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Mamma’s Boys

This little family was getting settled in for the evening on a shower tree branch right outside my studio window this past March. The lighting for photography wasn’t that great at the time, but I kept shooting pictures, hoping to capture the one shot that had the “feeling” and character that I like to paint. And 300 pictures later I got it. (hooray for digital cameras – you can always delete) There was  the mamma bird all fluffed out to keep warm with one baby asleep and the other awake. They were so…….. cute! I just love nature especially animals, and ever since I took the picture of these cute zebra doves I’ve been wanting to paint them – and I finally did.

They were sitting on a very common and pretty tree in Hawaii called a shower tree. The trees bloom in several different colors and we have both a rainbow shower tree (which is the one in the painting) and a golden shower tree in our yard. They bloom several times a year now that they are both mature trees, each about 13 years old. In full bloom the entire tree is all flowers and no leaves, and when the blooms die they fall off just like a rain shower of flower petals to the ground – thus the name “shower tree”.

The painting is a fun mix of my signature watercolor style using my favorite Faber Castell watercolor pencils as my pallet (for the branch and the birds) along with some new watercolor pans that I picked up this past May while in Paris. There is a famous company called Sennelier that has been in the business of making various types of paint for 125 years now, even creating special pigments for artists like: Cezanne, Gauguin and Pablo Picasso. Van Gogh was also known to have used Sennelier. I had learned that Sennelier came out with a special honey based watercolor set for their 125th anniversary this year. At the time it wasn’t available in the US and I thought it would be pretty fun to pick up the set at their original store that dates back to 1887 while in Paris – and I did. I just love the vibrancy that I’m able to achieve with these richly pigmented paints. They are a joy to use and really made the shower tree in this painting sing with color. To see pictures of the Sennelier store in Paris follow me on Facebook at Lynn Marie Lara, Fine Art.

Some times it is good for an artist to try something completely new and different. This year is my year to do just that. I’ve pondered for awhile now about creating some new work with oil and acrylic on canvas. I’d like to find a medium that will portray the same soft look and feel that I get from watercolor but without having to frame a finished original behind glass.

Due to the sensitive nature of an original watercolor, originals must be framed behind UV glass or UV plexiglass for protection. So to eliminate the need for glass etc. I’m on a journey to discover whether oil or acrylic will give me the look and soft feel that I like on canvas. The first creation is this little Japanese White Eye bird, sitting on a cherry blossom branch.

These darling little birds often come to our yard in the late afternoon looking for a little bite of dinner (small insects and fruit nectar). Usually there are at least two, and many times several of them traveling together. They are quite quick and flit from branch to branch. They have a very fast jerky way of moving their heads which makes them have a real “character” about them. They are not very big, only about 4″ in size, green with a wonderful white ring around their eyes – therefore their name.

While we don’t have any Cherry Blossom trees in our immediate area, there are many beautiful ones about 1/2 hour away in Waimea. One of my favorite places on the Big Island. The birds themselves are prevalent in many places on the Big Island including Waimea. The soft petals of the flowers create such a nice feeling for my sweet little bird to rest, while he scopes out the petals for his favorite insect snack!

My quest for a new medium has just begun, and what a fun start it was with this little feathered friend. I’ll be painting some more of my favorite flowers and birds in the up coming months. The next creation will be in acrylic, and it will help me see which type of medium will translate my watercolor style to canvas with maybe a little added artistic flare. We shall see……….

A Christmas Box!

To become more productive as well as proficient in painting, I decided that I need to take greater advantage of the beauty in Hawaii by painting outside of my studio – plein air! To encourage myself to this task, I wanted to invest in the tools to do so, and I discovered the neatest pochade box at AllaPrimaPochade.com.

