About Me

I'm Paul Cato, a professional New Zealand artist, and I have recently moved north from Queenstown, where my painting career began, to the Kowhai Coast near Warkworth. My specialty is painting large vistas, and my primary medium is oils.


Recent Posts




Middle distance left and right

By Paul Cato | August 23, 2007

The initial background tree colour was applied with a filbert brush.

Left middle distanceRight middle distance

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Starting on the foreground

By Paul Cato | August 23, 2007

I blocked in a thin under-coat of a neutral-to-warm brown to most of the foreground of the painting

Foreground begun.Foreground begun - right

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Paul Cato is still a living artist!

By Paul Cato | August 23, 2007

My apologies to all those who have wondered if I had disappeared or died whilst working on this big painting. I have had several emails and even phone-calls from people who are wondering what’s happening and asking when I am going to update the website. It seems that there are a lot of people watching the progress of this painting and looking forward to the finished result.

The truth is that I did take a break from actual painting on this project for about three weeks, a month or more back, but I did do some sketching and even some photoshop doodling during that time as I rearranged the foreground concept a number of times and did some work on the perspective and scale of the entire foreground. Since then the painting has been progressing slowly but steadily.

I have deliberately kept the foreground in relatively neutral colours and concentrated on basic values until the entire canvas was covered with paint (not just the washed underpainting). Then just in the past few days I have brought out the warm tints and flicked a few strategic strokes here and there.

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Water almost complete

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

Water nearly done

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Water – painting reflections

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

Quite an arduous job once again, but a very pleasing outcome. This involved re-mixing and matching all the colors and blends of what I had already done and mirroring them below. On a smaller painting I would usually have done this either simultaneously or very soon after finishing the landforms, using the paint ready-mixed. However a lot of the paint had dried by the time I got this far.

Painting the water

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Lady Bowen Falls

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

Usually known as just Bowen Falls these days, this waterfall is named after the wife of one of NZ’s earliest Governors, Lady Elizabeth Bowen. It drops 162 meters from a hanging valley.

Bowen Falls

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Completing the vista

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

This completes the basic landforms as viewed from the airstrip area of Milford Sound.

Milford Sound

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The Footstool

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

Like a footstool in front of a big chair, The Footstool is the bush-clad mountain immediately in front of Mitre Peak.

The Footstool

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A Peek at Mitre Peak

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

This is the main iconic peak in New Zealand’s Milford Sound, the most well-known fiord of the Fiordland area. This mountain is one of the highest in the world to come right out of the sea. It measures 1692 metres above sea level – about 5500 feet.

Mitre Peak

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The Lion

By Paul Cato | May 26, 2007

This mountain is called The Lion. From some angles it can look a bit lion-like I suppose.

The Lion mountain

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Big painting progress 2

By Paul Cato | May 11, 2007

Well, I’m trying to keep up with the picture processing but I am still behind in getting them off the camera. I am using a flash on my 6 Megapixel Fuji to get the photography done quickly but the wet paint reflects like a thousand tiny mirrors from the weave and texture of the canvas.

The first in this section shows the sky painted in entirely. The client specifically asked for a clear sky. There are two main blends – from top to bottom, and from left to right. There are three basic blues plus a heap of white in the mix. I know it looks like it might be pretty quick to do, but this sky took almost a full day to paint. Maybe I’m just slow, but it would have been easier to do a few clouds (although not any quicker). I began with a 1 1/2 inch brush which is bigger than I normally would use because of the large size of this painting but I finished up in the end with a four inch bristle brush to move the paint around and achieve the blending. (I’m sure my brushes wore down about 1/4″ each on that sky!) I finished off with a very soft, wide badger-hair blending brush.

Painted sky

Next the distant Mount Pembroke and it’s snow-covered glacier in the background, with a mountain called “The Elephant” on the left side. I’m working from distant to near.


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Painting in Progress

By Paul Cato | May 9, 2007

OK, so here’s the big painting underway. You’ll be able to follow the progression of steps that go into a typical Paul Cato landscape. (Depending on whether I remember to take the pictures – and how long it takes me to process them. I will probably not post them one at a time but I’ll get them up as I can squeeze in the time.)

Initial layout

Click on the image to open a bigger picture.

The sketch is done in charcoal and is easily removed with a duster. I sometimes make quite a few adjustments as I work on refining the composition. Anything and everything can be changed at this stage and I prefer to leave the layout and come back to it from time to time to see if I can find any compositional problems. In this case I made several adjustments to scale and proportions over a few days.


I firmed up the lines with light pencil and then dusted off the charcoal. Then painted a thin wash of colour to give me the first 3D form. Some other reasons too, but why should I tell all my secrets? And why those colours? Not telling that either! Actually I could have used just about any colour for this as long as it is not too dark. Sometimes on a smaller painting I get excited with the sketch and forget to do this step completely. It is not vital, but is often helpful.

Washed Underpainting

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Coming up

By Paul Cato | May 3, 2007

I’ve been working on a painting which is bigger than I have painted in a while. No pictures just yet, sorry, but I will definitely take time soon to post some images which will show the progress on this canvas. Oh yes, the size – I nearly forgot. This painting is eight feet wide by five feet nine inches high, about 2.44 metres by 1.75 metres, so just the sheer size alone is very impressive. The canvas matches the grandness of the subject very well. The scene is from Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park of south-west New Zealand.

Painting a fine art piece on a canvas this size has it’s challenges in both planning and execution but I’m loving it! Check back in a while to see what I have been doing.

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Skippers Canyon – Summer

By Paul Cato | April 27, 2007

Skippers Canyon - Summer Breeze

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Let’s get this started!

By Paul Cato | April 14, 2007

The purpose of this blog? I won’t be trying to upload every new painting, but as I have time or the inclination I’ll get some images up to let people see what’s been recently done – and I can even post a half-finished painting which is still on the easel if I want.

When visitors come to my studio they get to see beautifully framed paintings, unframed work, work in progress – the whole range. They see the paint-covered rags, the stash of brushes beside my pallet and smell the poppy and safflower oils in the wet paint. I’ll be attempting to convey just a little of what it’s like in my studio. Pity I can’t give you the paint smells to go along with it.

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