Mark making

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.


Images of New Zealand

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.


Ruakaka Beach, not far from Whangarei on the North island.


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.

My favourite destinations in New Zealand

Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
Glendhu Bay, Wanaka

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.

Maori carving, Northland
Maori carving, Northland

North Island:

  • 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.
Ruakaka Beach, Northland
Ruakaka Beach, Northland

South Island:

  • 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.
Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. South Island
Akaroa, Banks Peninsula. South Island
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park. South Island
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park. South Island
Larnach Castle, Dunedin. South Island
Larnach Castle, Dunedin. South Island

A few more of the photos taken during my trips to New Zealand can be found in my SmugMug Holidays gallery: 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 🙂