An Artist's Journeys in Nature

New Zealand

Hidden Land Secrets

Darkened sky and sunburned hills hide the secret geology below the land – all part of the huge web that forms the structure of the universe. 

As our perceptions and understanding increase – and science delves deeper and becomes more open-minded, we are realizing the interconnectedness of all things.

I believe early man was much more aware of this than we have been until recently – it was something we lost in our relentless march to ‘civilization’.

In one of my attempts to diversify from law over the years, I took stats 101, botany 101 and geology 101, thinking of doing a switch to environmental science. I ran out of funds and came to my senses – realizing that science also is just another man-riddled discipline, but the effort sure fed the muse.

It was in the following year, when I returned to Wellington after a long summer holiday up here – without a job and with no immediate plans for my future, that out of the blue I became National Secretary to the NZ Deerstalkers Association – their former Nat Sec having left the country to run a game ranch in New Mexico.  Life is full of twists and turns, leading us inexorably onwards…

‘Sacred Geometry’ added digitally later.

Acrylic on Arches Dessein 160gsm paper 25″ × 30.5″.   Exhibited at Bay of Islands Arts Festival Exhibition Kerikeri NZ 1998 (invited artist).   Sold to a collector from Whangarei NZ.

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

Patricia


Forest Apparition

Forests are a big thing for me, maybe because I now live as close to one as it gets.  Born in a city, raised in cities (London, Aberdeen, Harare), I didn’t really become acquainted with forests until, while working in a city-bound office environment in NZ, I was invited by a colleague to go ‘walking’ (or ‘tramping’ as we call it).

That introduced me not only to forests, but also to the joys of open rolling hills in a landscape geologically young enough to be steep and furrowed and very revealing of the processes that formed it.

The Wellington Region is not a gentle landscape.  Referred to by Dr Graeme Stevens as ‘Rugged Landscape’ in his brilliant book of the same name, the Wellington area has been battered, uplifted and twisted by the forces of plate tectonics and carved by forceful streams and rivers to create one of the most challenging and underestimated mountain environments in New Zealand.  The central part of that is called the Tararua Ranges.

In this setting can be found forests of unusual beauty – some of them stunning enough to feature on the big screen as the Elven land of Rivendell and the mysterious forests of the Shire.

Lush and species-rich in the valleys and low-lying plains, these forests change character completely at altitude, becoming short, stunted beech forests struggling for existence at about 3,500′, boughs loaded with snow in the winter months and tossed by strong winds at any time of year.

This artwork came upon me out of nowhere.  Sights and impressions imprint themselves on brain and memory, to be reborn at some later date, often without effort.  When that happens, magic often occurs – and exactly where the inspiration came from often remains a mystery.

I now live tucked under the remnant of a volcano standing on protected, forested land in the tropical far north of NZ.  A slightly different forest again, this – yet still exerting that enthralling pull of nature that living trees generate as they populate the spaces we have frugally left to them, in these days of modern technology and ‘civilization’ run riot.

Trees have much to offer spiritually as well as physically.  I guess early man knew that instinctively, but it is something we are only now coming to fully realize again, thanks to foresters and scientists who are not afraid to think and speak outside the box.  May this re-awakening not be too late.

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

Patricia

 


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 .


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


Fire And Water

This artwork is built around a sculpture I made some years ago as part of a set of 4 pieces symbolizing ‘The Elements’, seen in the New Zealand context.

Fire is symbolized by the volcano, and water is ubiquitous in Aotearoa, the Land Of The Long White Cloud.

Fire and water of course do not mix, and some especially spectacular results occur when volcanic magma and gases are released under the sea. This is exactly what is predicted to occur when the next eruption takes place in our largest city, Auckland – a narrow peninsula riddled with approx 53 volcanic vent holes.

In this regard, here is an interesting comment from NZ’s GeoNet:

“The type of volcanic activity in Auckland means each eruption has occurred at a new location; these are coming from a single active ‘hot spot’ of magma about 100 km below the city. … Auckland’s existing volcanoes are unlikely to become active again, but the Auckland Volcanic Field itself is young and still active.”

 

For more details, click on the image.

Mixed media – sculpture and Bézier pen tool vector. Created in Macromedia Fireworks MX.

 

 

 

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


Black Mamaku Tree Fern

I painted this work over Christmas 1979/80. It was a time of great changes to come in my life, though I didn’t know it then. I was on a long Christmas vacation, having completed 3 units of science at Uni that year, and having decided science was not going to be my future.

I knew I would return to Wellington, but in what capacity I had no idea: I had no job. Meantime there was a long holiday spell to concentrate on art.

I painted 3 major pieces that Christmas and created a number of smaller works and some drawings. I put the drawings up for sale in a small local gallery and they sold immediately.

My father, who had always been my art mentor, disliked this painting intensely, and soon let me know it. I dug in my heels and carried on with it, and in January entered this piece and 2 other works into the Bay Of Islands New Year Art Exhibition in Paihia. Two were for sale – this one and Unfolding Fern Kiokio . The third one was The Sacred Place . They all passed the jury examination and the two pieces on sale sold during the exhibition.

