The Plein Air Magazine Publisher’s Trip to New Zealand, February 22 to March 5, 2017, was everything I expected and beyond. A combination of sightseeing, gourmet dining, and painting opportunities, it was first class from beginning to end, 10 days of delight! I confess that the travel was grueling, about 18 hours in the air over several flights each way, plus layovers, check-ins, and security. We also had a good bit of travel while in New Zealand, most of it by bus, but fortunately most of that time was compensated by beautiful scenery en route.
Angela Morgan, our tour coordinator from Parnell Partners Group, was simply outstanding. If you can imagine 35 excited and easily distracted adult artists, accompanied by another 15 spouses and partners, many of them excited and easily distracted photographers, you will have an idea of the job Ange and her team had, bringing new illustration to the phrase “herding cats”.
If you count the first couple of days as travel and travel-recovery days, we had 9 days of actual touring and painting opportunities. I had signed up for the trip as a retirement present to myself some 10 months prior, when it was announced at the 2016 Plein Air Convention. Visiting New Zealand had been on my bucket list, but I never thought I would be able to find a travel companion willing to entertain themselves while I sat and painted, and I didn’t want to go so far away alone, so this trip was a godsend. And then my friend Lynn Wilson, owner of On the Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, FL, just 100 miles east of Santa Rosa Beach where I live, decided she would come too, and we opted to room together. I found everyone in the group to be very friendly, with instant camaraderie, which came as no surprise, really, since plein air painters seem to attract each other. In fact, I find artists as a whole, and plein air painters in particular, to be especially engaged and engaging.
Our home base was Millbrook Resort near Arrowtown, near Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand, where we enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast every morning. One night I skipped dinner and painted the scene behind my room, where a tree had fallen and fourteen trees had grown up out of its trunk. The sun went down and I had not yet painted the dark trees, so I merely scraped them out of the background paint, which made for an interesting study.
Painting at Waitiri Creek Winery
Lunch at Gibbston Valley Winery
Painting at Millbrook Resort (or napping to recover from travel fatigue)
Dinner at Jervois Steakhouse
Painting at Glenorchy Wharf
Lunch at Glenorchy Café
Adventure: one of the world’s top 10 scenic drives to a nature walk and jet boating up the Dart River in Mount Aspiring National Park in the Te Wai Pounamu World Heritage area
Dinner at Gantleys Restaurant
TSS Earnslaw steamboat cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm
Lunch at the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant
Painting at Walter Peak
Dinner at Botswana Butchery
Painting in Arrowtown or artists choice of location. Lynn and I painted a sheep field at the edge of the resort, backed by a huge mountain. Four sheep on the hill were tended by a single dog, and they gradually made their way out of sight. The pink and yellow colors of the grass on the hill interested me, especially in contrast to the dark mountain behind it.
Dinner at Saffron Restaurant
Scenic drive to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park for boat ride to the mouth of the fiord and back, seeing the grand vistas of the glacier-carved fiord, with waterfalls of glacier melt streaking down the nearly-sheer cliffs, box lunch provided.
Buffet dinner at Millbrook Resort.
Flight to Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand, for a tour of Weta Workshop where owners Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger and company have created prosthetics, special effects and set design for such movies as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, BFG, Avatar, and many more.
Dinner at Roxy Theatre
Flight to Auckland for ferry ride to Waiheke Island for lunch and painting at Mudbrick Winery
Dinner at Oyster and Chop Restaurant
Tour and painting at Hobbiton, the life-size set and location for The Hobbit trilogy, complete with 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes
Dinner at Euro Reataurant.
Day 9 was a free day, so Lynn and I closed out the trip with a visit to the Auckland Museum where we were treated with a show by Maori singers and dancers, as well as the wonderful history and natural history displays.
We flew out of Auckland for Los Angeles late that night, March 5.
I am at a loss for words to describe the beauty of New Zealand. I so enjoyed the entire experience.
The only mar was a pesky knee disorder diagnosed the week before the trip. I had been annoyed by symptoms for some 3 weeks prior, and when they didn’t go away, I went to the orthopedics institute (Andrews Institute, in Gulf Breeze, FL, the best!) and was diagnosed with a Baker’s cyst caused by knee inflammation (I have thin cartilage.) It turns out I also have a massive case of IT Band syndrome from how I have adapted my bad-knee walk, which I did not know at the time. I was able to walk short flat distances and the inflammation usually did not bother me until the evenings and at night, when it imade sleep difficult. It was so bad one night that I nearly decided to cut the trip short. Some TLC over the next few days, including being pushed in a wheelchair through the domestic airports, reduced the walking enough that I was able to finish the trip. (Post trip comment: the doctor is giving me three weekly injections to reduce knee joint inflammation and he gave me a brace for lengthy standing or walking, and I will start physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the knee and knee mechanics and to treat and prevent IT Band Syndrome.)
Now I need to finish a few paintings to send to Lynn’s “On the Waterfront” Gallery for her showing of paintings from the New Zealand trip, open to all of the participating artists, during the month of May. I had used very lightweight supports in New Zealand, linen covered multimedia boards, and had used a cardboard wet painting carrier for one size of paintings, and my usual RayMar painting carrier for the other size. The RayMar held up well, but the cardboard carrier collapsed and allowed some of the not-quite-dry paintings to fall face to face. So I have some repairs to make.
The paintings I have posted above are the rough work I did en plein air while there. Below are a few studies from photos since my return, working out some distance perspective issues with watercolor. Click image for larger view.