Friday, April 20, 2018

A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down Series now available in prints

These artworks are available as high quality prints on 310gsm Hahnemule paper. The printed area is approx. 200mm x 200mm (8" x 8") done with Epson inks by a Dunedin gallery.

Titles from top left to right:
- Pohutukawa Percher, Manuka Slumber, Grandad's 40 Winks, The Wood Cutter, Blue Wellie Snoozer

$45 per print + postage/packaging

Friday, March 16, 2018

March To Your Own Beat

I’ve always loved Donkeys, I think because they look like a Great Dane dog crossbred with a Hare. Long jowls, long ears, big deep eyes. They look muscular and powerful, yet soft nosed and fluffy eared; cute enough to cuddle. 

Donkeys seem to be an intermittent recurring theme for me. The first Donkey I ever met in person was on a farm in Switzerland about 10 years ago and he was so solid looking I was actually too scared to get too close. I kicked myself later that I had been such a big chicken (but I suppose that was better than being kicked and then laughed at by a chicken). He was very interested to know who was visiting and he hung his log-like head over the fence to investigate, and he was just so beautiful.

Seven years ago I began spending serious time making illustrations and I found an artist online from Texas called Matt Duffin (link to Matt's website here). I loved the dark clues and the symbolism in his work....and then there were the Donkeys. The cowboy Donkey,

... the Donkey folding his underwear 
(entitled "Tighty Whitey")...

...the Donkey at the podium, the Donkey with his head in a heart was won.

Four years ago we put in an offer on a big old wooden house in Dunedin. On the lounge wall was a small painting of a Donkey. I asked the real estate agent if the vendor would sell the painting with the house (as he was leaving the country and I’m sure he wouldn’t need a Donkey would he??). The vendor said no. I decided then and there that one day I would paint my very own Donkey.

March 2018 I painted my first Donkey. My Donkey stands on a drum wearing a brass band hat. He’s not tap dancing or playing percussion with a drumstick. He is unsure if he fits in the show. He thinks he ‘should’ go along with it but his heart isn’t in it and so his body stands still while his mind runs elsewhere. He is “No Show Pony”.

"No Show Pony"
Acrylic On Canvas 410mm H x 205mm W

Monday, January 29, 2018

Gold And Skullduggery – but no pirates….

Dunedin – the capital city of New Zealand, well….er…nearly! 

Beginning in the 1860’s there was a gold rush in Otago and Dunedin became a bustling city of traders and bankers. Much of the historic architecture in Dunedin city has quite intricate details and ornaments, an indication of the wealth that once existed here (think Lion's heads, King Neptune, eagles etc) cast in plaster on the frontages of hotels and banks).

As part of my “One Winter’s Night In The Woodshed” series I decided to paint a tribute to the gold miners. It was all hard labour in those days and they wore wide brimmed hats to keep the sun off their faces while they toiled with pick axes and shovels. 

Chinese immigrants were highly involved in the search for gold and they used traditional hand scales to weigh gold nuggets…and a bit of Opium too! In this painting one bird sleeps covered in gold dust holding a set of hand scales in his feet…or IS that gold dust…
...and is he actually ASLEEP? 

His neighbour doesn’t seem too impressed about his sideways lean.

I imagine there was a lot of skullduggery in the gold rush fields; diggers having to hide their nuggets hoping noone would rob them of their potential fortune before they got to the bank. One of my birds appears to calmly sleep while obscuring the fact he has...
... a rather large lump of gold beside him...

... that noone else has seemed to notice.

I like to do little project studies for my art to find specific information, and so I go looking through museums and in library books and Google random bits of information. Thanks to great displays at Toitu Early Settlers Museum and Otago Museum I was able to see old lanterns, picks, shovels, lanterns and crumpled up hats to paint from.

"The Prospectors"
One Winters Night In The Woodshed series 
Acrylic On Canvas
250mm H x 500mm W

Detail shots below:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Master Tomtit - An Evening Of Ruminating

Ahhh yes, the warm summer evenings, time to relax and reflect on the year past, think about what Santa Claus might be bringing for you, have you been a good birdy this year, why can you think better without your reading glasses on, why won't mum let you skateboard down the hallway, is there another biscuit in the tin...

