Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

27 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Tyre Soles, Gisborne

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.

 Some might say that this retread tyres depot was a disgrace and, no doubt, since I painted it in 1987, it has been demolished. But it wasn't an eyesore to me, it was another opportunity to paint rust and disintegration! According to my notes it stood in Crawford Road, above Gisborne Wharf.

The brand 'Tyre Soles' was quite well known in those days but appears to have died; it certainly does not show up in an Internet search associated with New Zealand.

© DONDONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



24 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Takeaways at Tolaga Bay, Eastland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 included this little watercolour of the fish and chip shop at Tolaga Bay because I found it so endearing. There's that long, blue corrugated iron fence with the brick kiosk and its accompanying water tank - plumbing a distinct feature - apparently miles from anywhere.

As a piece of design it's perfect; colour co-ordinated, simple, functional, the signwriting unambiguous. You could pay an architect or industrial designer a fortune to get the same effect! 

McDonalds eat yer heart out...

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz


22 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: ANZ Bank, Tolaga Bay, Eastland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 don't know whether this building was originally a bank but it has all the attributes of one: the need to look authoritative (in a very small town), reliable, and four-square solid. It says 'Trust us, we know how to care for your money.' The people of East Cape work hard for their money.

The letter form of 'ANZ' very much dates this illustration (late 1980s). As a type face, it's called Braggadocio or, perhaps, Stencil (it's difficult to tell them apart). Since then the bank has changed its corporate identity at least two or three times - at great expense, I might add, because new so-called 'logos' don't come cheap. 

I liked the old style. I haven't been to Tolaga Bay for many years, I hope the building still exists.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

20 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: New Zealand Shipping Coy.Ltd offices, Tokomaru Bay

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 looks like a rather ordinary dilapidated warehouse but it's astonishing to find it at Tokomaru Bay, on the relatively remote East Cape coast of New Zealand's North Island. Only one main highway serves this region but it has replaced the shipping service that used to call at these bays to pick up and deliver sheep, cattle and other necessities for and from the local farmers. The New Zealand Shipping Company loomed large in the nation's eyes and the brick building was as awe-inspiring as any bank building. I wonder if it's still there after quarter of a century?

I loved drawing the bricks. To delineate the white mortar lines I drew them with liquid latex, painted over them with a pink-brown wash then peeled away the rubber with my finger tips. 

'Cheat!' cry the purists. But I always broke the rules.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz


19 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Rotokautuku Shingle Plant, East Cape

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 shingle processing plant had its feet in the Waiapu River, west of Ruatoria on East Cape where, in some respects, it felt as if time had been suspended. The whole building was constructed of corrugated iron with the most wonderfully rusty roof one could ever hope for. 

Now, all these years later, I can find no trace of the Rotokautuku shingle plant on the Internet. Perhaps it fell down?*

*I received an email from an anonymous reader who told me that the structure is still there in 2011 and looks much the same.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



18 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Pine Plantation, Hawai, Bay of Plenty

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.




Inland from the coastal locality of Hawai (yes - that's how it's spelled), north-east of Opotiki on the Bay of Plenty these outlying hills of the Raukumara Forest Park were in the early stages of a new pine crop. That was nearly a quarter of a century ago so they no longer look like my illustration.

I called the drawing 'candlewick hills' because they reminded me of the blobs of fibre that used to dot my bedspread. Doing the painting was tricky - all those green spots! For the technique-minded I kept the greeny-yellowy substrate slightly moist so that the dots would spread slightly without sharp edges. I think it worked!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

17 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey:Maori Marae, Raukokore, Bay of Plenty

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.



According to Wikipaedia (which, along with the Internet, didn't exist when I did this watercolour in 1987) '... a marae is a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. In all these languages, the word also means "cleared, free of weeds, trees, etc"'. 

All over New Zealand maraes, centred around their meeting houses, exist. To me, they always give off the same numinous air, quite spiritual and often forbidding.

I particularly liked the naive, carefully detailed flourishes of the warning notice. It seemed to have much more authority than one that might have been done by an Opotiki signwriter.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz


16 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Graffiti, Opotiki

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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



In 1987, when I did this illustration, graffiti were more of an affront than they seem today. That is not to say that today's vandalism is forgivable, just that we've got used to it. In this case I was appalled at the mindlessness of the defacements applied to the rear walls of these Opotiki buildings. I suppose the only thing that be said in their favour is that they were applied to some pretty awful looking buildings.

If the children ('school sux') were, say, ten years old when they did this, they are thirty-four now. I wonder whether they became good citizens or went on to burglary, drugs and domestic violence?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

15 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Five Public Buildings in Opotiki, Bay of Plenty.

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 five old buildings in the eastern Bay of Plenty town of Opotiki that took my eye. I related them all as being 'halls' of one type or another. I called them : 'Masonic', 'Artistic', 'Chivalric', 'Bacchic' and 'Methodistic'. In turn they were buildings belonging to the Freemasons, the Opotiki Art Society, the Scout Hall, the handsome Opotiki Hotel and the Methodists' chapel.

They are all similar to civic halls found all over country New Zealand. Sturdy, worthy and full of local pride.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

13 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Post Office, Te Awamutu

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.



