NEW ZEALAND – Creative Sketching and Watercolor

DATES: 11/13/2024 - 11/22/2024
LOCATION: New Zealand
PRICE: $3,895.00

Marni Maree’s vibrant watercolors represent her love for drawing, desire to create beauty and her inner joy. Her favorite subjects to paint are flowers, camels and scenes from her travels to the American West, Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Russia, France and Haiti. Marni never travels without her sketchbook and mini painting supplies and is always ready to capture the spirit of the various cultures.

Marni earned her BFA from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA. She worked as a freelance graphic artist after graduating but gradually transitioned to colored pencil and then to watercolors. Her primary medium is watercolor but she changes the surface on which she paints from paper to yupo (a slick plastic surface) to masa (rice paper), and canvas. Since watercolor acts different on each surface it is almost like changing mediums and the thrill of not knowing just what will happen makes each painting exciting.

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Marni has been teaching an International Workshop in France for the past three years and is also planning a Carribbean Cruise Workshop in 2017. Since the France workshop includes all VA locals, it begins at home with plein air practice sessions, continues in France by painting many beautiful locations with a final exhibit in the town with other local artists. Once home, the students continue to paint using their sketchbooks and reference photos to prepare for an exhibit at the Ernst Community Cultural Center’s Verizon Gallery in Annandale, VA. This gives her students the full experience of being an artist.

Marni also teaches Watercolor and Drawing in the Northern VA area at the Workhouse Arts Center, The Loft Art Center, The Fairfax Retirement Community, Green Spring Gardens, as well as private students in her studio.  Her monthly Art Feast Workshop is very popular with beginners as well as more experienced painters because Marni teaches the thrilling and surprising things that watercolor can do while providing a safe place to experiment and be creative with positive encouragement.

Marni coordinates the Enrichment Program at Village of Hope School, in Gantier, Haiti ( where she, along with 14 other American and Haitian teachers, has been teaching art classes every summer since 2007 to children ages 10 – 18. As you might be able to tell, Marni loves to teach almost as much as she loves to paint.

Marni exhibits continuously at the Workhouse Arts Center, participates in local group shows and has had a solo show about once a year for the past 17 years. She has won numerous awards for her watercolors.

Marni has a studio at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA and the Loft Gallery Art Center in Occoquan, VA, She is a member of the Springfield Art Guild and the Potomac Valley Watercolorists, a juried organization of professional watercolorists.

Combine the excitement of New Zealand with an opportunity to paint towns, vistas, landscapes and gardens

This is part of the Il Chiostro – Upside Down! series which mirrors our popular Autumn Arts Festival in Tuscany. This series is held in the southern hemisphere.  In 2017 we kicked the program off to great success in South Africa. In 2018 we tangoed in sensual Argentina.  Our 3rd Upside Down program was in New Zealand, which was so popular that we decided to repeat it in 2024.  It will be our post-pandemic – and post-cyclone – celebration! We’ll spend 10 days in the city of Napier in the Hawke’s Bay area of the North Island. Non-photographers are welcome to tag along, but we also offer a Creative Sketching and Watercolor workshop with Marni Maree.

Enjoy 10 days painting in the most exotic country in the world – New Zealand! 

Landscape of Hawkes Bay overlooking the sea

This program will immerse you in the natural beauty of the Hawke’s Bay on the eastern shore of the North Island, NZ – rivers, dramatic mountains, the sea and gardens.

We will paint on location each day, primarily in and around the Art Deco town of Napier, which is right on the bay. We will also go on field trips to nearby towns, set up in a local botanical garden, visit the spectacular Cape Kidnappers point, see the gannet birds roost and photograph the bay from the heights of the Te Mata Peak. In case of inclement weather we can paint indoors in the hotel.

November is spring in the southern hemisphere, an ideal time to visit New Zealand: the weather is mild, spring flowers paint the landscape, and the grapes are in development at the world-class wineries.

About the Sketching and Watercolor program

What a great way to record lasting memories! Each day you will visit a new location in this glorious town of Napier and the surrounding landscape for a few hours of sketching and painting. Marni will demonstrate and teach various ways to see, draw, simplify a scene, and creatively collect information to fill up your sketchbooks.

There will be daily art “challenges” that will help to think out of the box as you see and draw. You will also have ample time on your own to wander as you find new things to record.

At the end of each day of sketching and painting you will return “home” for fine wine, food, and fellowship with the other artists – photographers as well as painters. Casual and encouraging critiques and instruction will be offered each evening, or you can paint and relax on your own. You will also learn how to use your sketches to create larger paintings if you like.

Carved Mauri totem

Additional Activities:

We always want to understand the culture of the place we are visiting.  So in addition to or combined with the daily painting opportunities, we have organized other excursions to be selected from:

  • sculpture/botanical garden visit
  • wine tour and tasting at the surrounding vineyards and cellars such as Black Barn and Craggy Range
  • walking historical tour of our art-deco town of Napier
  • Maori cultural presentation and visit to authentic meeting house
  • visits to village of Havelock North, Te Mata Peak and Ocean Beach
  • local farmers market
  • pre-dinner cultural discussions on topics such as the government of New Zealand, the indigenous population, local arts and crafts, etc.
  • special dinner at a winery bistro
  • Cape Kidnappers Gannet bird colony tour


At Il Chiostro, we believe that the food of any area tells a lot about the culture hosting us.  Hawke’s Bay is considered the fruit bowl of New Zealand.  It’s also wine country with all of the cuisine and fine dining associated with that.

A casual breakfast will be served each morning at the hotel.

7 dinners with the group are included.  They will be a mixture of meals at local establishments in town, at the hotel as well as in the countryside.  Since we are staying in Napier, we have left 2 dinners free for participants to explore other venues on their own.