Master Tomtit - An Evening Of Ruminating
18 cm H x 13 cm W
Acrylic On Canvas

I hope you all have the chance to slow down this Christmas, to sit on a comfortable perch with your cup of tea and daydream a while. 
Thanks to everyone who has joined me on my feathered flights this year! All the best for 2018!

Monday, December 11, 2017

A time for reflection - from the naughty seat?

We put up the Christmas tree last weekend - and I said what I say every year "next year I'm going to make handmade decorations for the tree" ...and I'm thinking little Kereru birds. What other bird would look great on a tree? (All of them, they all hang out in trees!?? Okay sorry, dumb question!)

Recently I've fallen in love with a new bird

... (a statement uttered by many a provincial man in Aotearoa at this time of year). Some birds are large and graceful in flight, some are slender with long curved beaks to pull nectar from deep flowers. The bird I have fallen for has a rotund puku (tummy), a tail which was an afterthought and toothpick legs. 

The South Island Tomtit is adorable. With their tiny stature and skinny noodle legs they just remind me of a small child; an innocent creature too small to fend for itself. And so, I have painted Master Tomtit sitting still on a wooden stool - perhaps the naughty seat where...

 he has been asked to reflect on his past behaviour

...and he is sitting patiently waiting for someone to take him home for Christmas. Do you have spare christmas pudding for a wee bird at your house?

Master Tomtit

Acrylic On Raw Canvas
175mm H x 125mm W

Monday, November 27, 2017

Birds of a feather snooze together...

The Piwakawaka (fantails) are having a hard time staying awake...its such a busy time of year!

Here are my two latest paintings in the "One Winter's Night In The Woodshed" series ( it all started here which then led to this....and now here we are)

I wanted to do a painting around us Kiwi's (New Zealanders) and our tall poppy syndrome or how we view those who try to be (or are) a bit different, or more exotic, than ourselves. So the raised eyebrow bird is in there thinking "what the?" about the feathery dood in the fur hat in this painting....
(close up detail from painting)

Not From Round Here
-One Winter's Night In The Woodshed series-
500mm W X 250mm H
Acrylic On Canvas

I also wanted to do a painting that was really fun and festive, but with a twist....all the 'party animals' are asleep...a comment on how I cant stay out all night any more perhaps? The Holderness family summed this up pretty well in this clip  (love those guys!)

Plus I really love Christmas fairy lights, so "Life Of The Party" was created....

Life Of The Party
-One Winter's Night In The Woodshed series-
500mm W X 250mm H
Acrylic On Canvas

(Sorry the photo of "Life of the Party has a lot of light glare off the black paint - some of these are tricky to photograph!)

We've been having summer weather down in Dunedin throughout November (probably means it will snow on Christmas day - it has once, seriously). This time of year always seems to go so fast and Im in the studio working on paintings for December and February deadlines - will give you sneaky peeks soon! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Tortoise Mother and The Mermaid Son

I'm off to a slow start this morning - feeling 100 years old. For a week I've been trying to coax my 3 year old son into being a sailor or a pirate for his kindy dress up day today - stripey shirt, ragged shorts - easy for mum. But no, he has been adamant for the entire week that he absolutely must be a Mermaid. 

We have no Mermaid things at our house. 

So, 6pm lastnight out comes the bag of fabric scraps... blue satin lining from an old skirt I had, a silver tank top I never had the courage to wear in public, green felt left over from gluing felt squares on the feet of my dining table chairs,....then I sew til midnight and this morning the son of an artist (alias slow tired tortoise mother) is an ecstatic Mermaid, and I mean crazy happy.  

Mermaid successfully delivered to a kindy full of whirling colourful characters, I am back in my studio finishing the shading on 2 fantail paintings (will post pictures up when they're finished - hopefully very soon!)

Coffee and cake will hopefully give me the zing I need to power through my work today (any excuse!). An angel (you know who you are) left that wee birdy coffee cup as a gift on my front gate one evening - really love it!! 

