Sunday, March 17, 2019

Colourful Lawyers

On yet another warm weekend, whilst the city is full of wrist banded WOMAD (World of Music & Dance) goers, this colourful lawyers building seemed just the ticket.  The Clock Tower and the stainless steel ripple of the Len Lye Centre behind helped complement the view,

The Prime Minister no longer could open Womad due to the tragic event in Christchurch so the Minister for Internal Affairs took over.  At the Police Station to the left just outside the sketch, the flag was flying at half mast.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

At Kilbirnie Mosque, Wellington, two days after the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history

A man at his Mosque in Kilbirnie, Wellington, weeps as someone in the crowd starts to sing the John Lennon song Imagine. Moments later Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives and comforts him and other members of the community gathered today to express  grief over the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday 15 March. 

There is a continuous stream of people coming through the gates all afternoon to lay flowers on the steps of the mosque. 

“It’s a sniper gun, Mum,” says a boy as he passes one of the armed policemen on the street outside. “I never expected to see police with guns on my street,” says a woman who lives in neighbouring Cruickshank St. The police are never in the same pose for more than a minute, turning to look at different parts of the street – including upwards to scan the hills above Kilbirnie. Meanwhile, children are decorating the footpath of Queens Drive with the coloured chalk that has been put out.

Large numbers of media, here for the visit of PM Jacinda Arden followed by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, wait by the steps. Flowers and messages of support cover the entrance gates. People from the mosque welcome visitors into the forecourt and move through the crowd thanking them for their support. People share tears and hugs.

I talk with a man from the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ who heard the news of the shooting while in transit in Dubai on his way back from a holiday. “This is the first time in our history that mosques have been closed in New Zealand,” he said. They remain closed due to ongoing security concerns. Muslims have instead been praying at home, with others, he said.

Many of the women who attend this mosque are in Christchurch – traditionally it is women who wash the dead before burial. As of writing, 50 people are dead after Friday’s shooting, with dozens of people in hospital, including a critically injured four-year-old girl. 

New Zealand is in shock.
17 March 2019, Wellington, New Zealand

Friday, March 15, 2019

45 Tonne Crane (for Hire!)

At the Taranaki Truck Show: Sitting in the shade drawing a crane, drinking L&P and overhearing the truck drivers talk shop on their day off.

Monday, March 11, 2019

More classic yachts

A couple of recent classic yachts spotted down at Westhaven. The well known Waitangi on the hard at Orams Marine in Westhaven above.  One of those Logan yachts – launched in 1894 and has a fascinating history including rolling in the Tasman Sea on it's way to Australia.

And below the Mullet Boat Arawa – also built by Logan (I think) I'm sure it would have some stories to tell as well....

Saturday, February 23, 2019

February 2019: Pah Homestead

The Pah Homestead in Hillsborough in Auckland has a little something for every Urban Sketcher who needs a break from the central business district. The gardens and grounds are expansive with plenty of paintable-vistas including mature trees and plants, expansive landscapes, and sculptures too if you want a juxtaposition of manmade surfaces and natural leaf-forms.

And of course, there is the Homestead itself. Organiser Eric Ngan had chosen the venue this month so we'd be able to sketch despite the dicey weather forecast.

Pah Homestead is a large 19th-century building set in the grounds of Monte Cecilia Park. The many rooms of the Homestead are filled with exhibitions of art and viewing is free. Many rooms mean interesting rooflines for those of us who appreciate practising our perspective detailing. A few chimney pots high up on the slate roof felt a bit Parisian for a minute there too.

The cafe seating along the terrace makes for lots of people-sketching which is something we all appreciate opportunities to work on.

Eric showing his subjects his work - they were over the moon that he had drawn them.

Nothing like catching up and finding out what everyone's up to.
We started at 1pm and sketched until 3:30pm. There were a few sprinkles of rain but not so much to drive anyone undercover for long. Lots of seating facing the building too which is always appreciated when dedicating a few hours to one drawing. The sky cast an even light on the homestead and shadows were soft and a bit hard to find, but all and all a perfect day for drawing and a wonderful venue to do it in.

