Painting vacations

Painting retreats for artists > As I turned in every direction, 360 degrees, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The scenery and the lighting was beyond stunning, no matter which way I looked.

I was on one of our Streamline painting retreats to New Zealand, at a location that’s very difficult for just anyone to get to, where The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and many other famous movies have been made. It requires paid access via jet boats and four-wheel drive vehicles, and yet I was there with a large group of fellow artists, painting for a three-hour period together.

As I looked around and saw the splendor around me, I had to make a decision. Was I going to work on one good painting in a short amount of time or was I going to do multiple paintings to see what I could accomplish? I decided to take the multiple painting approach because I wanted studies of at least two of the viewpoints of that three.

I rapidly set up and did one viewpoint which was this incredible scene with sheep grazing on these hills and with stunning mountain snow-capped mountains in the background, while listening to the sheep and the sound of baby lambs just born. Their color was brilliant – white against the mothers, which were yellow ochre.

The rest of the crew wondered about and painted whatever they were personally inspired by, but we all agreed that it was maybe the best spot any of us have painted in our lives.

Painting retreats - New Zealand
Photo credit Elizabeth Reed

This was a result of the Painting New Zealand trip, which started September 15. We began with a large group of people in Auckland, where a famous New Zealand historian walked us through not only the historic nature of the country and its people, but also the historic nature of art in New Zealand.

Painting retreats - New Zealand
“I am on Waiheke Island. Incredible beauty around every bend. Just had a quick packing thought as I re-evaluate my stuff: Load anything heavy you can into your carryon. I just moved my extension Strada panels into mine. It made my suitcase lighter.” ~ Elizabeth Reed
Photo credit Elizabeth Reed

For instance, we discovered is that early artists in New Zealand came from Europe and managed to put in a European-style atmospheric perspective. It wasn’t until years later that artists painting outdoors on location realized that that atmospheric perspective was forced. It doesn’t really exist in New Zealand because the air is so clear. We found it very difficult to create the sense of atmospheric perspective, unless there was fog or rain clouds.

After the lecture, we then boarded a flight to Queenstown, where we went to our hotel and started off with an opening dinner. Then each day was followed with adventures of painting as well as sightseeing, shopping, and flexibility to enjoy the area in different ways.

For example, on a free day when others were painting on their own or shopping, a small group of us was discussing the initial visit to “The Hobbit location.” It was so windy that we had to hold onto our easels with one hand just to keep them stable, and we agreed that we wanted another chance to paint the area, so we chose to split the cost and hire a driver who knew the area and could return us to the location. Even though it was an hour drive, we went and spent another two-three hours painting; I think in total I was able to create six paintings there.

Throughout our stay, every painting location was better than the last. With the beauty and opportunities to paint, the group was just overwhelmed beyond any that any that we had experienced because it was just so remarkably beautiful at every turn.

It’s Called Paradise For a Reason

We also drove to Mildford Sound, which has been called the “8th wonder of the world,” there we set up to paint the high peaks – the alps – of the area. Later, we boarded a boat for an overnight journey and more painting. Some people even stayed up late working on reference materials for future paintings, making sketches, and painting.

Plein Air Publishers Invitational
“Lynda and I almost missed the tour of the harbour! We got more than that – a semi private – great discussion. Loved this part of the tour!” ~ Elizabeth Reed

After breakfast the next morning, we headed out for a crisp two-hour tour of Milford Sound going toward the Tasman Sea. There, we took in the incredible beauty for current and future paintings.

We shared meals together each night, and sometimes during day with box lunches. Remarkably, the best part of the trip was not the beauty of New Zealand, but rather the beauty of the people. Throughout the days, we all got to know each other because while some had been on Streamline painting retreats in the past, many were new to the Publisher’s Invitational and all of them became like family members, some leaving with what will likely become lifelong friendships.

Painting trips to New Zealand
“The beauty all around us is so inspiring,” said Patricia MaGuire. “Another wonderful day painting and experiencing the wonders of New Zealand!”
Photo credit Patricia Maguire

Following our time in the South Island, we went to the North Island. There, we started off this part of the trip with painting the beautiful scenery from the winery, and then enjoyed fine wine and a meal together.

And then following that event, we went to a place called Weta Workshop Unleashed. They’ve done costuming and weapons and design and animation and things for probably more than 150 movies. Weta is an interactive experience that outlines how they do what they do, and it allows people to play with various motions and creativity. It was one of the highlights of the trip – everybody really loved it.

From "Weta Workshop Unleashed"
From “Weta Workshop Unleashed”

“In our group of 25 painters, I counted at least 10 different states represented. This is such a talented and accomplished group! Architect, physicist, doctor, dentist, film maker, AirForce officer, Hollywood costume producer, musician…and all lovely people and painters! Tonight we were treated to a flute recital by Jim.” ~Patricia Maguire

Photo credit: Patricia Maguire
Photo credit: Patricia Maguire

While some of our artists chose to extend their stay in New Zealand, others have returned home by now.

Next on our list of painting retreats is Fall Color Week in Acadia Park, Maine, October 6-13 (join us here).

Your Plein Air Painting Events Guide for October 2022



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