Must fly! Bird wings to tint.... 

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Portly Clumsy Drunk Paua Shell?

The Great Kereru Count of 2017 recently took place and to do my bit for the feathered fraternity I looked to the skies trying to locate our local Kererus. 

I became a danger to myself and others ...

...driving the car looking up at the power lines, and falling of the edge of footpaths gazing into tall trees and pockets of native bush as I walked. The risks involved were worth it because this bird is really lovely. I never knew much about Kereru before I moved to Otago, and in having them around constantly I've developed a fascination with them.

They are a hard bird to describe, but I'll give it a shot:

-  About the size of a Size20 frozen chook, the Kereru defies the odds in a way similar to a DHC4 Caribou aeroplane in that it looks like it shouldn't be able to fly because it is"portly".

- They always remind me of a portly matron or a nun with its blazing white bib ...but they also have a very small head.

- They are very graceful in flight in the same astonishing way my old scuba diving instructor glided underwater even though the ground shook when he walked on land and...

 ...his puku had cut off visibility of his nether regions...

... and feet for many years. When I get to see the display flight used in mating rituals I just stand and grin like an idiot because its so graceful.

- The noise made by a Kereru beating its wings is really loud; its the first thing that alerts you to its arrival. If you're not used to the noise you automatically duck expecting some giant bird of prey to swoop down and lift you off the ground by its talons.

- After hearing the beating of its wings you get to witness the most clumsy landing where for a good few moments you wonder if the bird is going to fall off the twig it has selected and be stuck upside down in the hedge for the afternoon. This is normal practice. And then there is the season when they gorge themselves on berries which ferment in their pukus... 

...and fall out of trees drunk as skunks.

- To my eyes the Kereru feather colours are a deeper, more saturated version of Paua shell colours. Just gorgeous!!

I have done so many paintings of the Kereru...and so why not one more!!  One of the trees they eat berries from (which result in much silliness and stupor) is the Karaka tree whose berries begin green and ripen through to lovely orange and yellow colours. 

I really wanted to capture the lush colours of the Kereru's plumage with the vibrant colours of the Karaka tree berries.

Kereru in the Karaka Tree

300mm W x 400mm H
Acrylic On Canvas

Saturday, September 30, 2017

“Manuka Slumber” from the “A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down” series

Where it all started.... "Manuka Slumber" was the first bird I’d painted on a tea cup. 

I'd heard the saying "A cup of tea and a lie down" so I thought I would paint a wee Fantail perched on a tea cup having a wee nap. I had no idea where the saying  came from but good old Wikipedia informs me it was actually part of an Australian advertising campaign for a medicinal product containing aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine; a 'mothers little helper pill'.

I had wanted to paint a cup that was beautifully coloured and uniquely New Zealand so I adorned it with the leaves and flowers of the Manuka. As kids our weekday tablecloth at home was a heavy cotton floral one featuring Kowhai, Kaka Beak and other NZ flowers. I found one of these in an Op Shop oneday and snaffled it up in a hurry!

“Manuka Slumber”

Acrylic On Canvas
200mm X 200mm

This artwork is available now as a quality print on archival grade 310 gsm Hahnemule paper 
for $45 each plus P&P. Print measures 200mm x 200mm and is titled and signed by the artist.

“The Woodcutter” from the “A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down” series

The woodcutter is the quintessential kiwi bloke in his 'swanny' and favourite woolly hat, perched on one of those old blue enamelled tin cups many of us had (and still have!) for camping trips or days outdoors. 

To me this fantail is the Uncle, the Dad, the guy next door, who every year spends a few days chopping, sorting and stacking firewood ready for the winter. Big burly blokes with little skinny legs who wield axes and tomahawks like the men of a bygone era. 

At the end of a hard days work doing firewood its time for a wee kip in the late afternoon sun…or snoring in the lounge chair halfway through the TV news!

“The Woodcutter”

Acrylic On Canvas
200mm X 200mm

This artwork is also available as a quality print on archival grade 310 gsm Hahnemule paper 
for $45 each plus P&P. Print measures 200mm x 200mm and is titled and signed by the artist.

