Wellington-based Walter Hansen is a graphic designer by day and erm, a graphic designer by night and weekend too, creating limited edition art prints that take inspiration from New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, especially our rare and endangered birds. We caught up with Walter as he delivered us the third and final ‘gig poster’ in his amazing Wattlebird series…
Tell us the story of how you became a career artist – what was the journey to this point?
I’ve always been a drawer and am fortunate to have a creative family, all with different outlets. When I was little my parents used to get huge rolls of paper from the printers and every day I’d tear a 2 x 1 metre sheet off and draw for hours with a biro. I was mainly interested in art, design and graphics at school, so I went to design school in Wellington without a second thought. In my 7th form report my Headmaster said that I was putting all my eggs in one basket, but I did P.E so the pro golfer fallback plan was always there.
A peek at Walter’s studio space.
The plan drawers in Walter’s studio house stocks of his limited edition art prints.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
My inspiration mostly comes from looking out the window — i’m lucky enough to have a brilliant view where native birds fly by all day, sometimes landing close enough to snap pics of. Kaka are my current favs but I really like the Grey Warbler (Riroriro) busting out their lunatic tunes, which reminds me of a discordant version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t stop til you get enough’.
After the initial inspiration I usually sketch for weeks and give myself scathing criticism until I’m ready to finish the design up on my computer. I have too many ideas to actually produce, so the scathing criticism is really a way of asking “is this worth following through on?”
From top left: Walter’s view, music keeps him energised, Walter’s favourite bird, the Kaka.
What’s the favourite piece of work you’ve done and why?
My favourite piece is my Kowhai Squadron letterpress. It’s a fighter-jet style decal set for sticking on a Tui, so they can look even more badass. It actually makes no sense when you think about it, but it just resonates with me by combining my love of graphics, building model jets when I was young, and Tui, who I’ve seen perform some crazy dogfights.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s cool to do big commercial projects but that stuff is fleeting, and I’m not trying to be everywhere all the time. I prefer to take things a bit slower. I got a nice email a while back about my Huia Show print from a couple with a new baby girl. They’d just framed their print and hung it in her bedroom, and her name is Huia. That meant more than seeing my work in a magazine.
Huia art print (now sold out).
What was the last thing you saw, heard or experienced that got you really creatively excited?
I’ve just finished reading ‘The Elegant Universe‘ by Brian Greene. It’s about string theory, and the parts I could pretend to understand were mind-bending. I’ll let it sink in and wait for it to creep into my work in some way. I’m also in to graphic novels, ‘All Star Superman’ is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
What are you working on at the moment?
A couple of freelance projects — one commission, one identity. I’m also working some originals for an exhibition next year, as well as the extension of that being my prints. Oh yeah and my full-time graphic design job…
The final ‘gig poster’ in the Wattlebird series, Tieke Tour. Limited edition Letterpress print, only $100 at endemicworld.