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.