The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
It's looking like we'll have a good weather window on Friday or Saturday. Departure is getting near, the boat is well-provisioned and leak-free (for the moment anyway), and all that stands between us and French Polynesia is a load of laundry, a last shop for vegetables and rather a lot of sea.
I started drawing places I'm saying goodbye to. It's the people who are important, but the places are all tied up with the memories of the special souls I go there with and so it seemed a good way to approach leave-taking. So I've been sketching Pacific Bay and Schnappa Rock, a great little restaurant here in Tutukaka, and remembering fun sailing trips, swimming, post-dive beverages with Jill and delicious birthday dinners.
Then along came Brian Butler. He's teaching a class on Sketchbook Skool this week, and shared lively sketchbooks filled with busy drawings of concerts and road trips. He collages images together and paints enormous murals on the side of buildings to celebrate the communities he's painting in. His style is different and original, and you can find him at www.theupperhandart.com/. He challenged us to draw our own collected images of our favourite places. It seemed a perfect way to remember them and say goodbye.
His quirky style got me thinking, and gave me permission to be silly. (Why do I feel I need permission to be silly in my artwork? I don't have much problem being silly any other time. Does it all stem from the art teacher who just never got my drawing of the whale weigh station?). The result was an exploding Rangitoto spewing out Auckland landmarks, my running shoes, wine from Mudbrick vineyard and coffee from the shop across from the school where I taught. It's totally daft, it didn't matter that I can't draw a straight line and I had a whale of a time playing with bendy perspective. If I ever redraw it, I'll try so I'm looking into the volcano. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I was finished, I started drawing a fish-eye view of the Poor Knights. I challenge you to see how many fishy puns you can find.
I used coloured pencils, which take a lot of layering but are very relaxing to build up and blend. I wasn't happy with the first shark I drew on the Poor Knights, so obliterated it with a cooler version in Posca pen. One of those mistakes that turns out for the best- I like the solid colour on the textured coloured pencil.
There may be more towns and regions to come- it's certainly a great way to reminisce! I'm not so sure about trying to create a mural a la Brian- I'm not much good with ladders- though I could always decorate the side of the boat!
I've posted my more sensible watercolours down below too (pretty happy with how the shadows are working out- a big thank you to Natalie Renotte on the Sketchbook Skool Facebook page for her advice on the dark foreground Schnappa Rock sketch)- now I'm off to distort some of the beaches on the Tutukaka Coast,,,
We've been back in Tutukaka with Island Prism for a couple of weeks. Jim's been working on fixing our leaky water tanks whilst I've been relief teaching at the school in Ngunguru- a welcome top-up to the cruising kitty! Once we get overseas, working becomes more complicated- generally we travel on tourist visas meaning that paid employment is forbidden. One of my boat tasks at the moment is checking that our visa info is up-to-date. Things can change quickly, especially the world's current political climate, and it's worth keeping on top of things, though immigration websites are not always the easiest to negotiate. Thank heavens for art to help me relax!
I've been going back to the sketches and video I took on our trip out to the Poor Knights a few weeks back. I'd love to go out there again, but Prism is stuck here until the water tank repairs have cured and we can fill both tanks (we're currently surviving with our smaller 20 gallon tank and are very thankful of our proximity to the marina!).
We haven't seen marlins in the water- just being hauled out at the game fish club. They are very tasty, but also incredibly beautiful, so it makes me rather sad. I brought the one above back to life, using some of the trophies inside the club as inspiration.
We've also been lucky enough to see Owha, the leopard seal. Normally they hang around the Antarctic, pestering penguins and being generally fearsome. Owha is enjoying a northern summer, first in Auckland and now on the Tutukaka Coast. She's been visiting the marina, and paid a visit to Island Prism whilst we we anchored in Pacific Bay. Very exciting- she's a beautiful creature- but we won't be swimming for a while!
I've been continuing practicing with my brush pen-I'm enjoying the way the style is working. I tried to use it for the textures on the rocks on the paintings of the pinnacle and the stream of knifefish below. It took a lot of concentration, but ended up feeling quite meditative as I tried to use the very tip. There seems to be a single hair that sticks out a little- it's a bit annoying but seems to be useful for very fine work!