Preparing for all weather is the secret of a good Urban Sketcher!

Murray Dewhurst using Posca markers on a grey ground.

Eric arranging everyone's work.

Everyone's work is so different and so inspiring.

Coming together at the end of the session to look at each other's sketches is always so interesting. We always have a few new faces and it's so great to see the venue through other people's sketches.

Photos of individual drawings on the Urban Sketchers Auckland Facebook page.

Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre from Wallace Arts Trust on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A week in Northland

A week in Northland


I was in Northland late January - early February and packed my sketchbook and mini watercolour set alongside the togs and sunscreen. First off, it was great to draw palm trees; we don’t see nearly enough of them down on the Wellington south coast and they always seem exotic to me, evoking Matisse’s lovely South of France ‘window paintings’. 

That's why the facade of Whangarei's Municipal Buildings appealed - the palm trees made it look like it was in Jamaica instead of NZ! Rust St has lots of architectural gems like this.

Ten people at the Oakura Bay beach house, an hour north of Whangarei. Ages ranged from 6 to 86 years, and among us was a card shark (left) who introduces people to fast gin rummy card games wherever he goes.  

The view from the beach house. Not many old baches left now at this coastal community on Ngatiwai land. Instead, mostly grand (holiday?) homes.  

The shells were one of the special things about this beach. This became a postcard...
This was a first - painting fish from life. They'd been caught the night before from kayaks and we filleted them and had them in an amazing ceviche: chopped raw fish, finely diced red onions and tomatoes, salt, lots of lime juice and fresh coriander. Next morning, I rushed to paint their still beautiful colours before they were returned to the elements. 

The Quarry Arts Centre just north of Whangarei is a very inspiring place and I spent an afternoon drawing there. Set in a decommissioned quarry, it was founded by potter and painter Yvonne Rust (1922-2002) in 1982. Along with others such as Barry Brickell, it was rescued from becoming a permanent rubbish dump, and a working arts community was set up. It has kilns, a café, gallery and print studio, and a variety of workshops are still being run here. 



I met ceramic artist Keil Cas, usually based in Wellington but seeing family and making use, over the summer, of one of the many studios dotted around the former quarry. He was about to pit-fire some of his clay taonga puoro – traditional Māori flutes – so we had the privilege of watching him down at the kiln area. 

Here he is stoking the fire to produce embers for the firing...


It's nice to know we don't have to go to Barcelona to see spiraling brick columns.
They were beautiful to behold but induced a kind of visual dyslexia in me
when I tried to draw them! 

The 'Scallop House' was another obvious one to sketch. I met painter Butch Britton while sitting here: “The roof is made from draped hessian with concrete poured onto it; it needs to be fixed every year now!” It might be impractical but we both agreed it looks so romantic. There is work by generations of artists dotted all around.

Butch lived here in the 1980s with his then 11-year-old daughter and remembers a place of music and shared creativity, which also hosted leading painters such as Michael Smither and Philippa Blair.

But he laments the rules and regulations that came into play as the Centre moved towards a commercial model. “You can see some stone walls and the remains of buildings up there in the hills; that’s where some artists wanted to build their own accommodation. But now we can’t go up there and artists are not allowed to stay overnight.” I can’t help imagining what it would have looked like now if the artists had had their freedom.

I ended the day with a loop walk round the beautiful sub-tropical Quarry Gardens, created by volunteers, a few minutes up the road from the Art Centre. It’s home to ‘Te Wai U O Te Atakura’ by Northland artist Chris Booth. The boulder will travel down the pole over the next 70 years or so, as the wood stack rots down; this is one of many stunning environmental works Chris has installed throughout the world. 

At the end of the week, I felt seriously spoilt for having so much material to sketch and the free time to do it. Also knowing that there is a lot more yet to see in NZ's uppermost region.