An Artist's Journeys in Nature

Illustration

Rangitikei Gorge Vintage Railways Poster

Rangitikei River Gorge in vintage Railways poster style.

One of New Zealand’s iconic landscape views, as seen from the Kiwi Rail Northern Explorer – in former days the Overlander or The Limited express. This work is designed in the style of a Vintage Railways Poster.

In my days working for the government in Wellington, I used to come north at Christmas to visit my parents on the land where I now live. This visit was THE event of the year – greatly anticipated always.  At first, travel by train was the only option I could afford, and the best option was the night train between Wellington and Auckland – ‘The Limited’.

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On the return journey, I always awoke in time to see the majestic Rangitikei River with its sheer vertical ‘papa’ (mudstone) cliffs laid out below, as the train skirted the river’s course on high-slung viaducts. Truly spectacular!

Sadly, Mother Nature over the years has done her restoration work – plant life is overtaking and erasing (visually) the awesome majesty of those white cliffs.

So this is not an ‘accurate’ representation from the year 2020 – it is a reminder of powerful memories that live forever.

Digital – vector art.

For the non-poster version of this artwork, click HERE .


2020 – Write The Vision

This work is different from my usual on this blog, but I thought the message could be of value at this 2020 beginning of the new decade.

“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

And the Lord answered me, and said, ‘Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.’” (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Have you a vision for 2020? Have you a vision for yourself, your family, your city, your country, or for the world?

More importantly – have you asked the Father what vision He has for 2020? For “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1)

I am sure all of us, looking back over our lives, see a litany of undertakings that failed, or failed to reach their full potential, because we stepped out without consulting the All-Knowing One. The writer of Proverbs said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

So this year, this great new decade that begins with 2020, there are 2 things that will be useful by way of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’: first, to write down our own visions for the future; to keep the record (“make it plain upon tablets”), look at it often, and be prepared to change it as necessary. Second, to seek the Lord to find out what His will is – not only in the longer term future and the big world picture, but also in the everyday happenings in our lives. Again, we must keep a record and not expect instantaneous answers or instantaneous results. The Lord does not work that way. He is committed to ‘process’, because process is what refines and develops us and our faith.

So we need to ask the question, press in with it, and stay alert for the coming of His answer – “at the end it shall speak, and it will not lie: though it delay, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not fail.”

We constantly thwart His process because we ask and when we don’t get a fast answer we give up, stop listening, and go our own way. Don’t do that – keep pressing in and paying attention. Wait upon the Lord!

I can think of one occasion when I had a week to make a pretty important decision. All week, I continued to ask the question, “Lord, what am I to decide about this issue?”. Gradually my thoughts about the situation began to settle and clarify, and by the end of the week, I knew quite clearly what my answer had to be. Looking back, I am glad I did not run with my first ‘take’ on the matter.

When His answer comes, then run with it. He gives us the answer with the intention “that he may run that reads it.”    If we know it is His will, we must step out in faith. That means taking the first steps, even if you do not know how things will turn out, or how the vision will be achieved – THAT is what living by faith is about.

“Behold, he whose soul is lifted up [proud] is not upright in Him: but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

One step at a time.

Digital – assembled in Macromedia Fireworks MX.   Inkwell from the Scriptorium of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Khirbet Qumran, before 68AD.

Patricia


Mist On The Northern Tararuas

Mixed media artwork, around an acrylic painting Inspired by a glimpse from a train.

In my days working for government in Wellington, I used to come north at Christmas to visit my parents on the land where I now live. At first, travel by train was the only option I could afford, and the best option was the famous night train between Wellington and Auckland – ‘the Limited’.

On the return journey, I always awoke in time to see the majestic Rangitikei River with its sheer vertical ‘papa’ (mudstone) cliffs laid out below, as the train skirted the river’s course on high-slung viaducts. Truly spectacular!

There was another far less flamboyant vision that I always looked out for, though. As the train approached the northern end of the Tararua Ranges it was possible, if one kept one’s eyes peeled and the weather was favorable, to catch a peep into the mountainous interior of the Tararuas through a cleft in the hills.

One day, I kept my eyes peeled AND had a camera at the ready. The resulting Instamatic photograph, and several years of inspiration, formed the basis of this painting.

Spring showers in the Northern Tararua Ranges cloak the hillsides as the musterers and their dogs bring home the flock. Behind is a magical glimpse into the interior of the northern end of the Tararua mountains.

Based on an acrylic painting on canvas board, amplified with vector in Macromedia Fireworks MX.

For more details, click on the image.

