Rare bird

Georgina Hoby Scutt of Belle Hawk has a magnetically singular style.

Nelson artist Georgina Hoby Scutt says her distinctive style is guided by her “creative compass”. Whatever this sorcery, it’s completely bewitched us — her acrylic, oil and chalk-pastel artworks on linen, canvas and plywood are so compelling we just can’t look away.

ABOVE In the design world, Georgie’s inspired by “interiors and fashion; in the art world, it’s the Fauves, abstract expressionists and some local legends such as Toss Woollaston; and in the natural world, it’s the beautiful Nelson landscape around me.”

Georgie, you’ve been creative for as long as you can remember — what was your journey to Belle Hawk? I completed a BA and BCom at university, then began working in graphic design as an account manager and freelancing as a designer. When I moved to London, I jumped into some wonderful classes in textile and print design at Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts and Camberwell College of Arts, then later headed to Barcelona, Spain, where I forged a career as a freelance printed-textile designer.
Back home in New Zealand with three young children [Ivy, Willoughby and Lilly, now nine, seven and five], I felt a growing desire to be creative again, and particularly to pick up a paintbrush, but there never seemed to be time. In 2016, when my youngest child was three and at preschool for a few hours each week, I finally did it, and it was a big moment for me — a watershed and a huge release of emotion and energy in the most wonderful way. I was hooked. My sister Bee Brosnan and I came up with the name Belle Hawk — it basically means ‘beautiful and powerful’.

ABOVE Georgie’s working on this painting as part of a series of big landscapes on linen. “The bold, bright under-painting is a new approach for me,” she says. “It means that even when I tone down the colours and pare them back to a particular palette, they still sing from beneath, giving a wonderful warmth and depth.”

Where do you work? Painting and screen-printing on the kitchen table probably wasn’t going to work long-term, so in 2015 my husband Johnson [Scutt] and I extended our house and added a garage and studio. It’s a small space but it’s full of wonderful natural light and looks out onto our garden. We put in a huge sliding door so I can close off my mess from our living space, which is lucky as there’s now paint on the floor and my canvases are everywhere. I adore my time in there.

Do you have dedicated days in the studio? Finding time has become easier now that all three children are at school. I used to work hard late at night and whenever I could grab a few hours. Now that my work is selling and I feel justified in pursuing painting as a career, I usually work four or five days a week during school hours. After Johnson takes the children to school, I do a quick tidy, make a pot of coffee and I’m in. Creatively, some days I’m ‘on’ and humming, and other days I’m not. Those days are for admin.

ABOVE The still-life studies pictured on the shelf are works in progress and the abstract landscape on the wall in the vignette above is titled Driving Home.

What’s your typical painting practice? I’m pretty energetic and intuitive. The link for me is always colour, so I decide on a set of colours and form a collection based on that. I’m inspired by so many things that I usually can’t wait to put my energy and thoughts down on canvas.
I sketch out a composition, decide on my palette and dive in. I’ll often walk into the studio the next morning and realise that the crazy needs to be reined in or reworked somehow! Each work take a lot of layering and finessing to achieve the final piece.

Let’s talk more about those beautiful colours — how exactly do you choose your palettes? My colour palettes are intuitive. They do evolve with fashion, moods and trends, as I absorb the design world around me, but my trademark is warm, earthy and autumnal shades. It’s an endless source of inspiration and an ongoing challenge to harmonise a colour palette. One colour group can inspire and underpin an entire body of work.

ABOVE Hillside Dwellings, acrylic on canvas.

What do you enjoy most about painting? The freedom, expression and delight in colour, and creating something that sparks joy in someone else. That’s often surprising to me, and thrilling.

What’s on the horizon for you? Right now I’m working on some new design- led sketches and limited-edition screen-prints that will be available via my website, in May I’ll be exhibiting my work at the wonderful Red Art Gallery in Nelson, and I have an Auckland show planned for autumn.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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