Born in 1943, raised in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, and educated at Hutt Valley High School, Mike Ponder has been a successful artist, author, cattle breeder, olive pioneer and grape grower. Mike Ponder’s unmistakable art and writing styles continue to earn him both national and international success.
It was not until Mike was in his early thirties that he took up painting seriously. He is a self-taught artist, who was driven to find his own distinctive style. His formal art education consisted of one evening class in 1974. Input from his artistic brother Richard Ponder (now an acclaimed New Zealand artist in his own right) assisted his technical development, in fact, it was Richard who first encouraged Mike to abandon brushes in favour of the palette knife. He never looked back.
Mike believes that his unique and individual style is due to being self-taught. His paintings are bold, full of texture and colour, sometimes delicate with amazing detail and always with a touch of red – they are painted with knives only. Re-occuring subjects are Driza-bone clad farmers, figures riding pack-horses, shadowed trees and farmhouses. No matter the subject matter, one factor remains constant in his work- simplicity. Ponder paints only what the eye concentrates on, backgrounds and anything else superflous to the central theme is left out. His faceless portraits are intentional, as they allow the viewer to project an identity on the work, and also provide an air of mystery.
Wine and olive oil have also played an important role in Mike’s career. In 1987 Mike and his partner Di purchased 35 ha of land on the outskirts of Blenheim and planted their first olives and grapes the following year. They developed an international reputation for their wines, and were pioneers in the development of New Zealand’s olive oil industry.
Mike has produced three books of his art. They show some of the best examples of his recent work in both oils and watercolours. In 2002 Mike wrote his first novel, ‘The Windsor Conspiracy’ Published in 2007 it became a best seller and is sold internationally. The sequel ‘Four Kings’ was released in 2012.
Today Mike and Di live on their Marlborough property, Cowslip Farm, which incorporates all his interests, grapes, olives, forestry, and breeding Shorthorn cattle. He divides his time between painting and writing.
No matter the subject matter, one factor remains constant- simplicity. Mike Ponder paints only what the eye concentrates on, backgrounds and anything else superflous to the central theme is left out.