A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy

Gregory O'Brien


A Micronaut in the Wide World is a little gem: a telescope fixed intently on the singular, driving preoccupations of a wonderful artist’s working life. Inspirational.’ — Kate De Goldi


This is the story of a micronaut. Artist, designer and illustrator Graham Percy travelled far and built a career on the closely observed detail. Born in Taranaki in 1938, Percy spent apprentice years in Auckland before moving to London, where with his photographer-partner Mari Mahr he created a workshop-home, a microcosm of the outside world.

Here fellow-venturer Gregory O’Brien presents an account of Graham Percy’s life and art, by way of motorbike and hot-air balloon, through sketches and bookshelves, touching on childhood losses and adult nostalgia. Including some of Percy’s most compelling drawings, A Micronaut in the Wide World showcases his early design work, vivid children’s book illustration and thriving mature art. The drawings reveal Percy’s passion for the small and hand-drawn; convey quirky remembered and imagined histories; and feature a cast of curious characters, from storks and trainee running targets to Commedia dell’Arte characters and illustrious composers.

In its vivid, exuberant detail — alphabets and elephants, red lettuces and homesick kiwi, the Hungarian navy and the starry skies of the southern hemisphere — A Micronaut in the Wide World is a stimulating rediscovery of a remarkable artist.


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Gregory O’Brien is an independent writer, teacher, painter, literary critic and art curator. He has written many books of poetry, fiction, essays and commentary. His recent books include A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy 2011) and the multi-award-winning introductions to art Welcome to the South Seas and Back and Beyond, which won the Non-Fiction Prize at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young People and the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction.


Finalist, 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards


February 2011, 248 x 200 mm, 184 pages, colour & b/w illustrations
Hardback, ISBN 9781869404703, $59.99