Thursday, 7 April 2022

autumn sneaks up on us

Glendhu Bay from Rocky Hill, Lake Wanaka

It seems like we've just had the best summer anyone can remember in years and years! Hot, sunny and the best thing for me - almost no wind :-)

And now the beautiful weather continues and the trees are changing colour and it's hard to believe that autumn is settling in. It's still warm enough to swim in the lake most days, but the days are getting shorter and there's a definite nip in the air in the mornings. Plein air outings are now being planned a tad later in the day.

I'm definitely a spring person. Autumn can bring an anxiousness about winter approaching. But with the beautiful colours I always forgive it for the message it's carrying. Besides, you know I can't complain, because autumn means thinking about our exodus to the northern hemisphere really, really soon, where spring awaits!

It's rosehip season. Looking up Stevenson's Arm, Lake Wanaka

Autumn poplars along the Clutha River, Albert Town

The one lane bridge, Albert Town

Autumn, Penrith Beach, Lake Wanaka

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

we painted pretty old barns & ruins


Old barn and old windows - my demo paintings from my recent online course

What a wonderful 3 weeks painting my favourite subject and sharing it with 16 hardworking folks from around the globe.

Week one we covered storytelling in our paintings and then we painted the mid-distance view of this beautiful old barn in a field of white and yellow flowers. That's my demo painting above, and here's some of my students paintings below. Amazing hey?!

Old barns - student paintings

Old barns - student paintings

Week two we covered how to paint interesting shadows and then the techniques for paintings bricks and stonework, painting the two little windows you see in the top photograph.

Then week three was compositional theory! Well, a tiny introduction to that. Ending with this glorious sunset scene...

Old ruined house with beautiful sunset. Watercolour demo painting by Renee Walden.

Ruined - student paintings

Look at those wonderful student paintings! A whole lot of wonderful colours from all parts of the watercolour palette and not a single indication of mud at all :-)

What's next?
Right now I'm packing to head to Spain and then onto France. I'll continue to teach online from some wonderful locations and I hope you can join me. As usual you will find out first if you join my mailing list. Then at the end of June I'll be guiding a 10-day plein air painting retreat in the south of France. Only 3 spots left for that - more details here.

Next post from Spain!

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

upcoming online course - barns, huts, cottages, ruins


Online watercolour painting course with Renee Walden

My favourite subject - rustic, old buildings in rural settings. I'm always imagining the stories they could tell, if only they could speak. They're filled with character, and are so much fun to paint.

Join me in this live, online mini-course where we will paint them in pen and watercolour.

There will be 3 lessons, each 3 hours long. We will cover...

- Painting textures ... stonework, wood, rusty tin, and bricks.
- Setting the scene with trees, fields and flower-filled meadows.
- Painting interesting shadows that compliment your building. These can turn an average painting into something great.
- How to draw buildings accurately.
- A bit of compositional theory and how to tell a story with your painting

Class dates …
Sundays, 13, 20 and 27 March, 9am New Zealand Time.

UPDATE : Course is full :-)

Monday, 28 February 2022

it's always better together - out and about in february


Mount Gold and the Clutha River from Albert Town

I'm lucky enough to belong to 4 different painting groups now, so there's always someone to paint with. It seems to me that as an artist I have a tendency to be rather a loner. My head is full of ideas and projects I want to tackle and I've got lots of places I want to visit to sketch or paintings I want to do in my studio. If I wasn't careful, I'd be seeing nobody at all except my husband and dog!

But creating with others is wonderfully special and always so inspiring. There's nothing like everyone painting the same scene with completely different approaches to spark something new and exciting in my brain. And time spent talking art, art supplies, art business, art, art, art is always so refreshing - hanging out with folks who know exactly what makes your heart go pitter-patter.

So, not a week goes by without me meeting with others for a sketching session and I'm incredibly grateful to my painting buddies for being there and supporting each other.

Here's some images from out and about this month. Some with my painting buddies, some with just David and Zulu. Every single image holds memories of the place, but even more of the people who were with me.

Old baches, Taieri Mouth

Historic Mitchell's Cottage, Fruitlands

Hawea Playgroup - the old Hawea Flat Post Office

Alpine Tarn, Upper Wye Creek

Friday, 25 February 2022

art retreat france , june 2022 - change of date


10 day painting holiday in Southern France with New Zealand artist, Renee Walden

We've had a change of date for this year's French painting retreat. We're now going from 28 June to 7 July - summertime :-)

There are only 3 spots left!