Patricia


Ghost Stag

Books about hunting – especially the anecdotal kind – frequently contain stories about mighty stags that were hunted by many men without success. Invariably they disappeared without trace – only to be seen again during the roar (rut) by the light of the full moon.

One can imagine these apparitions and the stir such a sighting would have caused among local hunters. No doubt the stories were told and retold around many a fire, especially in the old days when deer were more common (in New Zealand, anyway).  In those days hunting was a regular pastime and passion – even for deer cullers who often complained of long weeks of loneliness in the bush, with bad weather thrown in to boot.

It is hard not to experience a shiver of excitement at the thought of a mighty stag who eluded all the hunters and who still stalks the night skies when the hinds are on heat and the moon is full.

Acrylic on Arches Dessein art paper, 160gsm 11.25″x 13.25″

For more details, click on the images.  I have reduced the chroma on the tees, Graphic Tee and Backpack – more suitable color for males.

Patricia


Cockatoo Paradise

Tropical Paradise – or more correctly, sub-tropical paradise.

Here in the Far North of New Zealand, summers can be hot and steamy, and winter days unexpectedly chilly.  The title of this piece of art was inspired by a builder friend I’d hired to do some work on my cottage almost 2 years ago – July 2017 in fact (our winter).

I’d heard Paul’s ute come up the drive about 9am on a cold but sunny morning, and went out to have a chat with him about the great progress he was making on the repair work.

“Lovely morning in Paradise!” he called out, pouring himself a warm mug of coffee from his thermos.  That made me smile, and led to a bit of a discussion about how pleased I was with my decision to stay put on this place.

It’s always especially heartwarming when friends voice their approval of one’s decisions, and as it happened, Paul had been one of the first locals to hear the news that I’d decided to stay instead of flitting off down south.

Apart from their obvious relevance to the ‘Tropical’ theme, all the elements in this image relate to this property.

The cockatoo belonged to friends who had a contracting business and came up here to do some trench digging work while my mom was still alive.  I’ve got great photos of him hopping around on a Jacaranda tree as we sat talking during a break from work.  Paradise indeed!

The Strelitzia reginae bird of paradise flowers are favorites – first encountered when we moved from the north of Scotland to Central Africa – what a change in lifestyle and surroundings THAT was!

Our new town’s botanical gardens were full of new wonders, like Cannas, Strelitzias,  Bougainvilleas, Golden Chalice Vines, Aloes and palm trees of all kinds.  I have 2 Strelitzias in my back garden that from time to time come under attack from my sheep (would you believe!).  They are very deep-rooted, so as they can’t be moved I plan to plant a couple more in the safe zone that I now call my ‘plant retreat’.

The Fruit Salad plants (Monstera deliciosa) flourish here.  My parents planted numbers of them when they first bought this place in 1970, so now I have several growing 30′ or more high in my native Totara trees. Quite spectacular!  They really prefer to have their feet in the shade, and not too much full sun on their leaves.

As for the palm leaves, they represent the unlimited numbers of NZ Nikau palms (Rhopalostylis sapida) that multiply to the point where I have to cut them out at times like weeds, or I would be overgrown,  They flourish especially under trees, where the birds have sat above and dropped seeds into the leaf mould below.  Nature is an unstoppable force!

Hope you enjoy this work,  For more details, click on the image. Vector.

 

 

 

Patricia


Tui Bird and Friends

The Tui is one of New Zealand’s most iconic birds. Sharp, smart and vocal, he can be found in forest, open coppice country, parks and gardens. He is the largest of our honey eaters, his long, curving beak ideal for reaching into the throats of flowers of all kinds.

The Tui has 2 voice boxes – one attached to each lung – and he can produce an amazing variety of sounds in fast succession and overlapping one another. These sounds include carillion calls, sneezes, bursts of song and explosive ejaculations that are completely beyond description.

He is a mimic, and can be taught to talk, as the Maori soon discovered. His flight is fast and he flies in short, energetic bursts, punctuated by a drumming sound produced by a notch in the front of the 8th flight feather of each wing. You can certainly hear him coming!

The use of the term ‘friends’ here is euphemistic. The Tui is a dominant bird, highly protective of his nesting sites and food sources. Because at this stage I have no bird feeders here, I don’t know what the pecking order is between the Tui and the imported Indian Mynah (a rather forceful bird), but I suspect the Tui has the edge.

This is part of one of the 36 illustrations I painted for the book Taketakerau The Millennium Tree published in 2012. The whole picture shows a Maori and his young son exploring the forest on arrival in Aotearoa.

 

The birds shown here are completely fearless of the strange beings invading their world.  But since birds soon became a major source of food for the Maori immigrants, that situation did not last for long!

