Skippers Canyon: History, Art and Adventure

John Gillies



Skippers Canyon is an artist’s paradise and one of New Zealand’s most stunning locations. This historic and scenic gorge, carved out by the Shotover River in Queenstown’s back country, has been a favourite destination and inspiration for artist John Gillies for some forty years. His love of Skippers and the challenges it presents is illustrated in this beautiful collection of paintings and sketches interspersed with personal and historical notes that mark John’s frequent journeys to this remarkable part of Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Whatever I had experienced in my journey so far, a moment of sheer glory was revealed from Campbells Saddle. There before me, Mt Campbell took visual command with its servants, the Branches Flat and Shotover River, obediently nestled below. This majestic scene I will never forget and instantly, I knew that for me, it would become my turangawaewae, my spiritual home.”

About the Author

Born in Christchurch in 1945, John Gillies was educated at St Andrew’s College and studied figure drawing under sculptor Tom Taylor. His father was a school teacher but John decided upon a career in medicine and attended the Otago University Medical School. He graduated MB, ChB in 1972 and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1981, becoming clinical director of respiratory medicine for the Canterbury District Health Board.
During his medical career, John maintained an active art interest and in 1977 held his first exhibition at Abernethy’s Gallery in Dunedin. Many exhibitions followed with a sell-out at the Village Bygones in Christchurch in 1994. John has conducted master classes in palette knife painting in Christchurch, Ashburton, Oamaru and Brisbane and was invited as judge for the Ashburton Society of Arts annual exhibition in 2013. John’s art has appeared as feature articles in The Artist (UK), The Australian Artist and in Artist’s Palette.
In 1989 John established the New Zealand Association of Artist Doctors with the aim of fostering creative activities among doctors. The association has gone from strength to strength and now its annual shows include art and craft displays, individual performers, small groups and a fifty-piece orchestra.
Two years after his open heart surgery in 2006, John retired to become a full-time artist and in the following year produced his first book, In My Chair, which featured sixty-four portraits of Cantabrians, including his wife, Jenny, and their four children.
John’s interest in Skippers Canyon was ignited during a visit on his honeymoon but it wasn’t until forty years later that he started to collect the landscape paintings and sketches which feature in this book. In this publication, John devotes a chapter to his palette knife painting technique which he developed in order to bring the unique texture and definition which readily identify his work.

Look Inside

To sample some pages click on the link below:


ISBN: 978-0-9951437-2-2

Pages: 104

Dimensions: 280mm x 213mm

Author: John Gillies

Published: 18 September 2023


In the Listener “Top 12 Best Coffee Table Books of 2023”.