Dec 9, 2013

Volkwagen Kombi at the beach

About two more weeks until lots of people (and most businesses) shut down for up to a month. Combining Christmas, the New Year and plain old Kiwi summer holidays into a concentrated dose of serious time-off. But why wait? That's what weekends are for.

Nov 10, 2013


As a kid, there was a helicopter that you could see in the air from time to time. It was this one, combined with re-runs of M*A*S*H, that led me to believe that all helicopters were basically exposed steel frames with a clear bubble cockpit. As I got older, the TV show, Airwolf, pointed out that not all helicopters look like this. Even though it was a modified civilian helicopter, it looked very cool and modern compared to the basic and skeletal Bell-47. Fake rocket pods, other attached film props, and visual & sound effects made it even better.
So here I am, decades later, sketching a helicopter, that still looks a lot like Airwolf. While the TV star was a Bell 222, this one before me is an AgustaWestland AW109. Even years ago, as an avid watcher of the show, I had to look that up. The overall body-shape is very similar, and to me, it's close enough. When I was reading about it on the internet, I read that the actual vehicle in the series had a brief stint as a charter helicopter and then, in Germany, also became a rescue helicopter. Unfortunately, it crashed on its way back to base after an otherwise successful mission when it was caught up in a storm. While it is a risk here that an accident could happen too, this one has very safe specifications. After all, the response team here is a very capable crew piloting 2 decades of flight technology improvements, such as GPS and night vision. The real stuff this time... not TV trickery!

Oct 6, 2013

Amusement Park Rides

This week a bunch of us gathered to have a look at some amusement park rides that were set up on a patch of grass by the sea. Even though it was predicted to rain this weekend, it was very sunny and there were lots of people. While some of the others were drawing the rides, I thought that it was the people, especially the kids with ear to ear grins, that make something like this really happen.

Sep 29, 2013

Security Pipe

To get to the New Plymouth Marina, you would need to go out on one of the breakwaters at Port Taranaki. About halfway out there is this weird security gate. It really is just a large pipe with a closed top and two sections cut out of the sides to make a couple doors. As I was drawing it, some boatie arrived at the front with a couple of bags to take on board his boat. He put them down and unlocked the door. He then picked up the bags, entered and closed the door behind him. From my point of view, I could barely see the gangway on the other side that leads down to the floating wharves. It gave me the impression that he was entering his tiny windowless apartment or that this pipe has some sort of Doctor Who Tardis quality where it is much roomier on the inside.

Aug 15, 2013

Metro Plaza

The Metro Plaza is a pretty cool old-timey building that goes unnoticed. The two trees that I drew in this sketch are actually in front of the words, "Metro" and "Plaza". By moving them out a bit, you can now see the retro features, such as the type and the strange half circle design feature (which I am guessing to be made of steel). Also, it has oddly prominent front double doors that comes out of the upper floor. Stairs comes down on BOTH sides of the awning in case there is tons of people that need to get to safety in extravagance. It seems like a stage set to me where a musical could be performed.
At the bottom is an arcade with shops (not the kind with Pac-Man) that lead to a parking building. I remember that there used to be an American-themed bar in there that was closed once because it was a New Zealand public holiday. Still, other pubs were open and I though it was weird that an American bar wouldn't be open for the Super Bowl, which was the same day. Well, today it isn't there.

Aug 11, 2013

Te Henui Cemetery

The old part of the cemetery is far more interesting than the newer sections. The older graves have a sculptural quality to them, each one having their own look. Cemented sections with established trees are placed up and down the hilly bit and not always in rows. The new parts are just straight lines of headstones with wide gaps of grass. I was sitting in a terraced area with angled rows that mimicked the original topography of the hillside. I also noticed that most of these headstone use fancier (sometimes scripty) type than is commonly used on newer headstones.
Last time I was here was two years ago and below is the sketch (and a digitally coloured version) from then. While I was there I noticed a headstone for the Viking Lander out of the corner of my eye. (The 1970's Mars Mission?) Surely, not! At the very least, wasn't it on another planet? (I explain it better on my other blog.)

2011 Sketch
2011 Sketch - coloured

Aug 8, 2013

Nissan Micra's Big Day Out

I actually came here to sketch the intersection. There was a street bench with a nice view up the hill that I had scoped out the day before. On the day, a Nissan Micra was parked right in my perfect view. (I guess there was no car parked here the day before.) 
So I thought, if this car was, say, a Maserati I would have no trouble starting my drawing. I thought, even though this car isn't an extreme luxury auto, it could be someone's treasured little car. Maybe it even has name (like Rupert, even)! 
So in the end, I decided to show this little runabout a little love and feature it right in the middle. He's probably really enjoying his day out in downtown New Plymouth. 

