Free from the weight of full-time work, 10 creatives have found time to produce and exhibit their art, writes Dionne Christian.

They're the ideas men behind some of our most iconic advertising campaigns and images, working in an industry regarded as one of the most creative and glamorous - that is if you believe everything you watch on the likes of Mad Men.

But every job has its challenges and there's many an adman (and, increasingly, woman) looking to escape; just ask Scott Wilson and Tony McNeight. They're among a group of 10 who have worked in advertising and design and are now taking part in Escape Artists.

It's an exhibition of paintings and multimedia works by those who have "escaped" the full-time pressures of the commercial world and are now exploring the artistic drivers which transported them there in the first place.

Wilson says a love of drawing took him into advertising - after all, it seemed a natural fit for his abilities - but soon deadlines, specific client briefs and the demands of everyday life meant he wasn't sketching.


"When I finished work, the last thing I wanted to do was start drawing - there was cooking dinner, looking after children, mowing the lawns to be done."

McNeight always enjoyed painting but there was little call for that in his day-to-day work. Recently returned to his childhood home of Devonport, he found himself with time to explore new outlets.

That's meant starting painting again, teaching travel sketching classes and "growing" the world's biggest poppy in the Auckland Domain last year (it was constructed from 59,000 red metal discs honouring New Zealand's war dead).

"Advertising is regarded as a young person's game so there's an element of ageism in that we've still got that creative spark and plenty of ideas, but we're in our 60s and the agencies don't want people our age," McNeight says. "All that said, there's nowhere I'd rather be than here and nothing I'd rather be doing."

Along with Wilson and McNeight's work, Escape Artists includes contributions from David MacGregor, Alistair Guthrie, Josh Lancaster, Roy Meares, Fraser Williamson, Brian Harrison, Peter Burt and Grant Alexander. There are some nods to their former lives; storyboards showing how campaigns are created will be displayed.

It's in Devonport where most of them live, but Depot Artspace also saw a chance for an exhibition to support a community-led suicide prevention programme. The exhibition opening features an art auction to support a suicide prevention publication, The Roaring Silence, in which about 65 creatives and committed professionals speak out about the issue.

What: Escape Artists
Where and when: Depot Artspace; until September 21. Opening today at 2pm to 3.30pm, with auction at 2.45pm