It’s a portable paint studio, crafted to attach to a camera tripod to allow you to paint a canvas while holding all of your tools, brushes and pallet to paint with.”Pochade – is a French word for a small sketch, especially one executed in oils, out of doors, and in preparation for a larger, finished painting.” Ben Haggett is a wood worker and painter who handcrafts these boxes to order. In researching these types of plein air painting boxes and comparing them with the normal french easels, I’ve determined that this box looks the most portable, the best value and highest quality for the price. So I’ve ordered one for Christmas! Now usually I wouldn’t order my own Christmas present, but with my husbands encouragement to do so and to get out there and paint more, I decided it was just what I needed. Now……. I just can’t wait till Christmas!

Saving the Donkeys

On a recent trip to Honolulu I read a very interesting article called “Home Off the Range” in the Hawaiian Airlines Hana Hou! onboard magazine, regarding the wild Kona Nightingale Donkey’s that roam the Big Island. The donkey population over the years has grown tremendously, and due to drought conditions in recent years much of the herd had migrated into the Waikoloa Village area causing car accidents and home owners frustration. In order to preserve these wonderful creatures, several organizations on the Big Island have gotten together to capture and move the herd to safer locations including several preserves on the mainland and adopting individual animals out to qualified local residents. The article focused much of it’s attention on the efforts of one particular individual named Bird McIver founder of CB Horse Rescue.

I have often wanted to paint these wonderful creatures who were once such an intregal part of the working of Kona coffee farms. Many times as I would drive home from Waimea on the Waikoloa Road I’d come across a very large herd of upwards of 100 donkeys along side the road. Grabbing my camera and taking photographs as fast as I could to catch that perfect shot before daylight dissapeard on the horizon in one of our incredible Hawaiian sunsets. But most of the pictures turned out too grainy due to poor lighting conditions. But this article gave me hope. Once home from my trip, I contacted Ms. McIver to ask if she would permit me to come and photograph some of her rescued donkey’s up close and personal. She was a delight, and not only allowed me the privilege along with my friend who came along, but let me spend several hours doing so.

My first attempt at painting these gentle creatures came in the form of a class I attended shortly after my photo shoot. The pictured painting is the end result. And while not 100% complete due to the time limit in class, I was very pleased with the piece as this was also my first try at acrylics instead of watercolor. If you’d like to read the article that assisted me in this effort you can find it in it’s entirety by following this link. You can also go to Bird McIver’s web site should you wish to assist her with her efforts to rescue these marvelous animals. Meanwhile I’ll continue to finish up this guy and paint some more of the amazing up close and personal donkey photographs that I was able to take!

New Horizons

I recently met a wonderful Oahu based artist named Patrick Ching (www.patrickchingart.com) at the Waikoloa Horse Expo. He was in attendance featuring his artwork and giving demonstrations on his particular style of painting, as well as showing a special line of art supplies he likes to use. A fond lover of local art myself I purchased one of his prints depicting our beautiful state bird the Nene goose. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Patrick’s gallery in Waimanalo (the “Naturally Hawaiian” gallery) on the windward side of Oahu. You can’t miss the place. There’s a terrific eatery there with horse statues out front, bright colors and a fun atmosphere. The restaurant has an attached gallery dedicated to Patrick’s work. Behind the shop he has a great art studio with plenty of room for his students to paint. His schedule is jam packed with teaching classes and working on other projects, all the while sharing his gift and love of painting.

I had been on island visiting some galleries that Patrick had recommended to me. My hope was to see if they would carry my artwork so that I could gain exposure outside of the Big Island. The first one I saw was “Island Treasures” in Kailua (no website yet). It’s a wonderful gallery/gift shop featuring all kinds of unique artwork and fine handicrafts from island artists. The staff there is so friendly, and the manager (Mary) has had years of experience in the industry. You can see the teamwork and dedication right when you walk in the door. The shop is amazing. I wish I lived closer as I could see myself buying lots of gifts for friends there as well as decorative pieces for my own home. Don’t miss stopping in and seeing all of the great local treasures they have to offer – and now one more Big Island artist!

