When Waiheke Island's population swells to more than double this summer, it's a fair bet many will be there to experience its wineries and eateries, sun, sea, sailing and surf.
But visiting its art galleries and artists is as highly recommended as soaking up the sunshine and stunning views. One glimpse of Waiheke's scenery is enough to show why so many artists call it home -- the place is an inspiration and it's little wonder Lonely Planet named it as one of the world's best regions to visit.
The Waiheke Community Art Gallery publishes an easy-to-read Art Map which outlines who's who, what's where and how to get there. The gallery is the best place to start an art tour. It holds about 30 exhibitions each year in three gallery spaces and, this summer, shows work by artists long established on Waiheke as well as those new to the Hauraki Gulf Island.
Time & Tide is the gallery's annual summer exhibition, described as "full of colourful and creative works, a celebration of summer on the island".
It includes large works in oils by Katie Trinkle-Legge. Using colour and light, Trinkle-Legge transforms everyday objects into idealised images: perfect plums, picture-postcard farmyard animals and -- for variety -- bathing suits hanging expectantly on wooden hangers waiting for their wearers who are, no doubt, waiting for weather warm enough for swimming.
Having spent many years on Nantucket Island, Trinkle-Legge, who was born in New York, is no stranger to islands. In contrast, art teacher Barbara Robinson is a more recent arrival to Waiheke having moved from Christchurch.
Robinson's exhibition, Borrowed Landscapes, draws on her experiences in earthquake-era Christchurch to present 2 and 3D constructions -- they use everything from her mother's old linen to her father's oil paintings -- which question our ideas about land ownership and boundaries.
Nationally recognised award-winning ceramic artist Penny Ericson works from a home-studio above Waiheke's Palm Beach. Ericson has joined forces with fellow artist Liz Fea for Landlines, which features new ceramic work.
Oneroa Bay, a two minute drive away, is home to Space contemporary art gallery. There are four spaces -- the main room, the office, the small room and the courtyard -- which house work by seven Waiheke artists: Olivier Duhamel, Jay Lloyd, Maria Lloyd, Kiya Nancarrow, Paul Radford, Mary Ferguson and Trinkle-Legge.
The artists take turns in the gallery and you're always welcomed by one of them, who can talk more about the exhibitions and their own practice. Maria Lloyd follows her fascination with ancient civilisations and the centrality of ceremonial art forms and objects. She works alongside husband Jay at the couple's foundry; while Jay continues to craft in bronze, which ranges from smaller pieces of jewellery to larger sculptures, Maria has been experimenting with wood.
Opposite Space, there's Toi Gallery where birds -- sculptured ones -- wheel around the walls. It's the artist-owned gallery of Sally Smith and Chris Bailey, who have shown their work around New Zealand and the world.
January offers something special. At Oneroa's Tivoli Gallery, also a specialist bookstore and pocket cinema, long-time Waiheke resident and internationally renowned sculptor Denis O'Connor holds his latest exhibition. Represented in our major art museums and a number of international collections, O'Connor's 1984 exhibition Songs of the Gulf, at Auckland Art Gallery and the Dowse Art Museum, saw him awarded the Frances Hodgkin's Fellowship at Otago University. He has continued to make art specific to Waiheke and the Hauraki Gulf.
In 1993, recognising Waiheke's rapidly evolving wine culture, he created a fictitious vineyard and named it 372 Estate after the local telephone landline code. He used wine labels -- individual works on slate -- to explore aspects of Waiheke's social history. O'Connor embarked on a similar undertaking for SIP, Wine and Waiheke Social History which is at Tivoli. It's described as a collection of "curious and compelling works on slate".
If you're dining at the Mudbrick Vineyard, you'll get to see a reconfigured version of O'Connor's Archive Wine Bar from Headland Sculpture on the Gulf 2015 where it's part of the new Archive Bar & Bistro.
Artist Gabriella Lewenz, born and raised in Greece, the daughter of United States diplomat parents, arrived in New Zealand in 1997 and, with her husband and daughter, built Casale di Terra on Waiheke. It's a handmade Italianate earth-brick country house which overlooks Church Bay. In a spacious studio, Lewenz works in handmade oils based on recipes by old masters and creates abstract work strongly influenced by the elements, flora, fauna and landscapes. Lewenz also offers ArtStay, a chance to stay as her guest in a Mediterranean-style guest cottage while she creates a commissioned work of art that captures the spirit of your journey or special life event.
The views from Casale di Terra are rivalled by those from Christine Hafermalz-Wheeler's studio. The Artist Goldsmith has travelled a long way from East Germany from where, when she was 4, her parents made a daring escape. She learned metalwork from her father, a plumber, and from the age of about 12, never wavered in her ambition to become a goldsmith.
From her studio -- she calls it the world's most beautiful jewellery studio -- she crafts pieces featuring jewels, precious metals, shells and stones sourced from travels all over the world.
Sue Engels crafts bespoke footwear. Her workshop, in a shed at the end of a flower garden, is reminiscent of a scene from The Elves and the Shoemaker and I confess to succumbing to temptation and getting a pair of black suede shoes in a style I have long dreamed of.
In Ostend, Ingrid Berzins produces contemporary yet capricious paintings in her Putiki Rd studio , which is made of two shipping containers. She works in one; the gallery is in the other. Her paintings may look bright and breezy, but there's an edge to this whimsy, and depth in the seemingly dreamy expressions of her characters. They're frequently looking outwards as if they're about to test their limits, step out of the frame and explore the brave, new worlds Berzins hints at.