For more information please visit this page and get in touch with any questions you might have.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

it never rains but it pours

The old jetty on Lake Wanaka high and dry with the lake really low. Late Jan 2022.

One of the fun things about sketching outdoors in sketchbooks is documenting the same place again and again. Sometimes I can go back to older sketchbooks to see the same scene in a different season or from a different angle or with different people or animals in the spot. But these two sketches of the old Lake Wanaka jetty didn't need a big timespan between them. They're only a week apart!

Above, the jetty high and dry after a couple of months of no rain and the lake incredibly low. Then, below, a week later after a couple of days of wonderful rain and the lake had risen 1.5m :-)

One week later and the lake 1.5m higher. February 2022.

Friday, 4 February 2022

2 years between sketches - it makes a difference


Stewart Cottage painted in 2020 and 2022

Visiting the Bannockburn Sluicings is such a treat. Especially a visit up to old Stewart Town, because you know how much I love old stone buildings.

I was up there recently with a couple of sketching buddies and I was there almost exactly 2 years ago with another local artist. When I got home this year I pulled out the 2 year old sketchbook to have a look at the difference. It's one of my favourite things about sketchbooks, being able to track your progress as a painter and to relive the memories of previous outings.

It's interesting to me how much more relaxed and free my sketches seem to be now. For me it's especially noticeable in the sketch of the Bannockburn Sluicings below. I don't think you'd describe my watercolour paintings as loose (I have abstract acrylics for that!), but I can certainly see a growing confidence in my approach when I look back at the same scenes from 2 years ago. Plus, it's really obvious to me how much difference the 100% cotton paper in my new sketchbooks makes.

I highly recommend sketchbooks for this type of reflection on past work. You may think you'll keep the old paintings in a drawer somewhere, but in my experience I'll often tip those into the recycling in a fit of studio cleaning. Not my sketchbooks though, I'll always have those to go back to.

PS - someone online asked about the trees in the 2020 sketch above. They're 100 year old pear and greengage trees, and don't worry! They're still there. I just left them out this year in a flurry of artistic license, giving the Vipers Bugloss place to grow and the cottage room to breathe. 

Bannockburn Sluicings - 2020 and 2022

Monday, 31 January 2022

summer in central otago - out and about in january


Vipers Bugloss and Californian Poppies, Gladstone Gap, Lake Hawea

We've had a lovely start to the year with absolutely gorgeous weather - sunny days and no wind. Perfect for local outings with my sketchbook and sketching buddies. Here's a few snaps from January.

All of these sketches are done in The Perfect Sketchbook from Etchr Lab. They're pen and watercolour. Pen is a Lamy Safari with either DeAtrementis Document Ink or Rohrer & Klinger Sketch Ink. Waterclour is Daniel Smith. Brushes are Escoda Perla and Versatil.

View towards Mt Gold from Waimana Beach on Lake Wanaka on a hot, muggy day.

Little boats on the shores of Lake Wanaka, just waiting to go out and play.

Historic Bannockburn Sluicings - totally man-made, but stunning anyway.

Historic Stewart's Cottage, Bannockburn

Mount Brewster, Aspiring National Park

As always, you can follow me on Instagram if you want to see more of my sketchbook outings.

Monday, 24 January 2022

upcoming online course - perspective in practise


Perspective in practise - online painting course with Renee Walden

Every good watercolour painting of an urban scene starts with a good drawing. In most art books you'll find a whole section explaining the theory of linear perspective, but these 'rules' can be confusing or sometimes even downright impractical in practice.

Join me in this 3 lesson online mini-course where I'll explain the theory and then give you guidelines of how to put the theory into practice. We'll work from photographs, but I'll also explain how you can approach a scene when painting on location.

There will be 3 lessons, each 3 hours long. In each lesson we will...

- Start with some theory. I'll provide you with notes you can printout and keep.
- Then we'll draw a scene together putting the theory into practise.
- Finally we'll paint our scene in pen and watercolour.
- After the lesson you can send me your finished painting for feedback and ask any questions you might have thought of post lesson.

Class dates …
Sundays, 30 January, 6 Februay and 13 February, 9am New Zealand Time.