The birds in the picture are – Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) in the centre and around him, anticlockwise from the top right, Fantail, piwakawaka (Rhipidura fulginosa); Grey warbler, riroriro (Gerygone igata); Tit, miromiro (Petroica macrocephala); North Island Robin, toutouwai (Petroica australis).

The tree is the Shining Broadleaf (Griselinia lucida), often found as an epiphyte on larger forest trees.

For more details about this picture, c;lick on the image – and check out the remainder of the book illustrations at Taketakerau.com .

Patricia


Sleep At Last

Geology and the passage of time…

The volcano that once existed here is sleeping now. The scorching fires have long since died away, and the battered earth has drawn a cloak of golden grass across its scars.

The subterranean pipes that carried searing hot magma from the earth’s fiery core remain: embraced now by powerful, living roots that grip and swell around them.

Where once a crater stood, a wild tree grows. Tucked away in bolt-holes far below, by day the kiwi sleep.

Yes, there are 2 of them there – for those who care to seek!

Acrylic on Arches Dessein 120 gsm art paper, 19″x 25″.

For more details, prints and products, click on the images.

Patricia

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The Elusive Moth and The Cure-All

A few days ago, I cut down a heap of understorey bush known as kawakawa or pepper tree (Macropiper excelsum) and threw it in where the sheep were grazing, to be burnt when the time comes.

It is aromatic and very hot to the taste. I soon discovered the sheep will eat it – not entirely surprising because when I had my neighbor’s cattle in here some years ago, they also ate it.

It was highly regarded by the Maori people as a remedy both external and internal for many ailments – abdominal pains (especially digestive), rheumatic pains, toothache, kidney, bladder and urinary complaints, and as a blood purifier. As a poultice it was used for boils, bruises, eczema, toothache and badly infected wounds.  In her book ‘Medicines of the Maori‘, Christina Macdonald cites a case that she knew personally of an old man who bound up the nearly-severed top of one of his fingers with kawakawa leaves – and the finger healed quite easily.

When used in steam baths, the effect was “stimulating, exciting the salivary glands, kidneys and bowels”.

Many Maori people still use it today, and I boiled up some leaves to try it as a drink – much more mild, warm, and pleasant-tasting than I had expected: definitely added to the ‘drink more often’ list!   I’m about to try making a healing ointment out of it, too.

Branches were burned by the Maori to keep away insects from rows of sweet potato seedlings, and more recently by explorers, surveyors and hunters to keep mosquitoes and sandflies out of their camps. One asks – why are we messing with deadly chemicals when the Creator has made this stuff available to us? (And we all know the answer to that.)

The leaves of this plant are invariably covered with shotholes, and when I was illustrating ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree‘ I finally found out (after quite a bit of hunting) that these holes are caused by the nocturnal caterpillars of the Kawakawa Looper moth (Cleora scriptaria). You will find if you research it, that many people can tell you the holes are caused by caterpillars (big deal!), but it was hard in 2011 to find a source that would actually identify the species. There are far more illustrations of Cleora scriptaria on the net now.

Needless to say, though I’m surrounded by this stuff, I’ve never seen either a moth or a caterpillar in daylight. When I did the artwork for the book, I took the liberty of painting the moth on the leaves of the plant, in the subdued light of a storm.

Many people have commented how appropriate the use of this plant is for a painting entitled ‘Endurance’ that reflects on the long life and turbulent times of a tree now more than 2016 years old.  See also http://taketakerau.com/painting32.html

Acrylic on Bainbridge board 15″ x 20″.

For prints, products and more details, click on the images.

Patricia

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Turn Around

I’ve been out of circulation for quite a few months – and there’s a reason for that.   Back in late 2014 I was struck by a nasty disease called polymyalgia, which came close at the time to destroying my mobility.  Fortunately, once diagnosed, the solution was revealed – prednisone.

Aaargh!  Well I wasn’t entirely happy with that, but does one want to walk freely or not?  In addition, it was causing mayhem with my blood – too many platelets, anemia etc.  So my doctor put me on a modest dose of prednisone and over the period of about 18 months we tailed it back and achieved a recovery.

In the meantime, however, I had an accident and decided to go to a chiropractor (fortunately a very good one).   I’d had chiropractic before because I have 2 curves in my spine, not helped by riding horses.  So we entered into a process of sorting out these curves and re-stabilising my backbone.

I’d been quite depressed at the time of the polymyalgia – a mental state that was not helped by seeing all the things that needed doing round my 10 acre property and not being able to do a thing about them (physically or financially) – and so the obvious answer seemed to be to move away from this place, which I’ve been associated with for 47 years and have loved dearly.  I’d even got to the point where I wasn’t interested anymore.

