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Marie Ockleford – Flamingos, Spray Paint and Surfing

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Pink Noise
Pink Noise
Marie Ockleford – Flamingos, Spray Paint and Surfing

Katie Robinson from Pink Noise asks Marie Ockleford (AKA. Muz Flamingo), about incorporating street inspired elements to create her fresh take on nature and our Avian friends . . . whilst still finding time to surf and win a few art competitions along the way.

Tell me about how you first realised that you were an artist.

I’ve been drawing and painting for longer than I can remember. I think it’s always been my best form of communication.

You work with such varied mediums, do you have a favorite and what makes it appeal to you the most?

Paint! It’s malleable to anything you want; a 2 year old can use it, so can a 90 year old. It doesn’t have boundaries. I love spraypaint, how it is so wreakable. I like when things have an unpredictable outcome. Things that are clean and precise don’t have as much appeal to me as something with spontaneity.

Where do you do most of your work? Tell me about your creative space!

We have a garage that has no vehicle access. So it is perfect for painting and making any sort of mess. I also have a room for making jewelery. You have to have dedicated creative space where you can leave stuff half done. If you have to unpack and pack up stuff each time you never get anything done. Maybe I’m just lazy and messy, but that’s how I work.

I have noticed that you have entered into some interesting collaborations with your boyfriend. How you find working with someone so close to you?

It’s fun, and funny and can be frustrating. He’s nuts. He has intense surges of energy when things will get done, but when he’s not feeling it, it won’t happen. I’m more methodical, I will make a list and work out when I need to get steps done by. Like with the Tiger Translate piece we had less than a week to do a HUGE painting. He didn’t feel it till a couple of days before it was due. That was frustrating, he was doing the background. But if we are doing something like painting a wall together, we have so much fun. He comes from a completely different art background so it’s cool having such different perspectives and getting inspiration from each other.

You have been involved with some exciting ventures; The Amnesty International Exhibition, Metonymy, The East Meets West – Tiger Beer Competition. Do you have any advice to other artists that would like to keep up with being involved in things like this?

Keep your eyes and ears open. I hear about things on the radio (95bfm), the big idea website is great to find out about all sorts of creative goings on.

That’s how I heard about Pink Noise, and I also subscribe to a graphic competitions website. There is heaps of stuff going on where people are getting artists together; brands are using the promotion of emerging artists for advertising. There is so much that you have to be quite selective about what you are going to spend your time doing. What would benefit you the most, what is up right up your alley. I just go with what I feel I’m in to. If I hear about something, I’ll usually sit on it for a few days with it in my mind, then I’ll go for it, or I won’t.

You also have to be careful. I tend to think that some people capitalise on the fact that there will always be more artists than the market can cater for, so they hold competitions with entry fees; and unless you are confident of organisation, they could just be making money, and the winner may have already been decided. I’m skeptical of some competitions, but there are definitely good opportunities to be had out there.

Also what are your top websites which you would recommend to fellow artists?,, (for inspiration)

and of course, and!

Continuing on the topic of your exciting endeavours, tell me about your win at the East Meets West Competition

We were told we had won the Tiger Translate Art comp, and that we had one week to see the site, get our materials, and do the piece. So we found the two biggest canvases we could in the city, and were tying them to the roof of my car, when we locked the keys in the car! And we lived in the sticks, far from where we were at the time. By the time we had all the materials at our place we were over it!

The site of our painting had changed, so the shape of our concept didn’t fit. With only 5 days (3 of them I had to work) to paint a 1.5x4m painting, this is when Dave decided he “wasn’t feeling it”! But we weren’t going to let a great opportunity pass us by so we got it done. We were happier with it than we thought we would have been, considering.

And the night was a wicked party.My friends still talk about how great that night was; VIP treatment, open bar, plenty of amazing live acts, we had a great time. It gave me more confidence and drive to paint and get it out there.

We are also still planning to go to Melbourne with the prize money, so it’s still paying off.

Is there ever a time that you can’t seem to get motivated? What keeps you going?

I work on so many different things at once. So if I can’t get motivated on one thing, I’ll do another. It means you can really work on what you are feeling at the moment, so you are never being unproductive. There is no point trying to squeeze something out of nothing, you are best to come back to it later.

I also work on a rewards system for myself. If I spend the morning on the computer, I will go for a bush or beach walk in the arvo. If I go for a surf during the day, I will work during the night. It’s all about balance.

I have to ask ... why Flamingos?

I was in the Altiplano, in the Andes in Bolivia. It is such an arid place. It’s where NASA does testing for it’s equipment, because it’s so out of this world. It is also freezing!!! And there in the middle of it are these beautiful bright birds, that for some reason I’d always thought of as tropical. It seemed like such a visual juxtaposition that it blew my mind.

Other than that I just love birds, and I especially love how I draw the flamingos head and neck; which is like a koru, the natural shape I draw when I am doodling. So they come very naturally to me. I also like how feminine they are. I’m a bit of a tomboy so I like that I can express my femininity in my painting.

Where do you find your inspiration for the work you create? Is there a certain person or thing in your life that inspires you greatly?

I live in the Waitakere ranges, so I have birds and trees all around me. Birds are the main subject of my artwork. They have been my obsession for a while; I think from sitting on the beach and in the water watching their silhouettes fly by, they seemed to have found freedom. And now I see the birds of the NZ bush everyday.

I also like textures in the urban environment. Surfaces that tell a story, decay over time, layers of paint, graffiti, ripped off stickers. They portray a sense of time and human action.

Before I meet Dave, I hadn’t developed a consistent style of painting, I would paint many different subjects in different ways. But after watching him and his friends paint walls, I really took to the process of painting graffiti. Outline, fill, shadows, shines, aura, etc. It seemed logical, like how you would draw on your school books, and it clicked with me.

So that is the process I largely follow now. Especially when doing characters, which I do for my illustration job a lot.

Do you find you have a set thought process when it comes to building up a piece of work ie. development process, materials etc. or is it quite individualised from work to work?

It varies a lot. I may do a sketch, I may not. It depends on whether there is a reason for me doing it. If it’s just for the sake of doing it, I won’t do any planning. If I want to achieve something in particular, then I will think about it and sketch it out.

Tell me about your current ventures.

At the moment I am doing my jewellery label, Muzroom. I just added the full range of Avian Amigos, which are cute characters based on NZ birds, and I have plenty more new designs planned as well.

I am involved in an art exhibition called Metonymy, where they pair a visual artist and a writer together. For this I have to explore scary birds, though I can’t seem to flush the cuteness entirely out of my drawings. That is being held at the Corban’s Estate in Waitakere City.

And a good friend and I are starting to make a kids book about the little Black Robin that came back from almost extinction in the Chatham islands.

And you may never know where you will see a flamingo next…

 As a self employed artist, how have you found mixing painting for pleasure and painting for profit?

Ha painting for profit! No I just paint for my own satisfaction, and if other people dig it, thats cool. I’ve found that if you do what you are really into, then it will be good because you are being true to yourself, and some people will like it. I do graphic design and illustration for profit, the painting is for fun. It’d be nice if one day I could get both out of it.

Are there any other mediums that you would like to look into using? What are your future ambitions with your work?

I don’t know. I’m really at a stage in my life where I am doing things because I feel like it. I’m not thinking too much about it. I know that one day I want to be doing screenprinting, because I love the medium; it’s precise, but like spray paint it’s so wreakable. I want to do lots of travelling as well, and that will inspire and change my work. I’d like to travel selling my jewellery (and surfing of course). 






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