Day Three —Kona
On the West side of the big Island lies Kailua-Kona, or just Kona as they call it. It’s a warm and sunny coastal town protected from the moisture by the slopes of Maunaloa. It’s famous for great weather and coffee plantations that thrive on the lava enriched soils rising from the cool ocean. I flew in here just a few day previous but now I got to see it first hand.
Scott spends a lot of time here because the cruise ships that dock and spill their vacationers out onto the streets looking for something to take home from Hawaii. He supplies them with paintings at a great bargain. Just today I got a note from him saying he’d sold a few more and was toasting me at Splashers, the bar we ate and drank in both times we visited. At first I was a bit dismayed by how cheep he priced them, but better to sell them and have the money than collect them in the basement, like me. Painting in a beautiful spot, selling a few when he can, paying for lunch and a beer with maybe enough money left over for gas—not a bad life.
This day, Eliza, my niece joined us and after our usual coffee stop we headed southwest for the 45 minute drive. This town struck me like the Gulf Coast beach towns I know well with lots of high rise condos and tourist traps. Along the main road there are plenty trinket places and tour guides hawking trips plus a few restaurants and bars sprinkled in. The old part of town is anchored by the 200 year old Moku’aikaua Church, the Huliheʻe Palace home of the royal family plus a few big banyan trees that spread out near ocean. We set up right on the wall that winds down from the center of town past the church to the dock the cruise ships unload on.
I just had to do a view of the church after seeing countless versions by my brother. It’s painted on one of my small 9 x 12” linen boards —using the remaining Galcyd I had made this look jewel like. I was careful to capture the wonderful proportions and and look of this white puritan style church and the way the slopes of the volcano gradually rise in the distance to fade in color and hue. It’s a little jade green gem that will remind of the picturesque place and another that I would have a hard time parting with.
Francis Scott, in his plantation hat, linen pants and Hawaiian shirt looked the part and dashed off another of his excellent views. A few fellow painters stopped by and introduced themselves. Jeenie Garcia actually knew me from the PleinAir.ning, a web site that I post to quite often. She and her friend were both part of the local group that paints here on a regular basis. Scott knew them too having become associated with them a few months earlier. They took a look at the work and said to Francis “wonderful and loose” then looked at mine “wonderful and tight!” Yes…I am a bit tighter. Odd thing is, his setup and methods are so much tighter than mine but his work is quite a bit looser. As a plein air painter I do “interpret” but I try to capture what I see accurately. Value and color and the proportion of things are my main concern. After all, there was something that attracted me to the scene to start with. I will move a tree or change the color of the sky…occasionally, if I must, but I try to record what I see. Not to say the other approach is wrong.
Just as we finished up Scott got a hold of a customer. He keeps a small cloth bag with several of his finished paintings just to sell. She looked thru his work and appeared to like one of his beach scenes. I’m not sure how much he sold it for…$40 or maybe $60, but enough to buy us beer and lunch across the street.
So we ate lunch with a view of the blue Pacific and afterword packed up the truck and as it was still early decided to stop on the way back for a swim and a few more paintings. Just a short ride up HWY 19 we veered off the road and headed for Kua Bay. Sounds about as romantic and wonderful as it is. There’s not much in the way of trees or cover on this side of the island, its is dominated by lava flows and only the softness of ocean sands dissipate it a bit. A sizable group of people were there, but not a lot for a Saturday afternoon. The small bay enclosed a wonderful white sand beach with black lava end plates and a perfect view towards Maui to the North.
Kua is a great place to swim and we immediately took advantage of it. The surf is powerful and dangerous if you get caught up in it. Eliza is a surfer and she warned me but I couldn’t help myself and my back still aches weeks after from a few thrashings I took. But the temperature is perfect and the sandy ocean floor had nothing to be wary of. If you like, you can go snorkeling near the lava—just don’t venture out too far into that deeply hued water.
We swam for a bit, but came to paint and so we set up under the only tree on the beach next to a picnic table. Scott looked West into the sun and I painted the other way with Maui in the background.
Just using terpentine this time made my paint a bit thin, but this 11 x 14″ tells the tale pretty well of the waves and the fantastic view. The color is just about spot on and at the last minute a small sailboat slipped into view so I put it in. Francis, who likes to incorporate something closer to the viewer somehow managed to get the tree we were under in with the beach beyond and a very high horizon. A few fantastic hours under the warm sun on a world class beach working hard to capture the look on canvas—pretty nice way to spend the afternoon. The crowd was a mix but appeared to be mostly locals and as I was to find out this is a very special place to the Hawaiians who have a casual but mystical manner to much that they do. There is a very interesting feeling when you travel and explore this island. The awe for the beauty and power of nature becomes an ever-present factor —it’s all around you and for me did not diminish as the week went on. People are inclined to involve themselves more with the ocean and the elements. The weather is so delightful and just about anyone would rather be outside so you become more attached to the environment, more a part of the natural flow of temperature, sunlight, and wind. I don’t read it as mystical or extrasensory, just very natural.
As I said before, the sun sets fast and we hurried to finish and pack up before the light was gone. Soon we were on our way back across the lava flows and over the slopes back towards Wiamea.