We met Olivia Bezett back in spring 2015. Here’s a mini-step back in time with this popular artist.

WORDS LIZ FRENCH / PHOTOS LYDIA ROSE/ MARK HAMILTON/ ALEX SPODYNEIKO

A rabbit with butterfly wing ears, fluffy creatures with floral headbands, stags with multi-patterned antlers – these are signatures of a young artist whose work has struck a chord.

Olivia Bezett is a 20 year old artist who can hardly keep up with the demand for her originals and prints of lovable animals, birds and wildlife. It’s not just the creative way she enhances her animals. The creatures themselves are incredibly lifelike, each seeming to have its own quirky personality. You just want to lift them up and cuddle them. That is something Olivia can’t do. She is allergic to furry animals. “Maybe this is why I enjoy drawing them so much, because I’ve always wanted pets of my own.”

Olivia Bezett in UNO. Issue 30

The golden butterfly bunny was the catalyst for the demand for her unique artistic expression, and is possibly the image she’s best known for. Others most popular are butterfly bunny, safari sleepers and sloth. She also does commissions and the waiting list has already reached three and a half years! Mostly people want Olivia to draw their pets. “I drew my pug and my French bulldog as they are such popular pets at the moment.”

It all started when she put photos of artwork she’d completed in the school holidays online and was surprised at the response. “So I created an art page on Facebook, initially to share with family and friends. My cousin bought my first original for $120 so I kept creating works, selling five within one week.”

This was just before her final year at high school. She had studied art during years ten, eleven and twelve and fully intended to return for year 13 when she would no doubt have added to the artistic excellence endorsements she had consistently received. She had already won the top art award for her school.

“The Facebook success saw me suddenly and unexpectedly considering doing my art full time. My parents were quite taken aback but, as usual, extremely supportive. I also owe a huge thanks to my cousin, otherwise known as Miss Lolo, for encouraging me. It seems quite unreal that this is now my job, especially as I originally wanted to be a chef!”

Olivia Bezett in UNO. Issue 30

Olivia has gained huge inspiration from her parents. Her mother is a talented artist under her maiden name of Josephine Davis, selling work through galleries since the 1980s. Her father, Grant Bezett, has been an art dealer for 40 years. “Dad has been teaching me the ropes on the business side and my mother is always there to give me pointers on technique. I couldn’t be doing what I am without my parents’ assistance.”

Artists Max Gimblett and Dick Frizzell have also been inspirational forces in her artistic life and have endorsed her artistic path. Not only did she study their work at school but she has met both through her father’s art world contacts. It can’t be bad for a young artist’s self confidence to be described by New York based Gimblett as an “outstanding talent”. “It’s exciting when artists you look up to notice your work,” says Olivia. “For that I am truly honoured.”

UNIQUE STYLE TAKES WINGS

While Olivia’s work at school was in pencil, water colour and acrylics she discovered the joy of coloured pencils when presented with a
set by her father for her seventeenth birthday. “I absolutely fell in love with them. I found my style after that, began drawing animals because I adore them but found it hard competing with many other artists depicting similar subjects. So I began adding floral headbands to my animals and doing stags with multi-coloured and patterned antlers. This went down so well with my fan base on Facebook that I decided to take the ‘surreal’ approach a bit further. I did a rabbit with butterfly wings as ears and my page completely took off. “

Fox Art Print by Olivia Bezett

Olivia’s work sells as originals, as limited edition prints and also as very affordable unnumbered (open edition) prints. She works on acid free paper for her originals, prints her limited editions on cotton rag, and the open edition prints on acid-free matte paper. She has earlier released an edition of 30 of each of golden butterfly bunny and life in antlers, hand leafed either with 24k gold or silver, hand signed and numbered. Her latest limited edition of 15 is fox, hand leafed with rose gold.

Woodland Dreamers Art Print by Olivia Bezett

The originals of these sold at her first exhibition at Endemic World Gallery in Ponsonby, Woodland Dreamers, the largest piece she has created, selling for $4,200. Limited edition hand leafed prints sell at Endemic World for between $200 and $350. But her fans can also buy a print for as little as $20 online or at one of 50 retailers throughout New Zealand “and a couple scattered randomly overseas”.

If Olivia’s work seems familiar you may have seen it at Hus interior design store in Cambridge or Tauranga’s Little Big Markets. She also sells at markets nearer her home town of Orewa. She enjoys meeting her customers and getting a personal feel for what subject matter is most popular.

MINING A RICH VEIN

Dick Frizzell commented that Olivia is “mining a rich vein”. This New Zealand artist who has so successfully ‘mined’ popular culture for his work may have recognised in Olivia that ability to instinctively tap into topics with wide appeal. While Olivia sees her expression purely as artwork she does appreciate how they resonate with viewers and buyers. “I get inspiration from current trends and like to know what people are interested in but also aim to portray my own personal ‘take’ on my subject matter. Having my works considered to enhance contemporary interior design is great.”

Olivia has now been working fulltime for two years. Though the solitary existence of the lone self employed artist can be overwhelming, she says, “I follow my favourite artists and can always depend on my parents and the team at Endemic World for support.”

Olivia is still expanding on the the realist, surrealistic animal theme and has many idea to explore yet. She’s not afraid to experiment with new styles and subjects. “I enjoy doing the occasional skull. They are always popular as art prints and fun to work with. Also doing the opposite of my usual subject matter keeps my fans guessing.”

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