The artist's process
Themes behind Sofia's work
FULL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS BELOW
How to buy art for your home
- Measure your space
- Decide on a budget and whether you’d like to invest in an original painting or a limited edition print
- View the shop and discover what artwork speaks to you
- Make sure the size of the artwork will work in your space
- Click ‘add to cart’
- If you’ve bought a print, check out the examples of how to frame your print
Where should I hang my artwork? Will sun damage it?
It’s best to hang your artwork on a wall that doesn’t receive direct sunlight for long periods of the day. Even though prints and paintings are created using lightfast materials, you will be able to get many generations worth of enjoyment from your art pieces if they are displayed wisely.
How do I order a Sofia Minson limited-edition print?
- Click on any artwork from the Shop page
- Select the type of 'Print' from the dropdown menu
- Click 'Add to cart' to purchase
- From there it is an easy online shopping cart process to have a print delivered to your door, anywhere in the world.
- Your print will arrive rolled in a protective tube
How do I invest in limited-edition prints that increase in value?
Prints are created by capturing the original painting as a high-resolution digital image. They are then printed using lightfast pigments on museum quality, acid-free paper with advanced inkjet technology.
These prints are superior in beauty, quality and durability, lasting up to 120 years before any colour change is apparent to the human eye.
Every artwork is titled, numbered with its unique edition number, dated with the year of printing and signed.
The value of a published artwork like this will increase over the years with the profile of the artist.
How do I handle my new art print with care?
Your print will arrive rolled in a protective tube.
If the tube is dented do not sign for the print as your artwork has been damaged by the courier company and signing means you take on the liability of the damaged package.
Any handling and especially back-rolling to remove curl is only undertaken by an expert framer or someone with experience in working with archival paper using powder-free nitrile gloves.
Extra care should be taken to not get any dust, finger oil or moisture on the print. Removal of dust from the surface should be managed with an air source or very soft brush, not by using a cloth or hand which will scratch the print.
Glass should cover the paper print as the ink is vulnerable to water damage.
Don't hang your print on a wall that receives direct sun. If displaying your print behind standard framing glass in standard lighting conditions (not in direct sunlight), your artwork is estimated to show no noticeable fading for at least 80 years. If UV museum glass is used this time is suggested to exceed 200 years.
How much does art framing cost?
Framing starts at around $200 for smaller prints.
Cost varies depending on:
- Your choice of moulding (the outside decorative frame)
- The size of cardboard matting
- The type of glass ‒ standard, non-reflective or museum UV protective glass
We recommend making an appointment with State of the Art framing, now based just out of Hamilton, for a no-obligation quote, or ask your chosen local framer.
How do I frame my print?
When you receive the print it will be unframed so you can frame it how you wish. This diagram shows suggested measurements for framing only.
The artist's personal recommendation is that you ask your framer to surround the image with a generous 7 - 13cm cardboard matting of any colour that highlights the image, white is usually a good bet.
Glass should cover the print as the ink is vulnerable to water damage. Normal glass or non-reflective glass are both fine. Ideally don't hang your print on a wall that receives direct sun.
Sofia uses two Auckland picture framers who she can highly recommend:
- State of the Art Framing - 418 Titirangi Rd, Titirangi, Auckland. Ph (09) 813 6775.
- Homestead Picture Framers - 102 Railside Avenue, Henderson, Waitakere, Auckland. Ph (09) 838 6920.
The artist's process
Who inspired you to become an artist?
Both of my older sisters inspired me to draw and paint when I was young because they were talented in the arts. My grandmother also did the odd watercolour landscape painting. I remember finding my sister's discarded 15 year old oil paints lying around the house and popping open the tubes. This is how I learned to paint, by experimenting with the materials at home.
How did you become an artist?
I never actually decided to be an artist, I was always painting, drawing and creating since I can remember. There are drawings my mum has kept from when I was two years old. A lot of kids are like this, the only difference is I never stopped.
The plan was never to become an artist as a career though, because I had a false perception that you couldn’t make a living. So I studied sciences at university instead, which I loved... but then felt such a strong pull back towards the arts that I listened to some good advice from a neighbour to set up a website. From that I was soon invited to exhibit my paintings publically that I’d been creating just quietly at home. They began to sell. This was a shock! And it was the beginning of my journey as a professional artist in 2004, when I was 19.
