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John Gillies

John was born in 1945. A Cantabrian by birth, John pursued a career in medicine, becoming Clinical Director of respiratory medicine for the Canterbury District Health Board, before retiring after open heart surgery in 2006 to become a full time artist and portrait painter. John's first Solo Exhibition was in 1977! He has won many awards over the decades.

John Gillies

Born in Christchurch in 1945 and educated at St. Andrew’s college where John studied figure drawing under sculptor Tom Taylor. Although on leaving school, John embarked on a medical career, he continued to paint and in 1972 held his first “one man” exhibition at Abernethy’s Gallery, Dunedin. Thereafter, he featured as an invited artist at Fisher’s Gallery in Christchurch, the Ashburton Society of Arts, the Darfield Society of Arts and at Artworks, Auckland.  John held a sell-out exhibition at the Village Antiques Gallery in Christchurch in 1994 and he continues to exhibit at selected galleries in the South Island. John’s portraits hang in the University of Otago’s Medical and Dental Schools, in Halls of Residence and in private collections. 

John and his wife, Jenny, live in Christchurch. They have a family of four adult children with an ever increasing number of grandchildren.

1957Learned figure drawing under sculptor, Tom Taylor.
1969-1970Combined services South Vietnam.
1971Graduated University of Otago Medical School.
1977First solo exhibition, Dunedin NZ.
1980Specialist physician, FRACP.
1992Highly commended, Telecom Art Award.
1998Creative excellence award, NZ Wearable Arts Award.
2003Clinical director, Canterbury District Health Board.
2005Section winner, Montana World of Wearable Arts Award
2007Full time artist and portrait painter.
2008Published “In my chair”, a collection of portraits of Cantabrians. Exhibition held at COCA gallery, Christchurch.
2009Judge, Zonta school leavers’ exhibition, Ashburton.
2012Invited tutor - palette knife painting masterclass, Brisbane.
2013Invited tutor – portrait painting, Ashburton Arts Society.
2013Judge Ashburton Arts Society Annual Exhibition.


2008Book: “In my chair”, a collection of portraits of 60 Cantabrians with introduction by Jon Gadsby and text by David McPhail.
2008–2012Articles on painting technique in: The Artist UK (1), The Australian Artist (2) and the Artists’ Palette (3).

John’s art awards include:

1992 Highly recommended, Telecom Art Award

1998 Creative Excellence Award, N.Z. Wearable Arts Award

2005 Section winner, Montana World of Wearable Arts Award.


As an invited art tutor and exhibition judge:

2009 Judge, Zonta, School Leavers’ Exhibition, Ashburton

2012 Palette knife painting masterclass for professional artists, Brisbane

2013 Portrait painting masterclass, Ashburton Society of Arts

2013 Judge, Ashburton Society of Arts Annual Exhibition

2016 – 2020 Palette knife painting masterclasses.


John’s art publications include:

2008 – 2013 Articles on painting technique in:

 The Artist ( UK ) x 1

 The Australian Artist x 3

 The Artist’s Palette x 3

2008  Book: “In My Chair” featuring a collection of 60 portraits of Cantabrians with introduction by the late Jon Gadsby and text by the late David McPhail.

2022  Book ( in preparation ): Skippers Canyon, History, Art and Adventure, featuring 35 palette knife paintings, 40 sketches and 10 chapters.

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