My first solo exhibition

I had never dreamed at the start of this year that by the end of January I would be exhibiting my work in my own show. Yet indeed this is what happened. With the help of my friend Lorraine I stumbled upon an opportunity too good to miss. A gallery space in the Arts Centre had become available the week of the World Buskers Festival so there would be a greater amount of foot traffic. I had to dispense with the fear and just do it!

So with just one week before opening I managed to get together enough of my work to fill the four walls. As well as organising paintings to to be scanned and printed at the printers and getting them produced in time for opening. It was an intense week!

This exhibition could not have been possible without the help of many people. Lorraine, who has owned many galleries, manned the show for me throughout the week days. She taught me so much throughout the week about how exhibitions work. My father helped me set up the exhibition on the Monday. My mother and partner supported me during the weekend with manning the show. At times it got very busy so it was so great to have their help.

For me it was so lovely to see how the public reacted to my work by seeing what their favourite pieces were and explaining the stories behind those pieces.  I was overwhelmed (in the very best way) by the support of friends and family who came in to see the exhibition and feel so honoured to be surrounded by such love.

Me looking chuffed at the exhibition. Sketches and prints behind me.

Me looking chuffed at the exhibition. Sketches and prints behind me.

Click to the right hand end of this picture above to view more photos.

Lorraine and I colour matching with the paintings behind us.

Lorraine and I colour matching with the paintings behind us.

My plan was that I would use the walls of the gallery leaving the floor space available to promote the talented work of my father Chris Thompson of Thompson woodworking. He designs and crafts custom furniture, to view his work see his site thompsonwoodworking.nz

The talented work of Chris Thompson.

The talented work of Chris Thompson.

Over the course of the weekend I set up a Go Pro to capture the coming and goings of people during the exhibition. This is just some of the weekend.


Portrait Painting - Ginny Yellow Top

Recently I got to spend time with my gorgeous wee niece Ginny over the Christmas holiday. Gosh how she had grown since I had painted this portrait. It was wonderful spending time with her and watching her learn to walk. Then she hoped on the plane with her parents back to the US.

Here is a video of the process I took to paint this portrait earlier last year. I was such a pleasure to paint, as I knew it would be for my own collection, I could relax into the process more than normal. And obviously I was inspired by the subject too! Enjoy the video.


Watercolour Wash - How To Video

Recently I had a request to show how I create my watercolour washes in my illustrations. Here I go through the whole process explaining my approach. In essence it's all about having fun!

It was quite cool recording my first 'How To' video. It was interesting analysing my process to be able to convey it in the video. This was also my first attempt at doing a voice over. It is quite strange hearing your own voice on the video. I took several takes until I had to say "that'll do".

This video shows the process I use to create the coloured areas used in drawings like below.


A Wonderful Surprise!

I was thrilled to open the mail to find my penguin painting received an Honourable Mention in the painting competition I had entered recently. Pretty cool to see my work printed in the The New Zealand Artist magazine. Huge congrats to all the winners!

So if you see this copy of The New Zealand Artist magazine in stores be sure to flick to page 5 to see my work.

I got quite the kick out of seeing my work among the other entries. It has given me a little boost of confidence to go and enter a few more competitions.

Featured on the New Zealand Magazine website here: www.thenzartist.co.nz/competition

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My painting "Time to Reflect" top left on the right hand page.

My painting "Time to Reflect" top left on the right hand page.


Painting Time Lapse - The entire process

Wahoo!! My first ever time lapse of the entire painting process!! I've learned so much and made so many mistakes along the way from filming to editing and spent waay to long selecting the 'right song' but here it is.

I wanted to show the whole process from prepping the board right through signing it off. Still getting the hang of filming there were some mishaps along the way. I missed most of the sketching as I hadn't properly hit record and I took 20 minutes of blurry film as I hadn't focused the scene.

Compressing many hours of film down to 1 minute is quite the task. What I found super interesting while editing was that well over half the time the brush is not on the canvas. I didn't calculate the percentage but it was rather high. There is a lot of thinking that happens when painting, always planning your next move, and as you know there is no handy undo button.


