Paul Deacon marine artists fifeshire rock painting

Searching the seas for a nautical bequeath: Paul Deacon

May 15, 2024Tracy Allan

Paul Deacon is a warm and generous man with an easy smile, which may have something to do with his sunny studio, nestled in a glorious Tasman location.

He is incredibly generous with his time, a trait which must have come in handy throughout his altruistic career, particularly in his work with challenging teens in the field of child, youth, and families.

Perhaps he was destined to paint. Learning solely by observation, Paul's father passed away at an early age, leaving his mother to raise nine children single-handedly back in the 1930s. A classically trained artistic herself, his mother did what she could, and he by helping strip back paint and supporting her as she painted signs for local establishments.

Born on the coast of England, surrounded by local fishermen and the aroma of oil paints, Paul soon found himself drawn to the seas, sailing on small ships with the merchant navy, traversing Northern Europe and beyond. He always packed his paint brushes, suggesting it was, "Always good to earn a bit of beer money," though there wasn't always much time between sailings.

In 1995, Paul made the move to New Zealand, where he spent 25 years in Auckland, initially working with child youth lockups and later with Barnardos for 14 years.

Before his time in New Zealand, he dedicated years to establishing arts and crafts workshops within Dartmoor Prison, providing a constructive outlet for the prisoners.

He recalls, "It was a great outlet for them to pass their time in a constructive way."

Some prisoners even received access to leave for exhibitions, despite some opposition from old dinosaurs to this form of creativity.

As a fellow of the Australian Society of Marine Artists—one of about 20—Paul acknowledges his preference for the New Zealand art world over the UK.

Specialising in marine art, he notes that there are perhaps only three artists in New Zealand with a similar focus. Confident in his market, he sometimes paints commissions while being represented by several galleries across the country.

He picks up a painting and holds it against the window to show off the warm base colour. Gazing around his studio, memories flood back of my time sailing on the Spirit of New Zealand.

"Sailing on the Spirit of New Zealand has always given me the inspiration to maintain marine painting," Paul reflects. "Sometimes I consider delving into landscape, but then my wife reminds me to stick with marine art."

Now, spending three hours a day surrounded by linseed oil, turps, and boats, Paul finds contentment. He begins with pen and ink studies, mostly on canvas sometimes painting on linen attached to MDF. Occasionally, you can find him on a Wednesday with Nicole Russell's Plein Air Art group.

With no plans to hang up the paintbrushes anytime soon, Paul plans a final generous act: to pass all his books and research on.

"I'm 70 plus now. I'd love to find a younger person with nautical knowledge, and I would bequeath all of this to them."

Check out his marine art at