Q&A: Karl Maughan

Karl Maughan – Page Galleries artist, Capital neighbour, and L’affare regular – is inspired by gardens.

The painter’s botanical creations explore everything from overgrown hedges and wild undergrowth, to meticulously manicured lawns and regimented plantings.

More than 150 of his works have been brought together in a new book, Karl Maughan (Auckland University Press), edited by Hannah Valentine and Gabriella Stead.

We caught up with Karl to talk about discipline, art books, and his best party trick.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

Well there a lot of them but my collection of art books. It’s brilliant to have that as a reference. That’s vital for me. To see work by other artists that challenges you and makes you think about the work that you’re doing. I’ve had some of the books for thirty or forty years. Some I’ve bought more recently. There are some great secondhand bookshops in Wellington. And of course it’s easier to access particular books now with the internet as well. The books are all stacked up around the studio, and I often use the bookshelves to stack paintings against as well.

What does a typical day look like?

Well I am fairly disciplined. I get up and organised in the morning. I have a coffee and something to eat in a café. Prefab and L’affare are favourites. Then I make my way to the studio and start painting. Mostly I get on with it, but it’s amazing how many things I can find to distract me from painting. I need a lot of time actually painting, so I need a lot of time in the studio. I’ve had the studio since we moved back to Wellington in 2013. There are other artists, set builders, and carpenters in the building. People often drop in. I listen to lots of audiobooks, immersing myself in the world of fiction while I paint.

Since having kids I have to be much more disciplined about when I leave at the end of the day. In London I used to pretty much live at the studio – I once did 100 days in a row.

What research do you do?

I’ve always used photography as reference for my paintings, thousands of photographs. My works are based on real gardens, but I don’t necessarily stay true to reality. I manipulate them. It’s a wonderful thing to research gardens, to wander around them. You start to see how the idea of landscaping affects the way you work, and how making a painting gives you a certain freedom. It’s the ultimate form of gardening. You can take a tree out, change its size, or add in a lake. It’s great fun.  

Teach us something we might not already know.

You can never throw a walnut hard enough to break a window. The walnut always shatters first. It’s a great party trick.

Want to win a copy of Karl’s book? Enter here.

Read more Q&As here.


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