Part III: Wisconsin Brothers Take on Hawaii — Hilo


After the flight in my brother took me to dinner near his house in Waimea. Great sushi and local beer. We met up with his daughter Eliza and her boyfriend Chris but as the evening wore on I started to fray. I had left the house at 4 AM on Thursday arriving at 2 PM in Kona —16 hours total in the air and airports. With the six-hour time difference plus very little sleep the night before—I was walking dead. As soon as we got to the house I crashed on the couch. The temperature was a cool 70 or so and I had no trouble going to sleep.

Waimea is a cow town and situated in the northern part of the island, equal distance between Hilo on the east and Kona on the west —albeit with the dormant volcano Mauna Kea between. Everything is on a massive volcanic slope but there are occasional hillocks that bulge out of the sides every so often, some small, some huge. These are caused by bubbles of lava or air that force their way to the surface. Some are collapsed like mini volcanoes.  Cattle ranches dominate this section of the island and the climate is cooler. Mexican vaqueros were imported at one time to handle the cattle and they left their mark. Western fashion, rodeos—even the architecture has an early western feel with squared up double story fronts on the buildings.  It’s windy too with a good stiff breeze most of the time. There are huge Norfolk pines planted in rows as windbreaks and property lines.  I saw no mosquitoes or even many flies while I was in Hawaii—I guess it’s too breezy.

I awoke early and checked my e-mail then set up a small office on a desk that I would use the entire time I was there. I also unpacked the boards that I made and sent on ahead. 20 beautiful double primed portrait linen boards, with a light ocher ground. I had various sizes including several of my favorite 12 x 24s. Scott was up and about ten minutes later we were out the door on our way to Hilo for some painting.

Driving east we crossed through downtown Wiamea and stopped at Starbucks for our morning coffee ration. We headed east toward the Saddle Road that crosses over Muna Kea to Hilo. It was about 6:30 and a 40-mile trip. Scott took me this scenic route to show me the areas unique geography. It was unearthly and as we neared the upper slopes trees gave way to open areas and large lava-covered expanses with interesting “islands” of trees nestled in. Rising on one side near the summit the climate was noticeably cooler. Some wildlife—goats, grouse, I even saw a ring-necked pheasant.  In general, I did not see many birds other than small sparrows—no hawks or eagles while on the island and I never saw a seagull the entire time. As we crossed over to the other side the humidity took a big jump and the plants changed quickly. More palms of course, also but also huge 100 + foot Eucalyptus trees are grown in groves and harvested for lumber. As we got closer in to the city I couldn’t help noticing the shift in the demographics with a larger population of  Japanese, Chinese and Philippine. My brother took us to a small area right near the bay that was dominated by a grove of banyan trees. They look like multiple thin trees that grow together to form one large massive tree with a huge lacy canopy—so exotic!  Here too is Suisan’s Fish Market, a landmark, right on the bay with a small marina on one side. It has a wide oriental style roof painted red. Although I was never there at 6 AM the local fisherman sell there catch here every morning to Suisan Corp. and they export it worldwide.

We got started right away. I set up right on the walkway that surrounds the marina for my first painting of the trip. A 14” x 11 view out to the harbor past a perfect palm tree and sailboat. In the background is the slope of the volcano that quietly evaporates into the mist. Scott did a view just to the right with one of the sailboats upfront. As we painted he told me of a man who often buys his work right off the easel here. He’s gotten to know him quite well and visited his house once. He makes his money selling beetle nuts and cleans up after the fisherman for free using the leftover fish to fertilize his crop.
Scott has very set routines. He uses a limited palette of ultramarine blue and pthalo blue, cad red and cad red deep, cad yellow, cad lemon yellow, and zinc white—no ocher.  He follows the teachings on Emile Gruppe to a large extent and he uses terps and linseed oil—no alkyd. I have a bit more involved and contemporary palette: titanium white, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cad red med., cad yellow, yellow ocher, cad orange, and I use pthalo green. I also use an alkyd medium —Gamblin’s Galcyd Lite (a bit shiny) or Archival Oil Odorless Lean. By the way, alkyds can not be shipped by air because they are flammable so I had only enough for a few paintings left in the jar that was with my equipment. It ran out quickly and switched to just turpentine and finally to a mix with linseed.

With our first day pretty much done we packed up, but not till Scott bought a big chunk of what they call “Ahi” —or big eye tuna to take home for dinner. They also call Wahoo tuna —”Ono “ this is my favorite and plentiful so I feasted on it while I was there. A great finish to our first day.

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