Stewart Island Quadrilogy – A vibrant painting of a tranquil place

A friend of mine lives in New Zealand. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. (Don’t we all?) For lack of the wherewithal to do so, I’ll just paint a picture…

N.Z. has been one of my favorite cartographic objects d’art for many years and I’ve been tiptoeing towards painting it for a while.  I respect the landform  – and the Polynesian people (I used to live on Maui) – too much to do so in haste. In my map collecting over the years I’ve noticed N.Z.’s third “main island”, Stewart Island. Utterly dwarfed by North and South Islands, it seems utterly ignored by “non-Kiwis” as well. Were it not overshadowed by the spectacularity of the two big islands it would be considered a world-class tourist destination, a real gem.

The island’s roughly triangular shape, with two (very) roughly straight coastlines set (very) roughly 90° apart, and a (very) roughly 60° concave curve to the “hypotenuse”, lends itself to four-way repetition. I decided that stark contrast in both colors and patterns between each quadrant seemed to be in order, and that alternating the interior and exterior treatment of each island, with a fairly continuous color flow throughout, worked well.


StewartIsland New Zealand, painting study

A single

pencil-on-paper study

is all I needed as a guide.





I made a mask, cut out the islands’s shape, and painted those first, keeping in mind my color scheme.

Stewart Island New Zealand painting creationThen came the “sea”.

The whole thing required four canvasses, eight masks, and LOTS of paint. These photos don’t really show the varied texture and the nuances that different lighting angles bring out. The whole thing seems to be vibrant yet still, stable yet nearly explosive.  The “dark-but-inviting” mood is enhanced by placing each panel in in a black “floater frame”.



Stewart Island painting New Zealand


Perhaps it’s a “gem” simply in its obscurity. Maybe I just made it less obscure, bound to be swamped by tourists.But then, I doubt it.

Someday I hope to visit Stewart Island, New Zealand.