What does being an artist mean to you?
Being an artist is now my lifestyle and career and the term “artist” has become useful. But at the end of the day I make art whether I'm paid for it or not.
I think on a fundamental level we're all life artists - co-creating the world around us with our imaginations. Painting is just one of my favourite mediums of expression!
The longer I've been painting and studying philosophy, the more I appreciate art as a way that I can learn about the laws of the universe and open my heart through creativity. It didn't start off this way obviously, as a kid you just call it "having fun!"
What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by my mixed Ngāti Porou Māori, Swedish, English and Irish whakapapa (bloodline) and the taonga (treasure) of Aotearoa’s people, land, forests and birds.
I spent a lot of my childhood in Samoa, Sri Lanka and China due to my father’s civil engineering work. Now I paint from my Auckland studio – mostly contemporary portraits, landscapes and images of nature, which contain patterns from ancient cultures that celebrate connections between diverse peoples.
Symbolism - geometric shapes, animals and cultural patterns - is a huge part of what enhances my work with layers of meaning. All of my work deep down is inspired by an inquiry into the nature of the universe, a curiosity about spirituality and what it means to be alive!
What other artists are you influenced by?
When painting Māori portraits I look to 19th and 20th century C.F. Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer portraits and old black and white photographs of Māori. There’s a dignified, romantic, historical aesthetic from those portraits that I like to bring through in my own contemporary style.
What is your favourite painting by someone else?
This is a hard question because I have to admit I don’t look at a lot of other artists’ work or go to exhibitions (eek!). But I would say the biggest influence on my work (rather than my favourite) has been C. F. Goldie mainly because he painted Māori portraiture and I do as well. His work is a snapshot in time. His portrait of Ina Te Papatahi (1902) keeps coming up as an important one for me over the years.
What music do you listen to while painting?
I love blues and 60s soul music. Gotta love Trinity Roots, Tiki Taane and Fly My Pretties for those beautiful Aotearoa vibes. I get a heart opening feeling from listening to The Beatles “Across the Universe” and chanting to the Hare Krishna maha mantra.
I mostly listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I paint because it’s just so so soooooo many hours of painting at a time. So I like to hear stories and learn about interesting things.
What podcasts / audiobooks do you listen to?
Leading up to an exhibition I’m in the studio hour after hour, day after day, for months on end, so my inspiration for ideas largely comes through audiobooks and podcasts that I find fascinating. Often they’re about ontology (the nature of being), the science of consciousness, magick and the paranormal, ancient civilisations, human nature, cosmology... or anything that's just plain entertaining.
I love listening to comedians’ podcasts like The Duncan Trussell Family Hour because there’s a healthy dose of irreverence with an undercurrent of actual curiosity about the world.
I'm interested in people who are asking “what is the nature of reality?” and “how can I live a more loving life?” I like learning about religion, science, technology and mysticism. Podcasts and audiobooks around these topics have been a massive inspiration for further areas of inquiry for me and definitely influence my works.
Sometimes I turn to mystical poets like Khalil Gibran and Rumi or ancient esoteric texts like the Tao Te Ching and the hermetic Emerald Tablets to get my mind blown and heart broken open.
There’s also a dose of Rune Soup's Gordon White, Ram Dass, Professor Jordan Peterson, Sharon Salzberg, Ram Dass, Alan Watts and Wayne Dyer in there too.
And the list goes on. Podcasts and audiobooks are my lifeblood while I’m painting!
What is your painting process?
My artworks all start life as the most incredible gift an artist could get - a blank canvas. When I reveal a canvas from its cardboard packaging, I stare at the white space and start to imagine the possibilities.
If I've already been playing around with specific compositions on photoshop (this is my version of sketching) I might lightly map something out on the canvas first. But if I'm feeling like just playing with the paints in a more meditative way, I'll just start sploshing layers of watery washes of black ink-like paint called flashe.
The forms take shape over many weeks - faces, landscapes, animals and birds appear. And then finally I use the shining, metallic gold paint to highlight the images with halos, crowns, garments like korowai (cloaks) and detailed sacred geometric patterns.
