Who is Amiria Gale?

This page includes a brief profile, autobiography, contact details and information about Amiria Gale: New Zealand artist and teacher (me). It focuses on information which relates specifically to my own contemporary artwork and includes links to my paintings. It is intended to help those who are studying – or interested in purchasing – my artwork, or who wish to find out more about me.

Amiria Gale art
This is my daughter looking at a drawing of me and my baby sister (drawn by me, age 19).

If you are looking for assistance with your high school Art projects, please visit my other website, the Student Art Guide.

If you would like to build a website like this one, please see my guide to creating your own website with WordPress. This has been written to assist students, teachers, and artists who may be interested in creating a professional website that will help their work get seen by thousands of people.

An autobiographical recount

My childhood was spent in Tolaga Bay, on the East Coast of New Zealand. This was the type of town where you run barefoot: where you live in the sand dunes and feast on crayfish and kina. It is a place where you dive deep under waves with tangled, salt-knotted hair and sunburnt limbs.

Me, on my father’s boat
Me, holding a shell

It was here, with John Walsh producing his highly realistic Maori portraiture works just down the road, and teachers encouraging me to sit cross-legged on the school grounds and ‘draw what you see,’ that I first discovered a love for art-making.

Chilling out in a hammock (age 3) with a cat, beside my painting station.

My siblings and I had no shortage of things with which to paint or draw. We had all manner of paints, pencils, crayons and paper. Our mother showed us how to mix colours and apply textures and sometimes sat there herself and drew us lying around her while we watched.

As a teenager, I found great solace in the richly decorated art room walls at Lytton High School. Our classes were bright and vibrant, with many year levels often present at one time in a room. The Art Department had alcoves where senior students worked in undisturbed pockets, while junior students undertook supervised instruction in the centre areas of the rooms. I was a shy and reserved teenager, but hours of practise began at last to culminate in some level of recognisable skill: something I could use with a measure of confidence. At seventeen I had my first commissioned painting, followed by a summer of commissioned artwork (completed while designing and constructing outdoor furniture) sold for pennies to people I knew.

When university called, it was a dramatic change leaving the isolated East Coast. I attended Auckland University’s School of Architecture, discovering here, for the first time, how to embrace the true insanity of an artist: how to swallow oneself in work and let it tell a story that speaks more clearly than surface aesthetic ever will. It took me a while to find my feet: a while to learn that someone from a little town in the middle of nowhere could compete with as much fury and ferocity as the next; to learn that artistic endeavour is as much about truth, as the straightness of line or mimicking of shadow.

I finished my degree, and then stood for a moment, lost.

I turned up, at last, at Auckland College of Education, asking if I could be a teacher. The tutor said no. She said I had an architectural background, not an artistic one, and that top schools wouldn’t take me. “I don’t want to teach at that kind of school,” I said, a little stubbornly, and pulled some of my paintings out to show her. She looked at them. And, quite abruptly, she changed her mind.

So I taught. I taught five year olds all the way through to eighteen year olds, specialising in Painting, managing a secondary art department for seven years at two Auckland schools. Teaching filled my lungs with happiness. It reminded me that, above all, people want to do good. It showed me that achievement is the result of effort, and that I should foster a diligent, systematic approach: temper insanity with process. It taught me about people. It taught me how to formulate ideas with clarity, forced to me arrive at an exact understanding before I spoke.

Teaching kept my brain alive. It kept creativity in my veins and my fingers. The paintings I made were shown in galleries, and began to be sought after, encouraging me to paint faster and more. But, as everything, there is a price to teaching. It takes practise and finesse to juggle the components of life.

And so, at thirty years old, I walked away from my students and picked up a paint brush. Instead of an activity that was completed at the edges of an existence, painting became activity number one. It was that which I fronted up to on a daily basis at 9am, in a paint-stained room with a ripped carpet floor.

Hadley Wickham portrait
A portrait I painted of my friend Hadley Wickham, selected as a finalist in the Adam Portrait Award (2014), exhibited in Wellington.
Amiria Gale art studio
Amiria Gale painting ground prep
Amiria Gale drawing
Me, at work

As an artist, your work is the story. It is pieces of memory, woven together: captured in fragments so that others can hang it on their walls.

Artists paint to untangle their soul. They paint for the movement of brush; the smear of paint; the feel of texture against skin. They paint for light and shadow and the discovery of what was not there before.

Now, in addition to making art, I run the Student Art Guide – a website I created to help high school Art students excel. Why? Because teaching is awesome. And I miss it!

10 Facts about Amiria Gale

This section is written as FAQ, in response to the questions that I am emailed by students who are studying my artwork, or conducting artist research for various school art projects.

When was Amiria Gale born?

