I hate to say that on my second day in Hawaii we went to what I think was the most memorable and beautiful place of the entire trip. An almost mystical experience. Again, I was up early on Saturday to check and go through my e-mail. I think the first night I slept on the floor on a matt and switched over to the more comfortable couch about half way thought the night. Scott wanted to sleep on matt and have me to sleep in his bed but I would have nothing of it. After a few nights I was settled in and slept fine the rest of the time. They have no TV and each of them keep to themselves in their rooms so there was nothing to do in the evenings. I got in the habit of going to bed early —almost as soon as it got dark. My brother has a job and works a few nights a week along with a few days and even though he got three days off to spend with me I was by myself quite a bit. He said I could drive him to work and use his car but I was determined to not inconvenience him in the slightest. I explored the immediate area on foot and enjoyed every moment.
He was up at dawn and we stopped on the way out to get coffee at the local Starbucks in downtown Wiamea. No ordinary Starbucks, this one has a million dollar view from the outside seating. It was just barley light when we got on the road heading northwest. Down the slope towards the sea we got on highway 270. and headed up the North Kohala coast. The sun was coming up and as we pulled up one side of the volcanic slope you could see the island of Maui in the distance all lit up. My brother said it was a rare view of this mystical looking island only about 50 miles away but usually shrouded in clouds. Whisky colored light reflected off the rising slopes of a the huge volcano that must dominate the south side of the island. Large fiord like grooves were visible leading down to the purple blue sea. One would expect it to be populated by Jurassic Park dinosaurs or perhaps King Kong. I just sat a looked as we drove along. Here and there houses were cut in to the slope and Scott told me this was the area he’d like to live in most just because of the view. As we got further north trees started to close in and a few small towns showed up. The highway reaches up into this “thumb” like section of the island to few little towns like Hawi and Kapaau. This is the arts area of the island with lots of galleries and shops but not overly upscale. It was still early as we wound our way up past this section to his goal, Keokea Beach.
We got off the main highway and headed down the slope towards the ocean. On the way in i was again shocked by strange trees —this time Pandaus which appeared to be growing on stilts. Thin and tall with a buttressed roots. Past this the jungle opened up to a small cove and a beach. And what a beach, huge breakers were crashing in on black lava cliffs and in the distance red cliffs surrounded the bay. A bank of pink clouds stood between us and the purple silhouette of Maui. This was one view that photos did no justice, only a painting would do. Both of us setup as quickly as possible to catch the early light. I gave my brother one of my 12 x 24” boards and we painted exactly the same view. I cut in the cliffs a bit closer and pulled the overhanging trees just a bit further to the right than he. For hours we were lost in the trying to capture the raw power and beauty of this scene. 12 x 24 is big for plein air but we had no trouble whatsoever. It was perhaps the most satisfying painting experience I’ve ever had and I think both paintings were total successes. Mine has a green wave that crashes in up front and the sea changes color just as it did about 100 yards out to that sultry purple blue, not fading too much as it goes toward the horizon. Maui is sectioned off by a long line of gold lit clouds that are rolling thought the straight between the islands. I had brought some Galcyd lite with me and I used it in this painting so it has a bit of a gloss to it but not overly so. The brush work is strong and the color sets such a mood. Like I said, no photo comes close to the power of a good plein air painting—this is one I will never sell.
After about three hours I wondered around and took a closer look at the area as my brother went through his long clean up routine. The surf was too dangerous to swim in but some young guys were using wave riders to tow their buddies out past the close in breakers to the point beyond the northern section of the small bay. Here large waves formed before crashing into the cliffs. The kids were not surfing just riding the boards in as close as they could to be pulled back by the others on the wave riders. Local Hawaiian boys from what I could tell. Good looking kids with features cut like a knife.
About noon we packed up the truck and headed north along the highway again finally to a place called Pololu Valley Lookout. It’s the end of the road and looks out over the sea with huge cliffs to the west. Six large fissures off the slopes of Mona Kea open up just north of Wiamea and run about 6 miles to the sea. There are no roads into this section—just way to rugged. Scott said you can hike in and that each of the valleys has it’s own population of people that live there and they rarely venture out. Thin rock beaches skirt the cliffs and there are waterfalls off the escarpments hundreds of feet above. The only way to see most of this or access it is from a boat.