Nothing like a deadline

Recently I decided to enter a competition to see how I might get on. Coming across the competition late in the piece I left myself 4 weeks until the entries closed. I then realised it was subject specific and nothing I previously painted would fit the theme.

The theme was the New Zealand environment with a focus on areas we needed to take care of. I chose to paint a scene of a penguin splashing through the shallows. I liked the way the penguin almost looked down at his own reflection. Titled 'Time to Reflect' my concept was our need to reflect upon our individual responsibilities to take care of our precious environment, for it is our actions that effect the defenseless. Environmental responsibility is a subject I am passionate about.

Myself and the final piece.

Myself and the final piece.

2017, Oil on canvas, 203 x 203mm , (8 in x 8 in)

2017, Oil on canvas, 203 x 203mm , (8 in x 8 in)

Detail. 2017, Oil on canvas, 203 x 203mm , (8 in x 8 in)

Detail. 2017, Oil on canvas, 203 x 203mm , (8 in x 8 in)


Grazing in Glentunnel - Landscape Oil Painting

It's always satisfying looking back over the process of a painting in retrospect and seeing it come to life. Throughout the process there are often times when it feels like portions are not working out. It's part of the challenge of painting - resolving areas until you are happy with the final result.

Here is 'Grazing in Glentunnel' from start to finish shown in progression. At the end of each step or session I would take a photo. First is the acrylic wash, then a charcoal sketch and then building up the oil layers.

Music: Good Old Times (Alex Cohen)

Grazing in Glentunnel, 2017, Oil on canvas, 700 x 400mm , (27.5 in x 15.7 in)


Observational painting practice - 10 minute apples

I am always wanting to improve and learn new things when it comes to art. I usually paint from photographs for reference but I want to learn more about drawing and painting from life.

There is something so challenging about working from a realtime subject, the lighting changes and the perspective changes as you tilt your head. But as the impressionists found out, there are some colours and observations you can only make from life and not from a photograph. For example a photograph will flatten the colours out within shadows and detail is lost, detail that our eyes can see.

So I wanted to start simple with some quick observational paintings at home. I can’t take credit for this exercise as it was one I read in the book Daily painting by Carol Marine. She is a master at daily painting and paints mostly still lifes from life in her studio. I found her book very inspiring and she gives lots of handy tips she has discovered along her art career.

10 Minute Apples:

Setup your painting surface with 8 or more small squares. Light your apple dramatically and set the timer. Sketch and paint the apple in your first space. When the timer goes off - stop and don't go back to fix anything (as temping as it is I know!). Then change the angle, maybe even the lighting and paint it again mixing up the compositions as you go.

With the pressure of time it forces us to simplify the shapes and focus on conveying the most important things. Looking back I could reduce my brushstrokes even further (I can't help but pop some detail in!). Give it a go it’s so much fun!

My 10 minute apples.

My 10 minute apples.

If you are interested in Carol Marine's book it is available on Amazon here.


20 Days, 20 Sketches

This July I challenged myself to create a draw each day for 20 days. I wanted to celebrate reaching 200 followers on my Facebook page the best way I know how - to create.

It was a great way to explore and refine new techniques. I mixed things up with a range of realistic charcoal sketches and looser 'Wash & Ink' imaginative drawings. With my Wash & Ink drawings I splash a bit of watercolour on a page and then let the story reveal itself. These drawings are quite liberating.

What I also found interesting was the pressure of sharing a new drawing daily. Drawing each day was easy. Producing something that I felt was to the standard I wanted to share was much harder. Often drawings in the past have spread over days (if not longer) until I felt they were finished but with this challenge I wanted each piece to be completed within the day of sharing. Thankfully the pressure paid off and I am proud of the drawings I created over the 20 day journey.

So here are the 20 drawings I created:


Wash & Ink Sketch - Invisible Armed Man

I call this a 'Wash & Ink' sketch rather than an Ink & Wash because the wash very much influences what the ink sketch becomes. I first lay down some colour and let it dry. After a staring at it for a while, the drawing then reveals itself within the shapes of the overlapping colours. Then I bring the story to life with ink pen.