But things kept getting in my way – not the least being shortage of finances to get things tidied up for sale.  On top of that I had a tree fall on my roof (damage? – oh yes!) and a second tree taken down because it was in danger of following suit.   Fallout everywhere.  Funds getting even lower.   I seemed to be stuck in mud.

Then just before last Christmas, the tide started to turn.  We began to win with the chiropractic.  I’m now getting around my land as in the old days – and for the most part it’s steep and hilly – and working quite hard, if carefully.  There are a few things I used to do and now cannot, but apart from that, the recovery is little short of miraculous.

I’ve decided to stay – how could I ever have thought of leaving?  To keep my grass down I’ve taken on breeding rare breeds Damara sheep.  My first 2 bought in early July are a Damara/Arapawa cross and her daughter.  Both have had lambs to a Damara crossbred ram, and I now have a fullblood Damara ram also.  So the headcount is currently 4 females and 2 males – and the lambs at 2 weeks old are a delight!

 

Below is one of my drawings of an Arapawa ram.  This breed, now officially accepted as a Rare Breed in this country, came about by early explorers and whalers dropping off sheep (probably of merino origin) on Arapawa Island in Cook Strait – where they continued to breed.  No doubt the motive was to provide a food source.

Initially they were regarded as game.  Later they were marked for extermination, until their value as a gene pool was recognized and a sanctuary established for them on the island, all thanks to the efforts of Betty Rowe and her husband Walt.  Now there are a number of breeders of Arapawa sheep throughout New Zealand.

Like Damaras, Arapawa sheep are shedders, and are naturally resistant to fly-strike.

So here we are!!  Hallelujah!

For prints, products and more details, click on the images.

Patricia

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Dolphin Fantasy

While on the subject of summer and the sea, here’s another Mighty Wallet design I’ve just released – Dolphin Fantasy, which shows 3 Dolphins flying through the air above a distant rural landscape / seascape.

This work started life as a wet-on wet acrylic, and after it dried I added the dolphins.  I had been reading a book about dolphins, and that, plus frequent reports of the many pods that circle our coastline and visit holidaymakers and tourist boats, inspired this work.

As the painting came together, I realized these dolphins were in fact having fun far above the sea and land, and that added the extra spice of fantasy to this artwork.

For more details, click on the image.

In the sidebar I have a link to the original artwork on Society6, where it is available as prints, iPhone cases, cushions and many more products.

Patricia

 

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Summer Anchorage

This artwork inspired a design for a Dynomighty Mighty Wallet that’s most appropriate for the approaching Northern Hemisphere summer.

The location is on the coast about 20 miles north of here – a very picturesque fishing village where the street runs alongside the retaining wall above the beach.

Mature pohutukawa trees line the roadside, and cars can park in their shade and enjoy the vista of yachts anchored in the harbor and fishing boats going to and fro the adjacent wharf.

For more details about prints, products and the Mighty Wallet, click on the image above.

Have a great summer!

Patricia

 

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Christmas Beach

beach-coastr-riconHere in New Zealand Christmas means high summer, and Christmas Dinner is often held on the beach, on a deck, or outdoors in front of a holiday home overlooking the sea.

We are fortunate in NZ because our beaches don’t get crowded, as in many countries overseas.  Though beaches are not my ‘dream location’, I really do enjoy a beach that is deserted – a back to the wilderness type of thing.  And I’ve got one or two fond memories of riding horses on beaches of this kind.

I created this painting after I moved away from Wellington, and I think the inspiration was the south Wellington coastline – Terawhiti with Makara behind – which also can be seen from the Inter-Island Ferry.  As many will know, the Inter-Island Ferry crossing on a good day is a real treat, as the south Wellington coastline gives way to the fascinating convolutions of the Marlborough Sounds coast with its multitude of bays and inlets.

In this picture the atmosphere of the weather IS indeed benign, and if it were not for the lack of Pohutukawa trees lining the cliffs and flocks of sailing boats in the bay, it could well be the Bay of Islands, close to where I live now in what we euphemistically call ‘the winterless north’.

beach-coast_700

I think what makes this painting work so well is not only the composition, but also the colors.  In a sense, this is a limited palette – but it doesn’t feel like that, and probably the muted, olive green shades have turned out to be the perfect foil for the rich blues and orange.

beach-coast-products

Acrylic on paper.  For more details about the work, click on the images.

