Art · Mixed-media · Nature

Painting at the Beach

For several years now, I have enjoyed watching the English TV show Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. Each week, contestants, consisting mainly of amateur painters, with a few professionals, are taken to a different outdoor location and given a few hours to paint the landscape as they interpret it, whether it be a castle, a bridge, a river, or even a field of lavender. There is always such a diverse range of styles and mediums, and many of the final paintings are amazing. I have often thought what fun it would be to pack up a bag of art materials and go somewhere quiet to just sit and paint.

A few days ago, my husband had a day off work and we decided to take a drive out to Waimarama Beach, a 40 minute trip in the car. After days of sweltering temperatures in the 30s, it had dropped to the low 20s and was much more pleasant for spending time outdoors. We packed a few art essentials – watercolour paints, brushes, pencil and eraser, a little container of water, a rag, and some watercolour paper. Also, of course, some snacks for nourishment.

Being a week day, the beach was deserted and we had the whole shore to ourselves, apart from a couple of other people walking their dogs.

The rock sticking out of the water is Bare Island. It provides a safe haven and breeding site for blue penguins.

Finn had a wonderful time chasing sticks, digging in the sand and running in and out of the lapping water.


We found a log that was perfect for sitting on and we draped a towel over it to provide some shelter from the sun for Finn.

I painted what I saw, then, when I got home, I added a few paper embellishments to break up the expanses of sand, sea, and sky. I took the liberty of adding a lighthouse to Bare Island because, well, it just looked like it needed one.

It was a fun day. Although I could never compete with the talent of the Landscape Artist of the Year contestants, I have a unique piece of art to add to Finn’s scrapbook album, along with the photos, to remember the day by.

While watching the Landscape Artist of the Year shows, I was particularly inspired by one of the contestants, Helen Hallows, whose mixed media art combines paint, collage, and stitching. You can see her art on her website here. Helen has published a set of four charming little books, one for each season, that are filled with her nature-inspired art and her thoughts on nature. They are lovely little books that I pick up often to browse through and be inspired.

Floriography · Flowers · Mixed-media · Nature


I have always been fascinated by floriography or language of flowers, in which a list of meanings was given to flowers to convey sentimental thoughts or secret messages to the recipient of the bouquet. This was especially popular in Victorian England and was used a lot on greeting cards during that era and for some time afterwards.


I have begun to make my own little book of floriography using pressed flowers from my garden, but have decided to use only the flowers that have nice sentiments attributed to them rather than those whose meanings detract from the beauty of the flower, such as begonia – dark thoughts, foxglove – insincerity, or lavender – distrust. I want my book to be a little garden of happiness and serenity.

I am using a spiral-bound mixed-media book to allow plenty of room between the pages for bulky embellishments.

These are the first of my pages…

A little arrangement on my work table of leftovers.







A Favourite Walk

Park Island is one of our favourite places for walking Finn. Before the Napier earthquake in 1931, Park Island was a cemetery with access by a road formed across the Ahuriri Lagoon. After the earthquake caused much land to be lifted above sea level, the island became part of the mainland, and today Park Island consists of the old cemetery, as well as a newer cemetery, sports fields, an archery range, and lots of walking tracks. It is a lovely walk along the stream, through the trees, and over the small hills. Finn loves swimming in the stream that runs down one side, and there are always other dogs for him to socialise with.

park island 3

I love walking around the old cemetery. The weathered headstones hold so much history and it is fascinating to read the names engraved on them, many of which have fallen out of fashion and sadly are no longer used today. There is a sense of peace in the graveyard, surrounded by many lovely trees. A row of evergreen Italian Cypress trees were planted down one side of the graveyard to symbolise everlasting life, and there is a fabulous old yew tree, which, according to folklore, wards off evil spirits and protects the dead.


I love the areas where wildflowers and grasses are allowed to grow untamed.

With the temperatures reaching into the 30s the past couple of weeks, Finn is grateful for a swim in the stream.

Archery range

As well as pine trees and eucalyptus trees, there are lots of native trees planted all around the grounds. With their berries, fruit, and nectar, they attract native birds such as tui, bellbirds, fantails, and the occasional kereru (New Zealand wood pigeon).


We often go for a walk around Park Island after tea, when it is cooler. It is a pleasant way to walk off our dinner and wind down at the end of the day.