Ohia and Lehua, acrylic on canvas, 8”x10”
Ohia and Lehua
This week my Plein air painting group and I tromped over an old, crumbly lava field to our destination along the Red Road… a small ohia tree in full bloom with lehua blossoms. These ohia trees are the first trees that grow in the cooled lava fields. The ohia trees are native to the Hawaiian islands, and because they grow directly from the lava rocks and cracks, they have a strong association with the volcano goddess herself, Pele.
I decided to study this beloved island tree up close, and really examine how this gnarly, twisted tree grows, how the leaves are formed, and where the fire red blossoms perch on the limbs.
There is also a magnificent Hawaiian legend of how Ohia and Lehua first came to be:
“The legend says that one day Pele met a handsome warrior named Ohia and she asked him to marry her. Ohia, however, had already pledged his love to Lehua. Pele was furious when Ohia turned down her marriage proposal, so she turned Ohia into a twisted tree.
Lehua was heartbroken, of course. The gods took pity on Lehua and decided it was an injustice to have Ohia and Lehua separated. They thus turned Lehua into a flower on the Ohia tree so that the two lovers would be forever joined together.
Hawaiian folklore says that if you pluck this flower you are separating the lovers, and that day it will rain.”
Richard, Lynn, and myself painting around the Ohia tree.
Live painting at a wedding in Kona
Over a year ago, a bride-to-be asked if I did “live painitng” at weddings. I was familiar with live painting, which is basically another term for painting in person on location at an event. She had searched the internet and found me, and enjoyed the loose painterly style of my landscape paintings. Naturally, I said yes! After all, I’ve been painting people and places ‘live’ my whole life. However, painting as large a painting as the bride requested would be more of a challenge to paint on location. I decided to use acrylics since they dry fast and I would be able to ship the painting sooner after it was completed.
Then the pandemic happened. I thought I would get a call telling me the wedding was canceled, However, since the wedding was being held outdoors and guests would be wearing masks, the event remained scheduled as planned. The weekend finally arrived and so did I, with my easel, paints, brushes, and large prepared canvas.
It was a glorious location for a wedding at a private estate on the Kona side of the island. I arrived early to set up and paint the setting from a distance. I wanted to include the tall palms, the coastline, and the distant Kohala hills. Working quickly to capture the whole scene, I painted during the ceremony and reception, and finally packed up and left when it began to get dark. Later in my studio, I added details as well as the bride and groom in the foreground.
Fortunately, the bride and the groom LOVED the painting. It captured the location and setting and most importantly, memories of the day.
Rhythm in art refers to the arrangement of shapes in a way which creates an underlying beat. It is similar to the rhythm of music, but instead of notes and sounds, we use colors, shapes and lines.
A friend recently asked me what my newest landscape painting was about. Immediately the title “Rhythm and Blues” popped in my head. I hadn’t previously thought of a title but the words seemed so apropos.
I had been gifted a lovely, prepared arch-shaped canvas a few years ago but was saving it for the right moment. Apparently the right moment finally arrived, as I placed the canvas in my car before I drove off to paint in the morning. This was the first time I painted on a semi-circle shaped format and it won’t be my last. I love it!
I appreciate the flow created by the semi-circle format; the eyes move easily around the top curve and to the sides of the canvas.
The subject I chose to paint was a view just down the road along the coast. There were a few large trees with long limbs in the foreground, and ocean with crashing waves along the lava coastline in the background.
The spacing of the trees trunks creates a rhythm that moves laterally across the canvas. This then creates an alternative pattern of ‘negative shapes’, the spaces between the trees. The depiction of the lava coastline moving back in space is interspersed between the trees. This allows the eyes to shift back and forth, alternating between background and foreground.
Another visual flow is created by the various hues of blues to depict air, water, and the cool of the shadows. A pattern of shifting colors and brushmarks skims across the surface of the painting.
Painting is a visual language and like music, the use of patterns, rhythm, and beats within a work of art engages the viewer that much more.
Rhythm and Blues, oil on canvas, 17″ x 34″
The Blank Canvas
Prompt: Things are surfacing.
Gazing into the abyss without a foothold, I know not where I stand nor how far the surface is from me. We’ve all heard of the blank canvas, but does it mean the same to each of us?
Blank is a place of limitless potential. Blank is floating nothingness, the place we call the empty mind. Blank is a rare commodity, a goal to strive for, a point of departure. Blankness is by no means an easy achievement.
For me, the struggle to arrive at a blank canvas is more complicated that it may seem. I’ve got piles of projections to climb through before I can get through to the other side.
What should my art look like? Images from art books, art history, centuries of painting styles and ism’s fill my mind. I question what to paint? How should I paint? What do I want to paint? Or, why paint at all?
The layers of ego are so stacked that the blank canvas can feel like an eternity away from where I am now. Yet, still I strive. I strive to be free from the shackles of history.
Open mind. Empty mind.
Sitting at a blank canvas I pray for the lightness of being from whence I begin my flow. Only from that sacred place where nothing can be foreseen or expected, can I be ready for that moment when things truly start to surface.