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In October 2008 Daniel accompanied the Red Carpet Tour right throughout the country, visiting all the famous filming spots from The Lord of the Rings, and giving some art tuition on the way.   The group sketched, painted, drew, calligraphed, laughed, and zorbed their way through twelve wonderful days, in perfect weather surrounded by incredible scenery.   Daniel's notes, which follow, deal mainly just with the sketching aspects of the trip - to blog the whole tour could never do it justice.   You just have to experience it yourself ;-)   Also see Red Carpet Tours website for a brief report.

Daniel's artworks are shown outlined in black, below.   They were all created on the tour, very quickly, with the exception of Mana Island, which was painted later, and the washes and inkwork on the Arrowtown house.

Red Carpet Sketching Tour

October 2008

The Hill at Hobbiton - pencil

"Hobbiton at Matamata was everything I hoped it would be.   Idyllic, quiet, beautiful and peaceful.   I spent a bit of time on a pencil sketch looking up at The Hill, while others observed (this was the first day – most people didn’t want to take the initial plunge and start sketching, but rather watch their resident artist at work.   It’s a good idea, actually - you can learn a lot by observation).   Followed this with a quick charcoal sketch of Bag End’s entrance.

Bag End entrance - charcoal

At Rotorua that night (after zorbing – what fun!) I made the third Bag End picture, to show what could be done with washes.   I used diluted ink for this, each wash stronger than the one before, working from light to dark.   Make sure you don’t lose sight of the overall tonal plan when doing this (or any artwork, for that matter).

Great photo opportunities at bubbling mud pools and at Huka Falls the next day, before arriving at Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu, where some Mordor scenes were filmed.   Lovely walk in the snow, beautiful alpine plants, “Frodo and Sam” photos.   Good views of Mt Doom (Ngauruhoe) on the way down.   Next stop, after the wonderful drive through native forest, was Turoa, Mt Ruapehu, site of Gollum’s pool and other scenes.   More excellent photos in the late afternoon light.

Evening of art instruction at the amazing Powderhorn Chateau (loved this place!) in Ohakune.   Covered lots of technical aspects of drawing, composition, perspective, techniques, materials, etc. Very worthwhile (I hope).

Bag End - ink washes

Day three

Gravity Canyon was the first stop next day.   The drive here is through amazing Dr Suess hillocks, and the canyon itself (used for some Anduin scenes) is breathtaking.   Some people did the flying fox ride – at a mere 160kph!   After that, there was a very enjoyable journey to Otaki, home of Chris Rutter, horse wrangler and stunt double for the films.   Absolute pleasure to meet him, and Chief, one of the movie horses, and to hear all about Chris’ adventures on set, with many behind-the-scenes shots.   1 minute charcoal sketch of Chief.

Chris Rutter and Chief

Chief, the movie horse - charcoal

Next stop was the cliffs above Titahi Bay, where you can almost paraglide using your jacket.   Spectacular views.   Some King Kong scenes were filmed here.   (I later created a large painting based on photos taken here that day).

Mana Island - watercolour


Breakfast session in Wellington the next morning – this was great, with the opportunity to present more than just my calligraphy and maps: I brought in some paintings, too, and some live wetas!   The mere memory of Raewyn’s scream is enough to set off tinnitus....   Then Weta Workshop, Weta Cave, Weta Digital, tattoos at Rogers, and Wellington in general.

Very quick (2 minutes?) pencil sketch at the “Get off theRoad” site on Mt Victoria the next morning, and photos in Frodo’s tree (amazingly comfortable!), after which we drove out to Stansborough, where so much costuming material was designed and woven, not only for LOTR but also the Narnia films.   Made a pencil drawing of one of their unique Gotland sheep.

Day six - pencil sketches

More photo ops at the sites of Minas Tirith/Helm’s Deep, Isengard, and Rivendell.   I was on set during filming at Rivendell, so it was great to go back there and describe everything for the others, reconstructing the set from my memory, reliving the scenes, etc.   I have since made a small map of the place.   Flew to Christchurch in the evening.

Day seven

First day in the South Island was a big one.   We had perfect weather at Edoras - memorable trek, with river crossings and stunning views.   Sketched the head of the valley in pencil (A quick watercolour may have been a better option).   Postcard-perfect views of Lake Tekapo and of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand’s highest peak) later in the day.

