Thursday, 10 June 2021

out and about : autumn into winter


Penrith Bay, Lake Wanaka

Autumn changing into winter - such a lovely time of year to capture on paper. Of course, the shorter days which are always pretty damp and can sometimes actually be freezing make for challenging conditions for sketching!  A big flask of hot tea and lots of clothes certainly help. Having lots of patience, too, is necessary, as the paint washes take lots of time to dry and you certainly learn pretty fast that you can't rush things or the whole sketch will be one blurry mess of colour.

But when I find a sheltered, sunny spot and the hills have fresh snow and the trees either their golden coats or the beautiful bare bones, then I can't think of a better time to be outside with my sketchbook and paints.

Here are just a few snaps from my excursions in my local hood from April through to June.

Along the Clutha River looking towards Mt Maude, Albert Town

Glendhu Station, Wanaka

Looking towards Corner Peak, Lake Hawea

On the shores of Lake Hawea

Looking across to Paddock Bay from Emerald Bay, Lake Wanaka

Winter sketching bliss :-)

My patient sketching buddy. Sketch of the St Bathans Range with fresh snow.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

urban sketching france : trip down memory lane



Since I'm planning on teaching a 10 day painting retreat in France this September (details here), of course I'm dreaming about sketching those beautiful old villages and gorgeous landscapes again. And eating fresh croissants and drinking French wine!

A little trip down memory lane today with a few sketches from my previous trips to France over the last decade or so. The hashtag #ReneeInFrance on instagram has lots of my French sketches all in one place.

Join me in September for 10 amazing days of arty goodness.


Treminis L'Eglise

Treminis Le Serre

Treminis L'Eglise

Old farmhouse, France

La Berarde

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

art retreat in France, September 2021


I couldn't be more excited!! 

This September I'll be guiding a 10 day painting retreat in beautiful southern France. We'll be painting and exploring gorgeous landscapes an medieval villages. And the folks at Perigord Retreats will be taking wonderful care of us.
Sounds like the perfect holiday, doesn't it?! If you'd like to join me please register your interest now...

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

painting a storm : class photos


What fun that was! Lots of laughter, lots of concentration, lots of learning. And just look at the results :-)

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

next live zoom class : painting a lighthouse


Seascape: Painting a Lighthouse in Watercolour and Pen

Let’s catch some sun! In this 3-hour Class, we will journey to the sea and capture the seaside, skies, and waves. Learn several techniques; wet-on-wet technique, charge in, wet-on-dry, and lift out to create a beautiful watercolour and ink artwork! This Live Class is limited to 10 people for a more hands-on experience. 

In association with Etchr. 


When : 13 May, 6pm EDT (14 May, 10am NZT) More details and booking info here.

Monday, 12 April 2021

next live zoom class : painting a storm


Dramatic Landscape: Painting a Storm in Watercolour and Pen

The storm clouds are here! In this 3-hour Class, join me as show you how to paint a stormy day with the wet-on-wet technique. Learn how to soften edges, add texture, and just let watercolour do what watercolour does best. This Live Class is limited to 10 people for a more hands-on experience. 

In association with Etchr.

When : 29 April, 6pm EDT (30 April, 10am NZT) More details and booking info here.


Friday, 2 April 2021

painting a watercolour duckling

Watercolour duckling postcard - full tutorial

Happy Easter! I know ducklings aren't a traditional Easter icon, but I couldn't resist this one when I saw the reference photo. So grab a small piece of paper, brushes and paints and join me in painting this cutie. Quack quack!


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

new postcard tutorial


New watercolour painting tutorial

It's been quite a long while, but I finally have a new painting demo on YouTube. Yay! We get to paint this lovely spring scene from the Swiss Alps.

Grab your paper and paints and paint along with me. Then add a note and a stamp and send some love to someone. We could all do with some love in the mail right now.

Watch the tutorial here.

Monday, 22 March 2021

upcoming mini workshop


Join me live this April 10, 2021 at 5pm EDT (April 11, 9am NZT) for a mini workshop with Etchr. I'll be giving lots of tips and tricks on how to give your paintings a lovely sense of depth and we'll be talking about compositon.

I'll be painting the scene below - my favourite peak near my home. I painted this one on site last autumn and I'm looking forward to painting it again with you in a few weeks.

Grab your sketchbook, paper, paints and brushes and join me. Class will be approximately 90minutes.