“Grandad’s 40 Winks” from the “A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down” series

Oh look! there’s Grandad at the kitchen table in his tweed cheesecutter hat having a wee snooze after his umpteenth cup of tea. 

I never had a Grandad growing up, but I did have a fabulous old Uncle who was very traditional and wore a cheesecutter cap and braces to hold his brown tweed trousers up around his rotund puku. My Uncle taught me how to paint, to write poetry...

…and then there were the bugle lessons ...

– I never got the hang of that thing (I’m sure it was broken, despite him being able to pump perfect renditions of The Last Post out of it….I digress….)

Man, the cups of tea! It wasn’t abnormal to be given 8 cups of tea a day at my Uncle’s place, in crockery which was an assortment of Crown Lynn patterns and considered the precious things of the household.

“Grandad’s 40 Winks”

Acrylic On Canvas
200mm X 200mm

This artwork is available now as a quality print on archival grade 310 gsm Hahnemule paper 
for $45 each plus P&P. Print measures 200mm x 200mm and is titled and signed by the artist.

“Blue Wellie Snoozer” from the “A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down” series

This wee snoring Fantail (Piwakawaka) perches on the side of an original Kiwi rendition of the Blue Willow tea sets so many of us grew up with. 

Instead of the very oriental themed images on the Blue Willow cup, “Blue Wellie” has icons of Wellington NZ – the Beehive and Parliament Buildings. A Kereru swoops in the air above Kowhai trees and Manuka flowers. 

Remember those shimmery silky tablecloths with the floral print? If anyone spilt something greasy (think 1970’s roast meat gravy) Mum would shoot you a look that could kill! 

The Blue Willow tea set only ever came out on special occasions and as a kid you knew that the likelihood of cake was very high on those days.

“Blue Wellie Snoozer

Acrylic On Canvas
200mm X 200mm

This artwork is available now as a quality print on archival grade 310 gsm Hahnemule paper 
for $45 each plus P&P. Print measures 200mm x 200mm and is titled and signed by the artist.

“Pohutukawa Percher” from the “A Cup Of Tea & A Lie Down” series

Those beautifully shaped bone china cups – lovely to look at, impossible to hold...

(cram your fingers together and don’t raise your pinky finger as this is 
considered bad etiquette! Gasp! What will the neighbours say?) 

This little Fantail (Piwakawaka) is quite demure with her tiny feet clutching the delicate cup handle gracefully as she nods off (one too many cakes perhaps?).

This shape of tea cup was traditionally painted with old fashioned roses on it but I wanted to make a more Kiwi version of it so I painted it with bright Pohutukawa flowers.

“Pohutukawa Percher”

Acrylic On Canvas
200mm X 200mm

This artwork is available now as a quality print on archival grade 310 gsm Hahnemule paper 
for $45 each plus P&P. Print measures 200mm x 200mm and is titled and signed by the artist.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Flights of fancy cups and fantails...

Where did August and September go? ...and why is everyone already using the big scary "C" word (and I saw christmas lights for sale at Bunnings the other day - Stop!!). I've been flat out painting the past few weeks and took part in the first ever "Dunedin Art Show" along with my fellow artists from the Otago Art Society.

(fuzzy weirdly coloured photo taken on my cellphone)

I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who came to talk to me at the show and/or chose artworks of mine to take home. It was a really great experience seeing other people connect with what I had created; I am very grateful...and inspired ...and still grinning like an idiot a week later :)

After selling my first group fantail painting a couple of months ago someone told me about a photo that appeared in the Otago Daily Times of a large number of fantails all huddled together on a wire trying to keep warm. I Googled it last week and found the original video clip on YouTube from 2015 shot during a very cold storm. So for your viewing are the little cuties right here...

Apparently it is only Fantails/Piwakawaka that have this habit of huddling together.

