"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home" (Twyla Tharp)

Colour as Therapy ....

For almost eighteen months I didn't post here on my blog at all ... I had a bit of an art and personal crisis going on and I was struggling to keep my head above water.  Blogging is a funny thing, sometimes you have the urge to broadcast and other times you feel like deleting the blog and yourself from the online world altogether.  I had been making a lot of art but not feeling comfortable with the process.  I think I have a balance now - if I want to put words and pictures on a page that are meaningful to me, hopefully they may be of interest and if not - it still makes a nice visual diary to reflect on.   

The quote above resonated with me so much that earlier this year I decided to get away and spend some time with a lovely friend, amazing artist and teacher Susan Harrison-Tustain.   I had recently been working on a significant art commission which took months to research, plan and complete and I felt the need to explore the properties of colour a little further.   It's a fascination I have as many artists do, especially with watercolour - the interplay between colours, the subtle gradations and in particular how colour temperature affects a painting.  Susan is a master of this work so I spent the week in her studio exploring a whole new world.

 We talked a lot about colours, hues, textures, light, how the background affects the subject, colour harmony  ... the list goes on - way too much to cover here and I have a book full of notes which I was taking as Susan talked about colour relationship, her knowledge was extraordinary.  For those who are interested in her technique and process - there are a few great DVD's to choose from on Susan's website.

I was thrilled to see she uses the same paint palette as me - the good old milk glass egg dish - and it was interesting to work with her preferred brand Schminke watercolour paints, the colours were beautiful.
Susan works with many layers of colour and I love the way she uses yellow as a priming colour to 'set the tone' so that the finished product comes alive.

 As I wanted to spend all our valuable time painting and learning more about colour I brought along  a photo which was used for reference and allowed more time to focus on watercolour and learn about building up the layers.

My home town is a long way from anywhere, so travelling from Western Australia to the North Island of New Zealand required flying through the night for eight hours  - then driving for three hours to Susan's home town.   I was pretty exhausted at the end of it but when you are doing something you love with the company of like minded the time really flies.
Thank goodness I took plenty of notes and photos, being tired doesn't bode well for all that close work and information.  Susan and her lovely husband Richard were wonderful hosts, we have so much in common - our mutual appreciation of so many beautiful things and I will never forget how kind they were, not to mention stunning cooks!

It was a very memorable time and enabled me to put a few things in perspective.  We were then able to switch off and enjoy the beautiful sights that NZ has to offer.  One of my favourite pastimes is kayaking so I took every opportunity to get out on the water and just glide in the peaceful quietness - simply magnificent.  Just what the doctor ordered, peace and tranquility out amongst the beauty of nature.

A big thank you to a good friend and wonderful mentor, for  restoring a more playful and adventurous approach to the beauty that is watercolour.

"Nature always wears the colours of the spirit"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Otehei Bay, New Zealand


  1. A beautiful post Vicki - really enjoyed reading it and very envious of your kayaking adventure. I was a canoeist a long time ago, but haven't done it in years. I would love to pick it up again.

    1. Thanks so much Jess - I hope you get to do it again, it's the most peaceful, serene feeling and much needed quiet for the soul x

  2. Dear Vicki so lovely to see you've stopped treading water & back swimming & kayaking, Nothing better than quiet rivers & the sound of the ocean to help sooth the soul.
    What a wonderful time you've spent with one of my favourite Artists....I refer to her book more than any other books I have....& I've got a lot being a bit of a book border. Susan & Billy Showell are my favourites...
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts & adventure in New Zealnd. Welcome back ...... Keep those brushes Singing in the paint...your watercolours are exquisite....hugs Tricia ❤️

    1. Hi Tricia haha nice play on words thank you so much for visiting the blog.
      How interesting to hear Susan is one of your favourites also - her life story is very inspiring.
      Appreciate your support always, it's nice to know you're there x

  3. Wow, Vicki, what a wonderful post! Your paintings are divine - I so love your use of colour! Sorry to hear you were going through a bad patch but it sounds like you have moved on from there and are no longer treading water. Tyler Knott Gregson's quote is truly inspirational. Your trip to NZ looked very enriching and invigorating. Love those palettes too and am on the lookout for one for myself!

    1. Hi Wendy thank you so much for commenting.
      I love that quote and I think it applies to many of us.
      I adore New Zealand - hope to head back next year for a nice break.
      I will keep a lookout for you too, the egg dishes are perfect for painting.

  4. Lovely post Vicki and pleased to see you are back to the blog. Will have to look up Susan she sounds like a great tutor

  5. What an inspiring post, with lovely photos and words. I am so glad that you were able to take this time for rest and rejuvenation--we all need it sometimes!

    1. Thank you so much Janene. We should all take time out, lots of fresh new energy comes in!

  6. Another beautiful and sensitive post Vicki. It is inspiring to read you. How wonderful to share your appreciation of Susan. Always great to have a new vision of art. Xxx