By Emma Darragh
Three years ago, when Reina Cottier relocated from Auckland to Tairua, it was all about starting small, keeping things careful, and producing the paintings she’d found a talent for six years earlier.
A week after her 50th birthday, Reina is now settled into an expansive new house with daughters Xanthe and Brielle and partner Jerry, and reflecting on an age she convincingly describes as ‘fabulous.’
Reina has recently been invited to paint a massive piece to fit a four-storey internal stairwell of an Auckland building. She is excited to create such large-scale artwork and will be dedicating around six months to the task. The person commissioning her to do the work is a boat designer and architect whom Reina is keen to collaborate with. She sees it as a huge opportunity to implement a shared vision with a big bold result.
Reina was known as ‘that arty kid’ during her school years. She says she always loved drawing and colouring, though never tried her hand at painting. She intended on studying fine arts, then at the last minute decided she’d had enough of study and did a hairdressing apprenticeship instead. She made it to the top of that profession, being an examiner, judging competitions, and expressing her creativity through hair and make-up assignments. She developed business acumen by establishing her own salon, and traveled the country as a hairdressing consultant, before settling down and starting a family. The practicalities of parenting were easy, but as a new Mum at 38, Reina found the lack of spontaneity and independence difficult. After five years of at-home parenting, Reina was ready to do something for herself. She discovered painting at an art class called Awaken The Artist Within, facilitated by Maria Fowler. Reina knew she’d found her purpose.
She made a decision from the start to refute the notion of ‘struggling artist’.
“I told my mum,” Reina says; “I’m going to make a business out of this.”
She started producing work and began a facebook page showcasing her paintings. Eight years on, it has 10,000 followers. Reina sees social media, and particularly Facebook, as a tool with awesome energy. From the beginning, she has responded to comments from followers and built an online presence, considering it an essential part of the business. She enjoys being able to connect and share her art with people worldwide, all from home in Tairua. One woman in Australia purchased 19 of her paintings. Reina took a special trip to Auckland to meet her during a cruise-ship stop-over. “Nineteen! You have to, don’t you!?” laughs Reina. “It gives people joy. And it gives me joy too.”
Tairua has offered completely different inspiration to life in Auckland.
“In Auckland I was making art in my garage. I tapped into something inside of me. Now I’m tapping into a whole new level. I am more in tune with the ocean, the bush and the mountains. It feels like I’m stepping into who I really am.”
Reina’s paintings are informed by a curiosity and fascination for nature, shapes and shades. Each piece has an oceanic feel; abstract swirls and colour representing the land, sea and creatures of the Pacific. Reina says she doesn’t attribute conscious meaning to her paintings, though the curve of the koru always makes an appearance. Reina prefers not to name her work, allowing the viewer an original perception.
Creativity has been prevalent throughout Reina’s life. Both parents were actors and her mother was a wardrobe mistress for theatre during Reina’s colourful childhood. She describes her mother as one of the most creative people she’s ever met, and extends the legacy to her own family.
“I think everyone should be encouraged to be creative and find their thing,” says Reina.
“Jerry is a house painter and I watch him work sometimes. There is a grace and style about the way he executes a job. I notice a unique, definite creative process to his work. He also does clay sculpturing. And I encourage my girls’ creativity all the time. I tell them, whatever it is you do, do it your way, with your flair.”
With the spaciousness offered by their new house and her largest-scale art project about to begin, Reina reflects on the opportunities her 50th year presents. “Wow, it’s been amazing. My whole life’s changed, in the best possible way. There’s so much out there that I don’t even know about.” One thing she does know, is the world will be seeing more of Reina Cottier Art this year.
To contact Reina or view her art, visit;