Here are 3 more group paintings I painted during August/September:
 (These are actually all the same colour palette but my photos 
were taken on different days so the lighting looks different 
for each one)

Each painting is 500 W x 250 H  Acrylic On Canvas

                                        TOP:  "Winter's Cozy Cuddle Up"  SOLD

                                        MIDDLE: "Piwakawaka Pom Poms"   SOLD

                                        BOTTOM: "Knitting For The Nesters"  SOLD

"Winter's Cozy Cuddle Up" is a couple snuggling together getting a dubious look from their neighbour...maybe because of the snuggling, or maybe because you're not supposed to wear your hat to bed.

"Piwakawaka Pom Poms" was a bit of fun with hats; incorporating local rugby team colours and Edinburgh tartan...and a historical pointy nightcap in gorgeous green.

"Knitting For The Nesters" is an idea I had that all of the birds could share one enormous scarf...and in this case no ordinary scarf....for at the far left is Dr Who (Tom Baker era of the 70's) who owns that scarf. Ahhh the good old days, when robots on TV were made out of cardboard boxes!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lying Down Standing Up?

While doing the sketches for the fantail painting "One Winters Night In The Woodshed" I got hooked on the idea of cute sleepy little Piwakawaka's perching all over the place. 

I'd heard the saying "A cup of tea and a lie down" so I thought I would paint a wee Fantail perched on a tea cup having a wee nap. I had no idea where the saying  came from but good old Wikipedia informs me it was actually part of an Australian advertising campaign for a medicinal product containing aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine; a 'mothers little helper pill'. 
The saying has since been used in all sorts of situations like famous quotes by Australian politicians and its the title of an album by NZ band the Able Tasmans too.

But this time...its a sleepy wee birdy having an afternoon nap after a nice hot cup of tea...

A Cup Of Tea And A Lie Down
Acrylic On Canvas
20cm W X 20cm H (8" X 8")

And so tomorrow I begin another sleepy Fantail painting...this time an outdoorsy type...will let you know how that goes!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Being Part Of The Big Picture

One of the really cool things about the internet is how it can connect us to people and events all around the world. A group in Vancouver Canada are running a project called "The Big Picture"where they take drawings from all over the world and make one large picture out of it. 

Search by name or country or keyword, and each picture comes with a small commentary written by each artist. Its so interesting getting an insight into other people's lives

                                     ....maybe Im just nosey HA!

...certainly a great way to spend a few hours on a rainy day. Click the link to go to the website The Big Picture Project

Here's the picture I submitted, you can search for it online with "Gabby Mckenzie" or "New Zealand":

I am seriously going to Canada oneday, seems like a fabulous place. Meantime I will have to tell myself Im famous there with my funny drawing :)

Only one month of winter left in the southern more month of comfort food and hibernating.

Hungry now??

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

One Winter's Night In The Woodshed....

One Winter's Night In The Woodshed....

....its the title of my latest painting. I read somewhere that Fantails (Piwakawaka) huddle together in sheds to sleep during winter nights so they can survive the cold by sharing body heat (usually they nest only in twos), and I thought 

"how cute would that look!".

Of course it gets really really cold down in Otago so Im sure the Piwakawaka wear woolly hats and scarves too....or at least these ones do!

 Acrylic On Canvas
 25cm H x 50cm W  (10"H x 20"W)

When I was trying to come up with a title for this painting a fellow artist suggested I call it "Where's Wally" because of the red and white striped hat :)

Where's Wally?
(spot the disapproving look on the other bird's face...Fantails are not supposed to wear their hats to bed!)

This painting is headed for the gallery at the Dunedin Railway Station for the annual Edinburgh Realty Art Awards opening early August. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Snow flurries and fantail snuggles

It snowed overnight in Dunedin blanketing everything in shiny white. I love it when it snows, it makes everything glint in the winter sun looking so serene.

(View from Mornington across the harbour to Vauxhall with Highcliff hills in the background)

While its so cold spare a thought for our birdy friends and put out some seeds or fruit. You know food is getting scarce for birds when a giant Kereru lands in your young twiggy kowhai tree to chomp off the young leaves. I really thought he was going to snap the branches off.

And here's a sneak peek at the fantail painting Im working on for the upcoming Edinburgh Art Awards at Otago Art Society...