The story: No one has ever been seen touching the elusive Clydesdale Gorelop so it seems iconic that here I capture the invisible armed man tentatively touching the animal’s tail. Keeping the myth alive the bearded leaf back man has no hands to prove his claim.

The final sketch. Watercolour and Ink pen on paper, A5.

The final sketch. Watercolour and Ink pen on paper, A5.


Charcoal Sketch Time Lapse: Dog Portrait

I have put together another time lapse this time of charcoal sketching.

Here I show my process when drawing a portrait of a happy looking dog. First I use a willow charcoal which gives a soft line. Then I add further detail with a charcoal pencil which creates a darker line. I like the use of the two charcoals to create depth to the shading.


Grazing in Glentunnel - Landscape Oil Painting

It's not every day you get to 'break into' a house to deliver a painting. This was the surprise waiting for the client arriving home from her honeymoon. By 'break into' I mean - let in by the house-sitter to hang the painting in place.

Grazing in Glentunnel insitu above the fire place.

Grazing in Glentunnel insitu above the fire place.

I started this commission in January, it was to be a surprise wedding gift. So I have been itching to reveal the results - but only after the client had seen it first! Thankfully they arrived home yesterday.

I am stoked with how this painting worked out and I am truly going to miss it. I find the colours so typically 'kiwi' and restful yet there is also an energy to vibrant colours. I took a series of photos out at the farm to work from. I returned home thinking I hadn't quite captured the true essence of the place but after a little merging of different shots I came up with a composition that both I and the client were happy with.

This was my first time painting a cow I'm quite happy with how this came out. Check out some of the detail photos below.

Grazing in Glentunnel, 2017, Oil on canvas, 700 x 400mm , (27.5 in x 15.7 in)

Grazing in Glentunnel, 2017, Oil on canvas, 700 x 400mm , (27.5 in x 15.7 in)

Detail photos - click on the right side of the photo to see more.


Firenze - Portrait Painting

It has been a few months since my last 'proper' portrait. So I am excited to have started off a new one last week! Itching to get stuck into this project.

So I thought I'd show a bit of the process of 'Firenze'. I did this portrait as a birthday present for my partner's 30th. We came across this chap in a bustling market square in Florence. We wondered what was his story, was he waiting for someone, was he contemplating something or was he just having a rest?

Firenze, 2016, Oil on canvas, 350mm x 450mm (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

Firenze, 2016, Oil on canvas, 350mm x 450mm (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

First session VS final session. Clearly a bit of time between these two shots.

First session VS final session. Clearly a bit of time between these two shots.

Below shows the progression of the painting and the various steps along the way. I start off with a charcoal sketch on top of an acrylic wash. Then a monotone value study where I figure out where my high and low lights will be. This give me a road map for the rest of the painting. Then into building he coloured layers.

Progress photos:  From start to finish.

Progress photos: From start to finish.

Watch the time lapse of the painting coming together below.


Mt Aspiring Painting Finished

Finished this bad boy of Mt Aspiring last week. It ended up taking longer than I expected to complete this painting. I had thought I would try a quicker style on this but then I couldn't resist and had to put the detail back in. As I explained in an earlier post this landscape is painted from a photo I took helicoptering over the Southern Alps. I remember circling Mt Aspiring, the sharp peaks standing so impressively. There were some hikers near the top on the other side which made me feel rather lazy at that moment. I bet it was hard work getting up that high!

As always, I learn from every painting. This time I was reminded of the value of "just paint over it and start again". I had a particular corner of this painting that was not working. I struggled with it for weeks until I just went over it. Fixing the corner in a matter of minutes! Sometimes a fresh approach is all you need.

