Sunday 30 December 2018

the hills are alive...

Painting in Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

The hills are alive with the sound of a pen scratching on paper! Here are some photos from December of hiking and sketching trips into Mount Aspiring National Park which is just around the corner from my home.

Cascade Saddle and Mount Edward, Mount Aspiring National Park.

Mount Avalanche and the waterfalls at the head of Glacierburn.

Mount Earnslaw, Mount Aspiring National Park.

The swimming hole, Earnslaw Burn. Brrrrr!

Camping below Mount Earnslaw on Christmas Day. 

Mount Rob Roy and the Rob Roy Glacier, Mount Aspiring National Park. In progress.

Mount Rob Roy and the Rob Roy Glacier. Finished painting.

I'm very excited about these new paintings. All I want to do is paint mountains now and I hope to have a whole series of pieces ready to exhibit at the end of January in a group exhibition with the Wanaka Painters' Group. More details on that soon!

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday 11 December 2018

photos from last weekend's workshop

Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka

This last weekend I ran my first workshop! And I'm happy to report I have 5 new converts to the magic of painting outside.

Day 1 was spent at 2 different locations at Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka. We did 4 small paintings in the morning learning about aerial perspective, the steps for painting a watercolour landscape, and how to paint watercolour skies. In the afternoon we did a larger painting of the iconic view of Mt Aspiring from Glendhu Bay.

Day 2 we sketched the historic old chapel at Cardrona, and I taught students my tricks for dealing with linear perspective in real life. Their finished paintings knocked my socks off!

The weather held, the views were beautiful, and I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of enthusiastic, hardworking, aspiring artists. I got to share my passion for sketching outside, and now they're all buying supplies and setting up sketching dates. Yay! Can't wait to do another workshop :-)

Next workshops : 
12 & 13 January 2019 FULL
9 & 10 February, $300pp - 3 spaces left

Tuesday 4 December 2018

annual artwork sale

It's that time of year again. 20% off all artwork until 24 December 2018. Includes abstracts, watercolours and portraits. Also includes all artwork I add to my shop before December 24!

Go on! Buy yourself, or someone special, something original this Christmas.

Shop here ...

Saturday 1 December 2018

let's talk about : pens and ink

Pen and wash paintings - which pens and ink to use

Over the last year a number of people have been asking me all sorts of questions about my materials, my process and my techniques. So I'm starting a series of blog posts that will hopefully shed some light on my watercolour painting techniques. You'll be able to find them all under the tab at the top of the page called 'Tips and Techniques'.

Updated January 2021


I use Lamy Safari fountain pens. I switched to fountain pens a number of years ago, because I am quite heavy on my pen nib when I draw and I used to go through felt tip pens like crazy. At first a fountain pen seemed like a big expense, but when I added up the dollars for several good quality felt tip pens every couple of months, I quickly realised a fountain pen is not only less waste, but cheaper too.

I also like how a fountain pen changed my drawing style. You hold a fountain pen at a different angle to a felt tip pen and much looser. This, for me, gives a much nicer, freer line than I can get with a felt tip pen. Fountain pens also flow much faster than a felt tip pen, which adds even more to the looser line.

I chose Lamy Safari pens because they are economical, readily available and because the nibs are interchangeable. I first bought one pen with 2 nibs (a F and B) and changed out the nibs for each drawing. This is easy to do, but even so, after a year it got to be a bit of a pain. So a year later, I splashed out, and I bought a second pen. So I carried 2 pens, one F and one B. This also has the advantage that I always have a backup pen if I run out of ink in one. Then a couple of years later I bought yet another pen with an EF nib to go with my little hiking sketchbook, where a fine nib just seems a tad too thick (my hiking kit is here).

In New Zealand I buy my pens, nibs and ink convertors from Inkt (


Because I do my drawing before adding the watercolour I use a waterproof ink. After a lot of research I settled in De Atramentis document ink.

I am totally happy with this ink. It flows well, it dries super fast, it doesn't bleed on the paper (I've used it on many, many, types of paper) and doesn't bleed or smudge when I apply the watercolour wash over it.

Manufacturers of fountain pens will tell you not to use a waterproof, permanent ink in your pen as it will damage your pen over time. I have had the white pen in the picture above for about 8 years now and it is still perfect. I do flush the pen completely with clean water until it runs clear every single time I need to refill with ink. That's all the maintenance I do. However, I must say, that I use my pens all the time and the ink has never dried in them. If you only use your pen occasionally you might have issues and have to resort to a more thorough cleaning process when you get your pen out.

In New Zealand I buy my ink from Pen Classics (

Marker Pens

In 2020 I added a number of Posca markers to my kit. I use the fine, bullet tip points and a white, red, yellow, green and blue. I use these to add tiny details at the end of the sketch. Particularly the white. In the studio I would use masking fluid and paint in these tiny details at the end. When painting outside I find that masking fluid is usually not practical, so adding in highlights with a marker pen suits my process better.


