Blomfield Blog

July 12th 2019

Have you ever had a burning desire or passion that runs so deep it would feel wrong to do anything else? Have you yourself figured out your true purpose in life?

 

June 15th 2019

Something incredible was brought to my attention recently.

J.C.Blomfield, my great grandfather was a brilliant man. Talented and also published. The news that in an early rendition of the New Zealand Freelancer, one of my Great Grandfathers cartoons was published. This is exciting for many reasons. not only was this in 1904 ( over 100 years ago), but he now holds the title of the first (unofficial) depiction of a cartoon Kiwi morphing into a Moa being used to represent the All Blacks .

This information has been published on https://nzhistory.govt.nz/page/first-use-kiwi-unofficial-national-symbol

 

 

I notice so many similarities between my own style of work and my great Grandfathers. His line work and composition mirror some of my earlier designs. His work holds a bit more detail in the structure of the faces and the way the clothes fit.

To be continued…

June 8th 2019

Following on from my previous post, I have had some time to reflect on the achievements of my family as a whole. 

Art is something that is so personal and also its something to be celebrated and shared. This, among other reasons, is why I do what I do. I believe it is my calling. To share my gift and to make people laugh through the medium of art. Before I continue on the story of my family, I want to share a piece about me. A little insight into my artistic world. 

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. School for me was more about finishing my doodle then correctly solving a maths equation. I remember watching my Grandfather (Val Blomfield) drawing the birds, the trees and the landscape at Western Springs and being totally absorbed… entranced almost. Drawing definitely became ingrained in me. It was an outlet. It was a way for me to express myself. My Father – Colin Blomfield –  owned a signwriting shop in Ponsonby (Blomfield Signs) and I spent as much time as was allowed, watching the way both my grandfather and my father created unique pieces of art with every brushstroke.   

 

I think about every unique piece I have been blessed to draw or event I have live cartooned at, and it hits me with such certainty that this is my future. My calling. I, like my great Uncle Blo and my great Grandfather J.C Blomfield, have published cartoons for a newspaper, travel around New Zealand (and fortunate enough to go to Australia) to draw and get to celebrate everyday that I am able to do something I love for ‘work’. Whats that saying… find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.. well.. I have found it. Join me on my journey. 

#followingthedream

 

June 1st 2019

This is where the story starts to take a turn and fit quite nicely into my own style of Art. Let us begin …

I would like to make a point in saying that the following exert is from the Te Ara government website. They have an extraordinary amount of collected information on many New Zealand Artists and it was such a pleasant surprise that they held such a detailed accord of my Great Uncle. To make it clear what is my own text and what it the Governments own collection I will be putting in their exerts in quotation marks.

“William Blomfield was born in Auckland on 1 April 1866, the son of Emma Watts Collis and her husband, Samuel Blomfield, a carpenter. The family moved to Thames the next year. In 1880 they returned to Auckland where William’s uncle, the prominent artist Charles Blomfield, found him a job in a paint and picture shop. Shortly afterwards he began to train as an architect.” 

Much like myself, my Uncle “Blo” (as he was known back then) had always loved doodling and caricature. I remember spending the better part of my education  drawing characters and drawing anything that would allow me my creative outlet. “He sold his first cartoon to the Observer, an Auckland-based weekly, receiving five shillings for his caricature of a legislative councillor. In 1884 he welcomed the opportunity to exchange the formal strait-jacket of architecture for comparative freedom as an articled pupil on the artistic staff of the New Zealand Herald.” 

“Blomfield worked at the Herald in the days before newspaper photography, when artists sketched their impressions of great and calamitous events. The highlight of his three years at the Herald was a daring trip made in June 1886 to inspect the desolation caused by the eruption of Mt Tarawera. He was sent at very short notice, in the clothes he was wearing and with £12 for expenses, to find out if the Pink and White Terraces really were destroyed. Travelling by train, trap and borrowed horse, he encountered deeper and deeper volcanic ash and experienced repeated earth tremors before reaching Lake Rotomahana. There he and his guide narrowly escaped injury when a bank collapsed behind them. The news that the terraces were destroyed was telegraphed back to Auckland and featured prominently in the Herald.” This part of the story also blows my mind. Not only did I have an amazingly talented ancestor that accurately painted the terraces and was there to witness their destruction, I also had another talented great Uncle, who drew in my style,. who also witnessed the aftermath. New Zealand History is a severe constant around my heritage. One that I must admit, I am extremely proud of.

“In 1887 Blomfield accepted an invitation to become an all-purpose wood engraver, litho artist and cartoonist for the Observer‘s successor, the New Zealand Observer and Free Lance. Usually known by its original name, the paper was the first of a lively new breed of illustrated weeklies that reflected the country’s blossoming social, sporting and cultural interests. Blomfield’s cartoons with their bold ‘Blo’ signature soon became a distinctive feature.

