Painting Workshops in the World’s Most Beautiful Places



CONTACT:   Bron Smith

Note: It seems that many have mistaken my flower paintings for photographs. All of the flowers on this page, including the shell in the title, are paintings, not photographs.


Six unforgettable days of exploring, researching, sketching and painting the flamboyant tropical flowers of Rarotonga, in the South Pacific Ocean. The principle island in the Cook Island group, Rarotonga's flowers bloom year round. We will be there to capture the exotic Bougainvilleas and Hibiscus and other exotic flowers.


One of the highlights of last year’s trip to Rarotonga was a short kayak crossing of Muri Lagoon to the uninhabited islet of Motu Taakoka. We felt like real-life Survivors because we had this entire motu to ourselves. In fact, the TV show Survivor Cook Islands was filmed on the neighboring island of Aitutaki.

I’m standing knee-deep  in the bathtub-warm crystal clear water near the shoreline of  Motu Taakoka. Just 20 feet to my right is a massive hibiscus tree, its flowered branches reaching out over the water. It was here that I found the beautiful yellow hibiscus that you see below, glowing in the afternoon sun.

 One of our workshop days will include a trek to Motu Taakoka where I will guide you to that same tree, and YOU can choose your own hibiscus to paint. This painting now hangs above our fireplace mantle. How would you like a painting like this that YOU painted, hanging above your fireplace mantle?

You will find flowers like this in bloom everywhere as you travel around the island. Many of the flowers that I photographed were found not far from the front door of our room at the Edgewater Resort and Spa where we stayed.  There's much more information about the Edgewater Resort below.

At first glance, many have commented that they thought my realistic paintings are photographs. Just last week I got an email from someone who said they loved my flower photographs. She was shocked when I responded to    inform her that they were, in fact, paintings, not photographs. If you have the knowledge of how to "build" a realistic watercolor painting, creating images like this is well within your reach. But you have to know the procedure, and I will show you, using my simple step-by-step method. You will be amazed at how my easy-to-follow tips and techniques will improve the realistic quality of your paintings.


Our mornings will be devoted to painting classes, our afternoons to excursions around the island. During the classes you will learn the techniques of drawing and painting realistic florals in watercolor. I will also show you how to subtly add other mediums to your watercolor painting to greatly enhance the dramatic effect.  Advanced painters who may work in other mediums or subject matter are welcome to attend the workshop too. I think you will find watercolors to be a mobile and practical medium for overseas workshops.

Many paintings begin with one or more pencil studies. In one of our sessions we will explore the methods of rendering florals in graphite. You may want to do a value study like this one before you begin your painting. FYI: This is the only plant on the island that I was unable to identify. Does anyone know the name of this plant?

One of the highlights of the last year's trip was our afternoon at the exotic Maire Nui Botanical Gardens, set against the backdrop of the verdant jungle peaks on the south side of the island. An afternoon at Maire Nui Botanical Gardens will be at the top of our itinerary. We will dine among the blooming flowers at the garden cafe. Much of the resource material for your future floral paintings will come from these lovely tropical gardens. It was here, at Maire Nui, that I found the red hibiscus shown below.








Our six days will pass quickly because they will be full of fun and exciting activities. Every day and evening last year on Rarotonga was packed with one memorable event after another. 

 On one of the evenings we will take in an "Island Nights" buffet style feast and Polynesian dance celebration. It will be a night to certainly was for us last year. You will have the opportunity to try island dishes that you would probably never find elsewhere. It was at the Island Nights feast that I had my first taste of taro, the staple food on the island, comparable to our potatoes in the USA. The Polynesian dancers of Rarotonga are considered the best in the world.

If you love swimming, you'll LOVE the lagoon surrounding Rarotonga. Our day of snorkeling around Motu Taakoka was probably the most memorable day of our trip. After exploring, and photographing the flowers on the island, we waded all the way around the island. In places the water was up to our waist. Then we spent the next couple of hours with our mask, fins and snorkel exploring the coral reefs surrounding the motu. If you choose, you can bring a waterproof camera and photograph the neon-bright tropical fish as reference for under seascape paintings.