So much for that!

I returned to Wellington and by an amazing turn of circumstances, within a couple of months I was full time National Secretary of the NZ Deerstalkers Association, with over 40 branches nationwide. a 7 man national executive that met quarterly and a large scale annual conference. I’d been involved with them for several years. Looking back, it was the happiest time of my life in a job. However –

During my first year there, my father was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia.

It’s a long way from Kaeo to Wellington (about 600 ml), so 18 months later I went back into law and moved north to Hamilton as regional solicitor for my former employer the ACC. This move was not an entirely happy one, but at least I saw more of my folks.

My dad died in August 1985 and that Christmas my mom and I came up here to get this place ready to put on the market. He had said we would have to sell the property and with the half-finished house which they had been building, he foretold we wouldn’t get much for it… It was a sad time.

But by Christmas, we had decided NOT to sell up!

I couldn’t bear the idea and nor could my mom. A huge load lifted in our spirits, because we both loved the property dearly. We did our sums and got a builder in to finish the house (drama, drama) and while my mom stayed here, I completed the lecturing contract I now had with the Waikato Polytechnic (Business Law for the NZ Society of Accountants’ qualification), visiting at weekends as much as I could.

By Christmas 1986 I was back up here to stay. The distance from this place to the New Zealand I had been used to is a bit daunting, but several attempts I’ve made to move have come to naught, so this must be where I am meant to be.

Christmas is always a time of great memories for me here.

Kathleen and the building on a sunny autumn day in 1986.

For more details on the work and to see products, click on the image.

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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The Good Shepherd

Had an interesting little adventure last night.

We’ve been in about four days of uncomfortably cold, high winds, accompanied from time to time by rain. Down in the South Island (and probably on the Central North Island Plateau too) there is snow on the mountains, a friend from Karamea tells me. I’m not surprised.

Last night I went up to get the sheep in at about 5.15pm, I guess. They were up in the gorse and tea-tree on the hill, and though we called back and forth, they were not inclined to come – heads down, eating, from what I could see through the scrub. Alright, so I left them. They will come – it’s a cold night with dark, lowering cloud.

They didn’t come.

I went up again, about 20 minutes later – with the pot of nuts this time, rattling and calling. They were still on the slope and not about to come down. Finally Alphie the ram detached himself from the girls and came to the sound of food. I led him down to the shed and fed him, hoping they would follow.

Still they didn’t come.

I went back up a third time, leaving Alphie behind a loosely shut gate. Two-thirds of the way up the hill, he overtook me, heading back to his women. I decided to leave it a bit longer.

Back at the shed I did a few things – keeping out of a rain shower. Thank goodness I’d already fed the pigs and put them to bed down below, I thought. I almost felt like leaving the sheep to their own devices, but the good shepherd inside sent me up for a fourth time. It was getting darker.

Just above a little grassy plateau, I stood looking up at the ewes in the scrub, and suddenly realized I couldn’t see the lambs. “Where are the babies?” I asked the sheep. Then I spoke in the high-pitched voice I use to talk to the lambs, and immediately App, the younger ewe, turned and moved towards a little hollow in the hillside. Then I saw the little heads – they were sitting in a bunch. It was a very nice camping spot with a bit of overhanging tree trunk, but if it rained they were going to get wet, no doubt about that. And the wind was coming straight across from the north.

So grumbling and grumping, and feeling thankful that I’d brought a staff, I threaded my way up the steep slope through the tea-tree and gorse bushes, over fallen branches and clumps of long grass – which being wet were quite slippery.

When I approached the lambs they jumped up, then the whole party moved off westwards along the ridge, near the fence line at the top. That would do just fine – they were headed for a corner in the fence that would send them down off the hill and along towards the shed. I have an arrangement down there with two 10 foot gates that can be opened and hooked together to form a race leading into the place they have been sleeping in at nights. Fortunately, I’d left it set up ready, because I was still a little way behind them.

They all had feed – Alphie for a second time – and I finally got in home at about 6.30pm: nearly dark.

It’s always a good feeling at the end of the day to know that everyone is fed and in shelter. Especially when the weather’s bad.  It HAS rained, several times, since darkness fell.

Acrylic on illustration board. – 10″ x 14″.

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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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


‘Déjeuner’ Revisited

dejeuner-riconBelieve it or not, there is a connection between this post and the last one about Mount Ngauruhoe and Tama Lakes.  Let me explain.

Even today, Manet’s “Déjeuner sur L’Herbe” it is not what one would call a ‘comfortable’ painting, and maybe it was this element of unease that moved me a few years ago to create a modern version, setting the characters in a landscape of the future, when our pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and climate change have finally completed their deadly work.

The intervening years haven’t altered my perspective on this small painting, and I hope it conveys to others what it spoke to me as I created it.

Manet’s “Déjeuner” caused a sensation when it was exhibited.  The painting was rejected by the Salon in 1863 so in the same year, Manet took the opportunity to exhibit it in the Salon des Refusés.  Even in that venue, it caused an uproar, mainly from the fact of two women – one scantily-clad and the other naked – dining out in the woods with two fully-clad males.  As I said above, the painting is still a little unnerving, even 150 years later, when we are much more ‘enlightened’.