The other stop was the “Nohea” gallery in Ward Warehouse (www.noheagallery.com). Nohea has been around for years and has three locations on Oahu. The Ward Warehouse location, Waikiki as well as in Kailua on the windward side. I have admired this gallery for years. One of my favorite stops when I get to the city is shopping at Ward Warehouse. While unable to meet with the buyer that day herself, due to schedule conflicts, her staff took my samples at her request and they really loved them. Yesterday, I was notified by the buyer that she is going to put my pieces in the gallery. Laura indicated that her staff really enjoyed the beautiful work and that always makes a big difference. I’m so grateful for their support and encouragement, and hope that many people in Honolulu will enjoy my paintings too. If so it will be a win – win for me as well as the gallery. I have to say that one of the fun things about conversing with Laura is that we did all of our communicating via text message. As the day before I had just picked up a new cell phone myself, I got a kick out of using the new trend in technology rather than the standard email or voice messages commonly used in the business arena. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Honolulu to meet Laura in person – cell phone in hand I’m sure! 😮

An African Crane

One of the challenges that I’ve faced as an artist is missing the critical shots of a bird, donkey or other subject that I’d love to paint, due to the response of my point and shoot camera & its shutter speed. So to finally combat this problem I recently obtained a modest Nikon DSLR camera.

One of the pleasures of this change in approach to obtaining reference photos, is the photo featured above of an African Crane taken today at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. My husband Ken is a wonderful photographer, so the two of us went on a photo safari today so that I could get used to my new camera.

One of the things I look for when painting a subject is its expression, position, angle, pose etc. And with a live subject, these attributes can change in an instant. Without having adequate responsiveness from the point and shoot that I was using, I was constantly frustrated because I kept missing those critical shots. I don’t shoot a photograph for a nice photographic outcome, but rather to catch my subject in the correct position, lighting and expression when applicable. Then I paint from the reference photograph.

Although I certainly don’t know all the features of my new camera yet, I’m much more satisfied with the results I’m getting. With the camera set to continuous shooting mode, I was able to catch these beautiful African Cranes in a multitude of wonderful positions & expressions. Now only time will tell if I can recreate this incredible creation in watercolor.

You’ll have to check back and see.

Watercolor Vacation

This past September my husband and I celebrated our 19 year anniversary with a different type of vacation. We went to Wisconsin for a week where I took a painting class from Susan Bourdet. She’s a very famous watercolor artist known for her birds and flowers and sold through Wild Wings Galleries all throughout the country.

Never having taken a formal painting class like this, I found it difficult to start with. The class had about a dozen students from all over the country and at various levels of experience, although it didn’t appear that anyone was exceptionally new to painting. This in itself left me feeling somewhat pressured as if there was a competition going on, although there wasn’t any. Additionally we were to complete 4 paintings in 5 days! I don’t usually even finish 1 in that amount of time, which also left me feeling stressed.

The second evening I decided to go back to the studio to paint after dinner. The 2 studios at Dillman’s resort were open 24/7 which was great. My current style uses watercolor pencils and I attempted to initially paint our assigned project utilizing them incorporating what I had learned that day. However, after about an hour I decided to break my mold and use the pallet paint as taught in class. I finished my painting that night at about 1am and was quite pleased that it turned out.

When deciding to spend part of our vacation in an art class, my goal was to learn new techniques and gain knowledge from an established artist. Susan’s an expert in the field and has the awards and gallery sales to prove it. While not desiring to change my own style to copy hers, I did want to gain insights and techniques that would improve my paintings. What I did learn was a number of very key points to bear in mind that had I not taken her class I might have struggled with for years. My future painting would have seemed disjointed and I would never have understood why they didn’t turn out. For that information alone, the class was well worth it.

Now my next goal is to get back in the studio again. I’ve painted our church complex in the past couple of years and just finished painting the interior of our house. Now it’s time I get back to my watercolors and do what I enjoy the most. Sitting in peace, with water and paint flowing from my brush, surrounded by art supplies and listening to audio books, sermons or scripture as I paint. My hope is that the inspiration in my studio and ears will wind up infusing itself into the creations I paint and therefore become inspirations to all who view them.

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