Patricia


Mount Ngauruhoe and Tama Lakes

tama-lakes-riconI’ve mentioned Mt Ngauruhoe a couple of times in the past.  It’s been one of my favorite mountains for some years – an elegant cinder cone on our Central North Island Plateau.

Mt Ngauruhoe is exciting not only for its beautiful shape and its snowy mantle in winter, but also for the fact that it’s still an active volcano and one used to be able to rely on there being a plume of steam coming out of its crater pretty much all of the time.

Not the case with Ruapehu (which erupted properly in 1995-6), and not the case with Tongariro, which proved itself to be still active in 2012, to everyone’s surprise – though it has hot springs and fumaroles on its flank.  Ngauruhoe, technically a vent of Mt Tongariro, kept everyone reminded that it was active.   It last erupted in 1973-75, and I see DOC advises people not to go down inside the outer crater to the smaller main vent, because there’s a danger of being overcome by fumes.  I would think so.

Ngauruhoe’s more recent claim to worldwide fame was its featuring in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movie series, with some digital manipulation, as Mount Doom.

A few weeks ago I sold one of my Ngauruhoe artworks on an iPhone case.  It’s one that has never sold before (the original was not for sale), so I was really pleased.  It’s a watercolor-style acrylic of the mountain, and like Peter Jackson, in the process of creation I think I manipulated it a bit – making the sides steeper than the actual 45deg slope of Ngauruhoe.  And maybe ‘the look’ is also because I slanted the profile of the crater rim…

tamalakes_700
Near Ngauruhoe are two small volcanic lakes – Tama Lakes – set in the tussock-covered, pockmarked saddle between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.  I was fortunate on one of my trips to the eastern (Rangipo) side of the plateau to pass by and capture a very cool mirror effect that the sides of these lakes make with the slope of the mountain above – if you are in absolutely the right position to see it – and I was.

I took photos and the image has stayed with me for years.  Some of these very brief visions never leave us – they root deep down in our consciousness and quite literally become part of who we are, I think.  A bit like the Harrier Hawk episode.  As I mentioned before, this whole Central North Island Plateau has a huge pull on me: it’s almost uncanny.

tama-lakes-products

Acrylic on paper.  For more information about the work, click on the images.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


Boring Kingfisher?

No-one could make the general statement that the NZ  Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is a boring bird.   The clearly-defined color scheme of secondary opposites, the sharp haircut, the extraordinary flying, hunting and diving skills all make for an exciting avian package.

And it’s certainly hard to beat that metallic color scheme.

Even the nest-building process seems a little ‘over the top’:  the kingfisher flies repeatedly at the chosen spot in a bank or tree trunk, using its beak (another very significant feature) as a drilling or ‘boring’ tool until it has drilled a large enough hole to give it purchase to continue excavations in a more standard fashion.     A woodpecker on steroids, in fact.

That beak is surprisingly large, when you see it in silhouette, and very useful for catching prey (especially fish, for which the Kingfisher will dive up to 3 ft underwater, and small vertebrates), as well as drilling holes.  Its shape is a direct giveaway to the family relationship between Kingfishers and Australian Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) – both Southwest Pacific birds.

Laughing Kookaburras are quite a lot larger (39-45cm / 310-480gm for the Kookaburra as against 23cm / 55gm for the Kingfisher), but the outline and proportions of the two species have a great similarity.

wetlands_700

Kingfishers scanning for prey, Waioeka Flats, Bay of Plenty.  Illustration for the book ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree’ (2012).

My one complaint about the Kingfisher, and the reason why against all the odds I often tell him he’s ‘boring’ is the call.  It is a very harsh, unmusical ‘keek’, repeated either strung together quickly 4 or 5 times (over and over), or repeated once at intervals of of 5 or 6 seconds (again – over and over).  Either way, it can after a while quite simply get on your nerves.

I only wish the Kingfisher had inherited from the Kookaburra side of the family, the distinctive laughing call for which Kookaburras are renowned.  Just think of it, I would be able to roll on the floor laughing when the Kingfisher gives voice (which is quite often), instead of saying, “Aargh, shut up boy….!”

And if you don’t happen to know what the Kookaburra sounds like, give yourself a treat and go HERE.  Scroll down and run the Sounds files (especially the second one) – and make sure you have some room on the floor…

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


The Harrier Hawk

harrier-riconThis is the story of a bird drama I had a few years back.

I had made a ‘Cat Garden’ at the end of the house, using 6′ netting and long 4″x4″ posts concreted into the ground.  It was quite an effort to construct.