I was born in 1979, in a small town called Tolaga Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand. I am the eldest of six children. My father was a fisherman and my mother a teacher: we lived in a ramble-shack house at the edge of the sea. Later we moved to a sprawling farm in the middle of nowhere (Whangara, Gisborne).

Where does Amiria Gale live?

I currently live in Auckland, New Zealand, with my two daughters.

Where did Amiria Gale study?

I attended Lytton High School, Gisborne (favourite subjects were mathematics, physics, and art). I then studied at the Auckland University, School of Architecture, and the Auckland College of Education. I have a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching. I took many papers with students from Elam School of Fine Arts (which was next to the School of Architecture), including Life Drawing. In one paper we had to design and construct a piece of furniture (I also built outdoor furniture all through my summer holidays too, earning money for university). In the final year of my degree, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a creative writing paper by award-winning New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera.

What is Amiria Gale’s art style?

Most of my paintings are semi-abstract, with a mixture of abstract and realistic elements. As my artwork is recent, is technically considered ‘contemporary’ art.

Where does Amiria Gale get her inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from the physical forms of the subject matter itself (shells, landscapes, waves) as well as various artists.

Which artists have inspired Amiria Gale?

An early influence was New Zealand artist John Walsh, as described above. I studied Cubism as part of my high school Art classes and this no doubt had an impact upon the fractured, disassembled nature of some of my paintings. At university, I fell in love with the curving architectural forms of Zaha Hadid – her work had an obvious influence upon my subsequent shell paintings. I also love Don Binney’s bird and landscape paintings (how the forms mimic each other, with perfect attention given to the balancing of negative space in between), and the gestural use of texture in paintings by Jill Perrott. I am a fan of American artist Jim Dine’s tool drawings too, as my students all well know. You may wish to follow the Student Art Guide on Pinterest to see a sample of the many artists and designers whose work appeals to me.

How does Amiria Gale create her work?

I receive many questions about the processes, techniques, and use of media used in my paintings. It is difficult to be specific, as each painting is different, however I commonly paint on wooden artist boards (either plywood or MDF framed boards, created by Frames by Daniel). I use PVA to glue a multitude of mixed mediums to these, such as tissue paper, textured papers, torn cardboard, and other found materials, such as litter, string, and other items. I apply impasto medium and modelling compound to give three-dimensional form to certain parts of the painting (such as the shells). These forms may protrude up to 20mm from the surface of the painting, and take some time to dry. I use masking tape (even on curved forms) to ensure that the edges of the modelling compound are sharp and clean, removing tape prior to drying. Sometimes I also use modelling compound to create other textures, such as scratching into the surface with a stick. When all of the textured items are glued on, and the impasto/modelling compound applied, I seal the whole surface with gesso, so that it is primed and ready to paint (gesso makes the surface less absorbent). At this point, the painting has a very tactile surface, but remains smooth in places, so that there is a balance between textured and untextured areas. Once the gesso is dry, I cover the whole painting with a watery undercoat of acrylic. The watery paint settles in the bumps and grooves and exaggerates the texture, sometimes in a way that is unexpectedly beautiful. I then sketch out the image in more detail with graphite, before applying Atelier acrylic in layers, using a variety of wet and dry brush techniques (dry brush also helps exaggerate textured areas). In order to create translucent layers, I mix Atelier acrylic with various gel, liquifying, or gloss mediums. These make the paint see-through (but not thin or watery). I also use masking tape to keep edges clean, wherever possible, particularly in the beach paintings, which typically have numerous straight lines. The final composition is modified and refined as I go. I often use a mirror to examine the composition (this allows you to see it with ‘fresh eyes’). For more information about the process used, please see the article about my shell paintings.

Where can I purchase / view Amiria Gale’s artwork? 

My work has been shown by several New Zealand galleries such as Parnell Art Gallery, Monterey Art Gallery (Howick), and Art by the Sea (Devonport). My artwork has been featured on the set of The Blue Rose (S1, E10) a South Pacific Pictures television series. Artwork is currently displayed in private collections within New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, and has been commissioned to illustrate book covers and website illustrations. My artwork is now sold exclusively through www.amiriagale.com. Please note that I am not taking commissions at present.

Where can I purchase Amiria Gale’s books?

Outstanding High School Sketchbooks is now available!

The book about my artwork is currently out of print, but I hope to get a new version published soon!

How can I contact Amiria? 

Due to the number of visitors to the Student Art Guide, I am inundated with emails and struggle to respond to these; hence messages through my contact form may not be responded to personally. If you are a teacher looking for assistance, I recommend that you join the High School Art Teachers Facebook Group and seek guidance from many of the wonderful people there. I moderate this group and occasionally manage to partake in discussions. You may also wish to follow the Student Art Guide on Facebook or my personal artist page. I have also just signed up to Instagram! Hope to see you there!