Pavement artist returns

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The man who was Queenstown CBD’s unofficial artist-in-residence for 27 years is back sketching at his old spot in The Mall. 

John Parson returned to his Canadian homeland seven years ago to be nearer to his elderly parents. He’s now journeyed back to New Zealand for his architect stepson Takeshi’s upcoming graduation in Wellington. 

While here Parson, 64, is back in The Mall drawing portraits of tourists – as his Japanese wife Tomoko works on the Routeburn Track. 

“This place has happy memories on every corner,” Parson says. 

“Trouble is, I’ve hardly been able to do any work because people I haven’t seen for a long time keep coming up to say hello – which is great.” 

In the late 1970s, the talented artist was one of just three people granted the first hawkers’ licences for The Mall – the others were for a hot dog stand and a vegetable stall. 

“Down the years I must have sketched thousands of people in Queenstown,” Parson says. 

“The visitors from around NZ were always my best clients.” 

The artist – who last year battled throat cancer – is here until the end of May but would like to return on a permanent basis. 

“I still consider this place home but I don’t know if I could afford to live in Queenstown full-time anymore,” he says. 

“I seem to be one of the few people from around here who has managed to hang on to their impoverished, starving artist roots.”