The main aim was to contain cats – chiefly my ex-stray Fluffy, who used to wander off over the road until he got hit by a car and lost a back leg (a cool $500 worth of operation I might add).  Given his wandering nature, and my worries about the safety of my 2 Birmans also, I decided to make this garden.  It’s about 45′ long by 35′ deep on a steep grassy, ferny bank.  Basically, it worked well and though my 2 silver tabbies soon demonstrated their contempt by getting out of it, they didn’t do so very often.

My large workshop has windows looking out onto this garden at ground level – the house is dug into the bank at the back and side – and the cats used to get into the garden off the top of a big bench I have standing in the workshop under the windows. They were able to step straight off the windowsill onto the ground.

I say “used to” because as the result of a tragedy involving my young Black Lab and a couple of my ducks, I moved the remaining 3 female ducks into the Cat Garden instead.  In a sense it was an inspired move, because they did an excellent job of clearing out the weeds and wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis), which had grown rampant in there.

So the ducks were a blessing to the Cat Garden.  How come I never got the cats to do a lick of work around that garden? Didn’t I build it for them? Ungrateful, lazy felines!

One day about lunchtime I heard the ducks making an infernal racket – it wasn’t their normal “where’s the grub?” chant.  So I went into the workshop to look and got a huge shock.  Standing on a stone in the garden about 4′ away from the window was an Australasian Harrier Hawk (Circus approximans) – now called the Swamp Harrier.  He was standing side-on to me at eye level and though we see them flying round here on a daily basis, I had never been as close to one as this.

He was bigger than I thought.  It was one of those unforgettable moments when I could have wished my eyes were a camera.  The size and presence of him was something else.  He looked calmly across at me for a moment or two, then spread his great wings and took off.  The vision has stayed with me ever since.

harrier-hawk2_700

Harrier Hawk / Swamp Harrier – Vector.

Obviously this called for action.  I was surprised he had come down into the small garden, because it’s overhung on one side by the lower branches of a Norfolk Island Pine, has the wall of our 2 story house on another side, ti-tree scrub on the two other sides, and a couple of tree ferns growing in it, so it doesn’t offer a smooth flight path. But raptors are the masters of the air waves.  And since I didn’t have any doubts about why he was there, I went out with a roll of electric fence tape and laced it back and forth across the airspace.

I hoped it would serve its purpose of protecting my ducks because – funny, comical characters that they were, I loved them, and I didn’t want any more disasters to happen in my duck world.

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So this artwork is an attempt to reconstruct what I saw and felt in that magical moment before he departed.

Note:  The Swamp Harrier  is recorded as being 50-60cm long.   Males weigh 650gm and females 850gm.  This makes them larger than Rooks at 45cm and Magpies at 41 cm long.

For more details, click on the images.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


The Shining Cuckoo

cuckoo-riconA couple of days ago I found a bird lying dead on my drive – face down, with wings slightly outstretched.  We have had a lot of high wind lately.

My first thought, judging by the  dark blue-green of the wings, was that this must be a young kingfisher.  It also had copper around the wingtips and lower rump.  Then when I turned it over, I saw the white breast barred with black and immediately realized it was a Shining Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus).

Some books identify this as of ‘sparrow size’ and I can state absolutely that the shining cuckoo is definitely bigger than a sparrow (16cm + I’d say). This bird had a long split down the front of its chest, so I don’t think it was killed by my cat (now 20 yrs of age) – more likely blown into my cottage.

Shining cuckoos migrate down to New Zealand from the Bismarck Archipelago (New Guinea) and Solomon Islands in the summer to breed, using nests of the Grey Warbler (Gerygone igata) to lay their eggs – one per nest – and they leave the tiny warblers to raise their kids.  Fortunately, by the time the shining cuckoos are ready to lay, the warblers have already raised one litter, so all is not lost (isn’t nature wonderful?).  But the young shining cuckoo definitely puts paid to the warblers’ second litter.

I had never seen a shining cuckoo ‘in real life’ before, and didn’t know I had them here, though I’ve always known we had grey warblers, because I heard them.  I used a pair of shining cuckoos as part of the wildlife interest in one of the 36 paintings I did for the book ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree’, which I illustrated in 2011.  Here’s the painting:

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‘Fallen Giants’ – click on the image for more details.

I’ve now heard the shining cuckoo’s call on New Zealand Birds Online, and identified it as a call I’d been hearing lately.  Was listening to the call outside this morning when I saw a fast flash of green wings across the grass to the trees where the sound was coming from, so I feel happy to know that the mate of the bird that lost its life (which was a female, I think) is not alone.

They are very fast fliers and spend much of their time hidden in the trees. So often one just doesn’t see these birds !

