Ten years painting houses put recent NorthTec graduate Paora Tiatoa in good step for a successful future in the contemporary Maori art scene.

Mr Tiatoa described himself as a "visual artist" who was reluctant to just stick to one thing because he did not want to be put in a corner.

"Go hard or go home as far as I'm concerned," he said.

He graduated this month with a Bachelor of Applied Arts majoring in screen printing.

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Three years ago he decided he needed a change from painting houses and decided to put his passion for drawing to the test.

"What I thought I knew back then was actually very narrow," Mr Tiatoa said. "Now there's no restrictions on nothing".

The work ethic and precision required in painting a house paid off when it came to studying, he said.

His work is predominantly modern interpretations of traditional Maori art, including a series of tiki prints with some in neon colours.

Mr Tiatoa said he was not into art that was serious or dull.

"I like art that can make me smile or laugh, that has a sense of funniness to it," he said.

It does not matter to him what kind of surface he's using. For example, some of his latest work is on recycled building materials from a house he had recently painted.

Mr Tiatoa was invited to take part in the bi-annual Maori Art Market in Wellington last month. Six of his prints were also commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, based in the capital. Some of his work is being sent to three art galleries around the country that specialise in contemporary Maori art: the Poi Room in Newmarket, the Pataka Art Museum in Porirua and the Kura Gallery in Taupo.

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Mr Tiatoa, who is originally from Auckland, plans to move to his own studio in central Whangarei in early 2015.

His goal is to make enough money so it can be his full-time job. Eventually he would like to buy five shipping containers and build those into a combined home and studio.

- Mr Tiatoa's work, along with his fellow graduate students', is on display at an exhibition at the Geoff Wilson Gallery on NorthTec's Raumanga campus until December 18.