Some government architecture, no doubt draughted in a sterile drawing office in the public service cubicles of Wellington, has stood the test of time to emerge as excellent classical art deco. Such was this outstanding example in the earnest little Waikato farming town of Te Awamutu. It was built in the days when Post and Telegraph were combined to give humourless but adequate service. I loved its formality and dignity, still functioning in 1987.

I doubt if this is still Te Awamutu's post office. Most P.O.s have been closed down in the decline of New Zealand Post as a state monopoly. Couriers and the Internet, if nothing else, have eaten the heart out of mail.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



12 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Kinleith Pulp Mills

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 painted this extraordinary record of awesome pollution in 1987 at the time when a man whom I didn't know then but who is now a dear friend of mine was the Chief Executive Officer of the company that owned the mill. I sent him a copy of this picture just recently and he replied, tongue in cheek: 'White gold in the sky!'

The fact is that the value of almost every industry has to be balanced against the degree to which it endangers its environment. The bigger the contribution it makes to a country's economy the more its pollution may be permitted. It happens all over the world: Italy's marble quarries, open cast coal and diamond mining, nuclear waste.

For me, the humble artist, Kinleith's 'white gold' simply made a dramatic subject.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

10 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Maritime Park, Paeroa

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 museum park lies on the side of the river near Paeroa where the first European settlers landed at Puke Wharf. It was, in 1987, and probably still is, a bric à brac shop of things to do with the sea surrounded by old ships and bits and pieces of marine equipment. 

The flag pole was wonderfully nautical with all its jolly guys and halyards; the museum building looked to me suspiciously like a retired post office. I found out later that it was, in fact, the old post office from a gold mining village at Waitekauri. The Coromandel Range of hills looms in the background.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



09 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Martha Mine pumphouse, Wahi

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 gaunt ruin has no right to be in New Zealand, it looks more like something out of a Daphne du Maurier saga, remnant of some Cornish tin mine mouldering to terminal decay. But it is in New Zealand and it's the 1901 pumphouse of the fabulous Martha Mine at Waihi on the eastern Bay of Plenty. It used to pump water out of the shafts and adits of the richest gold mine in the country. The mine was abandoned in 1952 and consequently it flooded.

Some years later, in 1988, the mine reopened as an open pit, a blot on the landscape that has soured people's appetite for mining ever since. The pumphouse still stands and still goes quietly through its stately decadence. Very picturesque, quite useless.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



08 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Disused Katikati Railway Station, Bay of Plenty.

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.



Lord knows how long it had been since a train had stopped at Katikati Station when I stumbled across its remains in 1987. It once served an area of the western Bay of Plenty, an area blessed by a climate so inducive to fruit cropping that it is almost synonymous with kiwifruit. The station was of a standard New Zealand Railways design, built to last but at last succumbing to wind and weather.

I've no idea what happened to it. Did it die? Did it get a makeover?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz



07 February 2011

New Zeakand Odyssey: The School of Mines, Waikino.



This quaint building stands on Waitekauri Road, at Waikino, in the hills above Karangahake Gorge, a narrow connexion between the Paeroa and Waihi. There was gold in the gorge and the remains of a huge quartz-crushing stamper battery are still evident by the riverside. I thought, when I did this illustration, that the building was nowhere near dilapidated enough to be 'original' but it made a good subject and, I'm sure, parts of it are excellent.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

06 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: St. Andrew's, Coromandel



A favourite when I first painted it in 1987, I drew it again later after which it appeared in my book 'Country Churches of New Zealand'. I delighted in the frontal aspect with its unusual integral triple porch-cum-steeple.

This is the old mother church of the Coromandel-Whitianga Presbyterian parish. It opened for divine service on 18 May 1873. It, like some other Coromandel buildings of the same vintage, is impressive on a small scale, I think the money came from a gold mining boom which, like all such bonanzas, came to an end.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz






05 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey, Memorials at Colville, Coromandel Peninsula

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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.


 Most country towns in New Zealand have their war memorial halls, fitting and useful tributes to citizens who died in the Great War and the Second World War, and later conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam. They were usually paid for by subscription from a grateful community with materials and labour contributed willingly by local worthies. Colville is no different; indeed, on the day I drew this - sometime in 1987 - a patriotic flag was flying bravely if listlessly to commemorate some recent event: Anzac Day, perhaps?

Elsewhere in Colville, stood these wonderful petrol pumps, two old ladies faded but insistently reminding of us of a time when petrol was a shilling a gallon. Never again!


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz

04 February 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Scrubcutter's Hut, Waiaro, Coromandel Peninsula

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, 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 painted this extraordinary piece of decay in 1987. I can't help feeling that it probably fell down the very next day! I was told that it was a scrubcutter's hut but it could just as easily have been a farm cottage or a rabbiter's whare (which is Maori for hut).

When I was looking for subjects for 'New Zealand Odyssey' I came across lots of these remnants of New Zealand's rural past. I doubt that there are many left today. It made a wonderful study for the watercolour box with a little pen and oil pastel thrown in. Mixed media they call it. I call it tricks.

© 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]