Who is Amiria Gale? Facts, recollections and stories

Last Updated on January 2, 2024

This page includes a brief autobiography about Amiria Gale, artist and teacher (me). It is intended to help those who are studying or interested in purchasing my artwork, or who wish to find out more about me.

CONTENTS:    Autobiography    |    Facts about Amiria Gale    |    D.O.B.    |    Where does Amiria Gale live?    |    Where did Amiria Gale study?    |    Art style    |    Inspiration    |    Which artists have influenced Amiria Gale's work?    |    How does Amiria Gale create her work?    |    Favourite painting media    |    What is Amiria Gale's work about?    |    Artwork size    |    An interesting fact about Amiria Gale    |    Fun facts    |    Published books    |    How to pronounce 'Amiria'
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 guide 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.

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 artist painting in her studio
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? 27 / 02 / 1979

I was born on the 27th February 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, and later moved to a sprawling farm in the middle of nowhere (Whangara, Gisborne, New Zealand).

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. I produce autobiographical art, exploring my own life experiences via organic visual imagery derived from New Zealand coastal landscapes.

Where does Amiria Gale get her inspiration from?

I get inspiration from the physical forms of the subject matter itself (shells, landscapes, waves), the stuff of my life, as well as various artists.

Which artists have inspired Amiria Gale?

An early influence on my work was New Zealand artist John Walsh (as described above). I studied Cubism as part of high school Art classes and this probably had a big impact upon the fractured, disassembled nature of my paintings. At university, I fell in love with the curving architectural forms of Zaha Hadid, which influenced my subsequent shell paintings. I also loves 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 New Zealand artist Jill Perrott. I am a long-time fan of American artist Jim Dine’s tool drawings too, as my students know well!

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). PVA is used 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 then 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. Masking tape (even on curved forms) is often used to ensure that the edges of the modelling compound are sharp and clean, with tape removed 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, the whole surface is sealed 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 there is a balance between textured and untextured areas.

Once the gesso is dry, the whole painting is covered 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 pencil, 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). Masking tape is used 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 work, often with a mirror used to examine the composition (this lets you to see an artwork with ‘fresh eyes’).

For more information about the process used in my paintings, please see information provided about the techniques, mediums and materials used in my shell paintings.

What is Amiria Gale’s favourite media to work in and why?

My favourite medium to work in is acrylic paint. I prefer this to oil paint due to its fast drying properties. I also love to work over the top of a range of other found materials, such as bits of paper, or rubbish glued on…or textures created with modelling compound. I enjoy this for the variety and visual interest it gives the surface of the painting.

What is Amiria Gale’s work about?

My paintings play with memories, stories, and truth: explored through the interplay of dissolving boundaries between organic forms. To understand these ideas in more detail, please read the detailed articles about my shell paintings, beach paintings, and abstract landscape paintings.

How large is Amiria Gale’s artwork?

Paintings range in size from very small (150 x 200mm) to very large (1.5m wide).

What is an interesting fact about Amiria Gale?

An interesting fact about me is that I taught myself how to do Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in 2010. SEO strategies involve crafting digital content in a very specific way so that a website can be discovered and understood by search engines like Google. This is a highly valuable skill for an artist.

As a consequence of learning SEO, my artwork became not just available online, but easily findable. (Read more about how my art website rapidly grew to over 1,000 visitors a day.)

What are some fun facts about Amiria Gale?

  • I milked a cow every day when I was a teenager and both my high school photography and painting portfolios were about cows.
  • I breed chickens. It is a surprise I haven’t yet branched into chicken-themed artwork. This wondrous possibility remains yet unrealised. 🙂

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

My paintings have 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 (see here).

Where can I purchase Amiria Gale’s books?

Outstanding High School Sketchbooks is now available! Clicking this link will show you all the places this book can be purchased around the world.

The book about Amiria Gale’s artwork is currently out of print, but a new version will hopefully be available soon.

Where does Amiria Gale teach?

I was Head of Art / Curriculum Coordinator at ACG Strathallan College and Head of the Art, Design and Technology Department at ACG Parnell College. When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I left teaching and began sharing teaching resources online via the Student Art Guide.

Amiria Gale art teacher
Me (centre) with some of my awesome Year 13 students, on the final day of school at ACG Parnell College.

How do you pronounce Amiria?

‘Amiria’ is a Maori name, derived from ‘Amelia’, and has a rolled R. When pronounced correctly, it sounds like: Ah-mee-dee-ah. In other words, the rolled R basically sounds like a soft D. 🙂

How can I contact Amiria Gale? 

I can be contacted here.