How to experience Hawaii as an artist

Hawaii's beautiful people, pristine beaches, inland oasis settings and culture lets you experience Hawaii as an artist easily. The Hawaiian islands and their artists can bring one great joy and a sense of peace with mother nature.

How to experience Hawaii as an artist

Always the biggest question is what should I pack?  How best can I use these next two weeks of vacation to create some new one-of-a-kind originals upcoming shows and eGALLERi? I was fortunate enough to visit Hawaii twice several years ago. Both trips took me through Oahu and then onto Maui and/or Lanai.

Looking south toward Diamond Head mountain
Looking south toward Diamond Head mountain

I was able to sit on the beach and learn to paint Hawaiian waves while capturing the brilliant mountain ranges of color. One of my paintings on location was of Indian Head Mountain looking south from Waikiki Beach, Oahu Hawaii. As I sat there trying capture those beautiful green mountains, I kept thinking about all the famous people who have walked this beach and the fun they must have had in the 50s and 60s.  Now Maui and Lanai are also amazing places and most of my previous work has been of beautiful vista's from Maui.  This trip will take me to Kauai, the garden island.

Now what size watercolor paper should I pack? This can be always a a challenge since sometime, I like to take a day out of the sun and work on a larger piece. Plus, I need to remember to pack sunscreen, two piece suite, water shoes and my favorite beach sandals.

"Translucent waves of turquoise, green and golden brown wash upon the beach I paint." – Beth Moorhead

Experiencing Hawaii as an artist is all about proper preparation. Which not only includes finishing this blog post, but also doing a little digging on the history of Hawaiian artists and looking at the Kauai guidebook for the best beaches and hikes.

Great Artists and their experience with Hawaii as an artist

After a quick google, Wikipedia states there are over 71 well known artists who have painted various scenery in Hawaii.  Most recognizable is Georgia Totto O'Keeffe, the great "American  Mother of Modernism" who is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers and New Mexico landscapes.  Now Titian Ramsay Peale (November 17, 1799 – March 13, 1885) the late American naturalist artist and explorer, was a noted scientific illustrator. Peale's paintings and drawings of wildlife are known for their beauty and accuracy of the islands. But these two artists were not Hawaiian. As I do more research for inspiration I stumbled on a great article online by Widewalls - Hawaiian Art History. Some brief highlights of this great blog post are below.

The Hawaiian Artist

All the names of the ancient Hawaiian artists/craftsman remain obscure and unknown. Their works can be seen in key museums and are widely praised and included in all the comprehensive books regarding Polynesian and Oceanic art. Discovered and settled by Polynesians in the ancient times, Hawaii was functioning as a kingdom up until the second half of the 18th century. After Captain James Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to visit Hawaii in 1778, many others soon followed. This brought a dramatic change to Hawaii, its people, their way of life, culture and art.

“In my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.” – Mark Twain (1976). “Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume I: (1855-1873)”, p.105, Univ of California Press

Ancient Hawaiian artists were skilled craftsmen who had extremely high standards of work. For them, production of art was a test of oneself and a dedication to their Hawaiian culture and religion. The ancient Hawaiians also employed several aesthetic principals in their arts and crafts. Each work reflects ‘mana’, meaning ‘the power of spirit’ and the artist's talent previously provided by gods, and ‘pono’, meaning righteousness.

Hawaiian Art and the Artists After Cook

The production of ancient arts and crafts continued after Europeans discovered the island. Yet there was a new trend that emerged – Hawaiian art produced by Westerners.  During the 19th century, many professional and amateur painters visited Hawaii. Fascinated with its stunning beauty, they painted Hawaiian landscapes and people using imported materials and concepts. Night scenes of erupting volcanoes were especially popular as seen in the art movement called The Volcano School. Then there was the rising interest in painting landscapes by such artists as Jules Tavernier (shown below)Charles FurneauxErnst William Christmas and Joseph D. Strong. These artists traveled to Hawaii to trek across the rugged terrain on multi-day journeys. Although sulfuric gasses and intense heat of the volcano vents made it impossible to paint at the site, they painted dramatic nocturnal and daily scenes of erupting volcanoes from mental images.

After reading this article and thinking about experiencing Hawaii as an artist  - I am truly getting excited about getting in some hiking, basking on the beaches of Kauai and capturing a little beauty to take home and share with others.

Prepared and Ready to Go

My packing list is created and I have two nights to pack. Two sets of watercolor paints, six to ten brushed, three watercolor pads, no pallet knife - ha that's another great blog to tell . I travel with a back pack and suitcase filled with my favorite hiking and beach clothes along with my diner clothes for those sunset nights.  I always end up packing too many clothes, but hey its two weeks - why not be comfortable while experiencing Hawaii as an artist.

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