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CoCA Hall of Fame 2016

Gus Hunter

Gus Hunter had always loved art, but his first job after leaving school was in the public service. As he moved towards a more creative career he worked as a painter with a Wellington based Maori carving group who were building Victoria University’s first fully carved marae (Te Herenga Waka Marae), and then as a painter and bone carver for a local Porirua co-op group. Gus knew he needed to learn more about art, illustration, and all the technical aspects of painting, and this ultimately led him to Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, where he completed a diploma in visual communication design in the late 1980s.

He quickly found work as a freelance illustrator, offering versatility through a range of illustration styles that included cartoon, caricature, storyboarding, and working on semi-realistic to realistic art styles.

His Pacific Island heritage also fuelled a desire to give something back to the Pacific community. He became involved in teaching budding artists to illustrate local stories for children’s books, which were then produced and printed for use in schools.

In 2000 Gus’s artistic career took a significant turn: an old friend, Jeremy Bennett, who had just started working on the Lord of the Rings as a traditional artist, contacted Gus to say that the 3 foot 6 company, led by Sir Peter Jackson, was starting up a visual effects art department for the trilogy under the American art director Paul Lasaine.

Gus by then had re-learnt how to use the computer as a tool and create art as digital paintings - a craft that was not common back then, but one that had him working on Lord of the Rings trilogy by April 2000.

Since then Gus has worked on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy; King KongThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobePrince Caspian, as well as working on TintinAvatar, The Lovely Bones, Hercules and the Hobbit.

Gus has also worked on other movies with Weta Digital including X-Men, Fantastic 4: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, and The Bridge to Terabithia.

Gus has been enormously successful in carving out a career for himself in the film industry driven by his talent and passion. His work has gained international recognition, helped the New Zealand economy, and he has been a great role model for those inspired by his work.