4 min read

11: A birthday painting, watercolours, and a creepy tree

Welcome to March! We’re starting to feel a hint of autumn in the air in the mornings and evenings in New Zealand, but it’s still very hot during the day. Hot enough that we’ve put up a pool in the backyard—for the kids and us. ⛱️

I don’t have any paintings to share with you this month, but I am (belatedly) working on one for my mum for her 70th birthday, so I’ll share a photo of that once I’ve sent it to her in Australia.

I do have a couple of sketches and a bunch of other stuff that I hope you’ll enjoy.

Always an excuse for new materials

I’ve bought one of the Van Gogh watercolor sets (made by Royal Talens), which is affordable and has great reviews. I’m looking forward to using it more when I’m out and about, instead of pencil and charcoal. I’ll still do drawings, because I know they’re valuable, but I really want to up my painting skills, and my understanding of colour and light.

I’ve also bought a few new panels to try, including a linen one.

Things I've made

Pencil sketch of detritus on the grass at Cornwallis Beach
Detritus on the grass at Cornwallis Beach. Pencil on paper
Coloured-pencil and fineliner sketch of a tree in our backyard
Tree in our backyard. Black fineliner and coloured pencil on paper.

The reason this tree looks creepy is because I started filling in the sky and then realised I probably should have started with the leaves. 😆


The artist always comes up against resistance from nature in the beginning, but if he really takes her seriously he will not be put off by that opposition, on the contrary, it is all the more incentive to win her over — at heart, nature and the honest draughtsman are as one.

—Vincent Van Gogh, The Letters of Van Gogh
The image of an artist holding a pencil at arm’s length is perhaps a bit of a cliché but I'm always surprised at the reluctance of students to try this simple technique. I still measure carefully and frequently in the early stages of building a painting and know I would be fooled into making many elementary mistakes if I didn't.

—Richard Pikesley, Landscape Painting: The Complete Guide
Just keep going. It’s the only way.

—An experienced artist friend to me recently

Artists I like

  • Jill Miriama Smith – a Kiwi, Christian artist. I like the variety in her work, and I can see the influence of Colin McCahon (and maybe Gretchen Albrecht) in some pieces.
  • It takes a lot for a photograph to grab my attention, but Paula Petherick’s florals do just that. I saw two large, framed prints at Flagstaff Gallery, and they were stunning. The composition, the delicate light and shadow, the colour. They had the feeling of paintings for me. And then I read her About page: “Paula is a fine art photographer who uses multiple layers of texture and still life composition to create works with a painterly quality…. She is greatly inspired by the works of the Dutch Masters and the early European Masters, with their use of light and drama.” Well, there you go. 😊
  • I really enjoy watching Turner Vinson paint. So much paint! So much expression!

Crappy photos of cool things

These were taken using the terrible camera on my Android phone.

Photo of sunset at Katikati. Silhouetted trees and houses, pink clouds
Sunset at Katikati
Photo of a Brimeliad on our front deck after rain
Brimeliad on our front deck after rain
Photo of a mural (sun, waves, shark fins) at Royal Reserve Reserve, Massey
Mural at Royal Reserve Reserve, Massey

Other bits and pieces