Work In Progress...still a few feather spots to do....and feet! Flyers need feet!

The exhibition opening is Friday 4th August at the Dunedin Railway Station. It's usually a big opening night so pop along and join the fun! :)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Just another day in paradise...

Finally I can show you my latest bird painting. It was a special commission for special top secret birthday present.  Now the cat is out of the bag ducks have waddled forth?....  heres a picture of it:

300 W x 150 H (12" x 6") Acrylic On Canvas
SOLD - Special Commission Piece 

These gorgeous birds have so many different colours in their feathers that I lost count of the tints on my palette. Because my favourite colour is orange I just love the russet coloured feathers that are very dominant in the female bird.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When tweeting gets you in serious trouble!

Well winter certainly has arrived in the south of the South Island. The mercury drops pretty quickly mid-afternoon and my latest muse arrives in the garden. My current bird inspiration is the Fantail "Piwakawaka". Their high pitched little tweet is very endearing as they flit about on a crazy loopy flight path.

According to Maori mythology this cheeky laughing tweeter woke Hine-nui-te-po (the goddess of death) who then caught Maui in the act of trying to eradicate death for humanity.

I bet he was really peeved when he got busted, 

...but probably forgave the Fantail coz he was so cute....or not, he was up to some serious business.

Tīwaiwaka (fantail)

The fantail has 20 or 30 different Māori names. As well as tīwaiwaka, it is commonly called pīwakawaka, tīwakawaka or tīrairaka. In one tradition, it was the fantail that caused Māui’s death, so it is a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house. A fidgety person is described as a fantail’s tail, because of the bird’s restless movements.                                          (Text courtesy of:

So the thing about making birdy artwork is that you have to learn to draw the birds. This is all new to me and some days I sit there with pencil and eraser drawing lines.... which get darker... and wider... and altered slightly...and then rubbed out completely...and the whole process begins again! For anyone else who is considering learning to draw birds its probably a good idea to familiarise yourself with the steps of the process (provided're welcome!)

Statements Involved in the Bird Drawing Process:

1st Statement (professed aloud to my 2 cats who nod knowingly): 

"This is going to be SO cool"

2nd Statement (muttered under breath 1 - 6 hours from starting): 

"Sh*t I can't do this, this looks like crap"

3rd Statement (said aloud to inside of kitchen cupboards 6-8 hours from starting): 

"Surely we have some chocolate in this bl**dy house!??"

4th Statement (spoken in baby-talk voice to pencil bird on piece of paper 8+ hours): 

"Awwww aren't yooou bewwwdifuuuul little birdy!"

A few times I've been standing on the back lawn and a Fantail has danced around my head tweeting right in my face within reach. I've asked it to land on my arm but it just flies around and around tweeting at me very loudly. 
It's a really lovely exchange and I was wondering if it was some sort of earthly spiritual connection until a friend told me that when I walk I stir up midges and insects so it would be following me for food. 
How deflating! ...

I have been demoted from "Earth Mother at peace with all creatures" to "Bird Food Rouser", Ha!

Well I'll let you know how I get on with this fantail painting project :) Meantime, remember its winter and the birds in your garden really appreciate a few seeds and birdy treats to get them through.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Surfs Up Little Tawaki!

Just finished this wee chap "Westie"the Fiordland Crested Penguin also formally known as 'Tawaki' in Aotearoa NZ.

His bleach blonde head stripes reminded me so much of the surfie guys with their unruly sun-bleached hair. Just like a surfer Westie is awesome navigating the surf around the western coastline of the South Island. He doesnt really need a surfboard as his big shiny white puku (tummy) is great for surfing on.

Westie the Crested Penguin
Acrylic on Canvas
20cm H x 15cm W (8" x 6")

Unfortunately he's on New Zealands endangered species list. The culprits for the 
declining population are stoats, dogs and humans disturbing their nest ...

(which freaks them out and they don't return home again to feed their young)

... they also get caught up in fishing nets - heartbreaking stuff! For more information on 
the Fiordland Crested Penguin go HERE