Usually I am up reasonably early, take off for a walk once I’ve finished my chores, returning refreshed and ready for ‘work’. But, lately, I have been staying in bed longer, reading, not wishing to face the world. I do go out eventually, masked while walking, and steer clear of others coming too close. I look at at the clouds, the sea, and the trees still in blossom, to help lift my spirits like they usually do. But my heart is heavy, as the Delta strain of Covid has hit New Zealand and we are in lockdown again. I miss my family terribly. One week has become two, and I have done little artwork or writing. I knew I had to shake myself out of this slump, and gave myself a little drawing project to complete.
A short distance from home there is a stand of native nīkau, which I pass every time I walk down to the waterfront. A couple of days ago, I stopped and took a couple of photos, determined to sketch from them – soon. Not the best images I’ve ever taken, but I was not going to be put off, and started drawing a close-up of the crown shaft as soon as I reached home.
Nīkau are the only palm species endemic to New Zealand, and seem to enjoy coastal living. They are a most striking palm, reaching up to 15m, with fronds 3m in length. I remember walking the Heaphy Track, years back, and being surrounded by a Nīkau forest on the last leg of the track. Imagine – golden sand, beneath your feet and giant green palms swaying above your head. Magic. What makes them so striking, is the bulbous crown shaft and the red berries which sprout prolifically in spring, attracting our native giant pigeon Kereru, which adore those berries.
Just sitting to sketch, arranging my drawing pad and picking up a pencil, immediately calms me down. Once my hand stretches over the blank page and I begin to sketch, I am taken away from my concerns about the virus, and the separation from my family in Australia, and am concentrating on my drawing. Drawing has always been part of my life, and will always be the best antidote to help clear the blues for me. But, wait, there’s one more sketch to do. The last is a repeat of the graphite close-up, but in artist-quality colour pencils this time. Faber Castell polychromos, are great pencils, and can be purchased individually as well as in boxed sets. They are smooth, can be blended, but not easily removed by eraser. I’ve used them for years, and love them just as much as I did when I bought my first set. I hope you get to try some.