Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Look who just waddled in to say Hi!

Introducing the Whio (Blue Duck) who is an endangered New Zealand bird...

Acrylic On Canvas 
20cm W x 15cm H (8" x 6")

Because he's a bit shy he mainly hangs out in the fast flowing parts of rivers in mountainous areas so we don't hear about him much. He's a hoon on the rapids (why else would he own a kyak??).  He's a one woman man who helps guard the nest which is built on the ground - not great when theres predators around (stoats and other such furry losers)...and that's why we're losing them.

To read more about Mr Whio (first name "Terry" unconfirmed at this point) go to this page HERE.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Waddling Into New Territory

There's something about a duck painting. Ive always liked them when Ive 
seen them in other people's houses jammed in a row up the side of the 
hallway door. Nature portraits. Not a feather out of place. Mallards,

yikes! 1990's flashback of me ordering a "Fluffy Duck" at a bar!??

Ducks are sort of reagal and quaint... but also hilarious with their puffy 
chests, short legs and kitchen spatula beaks. 

Im not the only one who finds them funny... here's my son at 4 months old absolutely losing it (quacking up??) watching the ducks at the park...

New Zealand's native Whio (or Blue Duck which is actually grey, someone 
explain that one to me ) is endangered and he's a bit of a hoon when it 
comes to white water rapids. 

Mr Whio is my current painting challenge/learning curve. 

                                              SO here are my first pair of duck legs... far so good...

Theres 2 days left to go in the 2017 Wild Dunedin Festival. Anzac Day will be a good opportunity to get out and participate in some of the local events.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Butterflies and Cats Whiskers?

Its a very foggy day in Dunedin today...rubbish for many things, but it provides great flat light for photographing artwork!

A few more Monarch Butterfly brooches now finished and ready for sale ($35 each + P&P).

I paint these using a brush just slightly larger than a cats whisker (both of my cats "Gavin & Colin" will verify this) and take almost 5 hours to hand paint. My 0000 size brushes wear away so quickly that 

I actually started collecting my cats whiskers 

whenever I saw them around the house thinking I might paint with them oneday! Sustainable art practice??

Approx size is 75mm W x 35mm H.

Message me on FB or go to if you're interested :)

Monday, March 20, 2017

A cuff round the ear ...and a trick involving a box

If you look at photographs of the New Zealand early settler women many of them look hard as nails and very unimpressed with life. They'd give you a cuff around the ear and a tongue lashing you would never quite recover from.
Coming to a new country and living in the amongst the bush in makeshift tent houses would have been hard  yakka...

..and then there were the bugs that became your bedside friends....

My painting entitled "The Settler" is a two sided idea; on one hand this woman is the early settler  in her long Victorian dresses forced to live amongst the strange insects of Aotearoa in damp unhospitable housing; and on the other hand she is a mother who settles babies to sleep, perhaps even the powerful force that is 'mother nature' who gathers up her beloved creatures and protects them.

The Settler
Acrylic on Canvas
540 H x 375W

Now showing at the Otago Art Society's "Off The Rack" exhibition at the Dunedin Railway Station. The Exhibition Opening is Wednesday 22nd of March at 6.00pm...all welcome.

Detail of NZ Insects


Over the years I've changed how I do a painting. The best way I've found is to paint in the base layers of each coloured section and then work each section up in layers. I do the highlights and finishing touches across the whole painting last.  

I find that by blocking in the colours on the whole canvas it means you can gauge how your colours/highlights/shading are working together and it tends to avoid a lot of rework. 

Years ago I used to paint one section of the painting until it was completed and then attack the next section which led to all sorts of hideous stuff ups as I wasnt able to cross reference colours and highlights.

Example of "The Settler" painting at each stage (apologies for bad lighting in these photos!)

And lastly....THE BOX TRICK for getting your pencil drawn image onto your canvas very quickly....

I've spent years trying to draw grids on my canvas to copy a drawing across at the right scale and its so painfully show and frustrating as I was stoked when I found this clip on YouTube: 

To save you some time, learn from MY mistakes.....make sure you only use a clear glass bulb in your lamp (not frosted) AND make sure the plastic you draw your image on is also clear (pages out of an old clearfile are perfect for this).  If your light bulb or your plastic sheet is frosty/obscure then you wont see any image projected.