Cost : US$5.50pp. Class numbers limited.

Book here.

Paint this scene with me. April 10, 5pm EDT.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

free live painting demo recording


Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo - watercolour and ink painting.

What a blast that was! 480 folks joined me live as I painted the scene above and I'm still buzzing. If you missed the demo live, no problem. You can still watch the recording here.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

free live online demo

This weekend I'll be painting this scene from near my home live on YouTube

I'm excited to announce I've teamed up with Etchr (the sketchbook and watercolour folks) to bring you a free live demo on their YouTube channel.

I'll be painting this lovely scene of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo and giving you some easy to use aerial perspective tools so that your landscape paintings will get a wonderful sense of depth.

When : 12 March, 7pm EST (13 March, 1pm NZT)
Cost : FREE
Duration : approximately 1 hour
Where : Etchr's YouTube channel

You can pop along to the link above and set yourself a reminder now. If you can't make the time for the live demo, the video will be available afterwards for viewing at your leisure.

See you there!

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

let's talk about : sketchbooks

I fill a number of watercolour sketchbooks each year!

If you've been following me for any time at all, you'll know I'm a big fan of sketchbooks. Besides the many watercolour sketches of mine that you see here and on social media, I also have idea-type drawing sketchbooks that I doodle in or jot down ideas. So what's the big deal? Why do I love sketchbooks so much? And which sketchbooks would I recommend? Read on ;-)

Why sketchbooks?

I have a ridiculously long list of reasons why I love sketchbooks. If you catch me in person and ask the question, you're in for a long afternoon. Haha! I'm passionate about them! But here's a short list of some of the main reasons why I keep sketchbooks...

  • They're a document of my life and travels. Unlike photos, the sketches in the books are not a quick snapshot. They're usually a careful decision about what I feel is important enough to spend an hour or more capturing.
  • Unlike a photo album, I can write little stories next to the sketch. A diary of sorts. I didn't do this much in the beginning, concentrating just on the painting. But now these stories have become almost important than the sketch. Even though I'm not a writer, just a few notes, read years later brings back so many wonderful memories.
  • A full sketchbook tells a wonderful story. So many folks who stop to watch me sketch or see a sketch later, say it's a pity it's in a book. Why? I think it's because they're only seeing each page as a separate thing and not as a whole story. A sketchbook becomes a sort of coffee table book - something that works when you page through it. Mistakes and all.
  • The sketchbooks are only for me! No, I don't regret that a 'perfect' sketch can not be sold. Why does everything need a monetary value to give it importance? When I open my sketchbook and start painting I'm not thinking about pleasing anyone else. Just me. It's very different when I pull out a beautiful fine art sheet or work on a commission.
  • They're documenting my artistic journey. I tell my students often to add a note and a date to their paintings. On a bad day, when you feel like every brush stroke is a struggle, there's nothing like grabbing an old sketchbook and seeing how far you've come.

What sketchbook?

I've painted in so many different sketchbooks over the years. My requirements have changed over the years, and I expect that may be true in the future - that what is perfect for me now may change. But here is what I'm currently looking for in a sketchbook...
  • Proper watercolour paper - not drawing paper, or mixed media paper or anything else. Something made specifically for watercolours.
  • 300gsm weight - I work very wet and thinner paper can buckle in bigger sketchbooks, which can be a pain when you're working outside.
  • 100% cotton paper - I know it's expensive, but I spend hours on every book. Days in fact. I think it's worth it.
  • Flat binding - spiral bound books are great (see below), but I'm really enjoying the story-telling / coffeetable-book feel I get from a bound book at the moment.
  • Vegan - as always

Here's what I'm using at the moment...

The Perfect Sketchbook from Etchr Lab

The Perfect Sketchbook from Etchr Lab - A4 & A5 sizes

Ticks all the boxes above. I did a lot of research, tried not to look too carefully at my credit card statement (they're not cheap!) and dove in. And now I'm hooked and there's no going back.

They are beautifully made. The binding is strong. I have never painted on paper this forgiving. It's hard to describe how it feels to paint on this paper. And, for me, so much of watercolour painting is about how the painting process feels - the tactile side I mean. I guess the closest descriptor is it feels soft. Not very informative I'm sorry.

I use A4 and A5 sketchbooks.

