My primary medium for creating art is to paint or draw with pastels, soft chalk-like chunks or sticks of colour. Pastels are a medium that I have been learning to use well for several years and there is still so much to learn. Lately I have been experimenting with my mark making, a way of adding texture and interest to my artwork. It has been a fun yet challenging process, requiring me to resist falling back on old habits of softening edges, blending clouds and overworking the detail. Colour is also something I have been playing with, some of my paintings have no more than five colours in them but this one definitely features more colour.
The source photo for this painting was taken in the Mt Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Initially it was a crisp and clear Autumn day but the weather soon changed and the clouds set in, bringing the occasional shower of rain making the track towards the Rob Roy glacier slippery and a little nerve wracking at times.
New Zealand, Scotland and animals continue to be a great source of inspiration for me. I will be attempting to do more portraits this year, people portraits that is so stay tuned if you want to see how I progress.
Meg Travels posted some wonderful photos of bridges in Venice as part of a weekly travel theme instigated by Where’s my backpack? and having struggled of late to find the time to blog regularly it looked like something I could participate in, after all I have thousands of travel photos.
This week’s theme is roads and these are some of the roads I have travelled.
It is often thought that Auckland is the capital of New Zealand however, as any Kiwi will tell you, the current capital is actually Wellington, a smaller but no less interesting city located further south on the North Island. The original capital of the colony of New Zealand was actually a small settlement called Russell in the Bay of Islands, but I digress, this post is about Auckland, otherwise known as the City of Sails. Auckland was the capital for a short period of time after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and then it moved to Wellington in 1865, Auckland is now considered the economic capital of New Zealand and it is the largest city in the country.
Earlier this year I posted photos taken with my iPhone 3, the quality was pretty poor however I liked the ‘retro’ effect created by the app I was enamored with at the time. These shots were taken with my handy little Panasonic Lumix TZ10, a great point and shoot camera that we bought to take to Europe last year. I did make the mistake of messing around with some of the automatic ‘effects’ such as HDR, although fun at the time the result was pretty ordinary.
My time to explore the city was limited to one full day and one night, weather on arrival was woeful and typical of the miserable weather that usually follows me on holiday so imagine my joy when I awoke to blue sunny skies the next day. Friends and family had advised me to hop on a ferry and cruise the Waitemata Harbour weather permitting, it was good advice and for about $20 I spent a relaxing couple of hours on the water. Stops of interest include Devonport, Stanley Bay and Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island is a unique, volcanic island with 3 peaks, it formed more than 600 years ago and if you have time you can hop off the boat and walk to the top of the crater for 360 degree views of the city, harbour and environs.
Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour is a recent development consisting of upmarket hotels, restaurants and office buildings, it is a popular spot for residents and tourists and if you love boats it is worth checking out. I wandered around for an hour or so, soaking up the sun and doing a spot of people watching but looking at boats for long periods of time doesn’t really interest me that much. The National Maritime Museum is near by and I could have spent more than a few dollars on All Blacks World Cup Rugby merchandise but the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki was calling and I’m a sucker for art gallery souvenirs.
The Auckland Art Gallery is free to visit, there is an entry fee for special exhibitions and events, at the time the Degas to Dali exhibition was touring and being a fan of many artists during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries I couldn’t resist buying a ticket.
As the sunsets the harbour is quiet a pretty place to visit, a group of us from the conference I was attending gathered to explore the waterfront and find somewhere nice to eat. We headed to Queens Wharf to inspect ‘The Cloud’, a curved structure created to erected to accommodate events during the Rugby World Cup 2011, the view of the harbour and city was great, the lack of a space to sit and have a drink…not so much. Obligatory happy snaps taken, we moved on to the Viaduct harbour precinct and managed to find a most suitable place to drink and eat, alas no decent food photos to share but I can assure you that the meals were creatively presented and tasted absolutely delicious.
This was my first real stay in Auckland, yes, even though it was only for a short period of time and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Most of my trips to New Zealand usually only include a short stop at the airport before heading further north or returning to Australia, next time I hope to extend that to a nice long weekend and visit something of the amazing markets and wineries that I’ve heard so much about 🙂
Free time during a quick visit to Auckland for work allowed me to do a little sight seeing, thankfully the heavy rain dissipated and I had a perfect day for walking around the city. Rather than lug my DSLR to New Zealand (the weather was predicted to be miserable the entire time) I made use of the Retro Camera app on my iphone and a little point and shoot camera. These photos are all taken with an iphone 3 and the ‘polaroid’ function on Retro Camera, the result reminds me of all the old photos that my Mum took when we went on family holidays. I’ll share the other photos and details about my short stay later, my happy snaps of the City of Sails will have to do for now.
10 months old on a plane to New Zealand, we ended up staying for two years.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I don’t really like beer but I did enjoy a Radler on the top of a snow capped mountain near Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany.
C: Cuisine (favorite):
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
I love, love, love Italy and would really like to see more of France, Germany and the Netherlands. European art and architecture has fascinated me since studying art in school and being surround by so much history blows me away, plus I love the food. New Zealand is also one of my favourites, beautiful scenery, great food and a bit closer to home so easy (and cheap) to visit.