We will go on a subject safari in Avarua, the island's largest village, and the commercial center for the Cook Islands. In Avarua we will search for Polynesian tapestries and native objects that will enhance your tropical floral still life painting. You will love Avarua. I found it to be the perfect idyllic island village...not too big, but not too little...and always with the backdrop of the beautiful volcanic peaks. We will be dining in Avarua as well.

In addition to our discussions on painting the subtle value variations of the flower petals, I will also demonstrate how to realistically render leaves and backgrounds, as shown in my painting of the brightly colored bird of paradise below.







Other topics that we will explore in the classes include:

  1. The importance of value contrast in your paintings
  2. The process of “building” a painting
  3. The role that photography plays in realistic watercolors
  4. When and how to use wet-into-wet technique
  5. When and how to use dry-brush techniques
  6. When to use saturated colors and when not to use them
  7. How to choose and mix colors
  8. Creating luminosity with watercolor glazes  







You haven't really seen the Cook Islands until you've seen Aitutaki. Many visitors to Rarotonga include this wonderful side's only a 55-minute plane ride north of Raro. This fantasy island is considered by many travel experts to be one of the most spectacular places in the South Seas. It is often compared to the exotic beauty of Bora Bora. On Aitutaki you can explore, photograph, sketch and paint the flowers, motus, and sunsets of this idyllic island. Or you can just laze around and think of the wonderful week you just had on Rarotonga The boat trip on Aitutaki's aqua-blue lagoon to the outer motus (islets) will leave you breathless with wonder. It's one of the world's largest and most spectacular lagoons. Bring your sketch pad and camera! If everyone signs on for the Aitutaki trip, perhaps we'll all go together! The only reason that I didn't include Aitutaki as part of the package is because I wanted the cost of the trip to be as affordable as possible.


I've found that one of the greatest joys of the workshop is when our group has meals together. These were among the most memorable times on the island, meeting at different restaurants around the island for lunch or dinner. Before the first day was over our group had formed a bond. From then on we hung out together during the afternoons and evenings. It was great fun.

Restaurants are abundant and diverse on Rarotonga. There are several to choose from in Avarua, and they are scattered around the island as well. You are never far away from a restaurant, and there are a surprising number of cuisines to choose from, including Chinese, Italian, Continental, Indian, Japanese, seafood, and local island dishes.

Tropical fruits are a special delight on the island. This is your chance to drink coconut milk as fresh as it can get...right from the tree. Fresh ripe paw paw (papaya), mouth-watering mangoes, star fruit, juicy oranges and tangy limes, breadfruit, passion fruit, watermelon, guavas, bananas and pineapple. Enjoy these tropical delights while you're on Rarotonga.

You'll love the pan seared fresh fish infused with lime juice, freshly caught lobster, ika mata marinated in coconut cream, curried octopus, sizzling steak with mango salad, pork and chicken with umukai, sweet potato, kumara, and of course, taro.


Q. Can I bring a spouse or partner who doesn’t participate in the classes?

A. Yes, see below for pricing details.

Q. Do I have to be an accomplished artist to participate?

A. Painting in Paradise workshops are open to all skill levels, from beginner to advanced. 

Q. How large are the groups?

A. Class size is limited to 12 students. Early reservations are recommended. The class may fill up quickly.                         

Q. What about meals?

A. We will have breakfast each morning at our resort. Breakfast is part of the tour package. Lunches and dinners are not.  Lunches and dinners will vary from day to day, depending on our activities. We will be together as a group for most of our lunches since lunch will follow our morning class. Some or all of us will be gathering at restaurants around the island for dinner each night. You are welcome to have dinner on your own if you have other plans.

Q. Do you do personal tutoring trips?

 A. Yes, in addition the workshop program, I offer a Personal Tutorship Program, where you will enjoy all of the wonders of the island that you would in a regular workshop. The only difference is that I will personally guide you, step by step, one on one, through your painting. I have seen students actually shed tears of joy after they finished their first painting that I guided them through. It's an exhilarating experience!

 If you would prefer another destination to Rarotonga for your painting lessons, we can arrange that too. If one or more friends, or a partner would like to join you as a student in the program, they can be included as well.  Ask me about pricing for personal tutoring trips.

