Pete Cernis was just 10 years old when a teacher told him he wasn't an artist. The comment stuck with him for decades; he didn't become a practising artist until he was 50.
"I loved art but in those days people thought you were either born an artist or you weren't, and my teacher gently informed me I wasn't," he said.
"For 40 years I believed that. Believing I wasn't an artist, I gravitated towards working in the business world to take care of the practicalities of life, but I retained my passion for art by visiting galleries, artists' studios and collecting artworks."
But Cernis's life changed after emergency operations for detached retinas, which saved his eyesight, and his son convinced him it was time to start following his life's passion.
Cernis studied at the Florence Academy in Italy, The London Academy of Representational Art and completed his MA at Camberwell College of Arts in London – all of which helped launch a successful art career.
In Florence, he received the same disciplined technical training that realist artists Rembrandt, van Gogh, Picasso and Goldie received.
Cernis moved to New Zealand with his family two years ago and recently moved to Russell, where he set up a studio.
He is one of the guest artists featured in the upcoming Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail (Koast).
Held over Labour weekend, the event gives trail goers the opportunity to discover local artists, view their work and talk to them in their studios.
Cernis says his work will change now he is living in New Zealand.
"Nature is my favourite artist and teacher, and the natural world here is so beautiful and holds so many precious lessons. I know that being here is feeding me differently which is already impacting how I paint and draw, and hopefully later sculpt."
There will be an opportunity to visit and talk with Cernis when he is at Studio 19 in Kerikeri for the three days of Koast.
Visit www.koast.org.nz&ref=art_hyperlink for more information.
Head along to the Moerewa School Spring Gala on September 14 from 10am-2pm and support local tamariki's trip to the snow.
School office manager Jayne Barnett said the gala will contribute to the Year 5-10 students' four-day school trip to Tongariro National Park at the end of September.
The gala is also a fundraiser for junior students' upcoming day trip to Snow Planet in Auckland, also later this month.
"They're going to the mountains, they'll be skiing – some of them have never seen snow before," Barnett said.
"It's the first big gala the school has held for a few years and there will be all sorts, including heaps of food and hangi, lots of games for the kids and raffles. It should be pretty full-on."
Principal Jason Tane said the two trips were part of the curriculum whereby the school's 152 students learned about their identity and the wider world.
Pupils had been learning about the significance of Northland maunga (mountains) including Ruapekapeka and Hikurangi, he said.
A teacher came up with the idea of the trip to another big maunga, Mt Ruapehu.
"It's an opportunity to take them further where they can see parts of New Zealand are similar and there are parts that are different, and broaden their experiences and vision," Tane said. "There's a big world out there that they can engage with."
Tickets are available from the school office at 70 Otiria Rd, Moerewa or phone 09 404 1251 for more information.
A free family event highlighting the treasures of Puketi Forest is one of many events being held in Northland during Conservation Week.
Nga Taonga Korero ō Puketi – the Treasured stories of Puketi is on September 21 from 3pm-8pm and will include free storytelling, guided walks, a glow worm visit, kids zone, forest health and food.
The eco-friendly event – people are encouraged to carpool and bring a reusable cup – starts at the Puketi Recreation Campground, 1715 Waiare Rd.
The Department of Conservation is celebrating 50 years of Conservation Week this year, a national celebration that encourages people to get involved in nature and do their bit to help to take care of it.
With more than 4000 of New Zealand's animals and plants threatened or at risk, Conservation Week is a chance to bring everyone together to create change.
More than 20 events are being held in Northland from September 14 to 22.
Bay of Islands DoC ranger Clare Redward said the Puketi Forest was a joint event with the Kerikeri Keas, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers.
"I'm really excited about our family event at Puketi forest. It's an incredibly special place and this is a great opportunity for people of all ages to experience the forest's sights and sounds, learn about our protected species, hear stories from our past and get involved in fun forest health activities.
"This Conservation Week, we reflect on five decades of amazing conservation effort that has saved species, restored habitats and inspired the next 50 years of protecting our native taonga."
Other Conservation Week events in the Bay of Islands include a backyard trapping workshop at Bay of Islands Showgrounds in Waimate North on September 15 from 1pm-4pm.
For the pre-schoolers, there is Conservation Week story-time at Procter Library on September 17 from 10.30am-11am.
Phone 09 4070300 or visit www.doc.govt.nz/ for more information.
The upcoming Paihia CBD working bee is a good chance to give the town a "tickle-up" and give back to the community.
Volunteers are needed for a few hours at the annual Paihia Placemaking Project on September 21 from 9am.
Project driver Heinz Marti said interested residents could join the Focus Paihia Odd Jobbers at the Village Green behind the Pharmacy.
Jobs include staining, painting, weeding, planting, topping up white shell, sweeping and cleaning.
"It's a good time to have a tickle-up around the place before getting into the lively summer season,' he said.
Volunteers are encouraged to bring gloves, gardening tools, rakes, brooms and paint brushes if they have them.
It's also important to wear appropriate footwear. Contact Heinz via email at email@example.com or phone 027 470 1137 if you can help.
This year's It! Bay of Islands Food and Wine Festival is ramping up to celebrate 10 years on the entertainment scene.
The boutique food and wine festival on the Paihia Village green will feature Boh Runga, Double Shot, Automatic 80s and White Chapel, along with delectable food, wine and kids' entertainment on October 5.
Award-winning Northland wineries, brewers, cafes, and food producers will be represented along with unique Kiwi competitions like kina sucking, pie eating and oyster shucking.
The event runs from 11am-6pm.
If you're coming from Kerikeri you can catch a bus from Subway at 10.30am, returning from Paihia's Maritime Building at 6.15pm. Phone 0800 653 339 to make a booking for the bus.
Kaeo School's Great Art Exhibition promises to delight visitors with original art created by students on show in the school hall.
The exhibition opens on September 12 at 5.30pm and runs until September 18.
There will also be a silent auction of a wide range of donated items. Entry is free.
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