Bruce and David have reached an understanding

August 5, 2022

David Snelgar doesn’t say much when he’s concentrating on art. But during the 10 years he has shared Bruce Maunder’s art studio the men have come to an understanding about a few important things.

Art is one of those things. For both men the art session at Bruce’s place every second Wednesday is a firm commitment.

David, 59, has autism. Art has always been central to his life, revealing the way he views the world. He covered the walls of his family home in his paintings, encouraged by his mother Hazel, who was an artist who worked in clay.

David uses acrylic paint to create the strong blocks of colour that feature in his work, and he loves circles. He uses smaller circles as building blocks to make pictures.

Bruce, 48, electronics engineer and CEO of computer consultancy Celsius IT, has been making more room in his life for art. He joined IHC’s volunteer programme more than 10 years ago to get a better work/ life balance.

He met David, who had been working at a community art centre until the funding dried up and was looking for a place to do art. They started working in a studio on Bruce’s lifestyle block at Karaka.

Bruce says the commitment to the fortnightly sessions keeps him going. “Knowing how much it means to David, it makes it a good motivation.”

Bruce enjoys experimenting with different art forms and media – he’s working on sculptures in Oamaru stone at present. “We have tried so many things over the years,” he says. David, however, will always be drawn back to the acrylic paintings and oil pastels that he loves.

David likes to take home two or three oil pastels at the end of the evening to keep working on his art during the week.

Bruce says his business has often taken a lot of his energy and he has always been someone who has gone hard at it. But that is changing. “My interests are definitely more creative these days. I am cutting down work time.”

The fortnightly sessions have become part of the Maunder family routine. In the early days Bruce and wife Sonya’s pre-schoolers, Erin and Jeremy, would sometimes stay and do some art. Now they are teenagers, aged 13 and 14, and hang out occasionally.

“The kids and my wife will often bring coffee up to the art room.” Bruce says the family’s friendship with David has helped to build their insights into how he sees the world. Bruce says he believes art brings David much happiness.

“Something that surprises me is that David is regularly happy. I think sometimes people forget that happiness is an important part of life. The way he sees the world is just beautiful – sometimes it’s very literal and it just makes you see the world,” Bruce says.

“We work quite independently but he often tells me the story behind what he is doing.” The men don’t exhibit their art. “We just enjoy it for ourselves.” They work with music playing and there are few words spoken. “But every now and then you get some good insights into what he is thinking. Especially on the ride home. He is just so happy after the art session.

Bruce says David seems to be noticing everything along the way; he will point out the rabbits at night, and other landmarks on the 14-kilometre journey home to Pukekohe from Bruce’s place. He says sometimes on the way he will turn to look at David and be greeted with a huge smile.

Caption: Bruce Maunder (left) and David Snelgar make their Wednesday art sessions a priority.


This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC membersRead the full issue of Strong Voices or view more articles.