Mt Aspiring, 2017, Oil on canvas, 700 x 400mm , (27.5 in x 15.7 in)

Mt Aspiring, 2017, Oil on canvas, 700 x 400mm , (27.5 in x 15.7 in)


Painting Time Lapse - Dog Portrait

My first time lapse of my painting progress. You get to see the way I work as I add extra detail to this dog portrait. Turns out painting with a camera in the way is more challenging than I thought!
Music: Myself dabbling on the acoustic guitar

I learned a lot working on this wee video. Film setup, video cutting, music editing, then adding start and end frames. This was a lot of fun and I hope to get better with the next one.


Same, same but different

If you saw these two artworks side by side in a gallery you would be forgiven to think that they were from different artists. I would think so too. A few years ago these two works did hang side by side in a gallery in Akaroa. I wonder if many people noticed they were from the same artist. Were they confused, surprised, intrigued I wonder.

Two completely different styles of mine. In my best attempt to explain, I believe these artworks come from different sides of my brain. One side the detail focused perfectionist, thriving on the challenge to convey realism and the ever challenging likeness of a familiar face.

The other side the relaxed make it up as I go along, spontaneous, subconscious, imaginative, make mistakes into positives side of my brain. So in other words it's bizarre and I have no real clue why but it is fun to work in completely different styles.

Left 'Lost Youth' 2012, Ink on paper, 230mm x 330mm (9in x 12.9in). Right 'Father and Daughter' 2013, White and black charcoal on brown paper, 260mm x 400mm (10.2in x 15.7in).

Left 'Lost Youth' 2012, Ink on paper, 230mm x 330mm (9in x 12.9in). Right 'Father and Daughter' 2013, White and black charcoal on brown paper, 260mm x 400mm (10.2in x 15.7in).


Nature is crazy... crazy cool

My Saturday night was spent being completely blown away by the Aurora Australis dancing over Lake Tekapo. We hiked up to this beautiful spot overlooking the lake in the afternoon. It was well worth fighting through the matagouri shrubs and a freezing river crossing. Totally unaware the Aurora forecast was high, this was a welcome surprise and the highlight of the weekend. Having never seen the Aurora before this was such a buzz! What a million dollar view! No better motivation to get outdoors than this! These photos are straight from the camera with no colour tweaks.

Aurora Australis over Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. April 22nd 2017.

Aurora Australis over Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. April 22nd 2017.

Camping with a view. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. April 22nd 2017.

Camping with a view. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. April 22nd 2017.

What I had never realised before was the colour we see in the photos is not actually seen by the naked eye. What we saw in real time was actually more of a white haze. You could see the vertical streaks and after time faint colour could be spotted. I did a bit of research and it turns out our eyes are just not built to detect all the colours within an Aurora. At night our eyes use a different part of the eye to detect faint light and will detect this in black, white and shades of grey. Cameras do not have this limitation and can therefore pick up the wider range of colours. Depending on the strength of the Aurora some people can see hints of colour without a camera.

Comparison of what we see and what the camera captures.

Comparison of what we see and what the camera captures.


Making art while making art

It's amazing that you can be making art without even realising it. I looked down at my painting cloth yesterday and just loved the overlapping colours. How often do we stop to reflect on the colours we have mixed on their own, as these are the foundation on which the painting is built. This cloth is the result of years of use. I really must get a new cloth as it is hard to find a clean spot. This can be quite frustrating at times but I love the way it looks. It tells a story of the paintings I have created over the last few years. Some of these colours are never seen in the final paintings and as time goes on the colour of the cloth itself is slowly disappearing.

Close-up on my painting cloth.

Close-up on my painting cloth.


Visiting family and a painting

There is something really nice about seeing a painting again after some years. I got to see this gem again on a recent trip to the States to visit my sister, her husband and my new niece. I had painted this as a wedding gift for them. My brother-in-law took this panorama of Yosemite as I hadn't been there. The painting spanned over a year, taking some 130 hours. I started the painting in California and finished it back in NZ before the painting was eventually settled back in California. It's a well travelled painting! Years later I visited Yosemite at that very spot and it was the most surreal feeling. It was like walking into my painting.

Yosemite, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 1016mm x 609mm (40 in x 24 in)

Yosemite, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 1016mm x 609mm (40 in x 24 in)