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On the right track

A COLOURFUL LIFE: Artist Zoe Alford has been painting with pastels for some 25 years after getting sick of waiting for waterpaints to dry. Pictures supplied
WINNING ART: The artwork YC 1780: Gisborne Railway Station captured the judges’ attention instantly and won Alford $1500.

Zoe Alford is absolutely chuffed. Last week her painting won first prize in the Pastel Artists of NZ national annual exhibition at Pataka Museum in Porirua, winning $1500 and a cup.

Her piece titled, YC 1780: Gisborne Railway Station, captured the judges’ attention instantly.

“It’s very encouraging to win an award like this. The judges’ comments told me I was on the right track (sorry) with my work. I’m absolutely chuffed,” said Alford.

The painting is a looming wagon at the Gisborne rail yards.

“I’ve painted it a couple of times because it’s such a character and I love its colours. I also wanted to make a comment on the demise of the railways in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Julie Greig, one of the judges, wrote to Alford saying they spotted her artwork across the room and knew it was the winner.

“We were looking for the story, the lead-in, the technical compete, and good composition — which yours had in spades,” Greig told Alford.

The next day Alford found out her work had already sold.

As an artist, Alford found a passion for pastels some 25 years ago after a friend who she went sketching gave her some.

“I was using acrylic and oils for paintings at home and was also frustrated with how long those took to dry. While using acrylic I’d have a paintbrush in one hand and a hairdryer in the other — something you can’t do sketching outside,” Alford said.

Unhappy with the time it took watercolours to dry when she was outside competing with mother nature, pastels became her go-to.

“The colour range is huge, the colours are vibrant. Using them is an interesting combination of drawing and painting. For larger paintings, I can use my whole hand to blend them. They are so much fun to use.”

Alford moved to Gisborne in 1987, just before Cyclone Bola, and now at 67 years old, she says she has painted her whole life.

“I have painted every sort of subject over the years, but since coming to Gisborne I have been inspired by the beautiful landscapes here. I’m particularly enamoured with Te Kuri o Paoa/Young Nick’s Head — sometimes it looks as if it’s a cardboard cutout pasted against the sky.”

Alford’s solo exhibition at Tairāwhiti Museum in 2020 featured Gisborne landscapes, and her 2023 exhibition will be the same.

YC 1780: Gisborne Railway Station is on display at Pataka Art + Museum in Porirua until May 15.

Her next exhibition at Tairāwhiti Museum will be held from March until June 11 next year.

Readers can find Zoe on Facebook or via her website www.zoealford.art