Jul 14, 2013

Tropical Fernery

Warm winter sketching in the tropical glasshouse of the Fernery in New Plymouth.

Jul 10, 2013

Poles & Signs

Now that's it's winter, the priorities of an urban sketcher seem to change. To me, when it's cold and wet, shelter becomes more important than finding that perfect view. It also helped that I was ordering warm coffees by a fireplace watching everyone else get cold.  At first I wasn't sure if I would want to draw out the window here. But then, as I watched the damp people shuffle around, I noticed all poles and signs from the window and decided to give this one a go. Also this building seems a bit art deco in a way but has modern shops with large glass windows, a glass top corner and glass overhangs. I wondered if this is an older building with modern renovations or a modern building with old-timey details.
I also remember the time that a tornado ripped up this street and shattered the overhangs among the rest of the street's debris. I was working near here at the time of the tornado and can still clearly recall the slow walk up this way just after if happened. This area became a bit like a movie scene where someone fought off some aliens or robots.

Jun 30, 2013

Reo Moana

I pass these art deco apartments as I cycle to work most days. They have a Māori name, Reo Moana. Reo meaning language or voice and Moana meaning ocean or sea. I you lived here you would be able to see and, maybe more importantly, listen to the Tasman Sea.

Jun 25, 2013

The Top of Town & the Bottom of Town

New Plymouth's main shopping area runs from the top to the bottom of a hill. Shops at the top are said to be 'at the Top of Town' while those further down the street are 'at the Bottom of Town'. Radio and newspaper ads for businesses in between are described as 'on the hill'. Although it seems a little weird, I can't imagine how else you can describe it.

(If you are looking at the sign and wondered who won, New Zealand beat France 24-9.)

Ships in the Port

I thought this ship had a reasonably interesting name... Fortune Hero!

May 28, 2013


Last weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to sketch inside the hangar of some local aviators. There were three Yaks, 2 de Havilland Vampires and this L-39 Albatross which is a Czechoslovakian jet fight trainer.
Originally, I though we were going to draw just the Yaks which are Russian propellor planes. When I found out that there were jets there too, I had an ear to ear grin and could have happily sat in there all day and sketched. It was just us and the planes with permission to walk around the building and look inside the cockpits. When we left were were offered the chance to come back again. I wonder how long we will be able to resist?

May 5, 2013

At the edge of urban - Part 2

This is a sketch of some people at the Taranaki Poultry and Pigeon Club Annual Show. In some ways this feels like the edge of urban sketching since it's a bit farm-related. Still, there are two things make me think that it still qualifies.
Firstly, it is held in a town hall and this is a reminder that all centres in the province of Taranaki are still dependent on farming (in different percentages) to keep the economies running smoothly. And secondly, I've heard that New Zealand has a rule where no birds or eggs are allowed into the country to prevent an exposure to bird flu - so the varieties and breeds that are here need to be well managed. It's also (maybe as a result) starting to be more and more common for someone to keep some chickens on suburban properties. I'm mentioning this since in quite a few places in the urban world, keeping animals like this is probably illegal.
A fellow sketcher even purchased a couple that were for sale to add to her existing coop. As a buyer, she had quite a selection to choose from. There were all types of chickens and pigeons with a few ducks as well.
It makes sense to integrate the rural into the cities since they maybe aren't that separate anyway.
(At the edge of urban - Part 1)

Apr 28, 2013

House & 6-Car Garage

I'm mildly fascinated with the fact that this is a small BP gas station and also a house. A newly built set-up would have no accommodation and way more pumps. (Isn't this kind of thing dangerous too?) I wonder how much longer a place like this can exist as it is in our sometimes over-regulated and high-profit world.

Apr 21, 2013

Apr 6, 2013

Road to the sea

I'm looking down the hill of Brougham Street, through central New Plymouth and out to sea. With sailboats on the horizon and passive pedestrian shoppers, the light cool breeze feels like the end of summer. The Wind Wand sculpture seems like it wants to be just another sign or street light from this angle. And there are lots of signs and lights here directing the traffic. There's way less Volkswagens this week, now that the big VW show is over but way more Porsches and Ferraris.

Mar 24, 2013

House with character

Murray Dewhurst, from Auckland, has a pretty good streak going on the old New Zealand villas lately. (In particular, this post.) This week's subject was one of the Taranaki examples of these type of houses. While most villas aren't this large, this specimen is certainly a worthy challenge. This one took about three hours on location and maybe another hour and a bit to clean up my lines at home. These types of houses have lots of detail.

Mar 10, 2013

Small bridge in Pukekura Park

Just a quick one of the small bridge in Pukekura Park near the Boat Shed. (By quick, I still mean about an hour!)