We turned the CR-V around and headed back south looking for a spot for lunch and stopping in Hawi a small town with a charming square square that is the location of a statue of King Kamehameha. This quite a tourist attraction and a bit of a must see to native Hawaiians. We lunched across the street on pretty good pizza and more local brew – I like the Longboard but I’m not a hard core beer guy and I’m sure if you’re into IPA you’d prefer the…. . The statue depicts the king with his flowing yellow cape of Mamo bird feathers. A bird, that like most of the native ones is extinct now—no wonder, it must have taken the feathers of thousands of these yellow and black birds to cover that cape. This bronze statue painted version is almost obnoxiously cadmium yellow medium—if you’re a painter, you know what I’m talking about. In fairness to the hawaiians the birds were fine till we showed up. The introduction of non native species has had and continues to wreak havoc on the native species, birds, plants and one could say humans too. I was also attracted to the simple period architecture here. Built by missionaries, in the 1890’s the local slant on victorian gingerbread is quite marvelous and I was to see it several places on the island. The original native craftsmen were very talented with wood carving.
My brother had to work that evening so he needed to get some rest. I decided to get another painting in so I planned to walk up one of the nearby hills to see if I could get a good view. I loaded up my equipment and went for what turned up to be a long walk. At first I headed into Wiamea’s downtown area, with about 15 pounds of equipment and full hands I should have been satisfied with a simple close in view of just about anything. But be as I am I searched and walked for an hour before I ended way at the top of the very steep Opelo Road in search of the perfect view. I set up on the street looking perhaps a mile or more down the road and proceeded to work a few hours on a 11 x 14. The painting had the road shooting downhill with crossing afternoon shadows to the left while to right was a very windblown pine tree —an Australian pine I now believe. I struggled with it trying to make some sense of this view finally dashing in some orange light to liven it up as the setting sun came into play. Sunset happens fast in Hawaii—i’m not sure why but I thought it was twice as fast as I was used to. I found myself having to pack everything up quickly and get going before it was dark. Lucky it was all downhill.
Once back at the house I unloaded all my equipment in the garage up from the house. This open area acted like a lanai for the house with room for a table and chairs in addition to a car. I also used it as a spot to store paintings while they dried. My plan to use an alkyd drier so most would be ready for the trip fell by the way side as I ran out rather quickly. We sat up here in the early evening and reviewed and photographed our work. There was a small room behind the garage that had an open window, this looked out on to what one could only call a typical Hawaiian suburban back yard. But in what was now the norm to me the plants were marvelously exotic. A small shed in the yard was surrounded by ti (pronounced tea) plants, an odd bamboo like plant with broad almost banana plant leaves that shoot out of the joints in a very spray like fashion. I was mesmerized by this little “Ti Shack” and decided to paint it’s portrait at night. I brought my headlight just for this purpose and so that evening I started my Hawaiian nocturne. The moon came out and gave the scene an interesting steal blue glow. I worked on a small 9 x 12 and over a few hours had what I thought was an interesting painting.
I’m not thin or too fat but It’s always a concern to me to watch what I eat. My usual habits had all changed quickly with the realization that I was entirely free to do what I wanted to do. No set eating time, no one expecting me to be someplace. I lost about ten pounds in the ten days I was there. Amazing— and a lesson to me that perhaps my lifestyle was at the root of any issues I may have. I was certainly more active and had no refrigerator at my convenience full of temptation—I never missed it. Early to bed early to rise …makes a man healthy wealthy and wise. This was never more true and could be a real bonus if I were ever to be a full time painter. I realize it was only because of the circumstances—things would settle back to normal once I return to my routines in Atlanta.
After all my work and walking I was not at all satisfied with the painting at the top of Opelo Rd. Not Hawaiian enough—Just a picture of a road and a tree. Nothing that said Hawaii to me. I let it dry but the whole time was thinking it would be painted over, before the week was out it was. The Ti Shack too although quite good, fell victim to my habit to touch up and as the week progressed was painted over three times! In the end it was passable but lost it’s spark, as I packed up my work I had to eliminate one painting and this was the one to stay. I gave it to my niece Eliza who had her eye on it.