Q. Is Rarotonga a safe country?

A. Yes, Rarotonga was a New Zealand protectorate until 1965, when the island attained independent nation status. Rarotonga is a Christian nation, and has no problems with terrorism. New Zealanders travel to Rarotonga for holiday much like Americans travel to Hawaii.




Nestled between majestic green mountains and a white sandy beach, overlooking a deep blue lagoon reflecting the tranquil blue sky, is the Edgewater Resort & Spa. Located on six acres of lush, tropical beachside landscape, where palm trees sway in the ocean breeze, the exotic surroundings of the Edgewater Resort & Spa resonate a magical Pacific experience and an unforgettable vacation.
The Edgewater Resort and Spa is Rarotonga’s largest resort, with 250 air-conditioned guest rooms to offer, including spacious self-contained 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.  The Garden Rooms are ideal for guests who
prefer to be surrounded by tropical gardens within walking distance of the beach. For exceptional views of the ocean, there are the Beachfront Rooms and for a more luxurious experience, there are the Beachfront Deluxe Suites with spa baths and private patios with magnificent views of the beach, ocean and the bordering coral reef. All rooms are designed with a view to maximize the privacy and comfort of Edgewater guests.

With Avarua, the capital of Rarotonga, only an 8-minute drive away, Edgewater Resort and Spa is well within reach of the island’s many urban delights. Avarua has a wide range of retail outlets showcasing local arts and crafts, a cinema, cafes, bars and essential services such as banks and supermarkets. Rarotonga’s airport is only a further 5-minute drive away, with the local golf course also situated nearby.


Prices starting from

 $2695.00*per person/double occupancy  

$2395.00 to accompany participant without taking the workshop 

$3195.00* single occupancy 

Prices subject to change, based on availability at time of booking. 3% credit card fee applies. Travel insurance available for an additional $59.00 per person.

Package Includes:  

                ROUNDTRIP AIRPORT~RESORT TRANSFERS.                   

May upgrade to a beachfront deluxe or VIP suite upon arrival for additional cost.                                



Our flight will depart from Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday night, March 30, 2014. We will arrive in Rarotonga on Monday morning. We will fly out of Rarotonga Saturday night, April 5, 2014 arriving in Los Angeles Sunday morning.

To ENROLL and reserve your place in the workshop, contact me:, or 253.841.7944.   If no answer, leave a message and I'll get right back to you. I will be happy to answer your questions. See you in Raro!

Do you have a suggestion for a Painting in Paradise location? Bhutan...the Mongolian Steppes...Bali... Italy...France. If there's enough interest, we'll schedule a workshop at your suggested locale. Even if you'd like to schedule a workshop in your local area, let us know. We're always open to suggestions.

ABOUT BRON SMITH                                                     

Bron Smith has spent many years working with watercolors as a fine artist and illustrator. He has taught drawing and painting from elementary school level through college. His workshops have been popular for many years in schools throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as spectacular locations on the Olympic Peninsula.

An avid traveler, Bron has conducted tours as well as taught art workshops. He has sketched and photographed throughout much of the world, including Southeast Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, South America, and all of Western Europe.

He majored in art at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, then attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles as an illustration major.  

He lives with his wife, Jacquie, in Puyallup, Washington. They have two grown sons, Brad and Eric.



Some people return to "Raro" every year. It's one of the most addicting places that I have ever visited. Most of the people that I have talked to who have visited Raro have been there several times. One friend even started a black pearl business in Raro just so he would have an excuse to return on a regular basis.

You'll hear the phrase "Kia Orana" often throughout the Cook Islands. That's their official greeting. It means "May you live long".  The pace of life is slow and easy on Rarotonga, much like Hawaii once was. 

The total population of the Cook Islands is about 15,000. Throughout the islands you will be treated warmly and welcomed by the people.

The Cook Islands consist of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometers of Pacific Ocean. The islands lie at the center of the Polynesian Triangle, flanked to the west by the Kingdom of Tonga and Samoa and to the east by Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia.

Cook Islanders are traditional, religious people. You will notice their white CICC churches throughout the islands. Most Cook Islanders are Christian, and attend church regularly. One of the highlights of a visit to Rarotonga is the Sunday morning service.  To hear the choir sing their hymns in their native Maori language is a memorable experience.

