Watercolour Safaris

Painting sessions take place in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere at the retreats and scenic outdoor locations.

New Zealand offers a wide variety of rich experiences perfect for both professional and aspiring artists. Explore its natural wonders under the guidance of renowned artists, enjoy tranquility, create your very own masterpiece, let peaceful and beautiful setting and wild landscapes both inspire and delight you. Our Art Safaris are the ideal opportunity to relax, make new friends and learn exciting new skills.

Check out the fun and action photos

Our next Safari


21-25 September 2018

Watercolour New Zealand painting safari to Napier - a long weekend to paint, enjoy the scenery and each other’s company, glorious days painting the Tukituki river and Te Mata peak from a perfect location.


11–14 May 2018

Beating Drizzle

Report by SUE WILD

It defies logic! 18 artists gathered for three days of painting in the great outdoors. The clouds drizzled all day, all night. The 18 artists still had a great time. How could that be?

Fortunately the rain fell vertically - there was no wind. Light drizzle can add texture without totally obliterating colour. Necessity is the mother of invention. You could paint under the back flap of your car or push your umbrella handle down the front of your jacket and crouch under its shelter. You could dry your first wash under the car dashboard with the heater on full or follow Brian Baxter’s crazy example and use a gas-fired blow torch!

You could use a tablet, iPad or even a phone to paint from reference photos snapped en route to Kaikoura, or get fast prints from the local Paper Plus.

But most importantly to our enjoyment, the folk of the Kaikoura Art Society were incredibly welcoming and generous. On arrival we gathered in a local hall, where tables were laid with white cloths and bowls of flowers
and a feast of delicious homemade treats was served by Wendy Smith, Kathy O’Loughlin and their friends.

President Larry Field organised with the Kaikōura Primary School for us to use their hall in adverse weather,
which meant all three days. The principal was most enthusiastic about our presence. It fitted with the current school theme of Adventures in Colour and groups of children came through to see artists at work and appreciate
the growing gallery of paintings.

Our people came from Ashburton in the south to Dannevirke in the north and included 80 year old Barbara Jaine, delightful young Chinese immigrant Weihong Jiang and a number of first-time safari-goers. Everyone made new friends and encouragement was the essence of the gathering.

On the last night we were treated to a visit to the home of Larry and Mitsuyo on the peninsula above the town. We were delighted to see Mitsuyo’s unique jewellery pieces and Larry’s impressive astronomical observatory. Larry had produced maps of the area with 22 numbered locations for painting the fabulous Kaikoura sea, rocky shore and mountains. We used only a fraction as the mountains and horizon hid in mist. So, we will return
on a future Sunshine Safari!


10–13 November 2017
Spring Art Safari to Tokaanu, a small village in at the south end of Lake Taupo. 20 members enjoyed four days of shared painting, exploring and laughs.

Tokaanu is situated in a pleasant quiet spot. There is plenty to paint: steaming mineral pools and sputtering mud pools dotted along a native bush walk, a jetty, moored boats, historic church and more – all waiting to be captured in watercolour.

Twenty members gathered recently in the village of Tokaanu for a happy weekend of painting and laughter. People came from all across the North Island to rekindle old friendships and make new ones. The weather obliged. The Tokaanu area offers a good variety of painting subjects from spectacular views to close nature encounters. There were artists on mountain sides, in river beds, along jetties and under bridges. The challenging subject of the safari was painting the beautiful golds and viridians of thermal pools and the chocolate brown of bubbling mud while sulphur-flavoured steam wafted over you.

Many a brush, and even a camera, was mislaid amid the keen focus. Albie McCabe received the WNZ
Wally Award for worst brush loss ... and retrieval. We impressed ourselves with a display of wonderful paintings and share some here. The safari was completed with a delicious meal en plein air cooked by Jan Jeffery.

Safari Watercolour New Zealand
See photos on flickr .


10–12 MARCH 2017
Flock Hill is a 90-minute drive west from Christchurch into the foothills of the alps. Our safari was great fun for all, with gentle drizzle adding atmosphere to our paintings. Report in the next newsletter.

