Although travel is one of my favorite pastimes, I have to admit that New Zealand was really never at the top on my list. I had heard tales of how beautiful it is, but the long plane flight kept me from exploring the idea any further…until this summer.
My youngest son was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the fall semester abroad in New Zealand where his ‘classroom’ would be in ‘the bush’. Suddenly, I found myself escorting my son to “The God Zone” or “The Shaky Isle”…quite apropos for our beginning destination of Christchurch, NZ had just suffered the now infamous 7.2 earthquake! In fact, upon our arrival we experienced a 4.5 earthquake that very morning!
The nickname, “The God Zone” derives from the saying, “God’s Own Country.” This term was first used to refer to New Zealand by the writer Thomas Bracken in a poem he wrote in the 1880s. After my visit, I now understand why he named it as such…
First of all, I was surprised to find out that this country is BIG…the size of California! Plus, New Zealand is diverse. Within a few short days of driving we saw wide green pasture lands, snow capped mountains, sandy beaches, lush temperate rain forests, ancient glaciers and majestic fjords. The flora and fauna is so unique yet remotely familiar. It looks like Banff Canada on steroids!
“The Remarkables” stand high above Queenstown where I enjoyed my morning run each day.
We crossed 5 small rivers to make our way to the rare Fiordland Crested Penguins…
We hiked into this beautiful beach to watch the reclusive penguins…
After hours of patience, my first glimpse of the shy penguin!
A baby seal watched us with curiosity.
Finally…another penguin makes his way past me (I was hiding behind a big piece of driftwood) to his nest. What an experience!
I had high hopes of plein air painting everyday, but the weather didn’t cooperate and it rained a lot! Most of the painting had to be done while sitting in the car with the windshield wipers on…In fact, New Zealand was experiencing fierce weather that was very uncommon for this time of year – but, that did NOT stop my fun!
The view I was painting…
Luckily, I planned ahead and brought some very small painting supports. The above little painting was painted in water-soluble oils on a thick watercolor paper postcard. I gessoed the watercolor paper which actually made a great ‘canvas’ for my painting. I was able to quickly capture the essence of the scene in about 15-20 minutes without worrying about detail.
…another quick sketch from the car.
Endless pastoral settings – The south island of New Zealand has 10 to 1 sheep per person!
Here I am high above Queenstown with ‘The Remarkables’ mountain range behind me.
PS. The above little plein air ‘paintings’ are really more like ‘sketches’…quickly recording a moment in my travels that I will never forget. I am glad I dragged my painting gear along with me even though the weather was challenging and the time was limited.
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