Artist Max McGrail has picked up his paint brushes again after more than two years of feeling he would never paint again.
His grief over the death of beloved wife Jenny two years ago had left him in a kind of paralysis where even picking up a pencil was beyond him, he said.
"A close friend finally persuaded me to paint again and to paint for an exhibition."
His exhibition of 10 works titled Visions opened last Friday at the Whanganui Fine Arts Gallery on Taupo Quay.
Even the exquisitely detailed customised frame of each work is a work of art.
"I enjoy making and designing my own frames. They absolutely are a part of my art."
His work which he describes as surrealism and fantasy with an emphasis on Pre-Raphaelite art.
Even his new home in a small cul-de-sac at Castlecliff shows the magical Max McGrail touch.
Deep aubergine painted walls set off his paintings with flair and a closed in deck at the rear of the house features a large fish pond with the back wall blooming with lush green ferns in pots.
"It's a great place here but I thought it looked like a motel unit at first. You know all greys, greys and more greys," he laughed.
Max admits he is relieved to be painting again.
"I really don't where my brain went after Jenny died. Grief is very frightening and no one can really understand it unless they have been through it."
When it comes to his paintings Max wants people to make their own interpretations and arrive at their own conclusions.
"It's more exciting. I don't want to tell them what to think," he said.
Born and brought up in Wanganui, Max said he was interested in art from a young boy and after leaving school he went on to study at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland.
He graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts with honours in 1977.
Selecting and creating his fantasy figures for his paintings has always been a painstaking process, he said.
He collects clippings of faces and figures from every magazine, art book and publication he can can find.
"I have a very, very large file now it's an incredible array it really is."
His chosen medium is oil paint, which is built up in thin layers and diminished in fine detail.
He admits his style is unique, and difficult to define.
He hopes the fine details in every one mean people are drawn in and can study for a while instead just a quick glance and move on.
Max has exhibited in several galleries around New Zealand and his works hang in many private collections thoughout New Zealand and Australia.