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15 November 2017

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Showcasing talent through art

Showcasing talent through art

Enter the Hamilton home of John Loughnan (School 1971 – 1974) and the walls are lined with stunning paintings.

The works are John’s own, done over many years, using his mouth. A motorcycle accident on a farm in 1986 left John with a broken neck and paralysis and cut short a brilliant water skiing career.

Some years later and settled in Hamilton, John started to learn how to paint using his mouth to make brush strokes on canvas. His own mother was an artist and he watched her paint as a youngster growing up on a farm in Aria in the King Country.

“She was always trying to encourage me into painting and at first I shied away from it, as I thought it was just what people with disabilities do. But after a long time, quite a few years, I thought I would give it a try.”

He says the first couple of attempts were “a shambles”.

“But eventually, through trial and error and perseverance, I started painting and then after a few months I had created some I was reasonably happy with.”

Many of his paintings are landscapes. Lining his long hallway are scenes of Arrowtown, the Moeraki Boulders and a rural vista of dairy cows and Mount Pirongia.

His talent was recognised with a scholarship from Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), an international organisation helping talented disabled artists find buyers and outlets for their work. MFTA is well known for selling packs of Christmas and gift cards.

Ten years ago, John moved into a wheelchair friendly and custom-built house in Hamilton’s Huntington suburb. The beautiful house featured in Hamilton’s Fine Homes Tour four years ago. He has held exhibitions and fundraising events in the house. Some of his paintings have sold for several thousand dollars.

Prior to the accident, John was a top New Zealand water skier, representing his country at the World Championships. For 14 years, he held the national jump record. He also spent more than seven years living in the USA competing, coaching, and working in the water ski industry.

After the accident, he continued his association with the sport, coaching some of New Zealand’s top ski talent. He is a life member of the Karapiro Water Ski Club.

John has enjoyed catching up with St Paul’s Collegians and former staff over the years including at the home of his neighbours Mike and Judy Shaw, who have a long association with the school.

Ill health has meant John has not been able to paint for some time, but his output has been prolific, easily in the hundreds of works, he says. Network spoke to him when he was bedridden and unable to paint. His partner was on a trip to Perth visiting family.

John’s older brother Richard Loughnan, also a St Paul’s Collegian, lives on a farm between Hamilton and Raglan and works as an insurance agent with AON in Hamilton.

MONICA HOLT