Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkins All Around

Fall Fruits
5 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
Today, I decided to paint a still life of three of the pieces out of the fall arrangement in the library. It has been quite a while since I did a still life. I think I would like to do more.
The white pumpkin got out of hand and nearly ruins the painting, but I thought I would post it anyway. Sometimes it is important to put the learning pieces out there as a reminder to stay humble. Just another step along the journey.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Painting Trees

The Tree 9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I have been looking at the reference photograph for this painting for a long time. The photo is all about the wave with a very dark scrubby tree as an after-thought on the point. My husband did a great painting of the wave. I wanted to do the tree. I really love painting trees.
When I first started drawing trees, they were pathetic little things. The problem was, I was trying to draw them without really looking at them. I didn't stop to notice the variety of colors in the barks, or the way the limbs grew from the trunk. I vaguely knew that different varieties had different textures. Leaves still throw me, but I am working on them. The first time I really looked at a tree was over at Kailua Beach Park where the ironwood trees are so majestic. The trunks are reds, mauves, dusty lavenders and even brown. They have been there so long, there are wonderful mosses in a variety of greens, yellows, and oranges. The first one I painted didn't come close to doing it justice, but it taught me about seeing. I still have a long way to go, but I intend to keep paint trees until I can share what I see well.
This painting is of Waimea Bay on the island of Oahu.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Painting and Showing

Hickam Trees
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
It is with great excitement that I announce the upcoming show with my husband, Tom, at the gallery on Hickam AFB. We have a show during the month of November. Tom has had his paintings in a gallery before, but this is my first time. It is all very exciting, especially the part about getting everything matted and framed. Just when I think I have figured out what I want in, I change my mind. I am fortunate to have a patient framer husband.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Maggie Price Workshop Day 1

Kilauea Iki Overlook
9 x 12 soft pastels on Kitty Wallis White
Miki Willa
Tom and I were fortunate to take the first day of Maggie Price's workshop here in Honolulu. At the last minute, there were a couple of cancellations and we were happy to step in. She will be leading the workshop until Thursday, but we have to work the rest of the week. It was still quite good to get only this one day.
In the morning, Maggie demonstrated her brilliant color under painting method. I have not done under painting before, and really don't like the surface of Wallis paper, but I decided to get the most out of the workshop by giving it a try. Maggie uses the blue label turpenoid that melts the pigments into the paper, not taking up any of the tooth. She blocks in big areas using really bright yummy colors for this method. My first one was a bit too fussy, and then got worse. I just didn't seem to know where to stop. After overworking it quite a bit, I put it aside and started this one. I blocked in three colors for the under painting, red, lavender, and deep purple. Once it was dry, I started building the painting. It was quite an interesting technique. I may try it again. I still have some Wallis paper left.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Painting volcanoes

Haleakala 9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
Since I was painting volcanoes, I decided to dig out a photo I took on my honeymoon to Maui. This is a view from off the highway going to Ka'anapali looking across the bay to Haleakala. I used my set of Great American grays for the volcano. I am enjoying finding places to use them since they are so rich and yummy.
I have used the Helen Iaea Tropical set made by Terry Ludwig for a year or so, and only recently added the Richard McDaniel set of Great Americans and the grays. Terry doesn't advertise the Iaea set, but it is a wonderful general set you can order by calling him. The Great Americans have been a good addition. My husband also ordered a large set of Unisons at the same time. He also picked up the Girault Marine set about the same time. It is nice to have a larger pallett to select from. Of course, the right green is never there, but I am learning to blend.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mauna Kea
9 x 12 soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I took the reference photo for this painting on the road to Akaka Falls. It was a beautiful day and my first full view of Mauna Kea. We could see three observatories very clearly. They don't show up so well in the painting. I will have to fix that. I think I will try some of the shimmering white Great American when I get home.
In working this painting, I was reminded of another mountain painting I did of the West Maui Hills. While I liked that one well enough to gift it to my sister, I think I would like to try it again with this looser style. Learning with each painting is an important part of this journey.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
Halema'uma'u is the place where Pele lives. There are steam vents all around the area. As you walk by, even on a brisk day, you can feel the warmth as you pass by an opening into the earth. The colors in this place are astounding. I am not sure I did them justice. I also noticed I need to work more on separating the mid-ground from the foreground. That pesky aerial perspective. This was done this morning as the huge harvest moon peered through my windows.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Plein Air and ohia tree

