Beyond My Wisdom

Beyond My Wisdom
Prompt from my weekly writing group.

Watercolor painting showing freshness.

Dusk along the Puna coast. Watercolor, 2017

What is beyond my wisdom?

If something is beyond our wisdom, can we actually comprehend it? Certainly beyond my knowledge I can understand. But wisdom?

What is wisdom after all?

Does wisdom equal the sum of our knowledge? No, not really but I think wisdom encompasses that.

Wisdom is one’s intuition, at least in part. We intuit things often, yet we don’t always act on our intuition.

Wisdom is more like… knowing when a painting is done.

Knowing when a painting is done is a learned skill based on ample experience, plus a big dose of inner knowing.

Kids know when their paintings are done. They finish and shout out in glee, “Look at what I did!”

Adults artists rarely know when to stop. How often do we ask another’s advice “Do you think it’s finished yet?”

How can we, the creator not know?

We paint and the love of painting exceeds the time when the painting is actually complete. When we overwork a painting we lose the initial freshness. We arrive at the point of “Ugh!”, long after the initial “Ahh!”

Sadly it is only in hindsight when we know the artwork has been pushed too far. Though with insight, this experience adds to the sum of our wisdom.

My wish is to conjure the state of Beyond my Wisdom. Go one step further than knowledge and three steps back into childhood innocence.
Abbie Rabinowitz ~ May, 2021.

Ohia and Lehua

Ohia and Lehua painting

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.”

 

Pleinair painting group around the ohia

Richard, Lynn, and myself painting around the Ohia tree.

‘Live Painting’ at Weddings in Hawaii

artist painting at a wedding in Hawaii resort
Abbie at wedding

How I began painting at weddings
The journey of painting at weddings began a few years ago when a bride-to-be approached me with a unique request. She inquired if I offered “live painting” services for weddings. The bride had discovered my work online and was particularly drawn to the expressive and impressionistic style of my landscape paintings. Without hesitation, I gladly accepted her proposition. After all, I had plenty of experience capturing people and places in real-time through my years of artistic practice.

The bride shared her vision with me, describing the specific scene she desired to be painted. I dedicated myself to bringing her imagination to life on canvas. The satisfaction of fulfilling her expectations was immensely gratifying.

Since that initial experience, I have had the privilege of attending numerous weddings on the beautiful islands of Hawaii, both on the Big Island and Kauai. It is an absolute honor for me to offer my services as an artist, allowing me to witness and immortalize these incredibly special and memorable events through the creation of a stunning painting.

My Process
I make sure to arrive several hours ahead of the actual ceremony, allowing ample time for setting up and painting the surroundings. My goal is to capture the essence of the location, including flower arrangements, water views, gardens, palm trees, and breathtaking vistas while incorporating any other special details you desire. Working swiftly to encompass the entire scene, I paint throughout the ceremony while also taking photos to work from afterward.

Later, in my studio, I refine the painting by adding portrait details and applying finishing touches. To accomplish this, I utilize the photos I take at the wedding. The primary focus of the painting naturally centers around the bride and groom, but there is also the option to include members of the wedding party and guests. Once the final image is completed and you are satisfied with the result, I promptly send the painting to you.

I consider myself fortunate to have received tremendous appreciation from all my clients for their paintings. I strive not only to capture the physical likeness and setting of the wedding couple but also to convey the emotions and excitement that make a wedding day truly unforgettable.

Wedding Painting Gallery
Prices start at $1600 for watercolor on paper and range to $2400 for 24″x30″, acrylic on canvas. Shipping is extra.
Please contact me with the specifics of your wedding painting commission. We’ll discuss the date, time, setting, and other specifics you have planned for your wedding landscape & portrait.

 

 

 

Student Gallery

Student Gallery

Student Art Gallery: Abstract Expressionism Self-Directed, Online Painting Workshop
Five artists/students participated in two consecutive, 8-week abstract painting courses that I facilitated online.
Students worked independently on each new exercise, and we then met weekly online to show and share feedback on the new artwork. Scroll down to view each student’s set of paintings.

Abstract Expressionism Student Work

I’m thrilled!
Yesterday we held our first online critique for the 8-week Abstract Expressionism painting class that I’m facilitating.

Each student sent in several paintings that they had created using the first exercise of the course.

The exercise was to use primarily black and white on a large surface of paper or canvas. They could use thick or thin brushes, charcoal, or other drawing media. The process was to try not to think, but intuitively make a mark or stroke, and then step back several feet away to pause and look. Then when they felt the impulse, they could respond to their mark by approaching the canvas and adding another mark or stroke. I asked them to continue this process until they felt done.

Additionally, they could use white as a way to cover or delete marks they had made.
Using colors was optional as long as they used a limited palette,

It’s exciting to see the unique response and style of each student. Fortunately, everyone in the group is already comfortable using paint, and some are accomplished artists already.

The students work independently during the week, using new exercises that I introduce weekly.
We meet once a week to share our experience and share feedback on one another’s work.