Mar 3, 2013

Citroën cars at Adlams European

I'm not really a car person. I also pass by this building quite regularly but have rarely really looked at it. The other day though... I guess I just looked up while passing it. In the window among much newer models is this old-timey car. It always faces forward like it hates being in there and wants to escape to the road again. After sketching the building, I asked permission to draw this classy roadster. The owner and staff were very welcoming as I sketched. I actually learned a lot about Citroëns while I was there! In particular, the car that I was drawing is a 'Big Six' (6-cylinder) variant of a Traction Avant (which is French for 'front-wheel drive'). I guessed that the car was a 1940's model. I was wrong; it turns out that it was made in 1954! Being no expert, I am used to 1950's cars being big American cruisers. It occurred to me that France didn't come out of World War 2 as affluent as America did. One of the effects of this is that France just kept making the same cars and didn't have extra money for new fancy designs. (The first Citroën Traction Avant was built in 1934!)

As I sketched and chatted, I discussed the 2CV and the legendary Citroën DS. Just before finishing, I noticed that the discussion was less about the specifications of each car and was more about anecdotes and driving stories involving each car. Maybe this is what being a car person is... less about the facts of owning, driving and tinkering these vehicles and more about how they change and become part of your life.

Feb 10, 2013

Regent Buildings

These are the Regent Buildings on the corner of Devon and Queen Streets in New Plymouth. As I was sketching this one I noticed that it said Regent Buildings (as in more than one) across the top and wondered why, since it just seems to be the one structure. I later found out that the building behind it (to the right in the sketch) used to be called the Regent Theatre. I think I accidentally drew both of the Regent Buildings!
Today, the Regent Theatre is now the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery which specializes in modern art from New Zealand and Pacific Rim countries. This other building (showing prominently in the sketch) is due to be demolished later this year. The Art Gallery starts construction on a large additional wing mostly dedicated to kinetic artist Len Lye. It is a modern design with a wavy stainless steel surface.
In a way, it won't be another case of tearing down an old building to put up something new. Since it's going to be physically connected to the previous Regent Theatre, it can be thought of as a severe renovation of the Regent Buildings and that they will continue to live on.

This is another sketch that I did just over a year ago from further down Devon Street. The Building that says Red Cross on the top is part of the planned gallery expansion but I don't believe it to be one of the Regent Buildings.

Feb 3, 2013

Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park

I went into the Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park. It was a great weekend to be at the beach. A camping spot here on a weekend like this would be uncommon, just metres from the beach.
I'm finding the weather lately a little too hot to function normally. I sketched this trailer (caravan) while sitting in the shade. Even then I almost found it too hot to concentrate. To make matters worse, I forgot to bring my swimming trunks too. On my way home I picked up some ice cream and promised myself to go back to beach the next day - properly. So today was just as hot but I was ready this time and brought my bodyboard too. I stayed in there riding wave after wave until I was sick of it. I purposely left my watch at home.

Jan 25, 2013

Devon Street - on the hill

Under the shady trees on Devon Street - Lunchtime sketching on hot summer days. 

Jan 13, 2013

Festival of Lights

Every year, the city of New Plymouth lights up Pukekura Park with coloured lights and displays. It's called the Festival of Lights and happens every year. Each night for 6 weeks there are different entertainment acts such as musicians and outdoor movies projected onto a large screen. Admission is free to all shows so this central park is quite popular every night that it isn't raining. 
To the left is my original ballpoint pen sketch and last one for 2012.

Jan 6, 2013

Coastal Walkway - The start of summer

Original drawing before colouring

This is from November on one of the first summer-like days of this season. I didn't post this one at the time since the original seemed to be missing something without the colouring.
For those people that haven't been to New Plymouth, I'm sitting on some steps leading to a pedestrian bridge (over railway tracks) that connects the central commercial area to the coastal walkway. This walkway runs for several kilometres in both directions.

Jan 2, 2013

Gill Street, New Plymouth

Sitting under a palm tree in Puke Ariki landing. Behind that partial wall is a stream that runs through the CBD. The trees on the other side barely hide a shopping mall parking building. Other buildings in the back include the BNZ/Quest building and the Liardet St Apartments that, for whatever reason, seem to show up often in my sketchbook lately. Other than that, there were lots of Christmas shoppers about. I must admit that I started this one last year! I ran out of time and was going to come back the next day (in December) and finish it. I got too busy at work and then it became way too hot. The heatwave was followed by some tropical rain. Before I knew it, it was next year!
(Apologies to the Canadian tourist who I had a chat with who may have wanted to see the finished drawing. Finally finished!)