Nice evening sketching session in the bar of the hotel at Twizel.   Some of us drew this Himalayan Thar (head mounted on the wall), offered various tips.

Mt Sunday view - pencil

Thar - ink

Re-enactments at the Pelennor fields the next morning, scenic drive through beautiful Lindis Pass, great lunch at Wanaka with Ian Brodie (good to catch up with you, mate! Some of us got the first copies of his new book), checked out a salmon farm, did some archery – the only injuries were self-inflicted.

Evening session (in Cromwell) was about calligraphy, by popular demand.   Everyone had a go, some rapid progress was made, and several budding calligraphers were discovered.

Poolburn - watercolour

Poolburn, where a lot of Rohan scenes were filmed, was a landscape like no other: desolate and dry, with bizarre rock formations against a brilliant blue sky.   Captured a bit of it with a quick watercolour.

Amazing helicopter ride in the afternoon – many thanks to Heliworks and Alfie Speight (who did all the filming flights for this area).   The Ford of Bruinen was very special, and will be the subject of a future painting.

Day nine

Numerous filming sites near the Mavora Lakes the next day; glorious scenery once again.   Did a quick watercolour at the lakeside.   Another spectacular helicopter ride from Te Anau that afternoon, taking in various filming locations, some of Peter Jackson’s favourites.   Mega-thanks to Southern Lakes Helicopters and Rod Hall-Jones (who was Jacques Cousteau’s helicopter pilot for six years!).   Lovely boat excursion to the nearby glow-worm caves that evening.

We checked out the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary in the morning, coffee at the Five Rivers was absolutely hilarious (don’t ask me to explain – you had to be there), lunch in historic Arrowtown was a lovely step back in time.   I sat on a bench and drew the house over the road.   Pencil work was finished on site; I added the washes and inkwork later.

Horse-riding with Dart Stables the next day was fantastic – and included more Rings filming sites: views to Isengard, Boromir’s death scene, and also some Prince Caspian filming was done here.   Lovely morning.   More filming sites at Queenstown’s Deer Park Heights in the afternoon, before finishing the tour with a sumptuous farewell dinner at the Skyline Restaurant overlooking the lake.


Mavora lakes - watercolour

Arrowtown house - ink and wash

What an amazing trip, even for a kiwi who’s lived here all his life.   Excellent company, stunning scenery - irresistible for the artist in everyone.   No wonder everbody fizzes about this tour – it really is magical."

Dan sketching

April 2010

A second sketching tour was held in April 2010, with a similar itinerary to the previous tour. Some of Daniel's artwork from this second tour is shown below...


Chief was Aragorn's horse, Brego, in the films. I gifted this watercolour painting to the principal horse trainer, stunt double and Black Rider extraordinaire: Chris Rutten.

Charcoal sketch of a tree in Alexandra.


From Edoras

The view from Edoras (Mt Sunday). Last time I did a pencil drawing, but the better option was a watercolour, so that's what I did this time. Painted very quickly in very windy conditions, but a good result.

Little pinecones on a branch. Graphite. We all sketched these while sitting at the dinner table one evening.


Sam and Rosie's home

Sam and Rosie's hobbit hole, drawn from a set photograph. I drew this using traditional drawing chalks: black, sepia, sanguine, bistre - my first attempt at using this medium.

Salt and pepper shakers and a little tin bucket of sugar sachets, etc, in one of the cafés. Pencil.



Poolburn lake. Painted extremely quickly, using a limited palette - I was pleased with this.

The Stables restaurant in Arrowtown, sketched with charcoal.

Stables restaurant

North Mavora Lake

North Mavora Lake, watercolour. A beautiful spot, with wonderful sun on the lake. The cloudy day made for a great limited palette painting.

One of the hobbit holes at Matamata, sketched from memory while travelling in the van.

Hobbit hole

White Shores

"The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it. White shores, and beyond a far green country under a swift sunrise." - Tolkien

This Watercolour commissioned to capture the essence of the Tolkien quote.

So, another successful tour concluded. And despited being speared through the heart and flung off a bridge, I'd jump at the chance to do it all again!