Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

31 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 12. All Saints, Manaia

The door stuck so hard that when I finally pushed it open a cloud of dust descended. On the altar was a brass vase of dead flowers. There was an atmosphere of musty silence. The crooked cross says it all. 

For all that this Coromandel Peninsula church had a charm and faded dignity that were impressive. Some children came from a local marae and giggled at me. I think I might have been wearing a silly hat; it was a sunny day and I have a bald patch.

donovan@ihug.co.nz    www.don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

30 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 11.St. Stephens, Judges Bay, Auckland

While I called my book Country Churches of New Zealand, I nevertheless included the final illustration of this Auckland city church because when it was built it was in the country. It's such a charming little chapel hidden in the inner suburbs of the city that it's easy to forget that well over a million people live in the district.

The day I did this scribble is memorable because an elderly couple stopped to talk to me. They were off a cruise liner and they'd seen the church from the ship as it entered Waitemata Harbour early that morning. They were quietly spoken Yorkshire folk and I was impressed that they were smart enough to bypass all the touristy seductions of Lower Queen Street and make a bee-line for an Auckland jewel.

donovan@ihug.co.nz    www.don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

29 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 10. Minniesdale Chapel

It's falling over - I never could get anything straight! I sat on a bank at the side of a dusty road to do this enchanting little gem and although drawing it took just a few minutes, one car managed to come past at speed and cover me in fine, grey, shingle particles.

In my odyssey to find subjects for my church book I found fewer better examples than this one at Wharehine on the coast west of Wellsford.


28 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 9. St. Gabriel's, Pawarenga


I found this church locked and lonely high on a somewhat remote, windy hill overlooking Whangape Harbour, Northland. I sat on the higher hill opposite where, wishing I had a third hand to hold my paper steady, I shivered in a keen easterly wind. 

I've since had a look at the final rendering in Country Churches of New Zealand and came to the conclusion that it wasn't much better than this quick sketch and a lot less livelier!


27 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 8. Holy Trinity, Pakaraka

Over several years I have drawn and re-drawn Holy Trinity, Pakaraka. This first on-the-spot sketch was done before it underwent a restoration that saw the reinstatement of its steeple which now stands behind that farthest right cross. It now looks exactly as it did in 1873. Thank goodness its illustration in Country Churches of New Zealand shows it as fully restored.

That smudgy black cross far left is the grave of Henry Williams, the famous early missionary to Northland, and his wife Marianne. There was a whisper of ghosts in the whispering trees...

donovan@ihug.co.nz    www.don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

26 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 7. St. John the Baptist, Waimate North

Standing beside the Waimate North Mission House this old church has a stamp of confident authority about it. It has always impressed me that Maori took to Christianity as if it had been awaiting their discovery. In the north, the Catholics and Anglicans competed for souls which many natives handed over while quietly retaining some of their old beliefs for comfort!

I felt all this history as I sketched St. John the Baptist's and if anybody would like to test my impression let them visit the churchyard where, next to where I sat, is the most unusual wooden grave-'stone' I've ever seen; a unique mixture of Maori and old world Anglican. Go see.


25 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 6. Christ Church, Russell

Although this is the oldest surviving church in New Zealand it's pretty boring shape-wise; just a box with a pent-house roof and a tiny belfry! In the final rendering that appeared in my book I made one of the oldest gravestones more prominent than the church itself. Artist's licence again.

I sat under a tree on a hot day and left out the visitors while reflecting that the worst part about drawing en plein air is that you can suffer: 1. Tourists breathing down your neck. 2. Dogs peeing against your leg. 3. Children jogging your art arm or 4. A sudden shower.

donovan@ihug.co.nz    www.don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 5. St. Michael and All Angels, Hakaru

I drew this Northland church early on in my nation-wide search for subjects  but left it out of the final publication, Country Churches of New Zealand because it was so similar to others - a porch and a nave and little else. I think there must have been a standard plan put out by the Anglican architectural office in the nineteenth century.

But I particularly remember doing this drawing because I was sitting on a tombstone that felt to my bottom like cold charity, with my feet half submerged in soggy grass after days of rain.


24 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks. 4. Early Settlers' Church, Wainui

This Presbyterian Wainui Early Settlers' Church was built in 1862 on land given by the Crown to the famous surveyor Charles Heaphy V.C. It's a twenty minute journey from my home in Albany and was among the first subjects for my book on churches. I remember sitting on springy turf among rabbit currants to do this drawing with a warm sun on my back.

The final drawing for the book was a full front elevation that, even after some years, somebody asked to use as an illustration for a funeral programme. Naturally I said yes.


23 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks: 3. St. Cuthbert's, Kaukapakapa

I never used to think much of my quick, little watercolours in the sketchbook but not having looked at them for sometime I'm surprised at how lively they are. This one of St. Cuthbert's church was a reference note for my book 'Country Churches of New Zealand'.

The actual final illustration in the book was more formal and finished.


21 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks: 2. Cob Cottage, Ferrymead

I searched for this cottage on the Internet and found one similar at Ferrymead, Christchurch on the New Zealand Historic Places register but it has a tile or shingle roof. I am pretty sure it's the same cottage as this one that I drew some years ago when it had a thatched raupo roof.

If it is, it's a shame that it's not still thatched because there are so few examples in New Zealand, the only other two that I can think of being the Cuddy at Waimate and Rhodes's Cottage in South Canterbury.

It was a ten minute sketch on the spot but I think it works quite well.


20 August 2012

Leaves From My Sketchbooks: 1. The Bull & Butcher, Turville

I found this pub in Turville, a village in the Thames Valley, and decided to sketch it on the spot. It didn't take too long but my knees soon felt stiff all the same; we artists suffer so.

That was quite a long time ago and since then I've seen it on many occasions on screen and read about it in books and magazines. I guess that, for the same reason I drew it (it looks good) it has been used in many TV programmes (Midsomer Murders for example) and, no doubt, commercials.

I also read somewhere that it was Sir John (Rumpole) Mortimer's local. It's a fashionable area to live in and there are probably all sorts of upwardly mobiles hereabouts who like to mingle on a Sunday with celebs, literati and glitterati.


14 August 2012

Projects Finished

I published the last (77th) of my 'Spoofs' on the blog yesterday. I've had them all made into a severely limited edition book by Blurb.com - only five copies in the first edition. I am currently waiting to hear from a publisher whether he will publish it for wider distribution in the traditional way.

At the same time as I finished that project, I concluded the scanning, retouching and manipulation of extracts from over 7000 of my 35mm slides and sent them to my international photo-library Photographers Direct.

This now leaves me with no projects on hand. I'll have to do some thinking.

Meanwhile here's a picture of seals basking on rocks by the sea from my collection. Their camouflage is impressive.



12 August 2012

11 August 2012

10 August 2012

09 August 2012

Great Works Re-visited 74.


08 August 2012

Great Works Re-visited 73.


07 August 2012

Great Works Re-visited 72.


06 August 2012

05 August 2012

04 August 2012

Great Works Re-visited 69.


03 August 2012

02 August 2012

01 August 2012


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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.