Least favorite was Los Angeles, Disneyland and Universal Studios were fun but the food was ordinary and it just seemed a little grotty but it was a long time ago and we were not there for long.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
Being in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and listening to the angelic voices of a children’s choir, magical experience.
F: Favorite mode of transportation:
Trains and planes for longer distances.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Waking up on that very first morning on an overseas holiday and remembering that I’m in another country.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
No place has been hotter than where I live (yet), temperatures have risen to 44 degrees Celsius in summer. The closest would have to be Rome in summer 12 years ago.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
B&B Villa Degli Ulivi in Orvieto and the Zeppelin restaurant in Orvieto, we were well looked after, given wonderful advice and served delicious food.
J: Journey that took the longest:
The flight from Brisbane to Paris via Dubai, roughly 27 hours.
K: Keepsake from your travels:
Colourful prints from an American artist living in Amsterdam and also the silver charms I collected along the way, each one representing the area we visited.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy. Too many pushy hawkers selling crappy souvenirs, apparently we should have gone into Pisa as well and not just visited the Leaning Tower.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
I was about 13 and leaning over the fence on my Grandparents farm in New Zealand, looking at the green rolling hills dotted by sheep and ducks, the air was pure and fresh and I said to my cousin ‘I can’t believe we’re in another country’.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
Sheraton Mirage on the Gold Coast in Queensland, fabulous place to stay and thankfully that one night was paid for by work.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
It is more a question of ‘what am I not taking photos of while travelling’? I take photos of interesting doors, flowers, signs on shopfronts, dogs, people with dogs, our hotel rooms (including bathroom) and the view from the window.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Very few now that they don’t stamp passports in Europe – England, New Zealand and United States are the ones I remember best.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
The Capuchin Crypt in Rome.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
A cooking class in Florence and riding Icelandic ponies in Sweden. S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
Italian leather jackets from Florence, so soft and warm although not terribly suited to our short winters.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
Tour of the Tower of London, great fun.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Travelling around Europe with my husband for 8 weeks, 4 of which were spent in Italy. Such a fabulous holiday and one I could happily repeat every year.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
Only ever had one for the US.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
A couple of glasses of Orvieto Classico outside a bar in Orvieto, we met a couple of Brazilian ladies and spent two hours chatting and laughing with them.
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
Flying over the centre of Australia as the sun was setting, spectacular!
Y: Years spent traveling?:
All my life but not as often as I would like with most trips being to New Zealand.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
I know they exist but the closest I have gotten to them was a the Rugby World Cup in Australia, a Samoan supporter dived on the ball as the South African playing was about to kick for goal, he was knocked out, taken to hospital and banned for life.
The All Blacks have made it to the Rugby World Cup Final, congratulations and ‘about bloody time’. I hope that they don’t choke because if they lose on home soil (especially to the French – no love lost there) I daresay the Kiwis will send out a lynch mob to make them suffer. I’ve already posted several photos from my travels around the land of the long white cloud, but with so many fond memories of my second home and such a beautiful destination, I thought I’d share some more.
With the Rugby World Cup currently underway and images of New Zealand being shown all over the world I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos taken over the last couple of years. Most of these images are from popular locations on the South Island, however I have spent much more time on the North Island because of family ties and while the scenery may not be considered as spectacular as that of the South there is much to love and the Maori culture is more evident further North.
Backcountry Saddle Expeditions offers horse riding in the Cardrona Valley, only 20 minutes from Lake Wanaka, I signed up for the short trek because it had been a while since I rode a horse and a full day in the saddle would have left me quite sore.
Milford Sound (technically a Fjord) is a popular spot for tourists and travellers from around the world and although you can drive there or catch a bus I took the scenic flight option in a little 6 seater plane. It was an amazing experience, even though I occasionally looked down at the jagged mountain edges poking through the snow wondering whether there would be any chance of surviving should the plane crash. Once at Milford Sound I took a cruise and the weather was perfect for spotting fur seals lazing on rocks and getting a little wet by spray from a waterfall.
Larnach Castle in Dunedin is the only castle in NZ, the only way to get there is via a long and winding road but the beautiful garden and view from the tower is well worth the drive.
Lake Wanaka is a ski resort in Winter but during Summer watersports are all the rage. I was there early Autumn, hoping to see the seasonal change of colours and as a bonus experienced waking up one morning to see snow on the mountains that border the lake.
This is one of those jagged mountains that I hoped we wouldn’t crash into on the way to Milford Sound, we flew over the Southern Alps, Mt Aspiring National Park and Matukituki Valley – it was an unforgettable experience and so much better than spending hours travelling on a bus.
Maori carving at the Kauri Museum in the village of Matakohe on the North Island. The day spent at the museum was one of the last days I got to spend with my Nanna and although looking at timber and Kauri gum (amber) doesn’t excite most people it was a special day for me.
The native Kea is a destructive bird with dull looking feathers until they spread their wings and take flight. These cheeky parrots are inquisitive, they will happily take food from your hand and just love pulling apart rubber bits on your car or motorbike.