Have a good week everyone! :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Guiding Light of Taiaroa

I've set aside my scary spider drawings for the past week to get a landscape painting done for the St Leonards School exhibition (Opening night Friday 24th of March at the St Leonards School Hall at 7.00 pm - All Welcome! Drinks & Nibbles & Art - what could be better on a Friday night!!)

On the Otago peninsula is a lighthouse sitting on the edge of Taiaroa Head. Its rugged cliff faces jut out into a wild bit of east coast ocean. It has an albatross colony, and a visitor centre, and a historic fort which is all highly publicized ....AND a whole lot of early Maori history that is quite hard to find! 

My digging led me to this guy (don't let a bad haircut fool you - this guy is switched on!)  

...and a brief biography of his life  (bit of bedtime reading?).

And so here's a painting with a stormy wild cold ocean, a gorgeous lighthouse preventing ships from running aground, a limb of warm land stretching out to the russet sky, and a story of a man.

"The Guiding Light Of Taiaroa"

Acrylic On Canvas 
680 W X 300 H

 ***  NB:  Another place I've been trying to locate on the Peninsula is "Tarawei's Leap"  - if anyone knows where that place is exactly drop me a line! There's so much amazing history around the Dunedin area but trying to piece together the story with the actual location is quite tricky.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My mouth has gone dry....and... I can't breathe...

Being an artist gets kinda weird sometimes because you come up with these hair-brained ideas about what you're going to paint and then you begin a strange research process. 

Firstly Ive got to say I'm terrified of spiders. They gave me nightmares as a child, and shrieks as a grown woman. As part of my latest idea I am having to sit and learn to draw a Katipo spider from a book of NZ creatures. 

His legs are shiny, his multiple knees (??) are spindly and smooth....BLURGH!!! 

My mouth has gone dry,
 my skin is prickling...

(better not be anything crawling on me!) and I'm supposed to sit here and stare at him until I've drawn all of his creepy little bits in perfect proportions....ewwww ewwww ...ewwww!

The hilarious thing is the mighty Katipo spider we were all warned about as children is a whoppingly pathetic 8mm in size. I seriously thought they were going to be 40mm at least just by their dangerous reputation.

Next my research takes me to marvellously gorgeous yet totally impractical fashion from the Victorian era.

(Photo courtesy of Victorian & Edwardian Fashions For Women 1840-1919 by Kristina Harris)

I'm pretty sure that's whats running through her mind as her bone corset crushes her vital organs into minute steaks.....but isn't the jacket beading absolutely stunning??
Can you imagine being a NZ settler woman moving to the damp muddy bush country of Aotearoa in heavy skirts (the women in skirts guys, not Aotearoa) with spiders and wetas running up your skirt in the night time? They weren't a wussy bunch that's for sure.

Next up I have to figure out how to draw a head turned sideways with a front-facing body....and so then comes the selfie...complete with fuzzy hair!

It is then I find out how hard it is to stand facing forwards but turn your head sideways and still be able to look at the camera to check you're not photographing the ceiling. Obviously I'm not as stoic as a settler as I'm complaining about having to turn my eyes sideways! 

More HB pencil, scraps of paper and hours of erasing and I get this...

So this painting project is keeping me very busy at the moment....will post an update of how the painting is going very soon.

In my next post I'll also share with you a fabulous hack for getting your drawn picture onto a canvas (or a wall!) that I wish I'd known ten years ago.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Do your glass windows have wings?

You know its windy in Dunedin when an old wood framed window takes flight of its own accord! Luckily no broken glass, just some very squashed little trees which should come right with a bit of a talking to and cooing from a deranged gardener :)
Speaking of things that go FLYING....these hand painted Monarch butterfly brooches are now finished and ready for sale. 
Now available for sale $35 NZD each plus P&P.    Only 4 available now!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mice Gnawing At Your Dreams

On this day (Valentines Day) 3 years ago my son Sam was born at 6am in the morning. Three years have flown by - and I haven't gotten any older (stop sniggering!) 

So the annual twilight vigil in the kitchen happened lastnight. About 6 cups of sugar became a vision of wildlife and rodent cuteness. I finished (or gave up) at 3am this morning, had a shower and went to bed.  

Fifteen minutes into sleep I awoke with a terrible realisation....I had forgotten Maisey Mouse's tail! (Staying up really late heightens your sense of paranoia and dread making you slightly irrational).

This years cake is done and dusted. Happy birthday my favourite little man!

In case you thought the black-legged thing beside her was a tarantula....its her favourite toy Panda....