Ohia and Lehua
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I wanted this to be a completely plein air piece, started and finshed while enjoying the morning near the volcano. I set up just outside our cottage where we had a great view of Mauna Loa on the two clear days we had. Unfortunately, this was our last morning and I lost track of time. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the airport. I was not packed because the easel went on the bottom of the suitcase. It all worked out okay, and we were in plenty of time for the plane. However, it meant I had some work to do on this today. Mauna Loa was a big presense at the 4000 foot level, but I don't think it was really this close. I am going to have to try and move it further away. I will try this on my next painting. I was most interested in getting the tree and I am happy with that. Next, I am going to paint the area around Halema'uma'u Crater where there were the wonderful colors. Look for that tomorrow.
In the meanwhile, please keep in your thoughts and prayers all the people in Southern California fire areas, as well as fire areas around the world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Haku Lei

I have been in love with haku lei since I came to the islands They are made by wrapping instead of threading flowers on a long needle. While on the Big Island, Carol showed me how to gather, prepare, and wrap the flowers and other plant parts to create a beautiful lei. Mine lacks the finesse and fullness of some, but I am proud of my first attempt. This is something very special that Carol shared with me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Big Island Days

Looking down into Kilauea Iki Crater
Photo by Miki Willa

I just spent three days on the Big Island of Hawaii with my friend Carol and her daughter Kylie. We spent time in Hilo Town and at Volcano National Park, where we stayed in a great cabin at KMC inside the park. I did a plein air painting this morning, but I didn't get a chance to take a picture yet. I got lost in the painting and didn't stop until it was past the time we set to leave. I really need to wear a timer of some sort. I will post the painting tomorrow.

In the park, we took two very interesting walks. The first one was near the Halema'uma'u Crater Overlook. This area is covered with places where the steam from Pele's fire comes to the surface. It is considered the sacred home of Pele, according to the sign. The colors were fantastic from the sulfur yellows near the openings to the deep rusty pinks of the tall grasses nearby. I really liked this area. The next walk we took was along Devastation Trail from the parking lot at Chain of Craters Road to the Kilauea Iki Crater overlook where I took the photo at the top. Another interesting area.

Nearer to Hilo, we went to Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, and, of course, Big Island Candies. For those of you not from here, this is where to get the best shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate you ever tasted. Even the sugar free ones.

Three days is much too short a time to visit, sight-see, scout out good painting spots, and get painting done. It was, however, a wonderful trip.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sharing a Work in Progress

White Plaines Beach - WIP
12 x 16 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colour Fix
Miki Willa
I did a smaller version of this painting for the fast and loose challenge. I wasn't entirely happy with it, but figured out where I wanted it to go. I started this one this morning by laying in the sky and doing the charcoal drawing. Hopefully, you can see the drawing. I have a vision of what the water will look like, and hope I can get somewhere close. Ocean movement is still quite difficult for me. I am studying waves in other people's paintings, and by watching them endlessly. One day, I think it will all come together for me on paper.
This afternoon, I will work more on getting the larger areas blocked in with color, then begin putting in some details. I think I will save the people for last, since I have never put figures in my paintings before. This should be interesting.
I am leaving for Hilo on the Big Island tomorrow morning, so I probably won't post again until Tuesday afternoon. Until then, malama pono.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Steps on the journey

Private Beach
8 x 10 soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colour Fix
Miki Willa
It seems that I am really focused these days on the artistic stage of this journey through life. I have always enjoyed "making pictures," but the past two or three years have been different. I have taken drawing classes, watercolor classes, and more drawing classes over the years. My mother was a good artist who never took the time to fully develop her talents until she ran out of time, and it seemed I was heading in the same direction. I recently realized I don't want that to happen. I want to work to develop the gifts God has so graciously given to me. I am very good at setting limits for myself, thus not allowing myself to see just how far I can go. This time, I am intentionally setting goals instead of limits, and working toward achieving them.
One of the goals I set in July was to paint every day. I have made time for my painting each week day early in the morning. I am still working on painting every day on the weekends. So far, I have missed very few days. My second goal was to start this blog. I have done this for two main reasons: I want to keep myself on track with the daily painting by stating in public that I will publish one per day; and I like the idea of having a forum to share what I am doing with my friends and family who are so far away.
Doing the 10 in 30 challenge paintings helped me narrow a short term goal in my painting. I will be starting a new series focusing on values instead of color, with the development of a clear focal area from the beginning of the painting. I will be posting these as I go along. It should be very interesting, if not strange.
The painting above was done in 30 minutes. It is from a photo I took on a private beach last summer when my friend Nancy and I were looking for a place to do some plein air painting. I am still determined to find out who owns this property and ask permission to set up and paint there. It is a really beautiful place.
Once again, thanks for following me on my journey.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Painting waterfalls