My ideas and techniques have evolved over the last 14 years since becoming an artist full-time. For the first decade I was painting close-up faces, nudes, New Zealand landscapes and seascapes with waka, and obsessively honing a moody, glowing oil painting technique.
For the last couple of years I’ve been playing around with loose watery washes of water-based paints, finished off with highly detailed patterns and symbols from Pacific and Asian cultures.
How long does it take to complete a painting?
It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to three years! I usually have three or more pieces on the go at one time and on a daily basis I go where the inspiration leads me.
What is your favourite painting you have done?
Because I’m always looking to get better, evolve as an artist, change my style and keep moving, my favourite painting is always the one I’m about to do! As soon as I’ve finished a piece I move on to new ideas so I don’t have that feeling of having a favourite.
I don't even like my previous work lying around the house because those were yesterday's ideas. That's why I'm always happy when they find new homes.
Do you have an inspirational quote you would tell your fans?
“We're not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”
- Joseph Campbell
I love that quote because it essentially says never stop working on yourself. And by learning and getting to know who you truly are, you can help those closest to you. Who you are radiates into the world and there’s a ripple effect to that. When I was young I used to get worried about righting all the wrongs of the world and I would feel overwhelmed because it’s an impossible task that only a perfectionist control freak would want to do (we all have our moments!). Now I just try to be my authentic self, in the moment.
Why did you start painting Māori portraits?
The first Māori portraits I created were in 2006 and 2007 (age 22-23) of my own Ngāti Porou great grandmother Matire Te Horowai. It gave me a sense of her ancestral presence, it filled me with wairua, and my interest in portraying our tupuna has evolved from then on.
19th and 20th century C.F. Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer portraits of Māori inspired me to re-create that old romanticism and mana (dignity), which seems nourishing for the soul in this modern, digital, face-paced world.
These artworks redirect the ‘gaze’ of indigenous portraiture. Rather than European colonial painters and audiences gazing upon Māori subjects, as a Ngāti Porou artist I am depicting fellow contemporary Māori people. The gaze is between Māori and out of the canvas to the rest of the world.
Are your Māori portraits of actual people?
Some are and some aren't.
They aren’t historic or living people. Their faces are formed from composites in my imagination, based on hundreds of 19th and 20th century black and white photos and paintings of Māori that I’ve seen over the years.
The Māori faces and symbols help get me into a sacred space. Using the aesthetics of our ancestors with ideas from indigenous cosmology, I’m able to connect with something much older, vaster and wiser than myself.
There is an emphasis on Mana Wāhine or The Divine Feminine in several of the Māori female portraits of goddesses. We are experiencing a time in our modern culture where we need more of this Mana Wāhine in each and every one of us. The portraits embody slightly different qualities but all seem strong, fair and unconditionally loving.
What does tā moko (Māori face tattoo) mean to you?
The full-face moko kanohi on men and moko kauae on women is an outward sign of what we all contain in our dna - an indelible link to our ancestors going all the way back to creation. We are born into a world in which everyone and everything is connected in an intricate web of manifestation.
I see tā moko as carving fundamental lines of Te Here Tangata, The Rope of Mankind. We are infinitely precious nodes of consciousness experiencing reality from different perspectives, but we are all from the same source. Te Here Tangata is a humbling concept that imagines a long rope or vine stretching from ourselves into the past until the instant of creation and on into the future.
Themes behind Sofia's work
Can you tell me about your 2017 Sacred Mirrors series of work?
They are large, bold paintings that confront you and then draw you in with intricate detail.
Each painting is a self portrait in some way. While I’m painting, I’m embodying the feeling, the characters and the traits of the spirit of the piece onto the canvas. I try and get my ego out of the way and let the message come through. You could call it channeling. I think it’s how all creativity happens.
I was racking my brain, trying to figure out the link between the 2017 series of artworks so I could describe the exhibition to people and give the show a title. I finally saw it staring me in the face - every single painting, whether it was a landscape, portrait or animal, had the name of an ancestor or deity. The link was so obvious! But it must have been subconscious.
Each painting embodies symbols and emotive qualities of various gods and goddesses from Māori, Egyptian, Hindu and Christian cosmology.
They are dense with myths and cultural symbols that might trigger our mystical or emotional connections on an unconscious level, which is where the power of symbols really lie. Visual symbols have a talent for bypassing our conscious mind of objections and control, and speaking directly to our subconscious mind.