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

You're The Apple of My Eye

In the heat of summer (yes that’s right New Zealand, that two days in late December) you’ve got a hankering for a bite that’s sweet and crisp….maybe even chilled from the fridge…gasp!

Growing up in NZ we had the baked Granny Smith apples stuffed with dates and cinnamon; the stripey rose blushed gala apple (the staple of every school lunchbox); the deep magenta red of the Red Delicious with its knuckly bum (weird! - but Im right arent I??); bobbing for elusive apples at school gala days; and not to forget the mystery apple concealed under toffee (which was kinda growse if it was mushy and bruised – but hey, we only wanted the toffee anyway ay, and why couldnt they triple dip that sucker?).

Does anyone else remember their parents telling them that if they ate an apple core an apple tree would grow out of their head? I was terrified!

I think the coolest name for an apple variety is a Peasgood Nonsuch but my favourite apple is actually the Fuji – its HUGE and crunchy and slightly tarty (just like me - yes I AM crunchy).

So heres to summertime and the apples of your childhood. 
Hang a little sweetness on your ears.

The Apple of My Eye

Hand drawn illustration on acrylic medium.


To order email me at:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to change your worst habits for 2017....or not!

How did your New Year's resolutions work out so far?  I vowed to drink more water every day and 25 days into January I'm now drinking an average of one glass per day instead of the one glass per day I used okay.....its a work in progress!?? Change is hard ay, and water is boring - it would be no problem if it was coffee ("I must drink more coffee in 2017. Whoopeeeeeee!")

"So  there it is, I have a drinking problem".

There are so habits I cant change, and one of them is writing lists. I am CHRONIC. There I said it.  I have "To Do Today" lists, and "What I Got Done" lists, a shopping list, lists of things to fix, lists of things to build. I have lists stuck on the fridge, in my diary, on bulldog clips, on scraps of paper all through the house. 

SO, now there is THIS guy......


Stanley has aspirations. He is excited by the 
prospect of a new beginning....
BUT... he just CANNOT change.

He must accept his quirky habits are part 
of his uniqueness. It's a good thing!
I mean, its not smoking right??

Get your quirky on!!

(example of actual size)

Stuck Stanley earrings 
Hand drawn illustration on acrylic medium.

For more details email me at: 
or via Gabby McKenzie NZ Artist on Facebook 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Who lives in Canadia?

These lovely locals sold and are off to Canada! Have a great trip guys...take me with you!!! (I've always wanted to go to Canada :) )

There was that one embarrassing moment in school where I uttered aloud something about Canadians coming from Canadia. I would like to go and apologise to the people of Canada in person. And YES, that is a ploy to get me to Canada.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

All A Flutter with the Monarch Butterflies

I was trying to think what I could make for a christmas present for a friend who is butterfly mad. I painted a Monarch Butterfly brooch....and I liked them so much I made more!

I hand cut each shape from a polymer vinyl and then spend 4 hours hand painting in the details with acrylic paint. They do take a long time, and they're not going to make me rich, but I love them to bits! They're bright and breezy and fun to wear....and it helps that my favourite colour is orange :)

Sizes and shapes vary a bit due to the hand making process. The patterns are all slightly different making yours a unique one-off. Approx size 75mm W x 35mm H.

$35 NZD each plus postage

Monday, October 31, 2016

Abundant Yellow Inspiration...and the 30 hours that follow...

Down in the deep south the Kowhai trees are in full bloom now and the trees are heavy with glorious yellow flowers. 

I started taking photos of the flowers, which led to drawing the flowers, which led to drawing a tui....and then 2 weeks of mad-midnight-mummy painting to produce this: 

Tui In The Kowhai

Acrylic On Canvas

30 cm x 30 cm
FOR SALE  $325.00 NZD

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Flight Of The Kereru

My obsession with the Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pigeon) continues!  If you ever get to live in an area where these gorgeous birds reside you will no doubt also develop a deep affection for them (even if they eat your Kowhai tree half to death and leave it looking like a beaten twig).

The  2016 Great Kereru Count has just ended in New Zealand. I only recorded sighting three of them as I've spent most of my time indoors with a cold in the last week or so. Usually I see them every day that Im out in the garden. I've even had a conversation with one!  They try to initiate conversation with other Kereru by making an "oooo-o!" sound that rises in pitch at the end (sounds quite funny really). A Kereru was sitting on the power line about 3 metres above me but facing away from me. It said "ooo-o!" so I said it back. This happened 4 times in a row and then the bird turned and looked at me....and I swear if it could have rolled its eyes it would have.

