared as he headed out the door to the office and instructed to don gumboots and hold a shovel.
Lynne's parents have been similarly commandeered to add practical or creative touches around the house. The cushions were sewn by her mother, the old wooden ladders were converted to bookshelves by her father. The chances are high that they'll one day wind up appearing in a corner of a canvas.
"My paintings are a record of the life I've lived and what's around me. And painting led us here. I do believe things happen for a reason."
to see Lynne's art.For more images including web-exclusive images click on the "photo gallery" link above.
Story: Sue Hoffart
Photographs: Paul McCredie