Glendhu Bay, South Island. The glass-like surface of the lake was just begging to be photographed. Later in the day it was windy and the surface choppy, I was thrilled that I’d taken the time to stop. There is a motorhome camp on the edge of the bay, it must be one of the best places to stay in this region, such a spectacular sight to wake up to each day and lots of activities close by.
Driving to work gets a little boring and the radio just doesn’t do it for me most days, but now I have an ipod connection in my car and can listen to my favourite podcasts such as Travel with Rick Steves, This Week in Travel and Amateur Traveler.Driving is much more enjoyable now and I don’t feel as though I’m wasting my time sitting in traffic. Anyway, one of the podcasts featured New Zealand, a country I love and consider my second home and the guest speaker was half of the kiwi couple responsible for Indie Travel Podcast (which I also enjoy listening to). She spoke of many great places in New Zealand, some of which I haven’t been to and it got me thinking about my favourite destinations in the land of the long white cloud so I thought I’d share them with you.
Taupo Bay, Northland – a picturesque beach north of the Bay of Islands, popular for fishing or just lazing around on the beach.
Whangarei – not the most beautiful place to visit however I have lots of good memories from having spent time here with my family as I was growing up. There are some really nice spots for lunch or a picnic and the art/craft scene is thriving.
Paihia – gateway to the Bay of Islands, from here we always make the trip by ferry across to Russell (former capital of NZ) and enjoy an ice cream as we stroll around the town. Waitangi is not far from here, I cannot remember how many times we visited the location for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and took a walk through the rainforest.
Lake Taupo – it has been years since going to Lake Taupo, I remember blue skies, looking down at the lake from a luge track and staying at DeBretts Spa resort, a campsite that offered visitors thermal hot pools and spas. Taking a walk around the Waiotapu Thermal park was amazing, the colours created by the geothermal activity were like nothing I had ever seen.
Rotorua and the Te Puia Arts and Craft Institute – the smell of Rotorua can be pretty off-putting, but we knew what to expect, all of us had experience the smell of sulphur during chemistry classes at school. What I remember most is trying to pronounce Te Whakarewarewa and failing spectacularly, waiting for the Pohutu Geyser to erupt and watching the carvers at work. The Maori culture is alive and thriving in NZ, although Rotorua is a major tourist destination for the country and may seem a little cheesy it really is worth spending time there in order to learn a little about the Maori.
Wellington – landing at Wellington airport was a bit like landing on a country airstrip, surprising for a capital city, it only adds to the city’s charm. With only one day and night to spare there was only time to see the major sights: The beehive shaped Parliament Building, Te Papa Museum, Old St Paul’s church (made without nails) and a really ugly, salmon coloured Catholic Church.
Christchurch – the city I loved most of all. Walking through the beautiful, calming botanic gardens is the first thing I do when in Christchurch and I have hundreds of photos of flowers to prove it. The art and craft markets are real, they’re not littered with junk stalls selling cheap imported goods, you can talk to the artists about their work and if you can afford it, pick up an original piece of art. The art gallery is an inspiring space, inside and out, apparently the architect was Australia and the gallery is not far from my choice of accommodation – the Windsor B&B. Getting around is easy, you can walk everywhere or catch the tram.
Wanaka – a ski resort town based on Lake Wanaka, it is a gorgeous spot for a holiday any time of year. I’ve been there early autumn and the weather is great for walking (tramping), horse riding or taking a boat out onto the lake. It is close to ski fields and Mt Aspiring National Park.
Dunedin – enjoyed shopping and eating out as part of a girls weekend, we saw the major sites: Larnach Castle and the Taieri River Gorge by train.
Milford Sound – I took a return flight from Wanaka to Milford Sound in a little six-seater plane, what a spectacular view. The pilot flew over the southern alps, even though there was quite a lot of cloud we saw glaciers and meandering rivers, it was a trip I won’t soon forget. Milford Sound was at its best, there had been rain for the last two weeks yet the day I was there the skies were clear and blue, it really is a very pretty sight and see the fur seals sunning themselves on rocks was a bonus.
Akaroa – a former French settlement on the Banks Peninsula, not far from Christchurch. Pouring rain and the cold temperature didn’t stop me from falling in love with this little town, the tasty fish and chips certainly played their part in making the day a most memorable one.
A few more of the photos taken during my trips to New Zealand can be found in my SmugMug Holidays gallery: http://maxiblack.smugmug.com/Travel/NZ. One day I might get around to scanning some of the photos that I took pre-digital, or I could just go and back and see them all again 🙂
Mr G (Graham Hoete) from New Zealand is on a mission to paint 100 dog portraits using aerosol spray paint within 12 months. I had never heard of the Dogathon 100 until reading about it in the Dog Whisperer newsletter, Mr G presented a portrait of Daddy to Cesar Millan – a tribute to an inspirational dog.
I have always loved painting, illustration and viewing the art of others and I am known for being a tad obsessed about dogs, it is truly wonderful to see someone who is combining their passion to raise awareness and funds for animal organisations.