This painting shows 3 stages of the display flight of the male Kereru which typically happens at the start of a nesting phase.  The bird flies up high into the sky until it is vertical with its wings outstretched and then plummets downwards again and flies away.

Flight Of The Kereru

Acrylic Paint on Canvas
65 cm W  x 25cm H

(Currently part of the Otago Art Society's Spring Exhibition Sept - Oct 2016
Exhibition Opens 30th September)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Heriot Row, Dunedin

Dunedin is such a stunning city for its heritage buildings and architecture. 

One day recently I was driving around town and turned a corner to find this row of old houses. I absolutely love how the different styles of house are wedged up together in the same street like little doll houses. I just had to paint these!

Many of these wonderful houses are in a fairly run down condition, so I paint them in the colours I would choose if I owned them and give them a new lease of life...if only in the art world.

This painting is part of the Spring Exhibition at the Otago Art Society in the historic Dunedin Railway Station building in October (exhibition opens Friday 30th Sept).

Heriot Row, Dunedin, Otago

Acrylic Paint on Canvas
30cm X 30cm
$295.00 NZD

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Plight of the Kakapo

The 2nd in the series of 4 bird paintings I am working on.

The Kakapo is a New Zealand native bird that is struggling against the threat of extinction. They are a nocturnal bird who are not prolific breeders, and remaining numbers are small.

In this painting I have tried to set the bird in his natural environment at night time but stepping out of the dark to be lit by a lamp commonly found in NZ homes. He is stepping into the limelight so that we can know him and fight for his survival. 

I see the male Kakapo as an old man who wanders the forest floor; a dear old gentleman who is unable to defend himself from predators.

Kakapo Stepping Into The Light
Acrylic on Canvas
15cm W x 20cm H

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Flight of the Rifleman

I adore native birds and we have so many stunning ones in Aotearoa. 

I've started a series of quirky paintings where the birds feature with props or settings that tell the viewer something about their habits/personality or history.

This is the first of the series = The Rifleman.  Others I am working on are the Whio, the Kakapo, and the Yellow-eyed Penguin.

It is thought that the name 'Rifleman' came from the similarity between the green of the birds plumage and the uniforms of the rifle regiments from the colonial era. 

The Rifleman is carrying a Lee Enfield rifle which was used in New Zealand in the Land Wars/Musket Wars against the Maori people. Here I have put a native bird of New Zealand armed with a rifle flying high above the land. Maori eventually came to own these rifles to defend their position on their land.

Acrylic On Canvas
20cm W x 15cm H

(Currrently featured at the Otago Art Society Gallery Shop)

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Wishing Tree

A couple of years ago I drew a tree in pencil on a really rough surfaced canvas. I never wanted to paint over the pencil image and it took me a while to figure out what to do with it.

I decided to paint in a magical night time scene with birds and a fairy so that the figure of the tree would seem other-worldly .

The Wishing Tree
Acrylic & Pencil on Canvas
55cm W x 30cm H

I really like how the fairy lights came out looking a bit vintage, and that the owl is a bit grumpy looking as if he's saying "what are you looking at??"

But I think the fairy needs to have a makeover as her face looks a bit crumpled and old. I'd prefer her to have soft rounded features that glow with a greenish tinge....and maybe have a nose that isnt so huge!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This is a series of 7 little 10cm square paintings I started over 5 years ago that got shelved as we relocated from Auckland to Dunedin. 

I rediscovered them while unpacking some boxes a few months ago and still felt that these people needed to be painted. They have a reflective sadness about them showing past troubles, yet the fact that they stand upright shows their strength to continue on.

Acrylic on Canvas
For Sale Individually $55 NZD each or as a full set $285 NZD

Top Row SOLD

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kereru Swoop - Flight of the Kereru continues

My second Kereru painting for the month of January.  The birds must know Im painting them as a flock of 9 Kereru flew over our backyard on Saturday. Ive never seen so many in one place at the same time. On Sunday one flew right up the narrow side of the house past the windows at speed - gave me a bit of a fright as I didnt know what it was at first! (Drone??) These birds can get up to 50cm in length so they're quite large.

Kereru Swoop
Acrylic On Canvas 25cm x 25cm 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm Not Ready

Here is my latest artwork completed just in time for the West Harbour Arts Charitable Trust Art Auction in September at Port Chalmers.

