Artist’s brush with adventure

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Many Queenstowners will know Ronnie Baker,without even realising they do. She’s the artist who’s been working for months on the gargantuan Stanley Street mural. Now that that project — the biggest scale painting she’s ever done — has wrapped up, CASS MARRETT caught up with her to see what else is on the radar

Many people are surprised to learn that making artwork is Ronnie Baker’s full-time job.

In fact, she can’t quite believe it herself.

‘‘I always joke that I draw pictures for a living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘‘When I was younger, I never really thought that [it] would actually be a viable option for making a living, and it’s awesome that it is because it’s my happy place,’’ Baker says.

Originally from South East in the UK, between Brighton and London, ‘‘where there’s no
mountains’’, Baker points out, she always had a passion for hiking and the outdoors.

It was on a hike, at least eight hours from home, in the UK’s Lakes District, where Baker met a Kiwi woman, and a seed was planted that would eventually bring Baker to New Zealand.

First arming with a degree in visual communication, Baker eventually left the UK with  plans to first visit Australia, then come to New Zealand, and as the tale goes, she never left Queenstown.

‘‘I accidentally built a new life here.’’

Baker’s been in the resort for about 12 years and established a hand-painted sign writing business called Hand Painted Sign Co. (@handpaintedsignco on Instagram).

‘‘I’ve always drawn pictures and been really obsessed with lettering my whole life for  some bizarre reason,’’ she says.

‘‘My mum and dad must have thought I was just completely obsessed, sitting hunched over pieces of paper.’’

Her work can be seen all over town, having worked on signs for Kinross, City Cave and Taco Medic.

But art isn’t her only passion.

Baker’s an active volunteer, involving herself in organisations such as the Queenstown
Mountain Bike Club and Wakatipu Search and Rescue.

‘‘I don’t have a ton of money, I can’t really give money to causes, but I like to be able to, in a really small way, increase the wellbeing of people around me if I can, by giving time.’’

She’s done about six years volunteering for the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club, and
five for female mountain biking group, The Dirt Town Queens.

Her involvement in both organisations has spanned across designing merchandise,  admin, and organising races and weekly social rides with fellow Dirt Town Queen Helen Watling.

In October 2020, after freeing up some time, Baker says she ‘‘selfishly’’ she got  involved with Wakatipu Search and Rescue to learn some ‘‘awesome new skills’’.

‘‘[I wanted to] make myself more capable in the outdoors — because I’m really into  tramping and mountaineering and that sort of thing — and even back country, mountain biking, and Search and Rescue actually do help quite a lot of mountain bikers.

‘‘You learn so much cool stuff, like searching techniques and tracking and navigation.

‘‘I’m just really proud to be part of that organisation with amazing people, the skill base in SAR here is phenomenal.’’

Baker’s latest project is nothing short of phenomenal.

The 40-metre Stanley St mural depicting Queenstown’s unique wildlife, landscape and
key conservation projects was officially opened last week.

Baker says all up, it took  about 300 hours.

With the project being so public, Baker’s been flooded with interest in her work, and
has already quoted a couple of projects.

‘‘It’s amazing how much people pay attention, I don’t know why I didn’t think it would
happen.’’

For now she’ll be getting the ball rolling on a private commission and has also been enlisted as a mentor on a mural project for Cromwell Youth Trust.

‘‘It’s really, really cool to see how much the community [have enjoyed] seeing [the mural] come together because you just never quite know how these things might be received, but positivity has been overwhelming.’’

Baker says she’s dedicating it to a ‘‘fantastic’’ late friend, who always encouraged her to be an artist and do what makes her happy.

cass.marrett@scene.co.nz