Q&A with Rebecca ter Borg
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background?
I am a freelance illustrator by trade and have been drawing, slightly obsessively, since I could hold a pen. Painting murals has been a fairly recent development, I painted my first wall in 2017. I loved getting to illustrate on a massive scale. My partner Nigel Roberts (Dagarmedia) helped me make the step with his practical painting know-how and we collaborated a few times as I built up confidence. Luckily lots of the skills translate: design, colour, composition and a steady hand!
How did you become involved in this project?
Being involved with Pangeaseed - an international organisation using artivism to raise awareness for ocean protection - set a train of sea-themed projects in motion, starting with a mural in Tairāwhiti for the Seawalls mural festival and continuing with art prints, illustrations and stickers. I think Sonya [Nagels] (the lead on this project) liked the way I drew water and probably some of the fun I've had drawing sea-creatures. My friendly and colourful style and my interest in environmental causes seemed suited to the project.
Is this one of the larger murals you’ve worked on? And where else can people see your work?
The last mural I painted was 22 metres x 4.5 metres so this one was actually a bit more manageable! Out in the wild in Auckland you can find my paintings at Sylvia Park mall and Glen Innes shopping centre, others are in less accessible places. From the comfort of your own home my work can be seen on instagram @rebeccaterborg_illustration
Tell us about the thought process that went into the design of the museum’s mural – how did you choose which animals and plants to include?
Choosing the animals was a collaborative process with some of the Maritime Museum folk. We had some meetings and brainstorms and decided which elements seemed most special to the Hauraki Gulf and important to include. We wanted a representation of the the Kaitiaki of the moana and Xoë Hall came up with the design for the beautiful Tangaroa/Hinemoana cresting the wave. The two side panels are depicted above water to match with the play vessels and give them a vibrant ocean-faring setting and the middle panel is supposed to feel like an under-water treasure cave of sea-taonga.
Xoë chose the colour scheme for her panel first so I tried to work the rest around it so that it felt like part of the same world.
When you design a mural aimed at children, is there anything special you need to consider?
I like to keep the colours bright and the vibe friendly, so children feel drawn to the mural and also special because it is for them rather than all the billboards and advertising aimed at adults they are most often surrounded in public places. I included small, fun details to spot and discover and characters that I hope are sort of cute and appealing.
What are some of the challenges associated with creating murals (as opposed to your illustrative work).
Often murals are outside so you're battling the elements and checking the weather forecasts as soon as you wake up to see if you can paint that day or not. There are other logistical considerations such as the surface you're painting on and how it needs to be treated, whether you're painting very high up and need to use a scissor lift, considering what else is happening in the space etc. My studio is a very controlled space so it's definitely a change!
I was lucky enough to get the Percy Vos Boatshed to paint this mural in this time. It was a treat being undercover...and it was definitely the largest studio I've ever worked in!
Is the process of painting the mural quite physically draining? What do you feel like during and after a day of painting?
The painting itself can be quite meditative (as long as everything is going well!). Time passes surprisingly quickly, especially when you really get in the zone. My mural process means I've done all the design and creative thinking beforehand, so that makes the actual execution of the painting more relaxing.
When you think about the finished piece, what do you hope viewers will feel when they engage with it (particularly children)?
I hope that children will feel immersed in a magical, watery world. I hope that when they are on the play vessels, the mural will help them feel that they are off on a real adventure on the high seas and that they will like to open the little doors in the middle section and discover the little critters hidden behind. I love it that large scale work can create a whole atmosphere and set the vibe of a space, taking the viewer to a whole new place.
Do you have a favourite mural in Aotearoa?
There's a mural by Tanja Jade (Misery) and Tomtom behind St Kevins arcade that is just so fun and perfect for the space. It's a very tall thin wall and they've painted cute characters doing bombs off a bridge into the water below. My kids used to love it.