We're talking about pens and inks, but I thought I should add that several years ago I bought a Lamy Safari mechanical pencil to replace the cheap one I had. I love the weight and feel of the Lamy Safari's, they feel very comfortable in my hand, so it made sense to use the pencil as well. Mechanical pencils are super convenient and are always sharp and the leads don't break and you can carry lots of spare lead for minimal weight. For outside sketching, convenience always wins!


In the picture above...

  • Green Lamy Safari with M nib with a mix of yellow ochre and black ink to make a nice brown. This is the pen and ink I use the most.
  • White Lamy Safari with B nib, yellow ochre ink
  • Red Lamy Safari with EF nib, black ink
  • All my fountains pens have Lamy ink convertors for easy refilling
  • Pink Lamy Safari mechanical pencil
  • De Atramentis Document Ink, black

Until next time!
If you have any burning questions about my materials or process, please pop them in the comments below or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

Thursday 29 November 2018

old Bedford truck

Vintage Bedford Truck, watercolour painting

Gone to pasture at the Wanaka Cemetery, this old truck has been my muse before. Last time I sketched it from the front, with it's wonderful grill, rusty bonnet and broken front bumper. But this time I couldn't resist the lovely hand painted sign writing on the side. Hellyer!

The photo above shows the painting after I finished on location on Monday morning. Back home, I decided to tidy the white writing a little with some white watercolour paint and to add a dark shadow underneath. The finished painting is below.

J.B. Hellyer
Ink and watercolour
A4 in size.
Available. NZ$100 + shipping
Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing this painting.

Watercolour and ink painting of a vintage Bedford truck

Friday 16 November 2018

weekend watercolour painting workshop - 8 & 9 December

Summer painting workshops in New Zealand

The Magic of Painting & Sketching Outside

8 & 9 December 2018 (8am to 3pm)
$300pp, max 5 people.
Location : Wanaka, New Zealand.

I have had a number of people asking if I will be running painting classes this summer. Yes I am! Here are details of the first one 😎

In this 2 day workshop I will be covering watercolour painting and pen drawing techniques, the tricks of aerial and linear perspective, how to choose a subject and composition.

I will teach you a range of skills that will help you head out on your own with confidence

We'll sketch mountains, lakes, trees and buildings and whatever else catches our eye, and you'll go home with many completed sketches and paintings.

Contact me for more details or to book your spot.

UPDATE : 28 November 2018. December workshop is full. Next workshop 12 & 13 January 2019.

Thursday 8 November 2018

shop update

6 months in Spain and France just flew by. I sketched and painted more than ever filling 2 and half sketchbooks and 12 big A3 sheets and 4 smaller A4 sheets. Painting as large as A3 on location was a new thing for me and I totally fell in love with drawing and painting with space for many, many details.

I've just added 14 of these paintings done on new sheets to my shop. You can find them here ...

Shipping anywhere in the world.

My blog needs a good catchup. I didn't have time (or enough mobile data!) to write any posts while we were travelling so I'll endeavour to do a little catch up with some short posts over the next wee while.

Sunday 15 April 2018

summer sketchbook

I've recently finished my little sketchbook and my bigger one is almost done too!

This one starts back in November 2017 and goes until just a few days ago. The first sketches show lots of fresh spring snow. Now we've got the full glory of autumn colours and lots of autumn snow. In between was a hot, hot, dry summer and clear cloudless skies.

It's interesting to me how the light changes as the season progresses. Especially the sky colours. Or am I the only one who can see that?

You can see my sketchbook has been hiking with me a lot and I've done more landscape sketches this summer than ever before. This particular sketchbook is a bit heavy for taking hiking and I used to carry a much smaller one, but I like painting just that little bit bigger, so I'm prepared to tough out the extra weight. Probably does me good, anyway :-)

You may remember from some of my recent blog posts that I've been revisiting some of these sketches and turning them into 'real' paintings. You can find my landscape watercolours for sale here.

If you are interested in the sketching kit I take hiking with me, it hasn't changed much since last year. You can find out exactly what I carry in this previous blog post. This particular book is a Fabriano watercolor sketchbook.


Tuesday 10 April 2018

milford sound

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Here is a true New Zealand icon - Milford Sound (Piopiotahi), with Mitre Peak standing proud on the left and The Lion guarding on the right.

I did a watercolour sketch of this classic view from next to the harbour earlier in the summer, and yesterday I repainted it on beautiful Fabriano paper. I've painted this view and many others in the mountains near the fiord many, many times, but I'm really pleased with this one.

Milford Sound and the surrounding Darran Mountains are a very special place for us and we visit many times each summer for sketching, climbing, hiking and adventuring. I've lost count of the number times we've visited over the last 20 years and the number of paintings I've done here. While for many it may seem strange to repaint the same scene again and again, for me there is such joy in the process, in variations on the same theme, in the challenge of capturing mood and light changes and in seeing the slow progress as you get closer to the image you have in your mind.