  • Ticks all the boxes above.
  • Very strong - my books need to take some abuse as they go everywhere and get shoved in hiking packs and such.
  • The thicker paper dries a little slower than the thinner paper in other sketchbooks, so more working time.
  • Very easy to get soft edges. If you like hard edges they're not easy to get.
  • The folks at Etchr are lovely and helpful. Yes, this is important too!
  • Expensive and not available locally. Can take a very long time for your order to arrive. Plan ahead.
  • Not that many pages in a book, so I go through them quickly. You can't really have more pages than it has, because the thick paper would mean a very bulky book if it had more pages. So this isn't really a fair con.
  • Paint doesn't lift out easily.
  • The first and last page don't open flat. A minor thing, but other bound books manage this.

Other sketchbooks I also like

Fabriano watercolour sketchbooks

Fabriano watercolour sketchbooks, A4 and A5 sizes

My go to for many, many years. I still love these books.They tick most of the boxes above, except they're not 100% cotton. Now that I'm a fussier painter, that is a little bit of an issue with me. 

They are spiral bound. This makes them super convenient for painting outside, because you can fold them back and they're not as uncomfortable as a big bound book on your lap. Especially the A4 size. I haven't taken my A4 Etchr book outside yet, because I think it would be a bit cumbersome. Time will tell.

The spiral binding has another advantage - you can work in either landscape or portrait format easily. Not really possible in a bound book. I miss this.

Available locally.

Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbooks

Hahnemuhle watercolour sketchbooks, A5 and pocket size

These books are the reason I fell in love with bound books. I always have a little pocket sketchbook that goes on big hikes with me. I have a pile of these completed sketchbooks full of wonderful little snippets of stories. It took me years to realise that I could scale up and have these stories in all my sketchbooks. So my first step was a bigger Hahnemuhle sketchbook.

It ticks almost all the boxes above and the paper is a gorgeous bright white. The binding is strong and opens completely flat. The paper takes lots and lots of layering. But unfortunately the paper is too thin. It works well at pocket size, but for larger sizes I prefer the Etchr books.
Not 100% cotton.

Available locally.

I hope this answers most of your questions. If not, drop me a note in the comments.

A reminder that there are lot's of other 'let's talk about' topics in the Tips & Techniques section above.

Happy sketching!

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

out and about

Mitchell's Bay, Riverton

Where has my sketchbook been venturing recently? As always it seems to be my life in New Zealand is about mountains and water. Definitely no complaints about that - gotta love summer!

Mt Edward from Raspberry Creek

Black Peak and Fog Peak from Bremner Bay, Lake Wanaka

Boat reflection on a calm morning, Lake Hawea

Surf's up, Tihaka Beach, Colac Bay

All of these sketches done in The Perfect Sketchbook from Etchr, A5. I'll be writing a blog post about sketchbooks soon. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

live online painting class - snowy swiss cabin


My demo painting from my recent live painting class on Zoom

Super chuffed to have been joined by folks across the globe for my recent painting class via Zoom. This time we escaped our little lockdown bubbles and took a virtual trip to the Swiss Alps. Such a fun painting session - I always enjoy these classes. And at the end of 3 hours we all had a lovely, finished painting.

Next live demo will be on March 12, 7pm EST (13 March, 1pm NZ time). Sign up for my newsletter to get all the details.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

new painting tutorial - five watercolour skies


Learn to paint 5 different watercolour skies

In this lesson we will paint five different watercolour skies...
  • summer sky with puffy clouds
  • stormy sky
  • cirrus sky
  • sunrise
  • night sky with milky way.
I'll teach you lots of tips and tricks and give you some rules to follow so that you skies will look realistic with a lovely sense of depth. 

Skies are a wonderful way to practice painting watercolour - they teach you all about timing (which is so important in painting in watercolours) and about pigment and water control. They're super fun to paint and only take 10 to 15 minutes to complete - so you can paint them again and again, gaining a lot of skills along the way.

Full lesson is 50min long, only NZ$10 and you can find it here.

Monday, 18 January 2021

live online painting class - venice sunset


Watercolour painting lesson via Zoom

Another super lovely painting session with folks across the globe. This time we visited Venice and painted a beautiful sunset scene in neutral tones. We covered painting with one of my favourite triads - monte amiata natural sienna, light red and cobalt blue. And I showed students a trick on how to get that pretty sparkle on the water and boats.

Next Zoom class will be mid February 2021. Maximum 10 students. Sign up to my mailing list to be in the know.