I wanted to mix some illustration work with painted images and see if I could get a retro feel to the work. The boy is drawn on brown paper and the paint colours are mustard and aqua blue.

Mixed media on board
24cm x 24cm

Here I'm asking questions such as:  - how many of us are not ready to change from what is familiar but still feel external pressure to do so?  - how many of us would rather jump into the blue with our eyes firmly closed rather than openly admit we are not ready to? - are some of us never ready and spend our lives never quite making the leaps and instead remaining stagnant? - And if we were to always wait until we are fully 100% ready to change, would we ever reach a stage of being fully ready?

I can also relate to this image because I myself am afraid of heights and I have crouched in the same apprehensive way on the end of a high diving board when I was young - and ultimately chickened out!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

St Leonards School 2014 Art Exhibition

Well its that time of year again when local artists support the wonderful school at St Leonards in their annual exhibition.
Here is my entry for this year of a local place known as Tunnel Beach.

Mixed media (acrylic, paper, oil pastel) on canvas
300 x 300


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stafford Street Dunedin - Miniature painting No.3

Its been a productive week in the land of tiny is number 3 of 4 paintings of houses on Stafford Street, Dunedin, Otago.  I do miss having paintings with a sea/landscape view, but these old houses are quite majestic on their own too.

10cm x 10cm (4 inches square)
Acrylic on Canvas

Stafford Street Dunedin - Miniature house painting No.2

Here is the second in the series for the miniature paintings of houses on Stafford Street....I could do every street in the city and create my own painted version of GoogleMaps!  ...but given it takes me 10-15 hours per painting I wouldn't finish it in my lifetime.

10cm x 10cm (4 inches square
Acrylic on Canvas

Friday, August 30, 2013

Stafford Street Dunedin - another vintage miniature

Well, its taking a long time: these works are tiny and take many hours with a brush that is about the size of a toothpick ... I have started another set of 4 miniature vintage street paintings. This time all of the buildings are along Stafford Street in Dunedin. Here is the 1st completed painting.

Acrylic on canvas
10cm x 10cm

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Zealand North Island Pied Fantail

This is my latest illustration in my bird series. This is a native bird to New Zealand - the North Island Pied Fantail, and they are gorgeous little birds with squeaky little voices who fan out their tails and tilt their fanned tail about like a geisha posing with a fan.

Watercolour & Ink
15cm H x 18cm W

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Woebot series continued.... "Shiny Dancer"

Watercolour & Ink
20cm H X 12cm W

The final in the Woebot series....maybe....I think I may be addicted to these guys!

Cards going to print tomorrow and will soon be for sale online! How exciting!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Woebot Series continued - "Unrequited Love"

Love is blind....this wont end well...

Watercolour & Ink
20cm W x 14 cm H

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Woebots - The Robot Who Forgot

....a handpainted card for a long overdue birthday card....hopefully its cute enough to get me off the hook!

Watercolour & Ink
14cm x 7cm

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What has he been up to? alec....has he filled the sugar bowl with salt? apple-pied your bed?  hmmm.....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The stand off.....

A couple of days ago when I actually had time to sit back and sketch I just couldnt even think of something to draw. Sometimes you spend your days thinking "if I just had time to do more art"...and then when you get a whole afternoon the mind goes blank, the pencil rolls off the desk in a sulk, leaving you staring out the window like a zombie wondering whats for dinner (do zombies actually wonder whats for dinner? surely its the same meal every time?? - hmmm, maybe that was a bad metaphor...or a meat-aphor ...I digress)...

Sweet Thing - It's a monster candy sale - this week only at Illustration Friday!

Yet another question I asked in our household this week "If you were a monster what confectionery would you eat?"  - they're starting to look at me weird this week, too many questions, must remember not to verbalise these thoughts in future.

For Illustration Friday's theme "sweet" I bring to you - "The Monster Candy Sale!"

Ok, so its not a Monster Sale....its a pretty small pathetic sale... but it is Monster Candy - annnd its on sale! (drum roll please....pleeease?)

Watercolour pencil & ink pen
16cm x 8cm

Monday, May 27, 2013

The distant future (the year 2000) = Robots!

Outer space has crept into the inner space of my mind this week. Rather than robots who are shiny, perfectly manufactured and emotionally void, my collection of robots are a bit emotionally insecure and badly designed.These guys aren't about to revolutionize how we live or protect us from intruders ....