Lunch is independent, although we will always suggest options, especially when we are on excursions.

Coffee and wine will be available for purchase throughout the day at the many cafés and bars around the hotel.  New Zealand is a big coffee place with their flat whites and skinny cappuccinos.  This is your opportunity to meet and interact with the locals on their own turf, “No worries!”

Your Guides:

Linda and Michael of Il Chiostro will be with the groups every step.  This is our second year offering programs in New Zealand, so you will reap the benefit of what we discovered last time.

In addition, we will also have our local drivers organized by our friend Abbey and her husband Chris, who is also the photographer teacher (ask us about their story one day…)

Price: $3,895 p/p ($3,500 for non-participants)

  • single supplement $600 (limited number available)

A New Zealand local


  • 9 nights – double or single room with private bathroom in the Masonic Art Deco Hotel of Napier
  • breakfast each day
  • 7 dinners with the group, including wine
  • Workshop tuition – daily painting classes with Marni
  • All general activities and excursions (as noted above)
  • Transportation for all excursions

Departure is on Friday morning November 22nd.  Napier has an airport, or you can continue your travels to other points in New Zealand or Australia (hey, you’re there…)

Price does not include:

  • Airfare*
  • Museum admissions
  • Art supplies
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Gratuities

*We will meet the group at the hotel in Napier.  You can fly into their airport and take a taxi.  Or you may choose to arrive in Wellington or Auckland and travel around prior to the program.

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A non-refundable* deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about New Zealand, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by September 1st.  Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Contact us for more information: or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

For this program, we will be staying right in the center of the town of Napier at the boutique Art Deco Masonic Hotel.

Napier is a wonderfully art deco town 0n the eastern coast of Hawkes Bay, right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.  What makes Napier special is its unique concentration of art deco buildings constructed around the same time after the old town was mostly destroyed in the Hawkes Bay Earthquake of 1931.

That national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world! In 1931, after the massive earthquake that rocked Hawke’s Bay, rebuilding the town began almost immediately.  The new buildings all reflected the architectural styles of the times – Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and in particular, Art Deco.

Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright, had his chance to shine. Maori motifs were employed to give the city a unique New Zealand character – for example, the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings  and Emerson Streets features Maori koru and zigzags.  The town today has a well-documented Maori heritage that is celebrated in museums, galleries and in daily life.  A walking tour of Napier will be part of our itinerary.

Our hotel is located just across the road from the Marina Promenade along the bay.  It is also near the main art museum and the pedestrian streets and alleys chock full of shops, restaurants and cafes.

Art Deco Napier, photo by Andy Holtzman


This Il Chiostro-Upside Down program will take place on the North island of New Zealand. Specifically we will be in the Hawke’s Bay area on the mid-eastern shore of the island. Auckland is the largest city to the north and Wellington is on the southern end of the North island.

Where in the World Are We?

On the first day of the program, we will meet at our hotel in Napier (about 3 hours north of Wellington, 5 hours south of Auckland) which will be the starting point for all of our excursion and adventures.

Where Do I Fly Into?

Depending on your travel plans, we recommend either flying directly into Napier or into Wellington and then making your way up to Napier for our first meeting. Wellington is a larger city, so if you plan to arrive a couple of days early, there would be more to do and see there. You can catch an intercity bus from Wellington to Napier.

Remember when arranging your travel, it is not necessary (or even cheaper) to arrive and depart from the same airport.  For instance, you could fly into Napier and out of Auckland.

What About Exploring the Rest of the Country or Even Australia?

Since New Zealand is quite far away for most participants, we expect that many of you will want to extend your stay either before or after the program. We’ll have many excursions during our workshops, but they will be confined to the North island. So plan to explore the South island* – and beyond – on your own.
* this is where most of theLord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.

To help you with your flights and any travel around New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Hawaii or even Bali Ha’i(!) …  before or after the program, we can recommend our travel agent Nancy Schaffer of Travel Solutions. She is familiar with our trip and has helped many Il Chiostro participants in the past. Contact her directly at:

(508)-836-0143 or


Art Deco facade n Napier, photo by Andy Holtzman

Napier in the Hawkes Bay area of the North island, will be our home base.  All around it is the prime wine producing area of New Zealand and is teeming with vineyards and wineries.  Among those are towns, beaches, cities and many cultural sites.  Here is a partial list of what is nearby:

Havelock North– Quite close to Black Barn, Havelock North has a natural, tree-lined charm — a pretty country town known for a thriving arts community, honey and friendly country style restaurants. Nearby Te Mata Peak delivers panoramic views of the region.

Martinborough– Martinborough is famous for its 20-odd vineyards (Pinot Noir is the specialty grape), most within walking or cycling distance of the wine village square. A bit closer to Wellington to the south, it’s packed with colonial charm, and criss-crossed with walking and cycle tracks. Check out some other things to do and fantastic places to eat.

Wellington– Wellington is the very cool capital of New Zealand, famous for its vibrant creative culture fueled by greatfood, wine, craft beers, coffee bars galore and ongoing special events.

Te Mata Peak – One of the most loved and visited places in Hawke’s Bay — a historical and cultural treasure. Standing almost 1500 feet above the Heretaunga Plains, Te Mata Peak offers visitors stunning and varied scenery, unique topography, geology, flora and fauna and a wide range of recreational activities.

Cape Kidnappers – An extraordinary sandstone headway in Hawke’s Bay that projects out from the stunning North Island coastline into the sea. It was named by Captain Cook after an attempt by local Mäori to abduct one of his crew. The Cape Kidnappers is home to the largest and most accessible gannet seabird colonies in the world.