From a New Zealand Back Yard to Representing Brazil in Fabriano

By Mila Renault
FabrianoInAcquarello is a convention held in the medieval city of Fabriano, Italy every year since 2009. It aims to be the strongest convention of watercolours in the world. Any artist from any country can join the community. Each country makes its own selection according to rules set by InArte Fabriano.

The 2019 convention is on 25-29 April with artists from 70 countries participating. There will be plein air and portrait sessions, demos from top masters, workshops, seminars and art materials on sale. Many artists will be painting and sharing
knowledge and passion!


My name is Mila Renault and I am a joyful Brazilian expat living in New Zealand. I was born in the huge, chaotic city of Sao Paulo. The move to Hamilton was a turning point in family life and meant fertile soil for my art.

As a child I was always sketching from nature or painting the landscapes I saw in mama’s Nat Geo magazines. My favourite place was at my grand aunties’ art studio. I grew up with art materials and paintings and learned to admire watercolour. Mastering the medium has been a life goal and probably, I do have ‘paint in my blood!’

I attended art classes from 8 years old. In 1989 I won first prize in a Children’s Art Contest with a watercolour showcasing global warming. At 13 I began education at a Lyceum of Arts & Crafts, followed by a year of Watercolour course. However, art was not a promising career in my country, so I went to Architecture and Urbanism School. I remember during a figure drawing class, the teacher asked if I was in the wrong school … Maybe he was right!

After graduating, a job designing interiors and buildings, then marriage and two children kept me apart from my passion. My husband and I left a good career and a lovely apartment to pursue a different lifestyle in New Zealand. We decided I should not work for several months to have time to settle the kids. That was the perfect pretext for me to start over. With a little box of coloured pencils and watercolour in a backpack, I started to sketch the city parks and the Waikato River. I submerged myself in creative energy and all that childhood passion came back to me energetically, almost as an addiction.

Since then, I have taken online courses and workshops. Oriental painting classes have added confidence to my brushstrokes and an online course “Mastery Watercolour” with tutor Angela Fehr shaped a more personal vision. A key to progress was an online challenge of 30 days of daily painting with no previous drawing.

This discipline was a break-through! Now in my early forties, I don’t have time to lose! The energy of painting en plein air is indisputable. You connect to the land and find the passion you need for a masterpiece.

One of my recurrent themes in 2018 was Mount Taranaki. I first painted the mountain from a family holiday bach near Stratford. With clear weather and views to the top, I produced an ‘untouchable’ sketch of the magic scenery. I never tried to repeat that first scene as I was afraid of failure.

Last November an assignment entailed recreating a painting using different value, colour and composition approaches repetitively and in different sizes. That was the opportunity for me to rework that beloved piece from Taranaki and try a bigger version (half imperial 56x38cm) for my Country Selection for the Exhibition in Fabriano, Italy. I knew what I wanted for the painting: almost two thirds for the sky and the volcano, with a bold violet to contrast the lush greens of the fields.

The watercolour is named Mana, a Maori word, which for me means the power of the reconnection to my inherited art and the contact with nature that I achieved in New Zealand. I am very glad to be selected among outstanding artists from the Brazilian delegation and I bless the opportunity to be painting nature.

I am also happy that my paintings have been purchased in New Zealand and Brazil by private collectors and I am working now with Art Posts Gallery in Hamilton on paintings inspired in the
city. Nevertheless, I still have many brush miles to establish my own style. I have to walk slowly and steadily to progress further. Fortunately, I have a stunning backyard to paint and memories of
my joyful birthplace still fresh in my mind.

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