"Summer morning, Milford Sound"
Watercolour and ink on paper
Paper size 23 x 31cm

Tuesday 3 April 2018

10 new watercolours available

"Clutha River with Autumn Poplars"

Very excited to announce that I've added a new set of watercolours to my shop today!

Here they are - some of my best moments from this summer, captured on paper. While my abstract landscapes capture the memories of the landscape around my home in colour, shape and symbols, my watercolours capture this same love in a far more realistic way. I'm super excited to share both types of art with you.

"Reflections, Dublin Bay, Lake Wanaka"

"Colac Bay, Southland"

"Shiny Cups 1"

"Shiny Cups 2"


"Mount Aspiring from Liverpool Ridge"

"Mount Aspiring from Glendhu Bay"

"On the banks of the Matukituki River" SOLD

"Mount Avalanche from Glacierburn" SOLD

Saturday 24 March 2018

painting mount aspiring

Mount Aspiring (centre) and Mount Avalanche (left) from Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka

Mount Aspiring is the gem of the mountains near my home. It even has a whole national park named after it. I was lucky enough to climb it with David and our friend Lexi in 2012 - a really stunning climb up the Northwest Ridge in absolutely perfect weather.

Of course I've painted it many times before, but seem to have done quite a few new ones in the last month.

First a sketch of it from Liverpool Ridge. David and I hiked about 25km and up and down a big hill so that I could do this sketch. That shows real love, I reckon, if David is able to indulge me in that kind of whim :-)

Watercolour sketch of Mt Aspiring from Liverpool Ridge

Sketching Mt Aspiring from Liverpool Ridge

Back home I used my sketch to do a 'real' painting...

Watercolour painting of Mt Aspiring from the original sketch done on site.

Then from Glendhu Bay with the Wanaka Painter's Group on a stunner of the day, with Lake Wanaka like glass.

Watercolour sketch of Mt Aspiring from Glendhu Bay

Wanaka Painter's Group sketching Mt Aspiring from Glendhu Bay

And the finished painting based on my on site sketch...

Painting of Mt Aspiring and Mt Avalanche from Glendhu Bay, Wanaka 

I will be releasing the 2 finished watercolour paintings towards the end of the month. Visit my website for more information.

Thursday 22 March 2018

just another mushroom

Watercolour of a forest mushroom

I'd been visiting this mushroom everyday from when I first spotted it just peeping out of the ground. Each day it was just a little bigger, and a little more perfect.

One evening David and I decided to take a photo. So there we were lying on the ground clearing the foreground carefully, snapping away when Zulu (our dog) snuffled up, nose to the ground, all curious about what we looking at. 2 seconds later the mushroom was flattened!

We looked at her in horror. 😯 She looked back at us with a look that said "It's just another mushroom, guys!". Then we collapsed with laughter 😂

So here is just another mushroom, guys!
"Amanita muscaria"
Watercolour and ink

I'll be releasing a set of watercolour paintings at the end of the month. This will be one of them. You will find them here.

Thursday 15 March 2018

a coffee cup to colour

Shiny stainless steel coffee cup and jug in ink and watercolour

Free colouring page!

I had some fun with reflections on a very shiny coffee cup and jug, and thought you might like to play along.

Here is the black and white file for you to colour yourself. Just print it out on some nice paper and colour in the medium of your choice. You could try watercolours like mine, or coloured pencils, or felt tip pens.

I'd love to see your version. Share your completed painting on my Facebook page.

Line drawing of reflections in a stainless steel cup for you to colour yourself.

To save the image...
Click on the black and white image above to enlarge it.
Then right click and choose "Save image as..." to save it your computer.

Wednesday 28 February 2018

upcoming exhibition

Along with fellow Wanaka Arts Society members Jo Nimmo, Jenny Hill, Susie Ruddenklau, Karen Scott, Joanne Deaker, Kym Beaton, I will be exhibiting at next week's Wanaka A&P Show.

Original artworks for sale in a range of mediums, subjects and sizes by local artists.

Find us in the marquee at site 5 and 6 near the Wanaka skatepark. Enter through Gate 2.

Map of Wanaka A&P Show. Art Exhibition at Site Y6.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Monday 19 February 2018

the perfect summer

"The Perfect Summer" - commissioned abstract painting

After all the little ones from the last week, I just had to share this big beauty.

This bold painting was commissioned by a couple of lovely friends of mine. They are building a new home and said they would like a large painting by me done now as they just start building, so that they can design their new interior and home decor around it. To say I felt flattered would be understatement of the year!

We spoke about what they had in mind, we looked at a number of completed paintings I had in my studio, we talked about colours and theme and then I sent them a few ideas I put together in photoshop. They choose one and then gave me free reign to do my thing and have some fun. The whole process was an absolute joy.

Thanks L & G

"The Perfect Summer"
76 x 76cm
Mixed media on exhibition canvas

Get in touch if you would like to commission a painting. I'd love to chat about what you have in mind.