I was born in Wellington and moved to New Plymouth when I was 11, and have spent most of my life here, apart from two years working in Wellington and two years in Kumming, China.
As a teenager I was impressed with Arthur Tett who was my art teacher at Boys High. He was a very skilled artist and I always enjoyed his classes.
My interest in art was rekindled when I started designing theatrical sets for New Plymouth Little Theatre. I was lucky to have some tutelage from Bob McMurray, one of this country's top designers. I met Ali Girling-Butcher and her husband Lance during this period, and we worked together on many shows at the theatre and at the Opera House, including the set for the NPGHS Centennial show 'Network'.
My first foray into art practice was the result of viewing works by Jesus Rafael Soto and Bridget Riley at a London Gallery. It was like nothing I had seen before. I experimented with my own art and got commended for my work at the National Taranaki Art Awards.
I attended night classes with Colyn Nicholls, a great landscape painter who could effortlessly fill a canvas. I struggled away trying to pick up pointers. When I started painting again in 2004, I was trying to paint what I thought the public would appreciate/want. I stopped painting and other things filled my life. However, a course on colour with Donna Willard-Moore reignited my enthusiasm for painting. It was really motivating to see how the other artists at the class such as Margaret Scott were using various media/ Jo Massey at Real Tart encouraged me to display my work. She gave me confidence.
Jill White, director of Real Tart, and previous owner of White Sail Gallery in New Plymouth was, and still is a great mentor. She has always been a great supporter and has been highly instrumental in my steady progress, as has been Fay Looney.
My Studio/shed is at Koru Road, Oakura, a paddock away from Fay's Koru on Koru Gallery. Fay has always been most generous in allowing display space at the Gallery, and I appreciate her critical review of my work.
Te Maunga Taranaki is the main inspiration for my landscapes. For those who live in Taranaki, the mountain is an omnipresent force and a majestic marker of time and timelessness. Its face can change rapidly and dramatically at the whim of the weather and at times may disappear altogether into the clouds, but the mountain always returns as a perpetual maker of the region.
At 2017 Taranaki National Art awards Judge Bill Millbank commented on my painting. "This award is expectedly loaded with views of Mt Taranaki and yet so few become memorable. This is an exception. A wonderful painterly quality, the mountain half-hidden, a strong exposiveness, it becomes atmospheric. The title further indicates its existence as a volcano, combustible and wonderful".
My aim is to capture the mood and feelings of a place, and give an idea of its character. I do not portray accurate details and my landscapes could be described as expressionistic. My paintings are a combination of imagination and observation. They are not meant to be illustrative but an expression of what I see and feel/ I hope to make an initial appeal to the viewer but also to retain interest after repeat viewings.
I try to grow awareness about the lasting visible beauty of the unique Taranaki rugged landscape. The landscape is changing under human pressures, but we must try and protect what we have now.
Initially, I was influenced by what others though of my artwork but now I try and be true to my feelings.
I have surfed the Taranaki coast since the late 60's, so the ocean draws me in also. I try to capture the power of the Taranaki swells, heavy and fast-moving lumps of water, where the rugged Tasman meets Taranaki's wild west coast.
I use mainly acrylics but experiment with all sorts of mixed media. It involves risks, and I have a lot of disasters, which become a lesson as I try and correct the mistakes made. I work with intuition and 'go with the flow'. This means that the medium, style and sometimes the subject can change at any time of the process. My process is fluid.
Over the years I have become more confident in taking risks and seeing what pans out.
Lester's work is highly sought after so be sure to check out his latest works.
Current available work is on display at The White Sail Gallery 35 Ocean View Parade New Plymouth.