Many kiwis know to 'take only photos, leave only footprints' when in the outdoors.

But artist Rebecca Commissaris is taking the old adage a step further.

For her latest art project, Aucklander Commissaris is hiking the length of the country -- walking the Te Araroa Trail, and every day recording her surroundings in a watercolour painting.

She is currently 82 days into the 3000km trail, which stretches from Cape Reinga to Bluff, and has so far painted everything from canoes on the Whanganui River and rows of poplars at Waitomo to brilliant blue waters at Nelson Lakes National Park.


Commissaris stopped in Wairarapa on her journey, hiking over the Tararuas and stopping to paint at landmarks such as the Ohau River, Carcreek Range and Waitewaewae Hut.

Despite aching feet, sandfly bites and changeable weather, novice tramper Commissaris' trip has been the perfect way to explore her home country after several years overseas.

"It's magic," she said. "I'm the middle of nowhere, getting to paint the most beautiful scenes, then I get to fall asleep on the side of a mountain.

"This is how I want to be an artist -- to be out in the world painting, and not stuck in a studio."

Commissaris, 26, said she has been painting most of her life, inspired by her late father, artist, designer and builder Gerard Commissaris.

After leaving secondary school, she travelled to Europe, funding her trip by doing portraits and pavement art on street corners.

Settling in London, she received further tutelage from Zimbabwean portrait artist Nick Bashall, and later studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design.

She returned to New Zealand last year -- and almost immediately made plans to walk the Te Araroa Trial.

"My mum had told me about it and I thought, 'I have got to do that'."

Commissaris said she particularly enjoyed the Wairarapa leg of the trip, and relished the challenges the Tararuas presented -- such as trekking through the icy Ohau river and navigating steep 500m inclines.

"I'd never heard of the Tararuas, and now they're probably my favourite mountain range," she says.

"The mountains themselves are some of the most colourful and beautiful I've ever seen, and the texture and feel of the plants keep changing with every new area you come to."

She has so far painted three pictures of the Tararuas, including one called White Out, capturing the limited visibility in volatile weather conditions.

"I could barely see five metres ahead," she said.

"I also did a painting one of the rivers, and there were sandflies everywhere -- I was sitting there, trying to paint, and they were crawling into my puffer jacket," she says.

"That was adventurous".

On returning to Auckland, Commissaris hopes to do a public exhibition of her Te Araroa paintings, and use them to help promote the trail to visitors.