5 Minutes With Dick Frizzell


Dick Frizzell's Big Hoot owl on location in Auckland. Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Dick Frizzell's Big Hoot owl on location in Auckland. Hannah Peters/Getty Images
We caught up with iconic Kiwi artist Dick Frizzell to discuss his creation for the Big Hoot art project - a giant owl sculpture called "Tecolote…The Messenger".

The Big Hoot is a free public art trail featuring 47 giant Owl sculptures (1.65m tall). Each Owl has been turned into a bespoke piece of art by a Kiwi or international artist. MiMDFOOD caught up with renowned local artist, Dick Frizzell, to discuss his Owl, ‘Tecolote…The Messenger.’

Why did you decide to be part of The Big Hoot? It was for a good cause – Child Cancer Foundation.

Your Owl is called ‘Tecolote…The Messenger’. What does this name mean? Well…it means ‘the messenger’ basically. Good news and bad news. I like to refer to it as a Mexican terracotta artefact – my buried treasure.

Can you tell us about the style/theme/message behind it? The final design was an accident really. I initially meant to turn the owl into a garden gnome owl but when I was carving the surface details into the body of the owl I painted it with a random pot of orange-brown lumbersider from my studio (so I could see what I was doing). As the white fibreglass dust gathered in the carved details it started to look like some Mexican terracotta dogs we’ve got in the courtyard or a museum artefact…so the terracotta idea took over.

And how did you convey that in the design? I borrowed an angle grinder from my film set fabricator friends at Bootleg Design that I used to carve the feathers and detail in the owl, which was the starting point. Then with Bootleg’s help (they’ve got big spray booths and so on) I asked them to apply the terracotta treatment – I gave them my Mexican dogs and said …’make the owl look like this!’ and they did! Then some final detailing from me to finish it off.

Your owl looks quite different to your usual style, was this intentional? When I address myself to these outside projects I don’t think in Frizzell styles, I just think of a solution and then figure out how to make it happen. Like I used to do in advertising, each different product called for a unique design/selling solution. The THINKING is usually pretty ‘Frizzell’ though. That’s what holds it all together.

What was your favourite part of the owl-making experience? Carving all that detail into the body of the owl definitely wasn’t. What a job! The best bit was seeing the terracotta treatment. I got goosebumps when I saw it sitting there in the Bootleg studio looking like it had just been dug it up from the Mexican desert.

Lastly, what’s next for you after The Big Hoot? No more painting large fibreglass animals, birds etc. for a while! I always have a few things on the go… next up is a Survey Show of my text paintings (vernacular signage…Sam Hunt Poems) in Dunedin.   

Artist Dick Frizzell with his owl creation during Big Hoot VIP Owl Reveal in Auckland. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for Child Cancer Foundation)

The Owls are coming together for a final Farewell Weekend at Auckland’s Aotea Centre from Friday 25 May – Sunday 27 May before being auctioned to raise vital funds for Child Cancer Foundation. Visit thebighoot.co.nz.


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