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/

 

 


The Angry Elk

angry-elk-iconPencil drawing of a bull Elk (or Wapiti) bugling during the mating season or rut.

In New Zealand, we call it ‘the roar’ – a time when young men’s fancies turn not to thoughts of love – not human love anyway – but to thoughts of bush stalking, cabins, tents, rifles, calibers, campfires and cameras.

For them, this is THE time of the year.

Very disappointing for the young maidens in their lives, but get used to it, it’s an immovable fact of life…

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Original in graphite pencil, colorized in Photoshop.  B/W version available HERE.

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Click on images for more details.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


The Adversary Bellows a Reply

stag-roaring3-riconBefore long, once the challenge is given, a bellow of reply comes echoing back through the forest, and the Challenger knows for sure that a rival stag is after his harem.

Both red deer stags are on full alert now, and the ball is back in the Challenger’s court again.

As mentioned previously, it is likely the stags may not be able to see each other through the forest in these early stages, so they are sizing each other up on vocals as one call follows the next.

Slowly the stranger stag moves closer.  Once within sight of each other, they move in and engage quickly, lowering their antlers and locking them like wrestlers.  Then comes the test of strength, body weight and agility as they push back and forth, and circle, each trying to flip the other.

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Getting flipped puts a stag at the mercy of his opponent, so frequently the stag who feels himself outmatched will break away and make a run for it, with his adversary in hot pursuit.

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For more details about the artwork, click on the images.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


Comes The Challenge

stag-roaring2-riconFollowing on from my All Muscle: Promoting The Great Outdoors post, the next thing one can expect if it’s mating season, or the rut (the roar as we call it in NZ), is the Challenge – in the Red Deer, a series of deep, guttural grunts, bellows, groans and huffs.

On the other hand, the first time I heard a bull elk – Cervus canadensis (or Wapiti in NZ) bugling, I was quite surprised at the high tone of the vocals, given the elk is a larger animal than the red deer.

It’s an eerie sound though, whichever species it comes from, and in the natural it carries a fair bit of emotion and suspense as the two stags size each other up and maneuver through the bush to get an advantage.   Quite often the stags can’t actually see each other during the initial stages of the encounter, so they are sizing each other up – trying through the vocals to get an indication of the age, size and seriousness of intention of the potential adversary, should the episode end up in a fight.

Well, here is the Red Stag (Cervus  elaphus) issuing his challenge:

stag-roaring3_700Graphite pencil drawing.

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For more details about this work, click on the images.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/

 


Water Meets Sand – Te Paki Stream

te-paki-iconHere’s a very special piece of landscape, and one of my personal favorite artworks – inspired by some of the most unique scenery in New Zealand.

Te Paki Stream in the Far North of NZ is famous for its wilderness, its massive sand-dunes and great boogie boarding.  What a combination!  Its breathtaking quality comes from isolation, plus a unique engagement between water and sand dunes, that produces the added danger element of quicksand.

The stream bed is part of the Cape Reinga round trip, and provides about 3.5 km of tricky driving. Both the stream bed and 90 mile beach are treacherous with quicksand, so unless you are very experienced in the locale and this type of driving it is better to make your journey by tour bus. The buses are a great ride with wonderful commentary and they stop in the stream bed to allow time for boogie boarding.  It’s worth noting that car hire companies do not permit their vehicles to be driven on this route.

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Of course it’s wonderful to visit these places under your own steam. So, there are walking tracks for the real outdoors types, which apart from the buses is the best way to go – at least you can be sure of still having a vehicle when you return to base!

The other great attraction of this trip is the Cape Reinga lighthouse, situated at the clifftop on what is almost the northernmost promontory of NZ, with the Pacific and Tasman seas on each side.  Quite an experience to stand there and look out to where their waters mingle offshore.

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Stream bed artwork painted in acrylic, with acrylic painted additions, including a maori fishing hook – matau.  I just sold a tote bag with this design.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


All Muscle: Promoting The Great Outdoors

red-deer-iconI was blown away this morning to find that (for the first time ever) I sold two identical items to the same person.

This is probably my best-selling artwork – ‘All Muscle – Red Deer Stag’, and it certainly encapsulates the power and majesty of the great Cervus elaphus species of deer.

It has consistently sold well – on iPhone cases and posters, mainly, and I’m really pleased that it has appealed so much to hunters and wildlife lovers.  The world’s increasing fascination with technology needs to be balanced by reminding us of some real life, outdoors values.

The red deer species has a very wide distribution:  “The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa.   Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.  In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.” (Wikipedia)

In New Zealand, red deer are the most numerous of our introduced deer species, and hunting is encouraged throughout the north and south islands as a control measure, since they compete heavily with native birds and mammals for our unique bush habitat.

