Around 40 apprehensive Friends met in Level Four’s Espresso café for wine and refreshments before an exclusive viewing of the historic painting that we would later attempt to replicate. Te Papa Art Curator Rebecca Rice told us of the background to Johannes Keulemans’ 1872 painting of a beautiful perfectly formed kakapo (Strigops habroptilus). We were also lucky enough to see the collection of original works on paper that formed part of Walter Buller’s book, A History of the Birds of New Zealand 1887-1888. At this point, the task ahead of us appeared daunting.

Upstairs beside Toi Art Gallery, we were welcomed by Paintvine artist Debbie Anderson and seated at 5 long tables laid out with aprons, paints, brushes and art paper. Debbie professionally showed us how and where to start. This was as simple as folding our kakapo template into square grids and then noting our own canvas with light pencil grid markings to match. This enabled perfect scaling or not-so-perfect scale in some cases. Our medium was watercolor which requires subtle use of brush and water to achieve the correct intensity of colour.

The time whizzed by. Debbie patiently assisted and guided the novices amongst us. An exhibition of everyone’s masterpiece at the end of the evening showed extraordinary talent among the participants. It was a night “to feel the fear and do it anyway”. Conversation stopped as we concentrated intensely, trying to achieve perfection. But it was a companionable silence and when conversation returned as we finished it was animated, reflecting how much we enjoyed the painting.

It was an excellently run evening, encouraging us to explore our individual creativity skills. Thank you Paintvine and the Friends Committee Members and Te Papa staff.

Lynne Lulham

Images provided and reproduced courtesy of PaintVine