UPDATE : Course is full :-)

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

we painted aoraki / mt cook


Aoraki / Mt Cook - watercolour demo painting by Renee Walden

Last weekend I had 20 wonderful people from all over the world join me in painting New Zealand's highest and most iconic mountain - Aoraki / Mt Cook. We painted it from one of most gorgeous vistas with the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki in front.

Above is the demo painting I did and everyone followed along via Zoom. Look at some of the incredible results below...

Student paintings - Aoraki / Mt Cook in watercolour

I think you can tell how much fun we had :-)

Next online course is a 3-lesson, weekly class on the big topic of perspective. Starting soon. Those on my mailing list are invited first, so if you'd like to be in the know, then please add yourself to my email list here.

Thank you Peter Burdon on Unsplash for the wonderful reference photo.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

mountain hut in watercolour - step by step

Watercolour postcard of Colin Todd Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park.

It's been ages since I did a step by step painting. So here's a little postcard with a  view of Colin Todd Hut in Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand. I worked from a photo I took way back in January 2012 when David, Alexis and I climbed Mt Aspiring - one of my favourite adventures of all time. 

I tried to take each photo when the paint was still wet. That way you can see the colour just as I laid it down and then the difference in the next shot with the paint dry.

Let's go!

Step 1 - sky

Step 1

I tape the postcard on all sides to a stiff piece of card and then draw the scene lightly in pencil. For the drawing I concentrate on getting the hut fairly accurate and in a good position for a nice composition - the hut is my focal point.
I wet the whole sky and all of the background hills with clean water and then paint the sky. I use Ultramarine Blue for the top of the sky and Pthalo blue towards the horizon and over the back hills. This will give my scene a lovely sense of depth.
I wait for this to dry fully before going on to step 2.

Step 2 - far away mountains

Step 2

Using Indigo and a fairly large brush I start by painting the rocks and shadows on the furthest away mountains. Using a big brush means I'm unable to add tiny details and the marks will be loose and free. The mountains furtherest away have a watery mix with almost no pigment and I increase the saturation as I come forward - still keeping these mountains very light. I add a little Ultramarine Blue onto the snow for some shadows. 
I let this dry.

Step 3 - closer ridge

Step 3

For the ridge closer to the hut I add a bit of Burnt Umber to the Indigo and make a more saturated mix. I still keep this very light and use a big brush. I paint some areas in Indigo, and some in a Indigo / Burnt Umber mix, allowing the colours to merge softly. I still don't want any detail in this area, but the addition of the Burnt Umber to the mix will bring this ridge forward in front of the other background mountains.
I let this dry.

Step 4 - foreground snow and rocks

Step 4

For the foreground rocks I use a mix of Indigo, Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna. I pop the Raw Sienna just along the tops where the sun is catching and then vary the rest of the rock area with Indigo and Burnt Umber. I want this area of rocks to have a lot more colour variation than the back hills and more saturation. 
I add a few shadow marks to the snow on the glacier in the foreground using the Ultramarine Blue and Pthalo Blue that I used for the sky.
I let this dry.

Step 5 - rock crevices

Step 5

I change to a slightly smaller brush and work some detail into the foreground rocks adding cracks and crevices. I first start with a very light grey/brown mix of Indigo and Burnt Umber and then while this still wet I darken some of the marks. I also tease out some of the wet strokes to make very fine marks. The idea here is to vary the cracks in colour, tone and detail, while concentrating on following the form with your strokes. Nature is very random and it can help to look carefully at your reference photo to see what direction the cracks are going and how they vary in size and shape.

Step 6 - the hut

Step 6
For the hut I change to a tiny flat brush and block in each of the red sides. I use a combination of red colours and a bit of Paynes Grey to give the hut a weathered look. I add a touch of dark colour along the bottom of the walls and roof to give them weight.
Using the sky colour I paint the windows and the air vent chimney.
I let this dry thoroughly before the penwork in Step 7.

Step 7 - penwork

Step 7
Finally I add fine pen markings to define the hut. I use a combination of dark brown, black and white ink to bring the hut into focus. I add a title and sign the postcard. 

All that's left to do is seal it with an acrylic spray varnish, add a note, address and stamp and let it wing it's way to someone special.

Happy painting!

PS : on Sunday 16th January 2022 (15th January for some time zones) I'll be doing a live online class where we paint a far more detailed New Zealand mountain scene.  Classes are small and intimate and so much fun. Why not join me and paint along? Details here.