Sketching Workshop Taupo New Zealand

Leaf still Life. Wednesday


Taupo is an enormous and very deep lake, in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand.

Surrounded by little settlements and a main town centre, one of the big attractions is the mountains for skiing and trout fishing.

When you arrive from the south, it tempts and taunts you as the road dips down to the cold blue water lapping on pumice shores, then takes you back through the forest before leading you back to the lakes edge.

You could be mistaken and think it’s the  sea. That’s how enormous it is.

Lake Taupo at Sunset

Our arrival here means the Taupo Sketch Workshop is about to begin.

Although Milton is not playing butler this time, he did meet some of the sketchers as we had a quick early coffee at Stir Cafe, a diner, down at the boat harbour.

This is where we’ll meet each morning for our warmup sketch, as we did today.

Once everyone is settled at our outdoor table and introductions over, we begin the very first part of travel sketching.

How to see.

On workshops such as this I still start with a still life setup, and for new sketchers, leaves or flowers the most forgiving.

A plastic cup from the cafe and a few leaves off the nearest tree, and we’re off.

All the sketchers are with art groups so have experience with painting.

They do of course find sketching and the learning to observe process, a very different but enjoyable experience .

Before long we each have a delightful impression of the leaves, and all done in a short time.

Colour today is with watercolour pencils, as I’m keen for them to learn the layering technique.

Our next sketch is in the Rose Gardens just a a walk up the hill behind the boat harbour.

What a glorious old fashioned place to be.

Surrounded by the aroma and vision of roses everywhere.

The gardeners are hard at work trimming and pruning, and most intrigued that a group of sketchers are enjoying their efforts.

Rose Garden Sketches

I’m limiting time already as if one is passing through, and needing to get the sketch done quickly before the time is over.

Again everyone does great work, this time of any roses which catch their attention, and using the same technique for measuring visually to keep your sketch on the page.

Lunch is at Sierra Cafe on Tongariro Street ( named after one of the 3 mountains at the end of the lake) and recommended by the sketchers who live in the area.

Local knowledge is good. So is the coffee.

There is a very large outdoor table under a big mural, where we can all spread out and order some well deserved food, and sketch something in front of you..

Most like the flat sided bottle with decorative leaves sticking out, and I am delighted to say that at least 3 or 4 sketches are completed on this, their first day.

At Cafe Sierra



Morning sketch. Thursday.


Clear blue skies this morning and about 25+ degrees rising to 30.

Such a lovely morning for walking along the lake’s edge to our meeting spot at Stir Cafe.

Most of the sketchers are already sketching, coffee in hand.

Today we are sitting under trees and looking out on the boat harbour.

We start doing a coffee cup sketch, as we will use china graph with watercolour paint today.

Meantime the skipper of Ernest Kemp has wandered across, intrigued with what we are doing.

We explain that we know he leaves at 10.30 and need to get a the sketch done.

Go girls, we have 15 minutes.

He’s very impressed and we can see him holding back a little to give everyone extra time.

Now that’s very kind. What a nice chap.

Sketches are ready to add colour by the time he pulls away.

Out with the china graph and run the white where you want it to resist colour.

We know there is lots of red, green and caramel, so we mix that in the palette in the lid, and get ready to load the brush and run colour down in single strokes.

When you let the next colours go on top you’ll see the pigments working.

Why would you pre-mix colours when you can do this. We did learn something though.

Do not leave your china graph pencil in the sun.

It goes soft and the tip falls off!

We finish the sketches and lay them out for the pic.

Everyone loves this bit, seeing how each one has treated the same subject you have.

This is ‘You’ and it’s your unique style.

Embrace it. You only have one style. Yours.

Then we do a little “perspective” demo.

There’s your eye level. Everything above comes down to meet it.

Everything below comes up.

We have a look at the nearest shed and use pens to get an idea of the angle.

Yes. The penny begins to drop.

Up the hill we go to the ‘see through’ bus stop.

We won’t worry about colour. It’s an exercise in seeing.

I’m delighted everyone can see how the disappearing lines go.

A couple of bits of scumbling needed and all is back on track.

We are headed up the street to Suncourt Plaza and an excellent sushi place.

Our requirement is enough space to spread out, order some colourful pieces from the displays inside, and sketch before eating.

The coffee has to wait till later in the afternoon.

S’okay. We can do it.

So another really successful day of sketching is over and we’ll meet again tomorrow for more adventures.

Sushi sketches ready to eat



Friday morning first sketch


Not only do we meet at Stir Cafe, today we’ll sketch it too.

Another lovely warm day, and none of the rain they talked about. Day 3 of our workshop.

People sitting at the outside tables will give us a sense of scale and a chance to do ‘people’.

A few people indeed. There’s a triathlon tomorrow so it looks like half the world is here already – blocking our view of the cafe! Along with the tourist bus and the garbage truck.

We are the sketchers – out of our way.

In fact everyone manages a great little story, with people sketched in and around the cafe, which in itself is not so simple, as it’s a converted caravan with add on awnings and a bit of a wonky shape.

We are about to move on as the Duck family waddles past. Awww, cute.

6 ducklings, 2 parents and an aunt and uncle. We are sure that’s right. Or maybe it’s the grandparents.

The black swans are honking from the water at the same time.

So much birdlife here. And sparrows. I love those. Oh and they have thrushes and blackbirds too. Great songbirds.

But back to sketching.

Our  next location is only a few steps away, and looking down to the water’s edge, with wooden wharfs and pretty houses beyond.

A lovely composition.

Every sketch is now being done more quickly and observation skills are being honed.

Today was the summing up of our learnings and time to be comfortable with all of that.

One of the sketchers felt she hadn’t done as well on day 2, but after we had a chat she began to see that indeed she’d learned an enormous amount and that she needn’t worry about what anybody else thinks about her sketching.

This is purely for your own enjoyment, and it’s hard to let go of the fact that we don’t need anyone else’s approval here.

But once you have you’ll feel an enormous sense of freedom.

Another sketcher would like to stay with watercolour pencil, but wasn’t sure she was getting impact.

Back over each colour with one or two others on top, and that changed all.

Use several colours as a layering technique.

No problem with the power of colour now.

Our lunch sketch is at Vine Eatery & Bar, in Tuwharertoa St.

This is one very cool establishment. Large space with contemporary acrylic chairs and designer tables. Huge chandeliers of wine glasses and the other of empty bottles with intriguing decor and colour.

The menu is Tapas sharing plates. Between us we choose 4 and with the bread and olive oil, some coffee and iced water – with lemon – we are happy sketchers.

What a way to finish our wonderful 3 days together.

Emails are swapped and plans are made to continue sketching which is now a new part of their lives.

We will certainly sketch together in the future.

Lakeside sketches

©ErinHill 2013


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