On 11 December 1889, in Auckland, William Blomfield married Anna Maria Adams. By this stage he had met William Geddis, a sub-editor of the Auckland Star, and in 1892 the two pooled their meagre resources and purchased the Observer. The paper’s sole assets were its copyright, cases of dilapidated type and some rickety furniture. Three years later they helped establish the Spectator, a similar Christchurch weekly. In 1900 they began the New Zealand Free Lance in Wellington, and the Auckland paper became the New Zealand Observer. Although Blomfield’s involvement with the Free Lance was short-lived, the Geddis family controlled the Wellington weekly until it closed in 1961. Geddis gave up his interest in the Observer in 1910, but Blomfield was to remain a substantial shareholder until his death.

Blo specialised in sketching the protagonists in the more spectacular and salacious Auckland court cases, and in 1913 this led to his involvement in a famous court action. In September that year an issue of the Observer carried an editorial and two Blomfield cartoons, all commenting on the behaviour of the presiding judge in a divorce case. One cartoon, captioned ‘Justice is not blind’, showed Justice W. B. Edwards, who had been showing obvious bias towards a pretty woman witness, peering slyly from under a blindfold at the lady in the box. Contempt of court proceedings were issued, but the case was dismissed by the full Bench of the Supreme Court in Wellington. It is uncertain whether the crowd and the band that escorted Blomfield down Queen Street to the railway station on his way to Wellington was a tribute to his popularity or an expression of concern about Justice Edwards’s erratic courtroom behaviour.

The Observer flourished until the late 1920s. Circulation and advertising dipped sharply during the depression, but the weekly fought back strongly with the popular formula of Blo cartoons and contributions from writers such as Robin Hyde and A. R. D. Fairburn. Blomfield was the Observer‘s cartoonist for 51 years. Every week for decades he drew a full-page, tabloid-size cover cartoon, two or three further full-pages, and another six to eight small block cartoons or caricatures. While this volume of work is unlikely to be matched by another cartoonist, his much more substantial contribution was to the development of cartoon art in New Zealand.

His style was sometimes dismissed disparagingly as ‘rush and ready’, but along with his younger brother John Blomfield and E. F. Hiscocks, he was one of the first to shrug off the prim, static, relentlessly cross-hatched style of the early New Zealand cartoonists. Blomfield’s line continued to loosen as he grew older and there was sometimes a semi-abstract feel to his cartoons. He was often careless and haphazard about details and background, but his work had a vitality and visual flow that links him directly to today’s leading cartoonists.”

I am immensely proud to be following in Uncle Blo’s footsteps.. 

May 25th 2019

Continuing our journey, following Charles Blomfield in his ventures and artistic endeavors,  we now get to the part of the story where perhaps he is most famous for. The Pink and White terraces were arguably one of the worlds most beautiful sights. However, due to the volcanic eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, there are only historical records and Paintings that depict their true beauty. I believe Blomfield’s description of the Terraces leaves little to the imagination and accurately portrays what affect they had on the viewer.

Extract from Muriel Williams book: ‘ We made for the Pink Terraces first. The colour is the chief attraction. With the morning sun shining brightly on it, it is almost white, but when the sun gets round and you get more shadow, the lovely salmon colour is very marked, varied with grey and white. The overhanging lips of the basins are exceedingly beautiful and graceful..’

After completing a series of paintings of the terraces in 1896, Charles held an exhibition for the paintings to which the Herald reported on (exert from Muriel William’s book): ‘ Mr Charles Blomfield, the well-known painter of the New Zealand scenery, has just completed a fine series of oil paintings of the Pink and White Terraces, Rotomahana, and of the most picturesque views in their neighborhood. Mr Blomfield spent three weeks on each of the Terraces, and painted directly from nature, with the result that he has produced perhaps the most faithful representations of this locality…’ Exactly 18 months after his completion of the oil paintings, Mt Tarawera erupted, completely destroying the natural land formations and killing the local tribes. 

‘ …[Mr Blomfield] was skilled in all branches of landscape painting, but in painting of the Terraces, he was unique.’

As a descendant of Charles, I believe it is in my blood to continue this artistic legacy. For myself, oil paintings and hyper realism was never a draw. I have always loved cartooning and making people laugh. My great Uncle and Great Grandfather were also Cartoonists and both were published in their respective regional newspapers. Its such an honor to say that I also am a published cartoonist in the Times and I am able to keep the Blomfield legacy of Artists going.

Next time: I will touch on my Great Grandfather and Great Uncle Blomfield… continuing the story of how Art inspired me through my lineage.

