Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

30 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Treaty House, Waitangi



  
This is a much recorded subject in New Zealand history but I doubt that many pictures of the treaty house are from behind. I wanted to be different and so, instead of a formal single storey mansion with pillars, I painted this modest back entrance with its wings and out-houses.

The building is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by New Zealand's first governor, William Hobson RN, and chiefs of various tribes of Maori in 1840. The treaty, while the founding document of co-existence between Europeans and Maori, has led to continuous, but relatively peaceable, dispute ever since.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz


29 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Maori Grave Board, Waimate North


  

In 1987, while exploring the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, Waimate North, I came across this fascinating grave board. It's Maori, completely made of wood and carved in a European rather than Maori design. There's an aspirational feel to it; it strives heavenwards as church steeples and spires do. 

The inscription commemorates a chiefly man who was born in 1830 (i.e. pre-European colonization) and died at 70 in 1900. This man was born before Anglicanism took hold in Northland and died a Christian. I have always been amazed at how quickly Maori took to this new faith. 

Perhaps the most appealing aspect for me, illustrating a book about New Zealand, was that nowhere else in the world could such a grave marker be found.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz






28 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Russell, Bay of Islands

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings. 


This charming house was (and may still be) called 'The Moorings'. It looks across the narrow lane that fronts Russell and over a stretch of harbour to Paihia. Russell - known as Kororareka (sweet, or tasty blue penguin in Maori) was briefly capital of New Zealand when most of the early European activity took place in this area. It was also once known as 'the hell hole of the South Pacific' where sealers, whalers and informal colonists lived lawlessly.

There's a modern dimension to Russell that reminded me of Cornish fishing villages: intimate and tranquil. The hideous public lavatory on the beach has a guardian cannon alongside, no doubt to stop people like me from trying to demolish the local council monstrosity.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



26 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Rawene Hardware





I find this sort of subject irresistible. The weatherboards are distorted, there is an almost complete absence of rectangles, and the site must have caused the builders so many problems that they might be considered sculptors rather than constructors!

The street on the left is flat and runs by the waterside of the Hokianga Harbour, the hill on the other side is so steep that it takes a lot to imagine where the ground floor actually is. I drew it in about 1987; I'm not sure that the building still exists.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

25 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: The Four Square Store at Rawene





This watercolour was done from the vehicle ramp that gives access to the car ferry to Kohukohu on the Hokianga Harbour. It was a fascinating collage of corrugated iron, its roof a patchwork, and that odd panel on the green wall between the window and that hideous Four Square man - was it once a door, or another window?

As for the ugly man himself: he's a symbol that appears on Four Square grocery stores throughout New Zealand. His very grotesqueness has made him 'iconic'. Indeed, one of this country's most fashionable artists, Dick Frizzell, has made as much use of him as Andy Warhol did of the Campbell's Soup tin.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

New Zealand Odyssey: Lynne's Place, Awanui






Awanui is the last substantial township in Northland before you take the long peninsula to Cape Reinga. This shop, combined with a 'gum diggers trading post', and wood turning facility took my eye because of its ramshackleness caused by so many layers of addition and alteration that the original building is almost engulfed. (The gable might be original). 

I did this drawing in about 1987; I doubt if the shop still exists.

Gum diggers were like itinerant gold miners, a lot of them came from Dalmatia. They used to probe swampy ground with long poles hoping to strike lumps of resin - gum - deposited as exudations from ancient Kauri trees. The gum was an important constituent of resin-based products like varnishes and paints. It's still found but I doubt that, in the face of new chemical technologies, it has the value it once had.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz


24 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Rawene Courthouse

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Many provincial New Zealand towns have a 'wild west' look about them - all fronts and lesser backs. Rawene's court house gains a new character when seen from an opposite alley whose buildings are of the standard, cheap, ubiquitous, nationally-revered building material - corrugated iron; in this case much dented and over-painted. Graphically, I found the combination completely satisfying.

The court house was built in 1875. It was about 112 years old when I did this watercolour.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz






23 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Masonic Hall, Kohukohu








In the late-ish 1980s Kohukohu, on the northern shore of the Hokianga Harbour, had a tired and remote feel about it, coupled with an almost tropical air of bush-growth fecundity. Old buildings were falling apart and one had the impression that if the hamlet were not the terminus of the Rawene to Kohukohu car ferry the town would have died years ago after having exhausted its surrounding kauri forests.

The masonic hall looked a bit rickety (very appealing) and was evidence of the self-importance local businessmen and dignitaries might have imbued themselves with in the nineteenth century.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

22 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Monday's Washing, Oruaiti



  

'New Zealand Odyssey' was all about everyday things that distinguish this country, some unique, some commonplace. What could be more ordinary than Monday's washing blowing in a drying wind? And yet in how many places in the world would you find that much washing in such a grand, open landscape?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

21 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Urupa, Mangamuka

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



I found this cameo near the inland waters of the Hokianga Harbour, western Northland. Urupa is Maori for cemetery and in the corner of this one was this rusty tin shed, an oil drum and some lovely carvings of traditional tongue-protruding heads with paua shell eyes.

