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Thanks Dad: Footsteps Worth Following

Dad's the word - celebrate Father's Day with a look at how sons and daughters have been inspired by their father's creativity.


Creativity starts at home.

And for many, their first artistic inspiration comes from the seed planted by our dads.

Whether that’s listening to the old man’s old records, admiring his ability with a paintbrush or simply time spent together enjoying a show - our original role models have a huge influence on who we are creatively.

Dads often lead by example - so if they’ve blazed their own trail and lived a happy, fulfilling life because of it, the lure of following in their footsteps can sometimes be overwhelming, subconscious even.  

Of course, mothers and other whānau/caregivers play prominent roles in our upbringing too but this Father’s Day is a great time to thank your dad for the role he’d played on your creative journey. 

The Big Idea wants to celebrate some of those dads who have passed their love of creativity down to their children. 


Dick Frizell

To call Frizell’s pop-art prints and painting icon is an understatement. Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves art lovers would know his name or his work.

His wit, vision and sense of nostalgia have helped shape this anti-traditionalist’s mahi, with his take on Kiwiana winning his countless accolades.

And the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Otis and Dick Frizzell.

Otis Frizzell - originally best known to 90s kids in particular as one half of hip-hop duo MC OJ & Rhythm Slave - has carved a similar niche to his father, with his graffiti art coveted worldwide. He’s collaborated with his famous father on several occasions.

Otis's brother Josh has also made a name for himself as a director of film and television. He’s worked with some of the country’s greatest directors along the way, including…..

Geoff Murphy

Matt and Geoff Murphy.

Murphy was responsible for some of the most loved Kiwi films of all time, including Goodbye Pork Pie and Utu. 

His success saw him take his talents to Hollywood in the 1990s, directing movies with stars like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kiefer Sutherland, Mickey Rourke, Emelio Estevez and Steven Segal.  

His sons have continued his late father’s legacy. Paul worked on a grip on Geoff’s movie Never Say Die before going on to be a director himself, including local hit Second-Hand Wedding - Matt's directorial debut was the remake of his dad's classic, Pork Pie.

Fred Graham

Fred Graham (standing) with son Brett (sitting in white) sharing a laugh. 

One of the Art Foundation’s exclusive club of Living Icons, Graham’s work has been celebrated for decades.

His sculptures and carvings feature prominently throughout the country, a fusion of Māori and Pākehā cultures.

Fred’s ability as an arts teacher obviously paid off, with son Brett Graham clearly inspired by his deeds. 

Brett’s sculptures too are in demand, his exhibition Tai Moana Tai Tangata currently showing at City Gallery Wellington - his bold approach to his toi have this year earned him the accolade of Arts Laureate, a feat he was able to share with his Dad (as covered here on The Big Idea.)

Neil Finn

The Finns - Elroy (left), Liam (centre) and proud dad Neil (right).

Imagine a world without Split Enz or Crowded House? Finn’s musical prowess has made him one of the most admired musicians of his generation and sparked many trans-Tasman debates.

His recent involvement in Fleetwood Mac and collaboration with so many New Zealand artists is a testament to the standing he’s held in around the globe.

It certainly influenced his sons Liam and Elroy.  Liam hit fame at a young age with his group Betchadupa before branching out on his own, with younger brother Elroy also releasing a solo album.

The trio has come full circle, coming together to perform as part of the reincarnated Crowded House.

Kim Hegan

Yeshe and Kim Hegan.

Hegan’s mark on the entertainment landscape in immense.

As a former manager of the iconic Billy T James, Hegan’s been a music promoter for international touring acts, a TV and film producer and documentary maker.

Daughter Yeshe clearly caught the bug - along with sister Hannah, she’s part of Kim’s production company and combined for a producer/director father/daughter combo for acclaimed documentary Return to Gandhi Road.

Stanley Palmer

A highly regarded painter, Palmer’s landscapes have long been admired and coveted in collections. He has been exhibiting since 1958 and has works featured in New Zealand’s pre-eminent galleries.

Palmer told The Big Idea “I always encourage people to get a skill they could market” and while developing your craft, “you have to keep your vision about what you want to do.”

That advice was listened two by his children. As a solo dad, Stanley would often take Anna and Matt along with him when he painted his landscapes, including feating them in works like Anawhata and Anna

Stanley Palmer's Anawhata and Anna, 1970-71.

They both began drawing themselves to pass the time, and it’s stuck. Anna and Matt are both recognised artists on both sides of the Tasman, their mahi clearly inspired by their dad’s love of landscapes. 

Rob Gardiner

Rob and Sue Gardiner.

An artist in his own right, Gardiner has passed down another crucial part of the arts ecosystem to the next generation of his family - arts philanthropy.

He set up the Chartwell Trust in the early 1970s with the vision of wider access to and deeper understanding of creative visual thinking - supporting many artists and institutions. The Chartwell Collection was created and eventually moved to Auckland Art Gallery.

His daughter Sue shares his passion for advocating the importance of creativity in society, including joining the Chartwell Trust board with her father.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

5 Sep 2021

The Big Idea Editor