Shaken, not stirred!

Safari to Reefton November 2016

by Sue Wild

If you are woken from deep sleep by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake centred less than 100 kms from your bed, the Old Nurses Home Guesthouse in Reefton is the perfect place to be. Opened in 1949 by Mabel Howard MP, it is a solid timber building that survived the nearby Inangahua earthquake and knows how to stand strong. We sixteen soft watercolour artists were shepherded outside by a fellow occupant, Mitch, trained by the New Zealand Army. He and his troop kindly made copious cups of tea for blanket-wrapped, wide-eyed folk, calmed us and saw us back to bed.

This unusual experience added to three days of memorable outdoor painting, most of it in sunshine. The area is an artist’s paradise. At every ten metres, there’s a subject begging to be painted: wafting misty clouds casting challenging shadows on the purple hills; dozens of picturesque buildings in various states of repair dating from as far back as the 1870’s when the town mushroomed on discoveries of gold and coal; the river and side creeks, native bush and rhododendron - colourful gardens; rusting machinery of all descriptions and even bearded locals willing to be portrayed. We could have painted for a month and still had a rich fund of new material.

We were delighted to have the company of new member Heather Plowman from Nelson and her daughter, Shannon, visiting from Cambodia, Leonie Avery who joined us from Westport, and Adrienne Pavelka and her friend from Lyttleton. Thanks to Jan Jeffery for creating delicious food for our expanding group. Thanks to everyone for delightful company and a wonderful trip.

If you are wishing you had come, consider joining the next Safari to Flock Hill in the Canterbury alpine hills.

Reefton by Robyn Eastgate-Manning

Spring Safari to Reefton 2016

Friday 11 to Tuesday 15 November 2016.

Spend a long weekend with fellow artists, painting outdoors and socialising in the lovely old town of Reefton. Make new friends. Reefton is a small town about 80 km northeast of Greymouth, in the valley of the Inangahua River, with a population of about 1000 and an array of historic buildings and local characters.

As we have a ferry crossing and four hour drive to Reefton, we will want to stay three days. We’ll share rental van/s, or take your own car. Those who work may wish to fly to Nelson and hire a car.

We’ll stay in “The Old Nurses Home”, a pleasant guesthouse. For this safari we’ll eat out one night and cook our own shared dinners on others. On Monday afternoon, we’ll hold a small exhibition of our watercolours, before heading home on Tuesday. Partners and friends are welcome.

For further information on the Safari, email bookings@watercolournewzealand.co.nz

Painting at Flock Hill

At Queen’s Birthday weekend a group of intrepid artists, most of them members of Watercolour New Zealand, made their annual pilgrimage to Flock Hill to paint the Canterbury high country. Chris Parsons took this photo of Bernadette Parsons, Claire Forbes, Jane Smith, Adrienne Pavelka and Biddy Karston trying to decide what part of an almost 360 degree panorama to paint.

From North to South was the Waimakariri River. Below them from east to west were Mt White, the homestead and the Hawden River. Glorious, still weather for all 3 days of the holiday weekend and some fabulous paintings, including Bernadette Parsons’ watercolour of Arthur’s Pass, painted on location in about an hour on a cold but clear day.

Autumn Safari 2016

Dates: Friday 22 April to Monday 25 April 2016 (ANZAC Weekend)
Venue: The Community Centre at Akitio Beach, east of Eketahuna.

Spend a weekend with fellow-artists, painting outdoors and socialising over a drink and meal. Make new friends.

As Akitio is about four hours’ drive from Wellington we will want to stay three days, so we’ve chosen Anzac weekend. The venue is the Community Centre at Akitio Beach, on the coast east of Eketahuna, with bunk accommodation in dormitories.

We will arrive at any time during Friday or Saturday. For this safari we will be making our own shared dinners and cleaning up, so everyone will contribute and assist. On Monday afternoon, we’ll hold a ‘show & tell’ of our watercolours, before heading home. Partners and friends are welcome. We will plan to share cars.


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