Art on the Rooftop – Painting in Plein Air

Over three evenings in January, Auahatanga | Creativity, Level 4 held "Plein Air" art sessions, focused on showcasing the unique Ngā Māra / Roof gardens at Tūranga.

Plein Air simply means to paint outside, absorbing the view and atmosphere of the great outdoors. Tūranga's rooftop gardens offer very unique views, which are reflected in their plantings.

To the north is Maungatere - (Mt Grey) 'where the spirits rise', with its beech forest environment: greywacke boulders, beech forests, lancewoods and grasslands.

Mt Grey presented itself as a misty blue form among the Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana).

To the south, the rooftop garden looks out onto Christchurch Cathedral and the Port Hills (Ngā Kohatu Whakarekareka o Tamatea Pōkai Whenua) ' the smouldering boulders of Tamatea Pōkai Whenua'.

The Port Hills ecosystem is markedly different: the boulders on this balcony are basalt (volcanic). The hills around Banks Peninsula contain darker, wet valleys and support lacebark, bush flax and the Akaroa Daisy.

For those who didn't want to go out, there were 'still life' options of flowers and an obligatory bowl of fruit.

The idea was to explore each medium, with a minimum of instruction.

Charcoal has an emphasis on shading and shape, where light or white space often has the most impact.

Pastel also uses shading, while colours, shape and shade are built up or burnished to add depth.

Watercolour was both fun and challenging to explore. Blending colours and lifting them with a sponge produced wonderful effects (especially with cloud).

Again, less was more with the white space between having great effect.

The dedicated group, many of whom attended all three sessions, produced wonderful interpretations of both the scenery and flora.

We hope to hold another Plein Air event later in the year when the weather is warm again.

Many thanks to those who attended, and librarians Debora Fernandes, Alice McLay and Caitlyn Clarke, who supported us with their expertise, and special thanks to Bianca van Leeuwen, who supported this event with loaned materials from Christchurch Art Gallery.

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