In late October I sold 2 shower curtains with the ‘All Muscle – Red Deer Stag’ artwork.  I believe they will grace and enliven someone’s bathrooms beautifully, and I hope they are much enjoyed and admired.

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The greatest thing that comes out of these sales is not the money (which is precious little, in fact), but the knowledge that someone liked the work enough to want to live with it – or maybe give it away to a friend.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


Love Under The Mountain

love-iconI’ve just put finishing touches to a painting that has been lying around the place for quite some time.

As you’ll see from my previous post, this is ‘Home’, and the painting – acrylic on canvas card – has been nagging me for several years to get completed.

With all of these things, it doesn’t do to rush if the inspiration isn’t forthcoming.  When the right thing isn’t suggesting itself, it’s best to leave well alone, because you can guarantee that in due course, it will.

Come to think of it, that’s a really good piece of advice for life generally – in other words, “Don’t Force It!”

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The parakeets in the picture are kakariki – NZ red-crested parakeets, and putting them here is somewhat anachronistic, because we no longer have them up in the north.  We do have Australian Rosella parakeets though, very brightly colored, noisy and not endemic.  So I thought I’d use a bit of artistic licence…

The larger birds are one of my favorites – the kereru or NZ Native Pigeon. These had become rather scarce in the Far North due to human predation (even though they ARE protected) and the fact that a pair produces only one offspring a year – but I’m glad to say that since I’ve been letting the bush come back on my top paddocks, birdlife is increasing, and I’m seeing and hearing more kereru on the place all the time.

See also my earlier post and artwork ‘Flight of The Kukupa‘.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


Matariki

Fern Frond Unfolding - PencilMatariki is the Maori name for The Pleiades (The Seven Sisters), and it means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki).

The Polynesian adventurers who discovered and colonised New Zealand about the end of the first century AD were extremely conversant with the planets and their passages.

It was this knowledge, plus an observation of the flight paths of migratory birds, that enabled them to undertake huge voyages across the Pacific Ocean – initially from west to east, and later back in a southwesterly direction to find the islands that they were to name ‘Aotearoa’ or ‘Land of The Long White Cloud”.

The rising of the Pleiades (late May early June in Aotearoa New Zealand) is regarded as the Maori New Year, and it is a time for celebrating a new start.

Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life.

To this symbol, I  added the Koru or unfurling fern frond, a favorite subject for me – also a very strong symbol for birth and new beginnings.

And of course, Matariki is a great time for the burgeoning of artistic endeavor, too.

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Digital design work created using the Bezier Pen Tool (vector).  Below is my original pencil drawing, done from an unfurling fern frond with the aid of a botanical magnifying glass.

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This post is a follow-up to a reference made in “The Journey“.

Patricia


Awards Night and More

Shore Whalers in the South of New Zealand

ngauruhoe-riconA lot has been going on since my last post – much of it not art, unfortunately

However, to pick up the threads, on Sunday 23 June 2013 I flew down to Christchurch for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards ceremony on the evening of the 24th.

And something significant happened on that journey.  As our Boeing (the black Dreamliner 787-9) flew in brilliant sunshine across the Central North Island Plateau, notwithstanding that my seat was on the wrong side of the plane, I somehow managed to catch a glimpse of the summit of a snow-clad Mt Ngauruhoe peeking out from the sea of white cloud, as it disappeared on the port side.

THAT tugged on my heart, but – ah well, let it go?  There’s not a lot you can do at 45,000 feet?

Is there?  Unknown to me, there was to be a sequel …

We were late touching down in Christchurch, and Peter and Marnie Anstis were already there – great to see and catch up with them again.   The ceremony on the following night was a wonderful experience.  ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree‘ didn’t win, or get placed in any of the categories, but just to be there and to be selected among the 20 finalists was very exciting.

Shore Whalers in the South of New Zealand

And there were other perks.  An old friend from tramping days took me over to Lyttelton to see the post-earthquake recovery there, and get a glimpse of the Port Hills.  Next morning Peter and Marnie invited me to go with them for a look at the awful devastation in the center of Christchurch itself, followed by a quick lunch at the airport before we took off on our flights home.

Then unexpectedly, in August I was co-opted onto our local Health Services Trust, and in November 2013 became Interim Joint CEO for the Service – a 6 months’ stint.

Trust affairs continued to impinge far too much on my life until I resigned altogether in March last, and finally disentangled myself a couple of months later.

And as for Mt Ngauruhoe – watch this space – HERE!

Patricia