May 18th 2019

During the early settlement years in New Zealand, the era of the Gold Rush movement was booming in the Thames Region. Charles, like many of the other hopeful young men traveled to Thames in the hopes that riches would soon be bestowed upon them. Nineteen years of age, surrounded by people who clearly were succeeding in finding the hidden treasures, it seems as though Charles was attracted to a different kind of beauty. The below is an exert from the book, Charles Blomfield his life and times, penned by Muriel Williams.

..”although he did not find gold in the literal sense, Charles struck a vein which yielded him rich rewards in the development of his artistic powers….” …”he was so struck with its surpassing beauty that he determined to transfer its charms onto canvas. Having no teacher and no facilities for learning the practical details of his art, he persevered with his efforts until he had mastered the technique.”

As an artist myself in the modern times, I often reflect over some of the hardships my ancestors had to overcome whilst travelling through a region to get to their intended destination. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would have been like first of all, carrying all the artistic supplies and travel gear via horseback or walking. Secondly, how the constant fear of attack, either mistakenly or purposeful, from the Maori who were at the end of their civil war but still very much aware. Thirdly, imagine the conditions in which Charles would have been in and to even be able to create the beautiful pieces we can now see in galleries. It constantly blows my mind how talented he was and it is very humbling to be carrying on that creative (albeit a different genre and style) legacy.

 

April 26th 2019

History is one of those fickle things that is like a constant reminder of how to and how not to do things. The struggles of the past are not the same as what we now face but it always amazes me how people used to live back 150 years. Imagine stripping away all the electronic ware we have, all of the modern technologies, all of the infrastructure, all of the modern vehicles or modes of transport. We are immediately back in the day where horses or walking were the only ways to get from A-B. I bring this up simply because I have been reflecting a bit more about some of my ancestry and the life that they led when they first emigrated to our great mother land. 

Charles Blomfield emigrated to New Zealand at the young age of 14 together with his 9 siblings and widowed mother in 1862. The siblings ranged from 24 years down to 9 months old! Imagine the poor mother.. widowed, firstly, and left with 9 children to raise. The choice to leave her home and the safety of the known must have been such a scary step without the support of a husband or any elder family members. 

The voyage on the ‘Gertrude’ proved to be an enjoyable adventure for Charles. Every chance he was able to, he would draw and the drawings he produced were varied between detailed and simple line drawings. After 97 days at sea, all the passengers aboard the Gertrude vessel finally touched land again when they set foot on New Zealand Soil. Take yourself back in time. England was an established colonized country. Its infrastructure was in place and roads, vehicles and some of the luxuries we consider mundane now, were available. New Zealand must have seemed like such a wild bush land in comparison. 

The Blomfield family found that upon their arrival, the Maori wars were in progress in the regions of Hamilton and Auckland, and were presented a rifle and a bayonet side arm for protection. What a welcoming gift. Welcome to your new home, here arm yourselves from the natives. The injustices done to the Maori people are indeed very awful, but are not part of this story. Perhaps another time and another blog.

Now, I know you will be wondering, this is great but how does this tie into your cartooning? Well fine sir/madam, my point of this is to tell a story. To weave in the intricacy’s that enabled the artistic legacy to trickle down to me. 

…. to be continued next week with Charles adventures around New Zealand as an artist…

April 18th 2019

There is so much history in my family that relates to what I do and has shaped me into who I am today. Being a published cartoonist is a dream I have had since I was a young teenager. I am a strong believer in following what drives you.  Art and the ability to create is what keeps me passionate about life (alongside my family and my faith). Answering your calling is always a scary process and there will always be times when obstacles seem too big to conquer. What keeps me driven is the constant support and knowledge that this is in my blood. It is my true self.

There is something so humbling to be able to follow in the footsteps of one of my relatives. Charles Blomfield lived an extraordinary life and for me it is an honor to recall these adventures with exerts from Muriel Williams biography  ‘ Charles Blomfield, His life and times’.

Here is a extract from the text written by M. Williams.

“Charles Blomfield is known to many as the painter of the Pink and White Terraces of New Zealand’s thermal region, the extraordinary formations of siliceous rock once hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The destruction of these terraces in the 1886 eruption of nearby Mount Tarawera led to the sudden rise in importance of all representations of them; and Blomfield’s terrace paintings, because they were among the most beautiful ever done, and were perhaps the most faithful to their subject, shot to instant fame.”

Anyone who has studied New Zealand history at school will have heard of the Pink and White Terraces and their marvelous beauty. To be a descendant of an artist who can capture their unique characteristics back when there were no roads, direct travelling paths, the constant awareness of danger (as this was at the end of the Maori wars) and no lights other than natural daylight to aid in actual viewing of the terraces, is so amazing. 

#followingthedream