RAROTONGA...the vibrant center of the Cook Islands

Rarotonga is only 24 miles in circumference, so nothing is too far away. The "Cook Island Bus" is a convenient and economical way of getting around, making runs around the island every hour in both directions.

Many people opt to rent a motor scooter. There are a number of places around the island that offer scooter rentals. It's a fun convenient way to see the island, but it helps to have some experience at riding motor bikes, and you have to remember to drive on the LEFT side of the road. I had a hard time with that last year... old habits really do die hard. 

In order to rent a scooter you have to take a simple round-the-block scooter driving test in Avarua in order to get a Cook Islands drivers license. We had great fun zipping around the island on our scooter in the warm tropical weather.You also have the option of renting bicycles or cars. All transportation rentals are a personal expense, not part of the tour package.


The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar. When you arrive at the air terminal in Rarotonga you will be able to exchange your money for New Zealand dollars. There are other places around the island where you can exchange your money. We found the best exchange rate at the bank in Avarua. There is also a Western Union in Avarua where you can exchange your money.  You get more for your money when you exchange American dollars for New Zealand dollars, but of course the rate varies from day to day. 


You may want to stay over for a few days just to enjoy the island as a "tourist". I heartily recommend it.


A great way to see Raro is from above. You can take a scenic flight around the island by light aircraft, or by helicopter. Inquire at the air terminal.


If you're a hiker, you'll want to take the cross island hike, for an up close and personal look at the mountainous jungle terrain. It's a four-hour hike, and it takes you past the island's mountain landmark, Te Rua Manga, the "Needle", a unique rock spire. There are a number of shorter mountain hikes as well. Inquire about hiking at the visitors center in Avarua. 

For the less ambitious hiker, the Takitumu Conservation Area offers gentle nature walks throught the lush forests, and along mountain streams where you will find a number of rare species of plants and birds.


You won't find this activity in the tourist brochures, but we enjoyed just putt-putting around the island on our scooter. Such a contrast from our life in the Pacific Northwest, even at night on the scooter the air was pleasantly warm. We never got chilly. 

The main road on the island, the Ara Tapu, is the one that skirts the fringe of the island. If you opt to rent a scooter, be sure and take an afternoon to explore the Ara Metua, the inner island road, then have dinner at one of the restaurants on the south side of the island. The Ara Metua runs roughly parallel to the Ara Tapu most of the way around the island. This is where you will see the true, authentic Polynesian countryside.  We enjoyed  exploring the little side roads off the Ara Metua that lead up into the mountains. On the Ara Metua, you'll see all of the island crops, like taro, kumara, and all the tropical fruits. Many of the flowers that you see in the botanical gardens you'll also see in the country gardens, and growing wild along the Ara Metua.


One of the best ways to get acquainted with the island is by taking the safari tour, an exciting and educational tour of the island in four-wheel drive vehicles. Along with a dose of island history from your tour guide, and some great views from high up on the mountain, you'll enjoy a  freshly caught fish barbecue lunch... the perfect way to end the tour. You'll find Safari Tour brochures at your resort.


Another way to get acquainted with Cook Island  culture is to visit the Cultural Village. This three-hour cultural experience includes weaving, coconut husking, fire-making, carving, local storytelling, traditional dancing, concluding with an island lunch and show.  


For the golf enthusiast, there's the Rarotongan Golf Club, a 9-hole course at Black Rock. Several hotels, including the Edgewater, have tennis courts. There's also a lawn bowling green in Avarua.


An amazing underwater world awaits those who want to venture beyond the lagoon to the outer side of the reef. There you may see whales, hammer head sharks, grey and white-tip reef sharks, and sea turtles, as well as a wide array of colorful tropical fish. One of the great joys of diving in the Cook Islands is the visibility...100-foot plus year round!  


Of the 15 islands in the Cook Group, Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the most popular. But if you are seeking solitude in an island paradise, the other lesser known islands are a world away from everywhere. Outer islands to consider in the southern group are Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, and Mangaia. In the northern group are Penrhyn, Manihiki, Rakahanga, Pukapuka, Nassau, Palmerston, and the most isolated and least visited of the Cook Islands, Suwarrow, known as the island where Tom Neale lived a solitary modern-day Robinson Crusoe life for five years. You can read the book, An Island to Oneself online.