Wailua Falls
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colour Fix
Miki Willa
After I posted my 10 in 30 to WC, I went through my reference photos to see what I wanted to work on next. I found a photo of Wailua Falls on Kauai. I took this on the first trip Tom and I took to this, our favorite island. The road to the falls is long and filled with potholes. It is an old cane haul road. We were surrounded on both sides with old cane fields. Occasionally, a gate would appear to the left or right leading to smaller roads into the middle of the fields. One can almost feel the plantation times. The falls themselves are at the end of the road. There is a path to the bottom, but it is treacherous. There is also a path up the river from the coast side. I was pleased with the photos I took that day.
The painting was a challenge because of the depth of the falls. We were on a plane about even with the top. I am not sure I caught the true height of the falls because this kind of depth is very hard for me to paint. The illusion escapes me, but I will keep trying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To Blend of Not to Blend

8 x 10 soft pastels
Art Spectrum Colorfix
At last, I have finished the 10 in 30 challenge! This is the last painting in the series. I will be uploading the whole series in WC later today. If you are interested, go here.
One of the biggest questions that came up during this challenge was the "blending" question. I have read several pastel books, listened to pastel artists talk about their work, and taken classes and workshops. Everyone seems to have a different idea about blending. Some blend only water. Some say it is okay to blend where you want a smooth look, especially in still lifes. Others say that blending completely dulls the painting by flattening out all the pigments. Is there really a right way?
I started out blending everything because it was the only way for me to get hard edges, or soft edges for that matter. I used my fingers for everything. I gradually stopped blending anything and tried to learn to love the textured finish. Now, I do selected blending.
Often, I blend the first or second layers in certain areas, then add textured strokes for details and highlights. I use my fingers still, but have added tissue in some instances. I have also done some sky blending by using NuPastels over the softer Ludwigs and Great Americans.
Today's painting is a mixture of both. I left the sky unblended for a dramatic effect. The reference photo was taken at sunset on the North Shore of Oahu at a place called Mokulaea. I was amazed that no one was sitting in these chairs. I did, right after I took the pictures.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Peaceful Grove

Peaceful Glen
8 x 10 soft pasels on Art Spectrum Colorfix
Miki Willa
This is number 7 in the Deborah Secor challenge to paint 10 paintings, each only 30 minutes. Deborah put this challenge up in WetCanvas, an online artists community, for anyone who wanted the challenge. It has been a very enlightening experience.
After studying for a couple of years from Helen Iaea, a very good Hawaiian artist who works in pastel and watercolor, I decided to use all the information she share with me and work to hone my skills. When I discovered Deborah's challenge, I knew it would be the perfect thing to help me loosen up my paintings.
When I first started drawing, I wanted everything to look exactly like it appeared in nature. I became very frustrated when it didn't. As I added color, my frustration grew. When I look at the first pastels I painted, the tightness is the first thing I notice. Working with Helen helped, but this challenge is really working. I have to make quick decisions about value, mood, perspective, and color. That doesn't allow a great deal of time to be fussy about each little stroke. These are not finished works, but I see possibilities in each of them. That is something new for me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wailua Beach in Kauai
Photo by Miki Willa
Aloha. I have been thinking about doing this for a while now. I regulary read some great artists blogs, and wanted to become a part of that community.
Painting is a wonderful journey, and I am still near the beginning. I have been painting almost daily for the past few months and would like to share that journey with you.
Each day, I will post a finished painting, a work in progress, or a photograph. I will also share my thoughts and feelings as I move along this path.
My hope is that other beginners will become inspired to keep going. Never give up, and never compare your work with anyone elses. Seek advice from people who have been doing this for longer than you.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me.