Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sketching an Antipodean Adventure

A year ago I waved goodbye to Southampton Urban Sketchers (UK) and packed up my sketching gear for an adventure in New Zealand. My husband and I had offers of work in Auckland for a year and we were excited to travel to the other side of the world for a great adventure!

I didn't know what kind of art materials I would be able to buy in New Zealand and I'd heard that internet shopping could be expensive (everything has to be shipped a long way!) so I carefully packed my bottle of De Atramentis ink, my Lamy fountain pen and my Schmincke watercolours. On arrival I was very happy to find that Gordon Harris Art Stores sell my favourite Fabriano Venezia sketchbooks. 

We left a warm UK summer and arrived in cold, wet Auckland. After a couple of weeks of jet lag and disorientation I picked up my sketchbook and started to draw the unfamiliar buildings and scenes I discovered. The intensity of colour in nature here is quite staggering. In particular I remember being amazed by the turquoise colours in the sea and sky. I've got through a great deal of cobalt turquoise over the last year! It has also been exciting to include palms and tree ferns in my sketches, having been accustomed to English oaks and beech trees.

I made it to my first sketch crawl with BIG DRAW (Urban Sketchers in Auckland) in August 2016 and it was such a joy to find like-minded sketchers at a time when I was feeling uprooted and far from home. I've really enjoyed seeing parts of the city I might not have visited if it weren't for the group.

Auckland CBD skyline

Sketching in Auckland city centre with BIG DRAW

Sketching inside Ponsonby International Food Court

Over the course of the year I have tried to capture some of the heritage buildings in Auckland. I was fascinated to read the story of the Birdcage pub, formerly the Rob Roy Hotel. Built in 1885-1886, the building was moved 40m down the road and then back again (using huge hydraulic rams and a teflon-coated track) in order to facilitate the building of the Victoria Park Tunnel in 2010. The time lapse video of the building being moved back into place can be seen here: The Move Back

 Devonport, Auckland - a great place to sketch!

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland

Auckland Town Hall during Auckland Arts Festival week

During our year in New Zealand we've managed to fit in a few weeks of travelling, around both the North and South Islands. Drawing has allowed me to preserve memories of our travels in a way that photographs cannot. Looking back through my sketchbook brings back vivid memories of the places we've been and the views we've admired. 

A Christmas break beside Lake Tarawera, North Island

Some quintessentially Kiwi specimens!

We will shortly be leaving New Zealand to return back to the UK. I have loved every moment of being in this amazing place and I very much hope to come back in the future. Ka kite anō, Aotearoa!

The lighthouse at Waipapa Point, South Island

Tabitha works as a GP and has been sketching for about 2 years. She loves to draw buildings and urban scenes using pen and ink with watercolour wash. Her 'big project' is to draw all the cathedrals in England. She collects her sketches online here


  1. Epic post! Great to see some familiar subjects through your eyes. It has been a pleasure having you along on the Big Draw sessions Tabitha, good luck for your time back in the UK.

  2. Thank you Murray! It's been really great sketching with the Auckland group. Will miss you all! Perhaps we'll meet again one day in NZ or at one of the Symposia.

  3. Thanks for sharing, its top quality.