Pass the Bolly Sweetie - article written by Gill Davies and published in the December 2005 edition of Home and Living magazine - Waikato Times-
Some booze hags have more fun than others, and Collette Fergus's alter-ego, ahem ... Boozehag, has a rip-snorter planned for this Christmas.
Last year she went to the beach. Boring. This year, she's going to party, party, party.
She's going to be seen (but, perhaps, thankfully not heard) revving it up on cards and paintings by Collette, a Hamilton artist. Collette produces a Christmas series each year, of which several usually focus on the antics of this deliciously decadent character.
Boozehag was `born' five years ago. She's the sum of several people - part Collette, part Edina and part Patsy (both characters from the television series Absolutely Fabulous).
The bottle-fed party girl has taken over a large part of Collette's life.
"I was supposed to stop after the first two paintings," Collette said. "She was supposed to be a diversion, so to find that I'm widely known by her is a bit ironic. But I can live with that - she's a best seller and I can't keep up with the demand.
"I started out painting her in oils. She was a lot more static with her hands not joined to her body and not as much shading and movement as she has now. She's becoming more three dimensional."
And she's toning down her wardrobe. She's ditched the original body piercings in favour of a more glamorous, Marilyn-Munroe phase. But toning down her act? Never. In Collette's latest work she's jammed, complete with mermaid's tail, into a tall wine glass whining: "Wadda ya mean, drink like a fish?"
Collette feels Boozehag's become more outrageous as her character has developed. That's thanks to the novel Collette's now writing about her and, a la Bridget Jones Diary, the blogs (personal journals) she's regularly posting on the web about her exploits.
"We can't have her too PC and well behaved - I'm making her a riot.
The blogs attract more traffic to my art websites and help with writing the
book," Collette said.
Collette, who usually works full time as an artist, has recently returned to hairdressing two days a week. While she works on the Boozehag book contact with helps with ideas and inspiration.
Collette's paintings, however, are not all about tippling and teetering on the wild side, as this year's Christmas series of her more serious works attests.
Colours are more sombre than the funky brights that usually distinguish Collette's work, but the theme is still strongly Kiwi/Pasifika.
Take `Kiwi Christmas at the beach' for instance. Its sand, surf and sunburn's pinkness traced across skin are counterpointed with hints of Christmas traditions in red and green foliage and scatterings of gold leaf.
Mixed media add tactile elements to her acrylic paints. She's currently "playing" with gold leaf, sand, pumice, fabrics and the `jewels'
that adorn Boozehag.
Collette's love of painting started when she was a child. She sold her first work at 11-years-old - a watercolour - before switching to oils while attending night classes in art as a teenager. She chose not to pursue a place at art school when she finished secondary school, choosing a career in hairdressing instead.
But the passion for painting remained strong. In fact, the only time she didn't paint was when she was pregnant - she couldn't stand the smell of the oils. But five years later, when her two daughters were past the sticky-fingered stage, she took it up again.
And over the years her style has evolved from realism to "contemporary-surrealism, I would call it. It's very saleable, but I paint for me. If I like it, it will sell."
Further down the track, with sales and commission work proceeding nicely, Collette elected to take an Arts Waikato business course.
"I'd got to the stage where I was making enough money to treat it as an income so I had to become a business woman, not just an artist winging it."
She learned about GST, cash books and finding her target market. And all about marketing.
Collette's work can be found in galleries throughout the North Island. She has an exhibition showing in Gisborne, and another will open soon at mixed Media Art Gallery in Hamilton, based around the Boozehag character.
Her work is hung regularly at Mixed Media in Hamilton and the Te Uku Gallery near Raglan. For more information see www.thecollection.co.nz.
Posted: Sun 25 Dec 2005