Gary Lawrence mugshotCrayfish are negatively buoyant in water, so with a large bag of them I struggled to keep afloat. The bag was made of woven hessian, and their claw-tipped legs stuck through it to repeatedly spike my right thigh as I kicked to stay at the surface. Without a snorkel, I had to lift my head for each breath, which added a few kilograms to the negative buoyancy.
I was six years of age, fitted with a pair of yellow rubber kid’s fins and a dive mask, and holding the bag while my Dad disappeared back down to depth to fetch another crayfish.
This is my earliest memory of diving, and it was the root of a biography that has twisted and turned, but never veered far from professional or recreational ocean activity.
My drive to paint marine animals and environments is an expression of that biography, so ultimately I can attribute my marine preoccupation to the power of childhood experience, and the joy a father took in sharing his activities with his son.

Painting subjects: 

Mainly marine wildlife, seascapes, and the marine environment, I started painting marine wildlife more than two decades ago, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Animals are unusually plentiful in Africa, both above and below water, so I had (and still have) a rich trove of memories and experiences to draw upon.

I’ve found that marine riches are available in a different way in New Zealand. We have a visual feast of convoluted coastlines with dramatic cloudscapes blown in from both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. We have world-class whale and dolphin viewing and a wide range of diving environments. Tropical coral reefs are a flight away in Australia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands,
And the piece de resistance … our country sits on the doorstep to the Southern Ocean, one of the last great marine wildernesses on earth, still teeming with barely documented and painted wildlife! This ocean faces enormous threats and isn’t easily accessible to those of us outside of the scientific community, but by portraying its unspoiled wildness, uniqueness, and fragility, I hope to contribute in some small way to the conservation task ahead.

Painting background: Self-taught.

Media: Normally acrylics or oils on canvas or board. Sometimes pastel or charcoal on paper.

I was raised in a coastal African community with a culture of surfing, diving, fishing, and intensive utilisation of marine resources.  My father was the local Lifesaving Club captain and an effective weekend crayfisherman. By six years of age, I was accompanying him while he caught crayfish and speared fish, I had a speargun by the age of nine, and saw my first shark in the same year, off the rocky island at Msikaba, on the Transkei Coast. As I hit my teens we extended our habitual diving area to some 100km of inshore reefs along our provincial coastline.

My first formal job was as a Professional Lifeguard, followed by Marine Mammal Trainer. I then spent some twelve years instructing sport scuba diving, before responsibly supporting a family as an Instructional Designer and Technical Writer in engineering and software environments, and diving the weekends.

I now live on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland, New Zealand. From home, it’s an 8-minute walk to the nearest of 17 peninsula beaches, but this is still the furthest I’ve ever lived from the sea 🙂

Education: B. Soc Sci Hons, a spread of Lifesaving qualifications, and NAUI Diving Instructor-Trainer (now Inactive).

Other interests: Cetacea, Social Anthropology, Science Fiction, Writing (fiction and non-fiction), Fishing, Spearfishing, Kayaking,