The subject of this post is only a small sketch – about 7″x5.5″ – done at a time when I lived in Wellington and our Central North Island Plateau was very much a reality to me.  So I placed the scene in that location,  What made the fit for me was the desert quality, and the power pylons and lines.

dejeuner_700
Our State Highway No 1, which runs the full length of both islands, passes along the eastern edge of the Central Volcanic region.  This is the Rangipo Desert.  Between the road and the mountains runs the main power trunk line – carried on pylons which can be a pain when taking photographs.  On this stretch, the road has a special name – ‘The Desert Road’.  It’s very hot in summer and in winter it can often be closed altogether due to hazardous snow and ice conditions.

Bear in mind that when this painting was done, there was much less appreciation of the environmental impacts of many things that were used thoughtlessly.  We are a little more aware today – though maybe too little too late.

So there we are at ‘déjeuner’: taking our leisure.  Three of the little group of characters are still there – still lingering over luncheon and apparently oblivious to the gradual change that has taken place around them. Still socializing, in spite of the circumstances.

There is no grass underfoot. There are no shady trees left in the park, only the march of power pylons. There’s no longer any need for shady trees, because the sun’s rays are taken care of by the clouds of pollution overhead.

Party on …

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


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…

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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.

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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.

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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 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/

 

 


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/


The Mountain Returns

ngauruhoe2-riconThe mountains of the Central North Island Plateau (Tongariro National Park) have had a place in my heart since the mid 1970’s.  This majestic wilderness landscape is now part of a Dual Status World Heritage Site – a status that recognises the park’s important Maori spiritual/cultural associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

I spent time on the Plateau on several occasions in the 70’s, travelling up from Wellington and staying in one or another of the DOC and Club huts around the mountains.  I’ve painted, walked and beginner ski’d up there and the mystery, power and spirituality of the location have never left me in all the years since I moved away from Wellington.

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At about 9000′ above sea level, this location is the summit of the North Island.  All around, the land falls away, and the quality of light and clarity of the air have a huge spiritual impact, even aside from the wonderful scatter of volcanic peaks and craters that makes up the topography of the plateau itself.

As it happens, in June 2013 I took my first flight in many years from Kerikeri via Auckland to Christchurch to attend the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards ceremony.  By some miracle, I managed to get a glimpse of the snow-clad peak of Mt Ngauruhoe standing out from the sea of white cloud, on the other side of the plane as we passed over the Plateau.  It was a sad, fleeting moment:  I now live at the northernmost end of the North Island, about 450 miles away…

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I should state clearly that I love the place where I live now (above) – about 10 acres on a hillside below yet another volcanic outcrop.  My parents bought it in 1970, I visited regularly and worked with them on the land, and since 1987 I have lived here.  However, the winter of 2014 (June-August) turned out prolonged and very wet, and all of a sudden I realised that the time has come for me to move.  I need less land, less humidity and a new adventure.

But where to go?  Not just anywhere will do!  It wasn’t very long before that answer came.

By chance in September 2014 as I was idly glancing through a travel supplement to the NZ Herald, I saw an article about Ohakune – a small town on the main trunk line about 12 miles south-west of Mt Ruapehu as the crow flies.  It services one of Mt Ruapehu’s skifields – Turoa.  I visited it years ago, and was intrigued to read how the town has developed since.  Some Internet research followed and I am now working through the major task of preparing myself to move.  It will probably take a little time for me to pull this off, but the promise of being back near those mountains will ease the regrets I’m likely to have about leaving my present home.

Patricia


Ruapehu Crater Outfall

outfall-riconI guess this is another in the ‘Journey’ series, although the idea wasn’t in my mind at the time I painted this one.

Being up on the volcanoes of the Central North Island Plateau gives one a feeling of being on top of the world.

All around the land falls away – one is literally on the top of the North Island and in good weather there is a bracing quality of light and clarity in the air that is hard to describe, except to say that it is unforgettable.

This is a view of a natural vent on the side of Mount Ruapehu just below the crater’s edge that was thought to keep the waters and mud in the lake from building pressure and breaching the lake walls.

However, on Christmas Eve 1953 part of the lake wall collapsed from the volume of water and mud behind it, and the resulting lahar swept away a rail bridge in the valley below minutes before the night train from Wellington to Auckland crossed the bridge – with disastrous results.

Our Geological Survey now has the lake closely monitored. Recently, another blowout (which had in fact been forecast) hit Dome Shelter just below the lake where two young men had stopped for the night, and they were lucky to escape with their lives.

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As I painted this, I thought of what it must have been like for the early explorers to discover these wilderness places, with all their eerie ‘presence’ and power. In the final year of my law studies, part of my work involved searching titles in the Land Transfer Office – in the days of physical not computer searches, and I’d had the honour of holding in my hands some original survey field notebooks from NZ’s early surveyors, many of whom were also gifted artists.

So a painting that started off as an exploration of some fascinating topography, came to contain so much more.

Acrylic on canvas board 25 × 30in.

Patricia