What does “Sacred Mirrors” mean?
The whole world is a sacred mirror.
One of my favourite quotes is from Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet. I have it pasted up on my wall: “Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”
There are many levels in which we enjoy art so I'm not a big fan of being didactic to viewers. But on an emotional or spiritual level, when we look into a painting I think it can reflect back to us an energy that we already have inside, and can be a way of accessing different states of consciousness.
I named my 2017 solo exhibition Sacred Mirrors to help people get into a frame of mind where they can experience the art as a reflection of themselves.
I think we’re capable of every single trait in the universe, light and dark. So as an artist, if something profound or loving for example, is coming through me then I must admit, those qualities exist in me. In the same way as a viewer, as someone who appreciates art, by recognising uplifting qualities or beauty in a piece of work, it is coming through you too and is a part of you.
We all know how this feels with music, when we are moved by a song or our heart breaks over some lyrics. That is compassion and we have potential for all those emotions within ourselves, all the time.
One of your themes is “Transcending Culture,” what do you mean by this?
Culture and religion are dead things unless they’re animated by people. I’ve used Māori, Egyptian, Christian and Hindu ideas as a visual language or tool to investigate higher truths. When we transcend culture we are all connected.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.”
- Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century Sufi mystic
Institutions like culture, governments and religion tend to be behemoths with strict rules and tapu, which are slow to change with the times. Tapu and sacredness are helpful to give us a sense of respect for the power of a thing, but I think it is important to free ourselves up once in awhile and move past the rules and the boundaries that we’ve inherited from previous generations.
It's a balancing act between tradition and evolution. It's the curved female and direct straight line male aspects existing together. It is important to listen to our hearts, not just to follow rules and cultural norms. But, there's a difference between listening to our hearts and obeying destructive voices in our heads.
What does your art practice mean to you?
I paint every day. I learn every day. My art is my university!
Art is a process of gathering learnings from life experiences, travel, audiobooks, podcasts and video and filtering it through a creative portal.
The Buddhists have a term “the fundamental dissatisfaction of life” which, unless we’re enlightened, we know as that feeling of finally getting what we want, and then immediately wanting something else.
There is an underlying suffering or low-level itchiness in life. So, in the midst of that turmoil when I am working on myself, I try to learn, stay open minded, open my heart and be as authentic as I can.
I draw inspiration from many different cultures and religions that I’ve been exposed to over the years to create my art. Culture is a useful tool, it is a language, but what I’m really interested in is transcending culture to unify people.
When I’m actually painting I’m not too worried about the intellectual reason for the artwork. I try and ignore those little voices in my head containing other people’s judgement. I try to come back to innocence, playfulness and enjoying the moment in the studio. I call it playing because art-making doesn’t have to be so serious. This is my authentic self and it is in that creative zone that messages come through without me even knowing.
Are there times when you become blocked creatively? How do you become re-inspired?
Yes absolutely! I’ve had periods of painter’s block that have lasted for months on end and I’ve become very depressed.
I’m usually blocked because I’m taking life too seriously and trying to force production. The worst is when I get into the mind trap of creating art for money or to please some external authority figure, whether real or imagined. It becomes toxic and my creativity dries up, so that type of thinking never works for me. But those struggles have taught me how I work best.
I’m happiest when I’ve distanced myself from voices in my head that care about what other people think. I become re-inspired when I’m playing in the studio, staying innocent, and listening to fascinating audiobooks, podcasts and music. Travelling i.e. changing my environment is also helpful in getting perspective on my life. I then remember that painting is just an enjoyable tool, it's a therapy for me at its best, and it’s meant to be fun!
Any tips on how to be more creative?
I think being more creative just means giving yourself the space, the time and the attention, to get into a creative spirit. Try to give yourself safe, uninterrupted times when you can fully let yourself get “into the zone” as they say. This might mean going for a walk and then coming home to play around with your materials. It’s very important to take away expectations of the importance of the final product while you’re in that zone. Don’t do it for the money, for a good grade, to create a masterpiece, for praise from teachers, parents or peers. Just create your art because you find it fun, that’s all! Whenever I do that, paradoxically my sales go way up!
Keywords: Maori, Ngati Porou, Wahine