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.
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″
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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 .
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.
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 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.
Acrylic on Arches Dessein 120 gsm art paper, 19″x 25″.
For more details, prints and products, click on the images.
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″.
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Yachts off the coast in the heat of a Far North summer’s day. But there’s a bit of a breeze and all the boaties are reveling in being out on the water.
This scene could be in many places, though the red tree blossoms give a clue. These are pohutukawa trees – our NZ Christmas tree that flowers in the summer, from the Far North to the Bay of Plenty.
As you can see, there are 2 rocks (called Arrow Rocks) sticking out of the ocean in this bay, and over recent years they have become an important scientific resource for geologists, because the span of geological time covered in these rocks is unique.
A news report in 2010 stated, “There are not many places on Earth where geologists can study a sequence of rocks spanning the Permian and Triassic periods. So it is little wonder that they keep returning to Arrow Rocks near Tauranga Bay. The island has fossils and sediments which date between 252 million and 292 million years ago and have the potential to offer clues about the planet’s biggest species extinction event.”
Japanese geologists realized the scientific importance of Arrow Rocks in 1999 and visit annually accompanied these days by scientists from the NZ Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.
This painting is available as prints and on other products. Also, I have just turned it into a Mighty Wallet – here is how the design shapes up:
For more details, click on the images. Enjoy!