I look forward to the next 7 weeks of co-creating this workshop with this passionate and expressive group of painters.

Rhythm and Blues

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 painting

Rhythm and Blues, oil on canvas, 17″ x 34″

Is it finished?

Who is to say when a painting is finished?

The first twenty minutes of a painting are usually the most exciting moments of a painting. The lines are fresh, the colors are bold, and the image is clear.  A painting can be considered finished within the first twenty minutes, yet rarely does an artist stop that soon.

In my experience, I often seek a return to the original freshness of the first twenty minutes when the initial strokes express mystery and magic, when the painting reflects a direct response between painter and paint.

The looming question that nearly every artist ponders is: When is a painting finished?

It is a very tough question to answer and for that reason, many artists work far longer on a painting than is needed.

In my practice, I need to discipline myself to pause and step back. I paint quickly and my painting changes shape rapidly. It takes a lot of courage to call a painting done at an early phase. When I paint in group, my artist friends often tell me I need to stop, since they can see my painting is still fresh and most likely finished.

Several years ago I visited a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City called “Unfinished”. The show displayed numerous paintings from the Renaissance to contemporary. What all these paintings shared in common was a freshness and a peek at artistic process.

In some paintings one could still see bare, untouched canvas where much of the surface was not completed. In some artworks only a small part of the image was fully defined, leaving the rest of the image barely suggested. Each work of art seemed to pose the question: Is it finished? Yet every piece felt alive and fully expressed.

So often as artists we have in mind what a finished piece of art should look like. We aspire to complete a painting, but often we overlook the beauty and expression in an ‘unfinished’ state. That amazing state of becoming is what breathes life into the painting. Looking back at the development thus far in my painting, I can see that I want to reintegrate the energy of the first twenty minutes.

Those Pesky Inner Critics

“Things are never as they seem.”
This writing prompt inspired a valuable lesson that I learned as an artist. We all have inner critics whose voices don’t serve our highest good. Learning how to quiet those voices is an ongoing challenge in life as well as art.

“Ugh!”
“What gaudy colors!”
“There’s way too much definition and those shapes don’t work!”
“Who am I kidding calling myself an artist?”


This all too familiar conference of critics called out their insults as I stared back at my canvas.

For weeks I’d been struggling with a large painting and I began to hate it. It was an abstract composition based on tropical plant forms. I had been inspired at first, but the painting had become complex. I lost myself in a mesh of colors, lines and shapes. After a while, I just couldn’t see it clearly. The more I worked on it, the more I thought of it as a failure.  “It’s probably the ugliest thing I ever painted”, I thought to my horror.


I couldn’t look at it any longer. Finally I wrapped it up and hauled the painting down to my storage unit. I turned it to face the wall so that no-one could see it, not even my other stored objects. Shutting the light off and locking the door behind me, I walked away thinking I could paint much better than that.


A year passed before I looked at my painting again.
I’d been searching for something that I had stored away when I spied the back of that canvas squeezed tight against the side of the wall.


I had forgotten about it.

Pulling the canvas out of hiding I held it out to the light of day and looked at it anew. My eyes were met by an array of exotic shapes, juicy colors, a celebration of tropical flora. “What an amazing painting!” I thought.


The critics were silent. I could see my artwork with truly fresh eyes… with objective eyes. 

It needed just a few strokes to complete it and I soon sold it at by next show. It’s still one of my favorites.

Big Island painting on wall

Big Island, oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″

Blank Canvas

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.blank canvas image

Contrast and Values

In addition to painting, I love to write. I’m part of a local writing group where we meet once a week and free-write from a prompt. The prompt can be a word, a phrase, or a sentence. Members of the group toss out a prompt and we give ourselves 10 – 20 minutes to write freely on the subject, or about anything that comes up for us. Afterward, we take turns reading out loud to the group. Recently a prompt inspired me to write about values and contrast.

The Ineptness of Light is Better than Dark

Contrast and values are the name of the game. It’s what life is about after all, the entire gamut of love and light, sadness and grief, all of that happening simultaneously. Wouldn’t one get bored with just light alone? It wouldn’t offer the variety and depth of the human experience… the challenges that create character.

I tend to paint in the mid-tones. Not too dark. Not too light. Subtle changes in value is where my strength lies, and it is also my weakness. My paintings often beg for more contrast.

As an artist, it’s good to know where to focus and how we can grow. Might this also be a metaphor for life?
Embrace more contrast. Choose your darkest darks and the lightest lights. The edge between light and dark is where excitement and the unexpected occurs. A sudden jump or a smooth transition? How do these changes help move the eyes through a composition?

It’s all about values. When you nail the right values everything clicks into place. Light, dark and everything in between.

Values in Painting
The following two images are from a portrait I painted recently. One is viewed in full-color and the other is a grayscale image of the same painting. A good painting will hold together even when the color is stripped out and just the values remain. By looking at just the grayscale image I’d say that the painting needs more contrast. What do you think?

Guoqian full color
Guoqian values only