I have never been quite sure why they might have been there, they looked to me like interior pilasters from Maori meeting houses. Perhaps they were on their way to decorate a building somewhere in Mangamuka for they would certainly not have served as grave markers.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

20 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Kaeo Post Office







Kaeo is a small town near Whangaroa Harbour. It was established around a Methodist mission in 1823 but destroyed by marauding Maori in 1827. Somehow or other the town revived (despite a propensity to flood quite regularly). The post office still functioned in this building in the late 1980s but New Zealand Post lost its pride in the face of email and the Internet and the old building is now a museum.

For me as an illustrator the building held much charm; I never did like straight lines!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

18 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Cape Reinga





The book started in Northland and works its way, zig-zaggy, south. Cape Reinga is at the extreme northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, almost but not quite farthest north. The lighthouse was built in 1941 and overlooks the restless confrontation of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. I wasn't so much interested in illustrating the lighthouse as in showing its remoteness; in 1988 the road to it along the peninsula was long, dusty, rough and tortuous. (These days it's an easy trip).

Maori tradition has it that from the cape the spirits of the dead depart to return to their ancestral homeland, Hawaiki. Although Maori were the first human inhabitants of Aotearoa (New Zealand) they, like every other human and not a few birds and animals, are  of immigrant stock.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

17 November 2010

New Zealand Odyssey: Omanaia

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (I did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.

The first illustration was of this 1884 Maori Methodist church on a hill near a village school in Northland not far from Rawene on the Hokianga Harbour. A simple, colonial style porch and nave building, at the time I illustrated it (C1986) it was well-used but looking tired.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

10 November 2010

My Books: The Wastings


This was my first novel. It is set in no specifically named location (but nearly all of its locations are in New Zealand) during the boom years before and after the stockmarket crash in the 1980s, a time of nouveaux riches and great economic and political change.

The villain and main character is Morgan Campbell-Pye. The story begins when the author, a distant cousin and sole beneficiary of Campbell-Pye’s, finds, when putting the deceased’s affairs in order, a computer disk that contains a chilling portrait of Campbell-Pye as a killer whose sense of perfection compelled him to devise a series of perfect murders.

Campbell-Pye's story concerns his desire to belong to the Thursday Club, a group of high-status businessmen who meet socially for lunch on Thursdays. One of its members recruits a group of eight men from the Thursday Club to start a ‘tontine’ in which they each put $30,000 into a communal pot for investing; the tontine is to run for fifteen years, and if anyone dies his share is left in the portfolio.

When Philip Lawson, one of the tontine members, commits suicide, Campbell-Pye fantasizes about the possibility of the other members dying, leaving him sole beneficiary of the fund. It occurs to him that he could achieve this by murdering the others - believing that the prospect of pecuniary advantage appeals to him less than the intellectual challenge of devising undetectable murders.

With time on his side - the tontine has another twelve years to run before it matures - Campbell-Pye kills the other members of the tontine one by one, planning the murders in such a way that they cannot be traced back to him.

The Wastings is a study of a man who is obsessive and deluded.

***

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse stories wrote this letter to me after having read 'The Wastings':



'456 Banbury Road, Oxford

'Dear Don,

'A very brief line to say how much (yes!) I enjoyed and admired The Wastings. So did my wife. So did my daughter. A lovely idea & a beautifully written work. You've made a splendid debut in crime fiction. More please!

'Good luck with your opus secundum.

'Colin Dexter'



This book is still available through Amazon, ABEBooks and second hand booksellers. I also have a few copies left.

© DON DONOVAN

donovan@ihug.co.nz

07 November 2010

My Books: Open 7 Days

I wanted to record, in watercolours, the old colonial stores that had served New Zealand communities for many years. But I was almost too late and had to extend this collection to include some colourful local corner dairies, many of which are run as family businesses.

Stores that sold everything to closely knit, local populations were killed off by the motor car, good roads and supermarkets. But there were a few left when I toured New Zealand seeking them, and I think I got most of them in this collection which was published by Random Century.

'Open 7 Days' has been out of print for many years but copies can still be found at ABE books, TradeMe, E Bay and many second hand bookshops.

© DON DONOVAN

donovan@ihug.co.nz

01 November 2010

My Books: New Zealand House & Cottage


Saint Publishing published this book and, associated with it, a number of calendars on the same theme. The subjects are from all over the country, the oldest dating back to the very beginnings of colonized New Zealand (mid-nineteenth century).

The front cover illustration (above) is of 'The Cuddy' a thatched cottage built by the Studholme family at Waimate in the South Island. The labrador is the modern Studholmes' friendly pet, the lady patting the dog is my wife, Patricia, who helped me enormously with all of the books I have written.

I should be so lucky!

New Zealand House & Cottage has been out of print for a long time but still turns up in second hand bookshops and websites like ABE books. Also on TradeMe and EBay. I have none left for sale.

© DON DONOVAN

donovan@ihug.co.nz

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Blurb

RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
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:
‘Auckland’
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Aoraki-Mt.Cook’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Otago’
‘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.

[ENDS]