I've been putting together an Etsy shop and think I'll put a few of these in there- more details to come but I hope to get it finalised over the next few days. I've been a bit hesitant over selling my originals- I think my inner critic gets a bit chatty, even though I've had my Redbubble store for a while now! But I've started to feel sorry for them just being filed away on the boat, so hopefully a few of them will find some loving homes!
In the meantime, I think I'll add a few more to this series- I'm playing with some compositions involving rays, so we'll see how those turn out! Plus continuing to get the boat ready- we have a month and a half left here in NZ before the big adventure, and I see that painting the cockpit has been added to my 'to-do' list!
My idea of heaven would probably be a sketchbook that I could use underwater. But then you'd never get me out of the sea. This is one of my post-dive day sketches from out at the Poor Knights. I'd love to get out there again but boat maintenance has been getting in the way (on the plus side, the cockpit lockers are much more watertight).
We have, however, been round to beautiful Whale Bay, wandered up to Tutukaka Reserve and lazed on lovely Matapouri Beach. I've been learning how to use my Wacom tablet with Photoshop via Skillshare and preparing some more designs for Redbubble. We'll eventually drag ourselves away, I'm sure, but this is a wonderful place to be.
Yesterday we took Island Prism out to the Poor Knights with our friend Gines. He kindly brought along some dive gear, and we spent a couple of hours diving and snorkelling Blue Maomao Arch. It's named for the thousands of blue fish that hide under the arch- at busy times it feels like a highway as a seemingly endless stream of fish makes it way in! The turquoise light shimmering through the archway created dramatic silhouettes of rock and fish. The rocks around the arch were also very interesting, but the rocky passage was the star of the show.
The demoiselles and black angels were having a field day as a feast of sea gooseberries and plankton streamed by on the full moon tides. Red moki, pigfish and Sandager's wrasse added pops of colour. Emboldened by the fishing ban in the marine reserve, a school of 30 kingfish cruised through the open water, and three took up temporary location under Island Prism.
I couldn't sketch under water (though am now debating whether a dive slate and pencil would do the job), but I got lots of photos to work from!
Christmas in Tutukaka was lovely. We spent Christmas Day with our friends Karen and Alex, their daughter Tilly and Karen's parents Jean and Ian. In true Kiwi fashion, we lazed in the sun and shared a magnum of bubbles whilst helping Tilly construct Lego planes and supermarkets. Lunch was roast lamb and an array of delicious salads, dessert was a pudding-shaped rocky road with cherries, maltesers and marshmallows, and a splash of white chocolate over the top. We made sure to brush our teeth well that night!
Boxing Day saw us raising the anchor and taking Prism out for a spin amongst plunging gannets and wave-skimming petrels and shearwaters. We didn't get too far, but returned to Rocky Bay for lunch. Karen, Tilly, Ian and I braved the water for our first swims of the season. Refreshing may be the best word for it- it certainly washed away a few cobwebs, and the sun warmed us up enough to get ice cream from Lickety Split afterwards!
We picked up provisions from Whangarei (grocery shopping isn't called grocery shopping when there's a boat involved). Back in Tutukaka, Karen and I explored the treasures in Toot Sweet and the Tutukaka Gallery. The gallery is well worth a look if you're in the area- it's currently full of incredible work by local artists Steve Moase, Paul Duflou and Shane Hansen. I tried to convince Jim that Island Prism NEEDS one of Shane's beautiful bird cushions from Toot Sweet, but he invoked a two cushion policy on the boat. I'm not convinced, and will be pulling out the Island Prism rule book to verify this. And hey- I'm the captain, I'm allowed to change the rules!
Art-wise it's been a few days of watercolour washes and Lexington Grey ink in my Noodler's nib creaper. Lots of blues, greens and pale ochres on this sun-drenched piece of coast. With Christmas over and provisions purchased, it was then time to head farther north, so we said a temporary good bye and turned the wheel towards the Bay of Islands.
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.