To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Hawaii Nature Journal ~ Watercolor Pencil Orchid

Vacations are BUMMERS! Well actually, the bummer is when you get home from Hawaii in your sunglasses and safari shorts and tanned knees and turn into an instant icicle with snow globbing up on your cold blue knees!

I'm exaggerating just the tiniest bit....I was glad to see Daniel again, and to have a chance to share with him some of my best adventures as he took time off from work to drive me to my house. But that stinker was chuckling as he took this picture of me in front of my house (if I cut him a little slack I have to admit I probably would have been chuckling wickedly, too, if I were him).....

But it ain't FAIR! I've experienced a blizzard with 3" of snow, 60mph winds, downed trees, a 36 hour power outage and about 3½" of rain in the paltry thirteen days I've been back, and it has me vowing to retire early, move to Hawaii and live a life of ease, doing a painting every few days to sell at a nearby gallery to pay for my coconuts and margaritas....... ah, such are my dreams.....

Actually, today I wanted to show you how my photo of the orchid turned into a watercolor pencil painting in my journal. I'm going to show you how I did it, step-by-step, so you can see if this is something you might want to try yourself (if you aren't already an accomplished watercolor pencillist). Be sure to click on the pictures to see them close-up. (Does anyone happen to know what kind of orchid this is? Even just the genus, or maybe a common name?)

The orchid of which I took the original photo in the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Park wasn't perfect and it showed raindrops and some wear. I decided to not show blemishes or water drops on my finished painting.

Since my main aim was to play/practice with the watercolor pencils, I didn't make any effort to draw a freehand outline. I brought up the photo in Photoshop, made a new layer, and traced the orchid to create an outline drawing (#1).

Then I printed out just the outline drawing (#2). Since I wanted the painting to be on the same paper as the rest of my journal, i.e. heavy paper that would take water without buckling or pilling, I pulled a sheet from the back of my journal and ran that through my printer to print the outline on.

Using just the pencils in the 12-color Staedtler set (I'm not promoting this brand particularly ~ it's just one I got cheap because the metal box was bent. But these pencils do a fine job, as do many other brands), I chose a lime green to start out the color (#3). You'll notice that there's not a lot of color there, because when it is wet, the color will spread and intensify. I tested out what it would do by making some trial swatches at the bottom of the sheet.

Next I wet the green, and when that was dry I put in the yellow center then started adding spots (#4) . Always start with muted background colors then put bright colors over them. If you forget and start with the bright colors (a pinkish red, or cerise, in this case), you'll have to be extra careful not to let them bleed as you try to mop in a subtle background around them.

Let wet areas dry before putting on more pencil if you want to control the colors even a little. If you pencil into a wet areas, it will make a really sharp mark that won't blend in very well with the brush. Experiment in your trial swatch area.

Next it was time to finish the cerise markings (#5), but on looking at the photo I decided to use a more orangish red to tone down the pink. I also added in some blue to give shadows, then wet it again.

It was looking rather pale against the white background, so I decided to make it pop out of the page with a contrasty black/blue/green background (#6). I blended this in really dark with all three pencils at once before adding color. Only part of it was added here (in #6), and I wet it to see how far out it would extend. Actually, I didn't have to add any more in the darkened background areas since I found I could pull the dark color sufficiently far away from the center with the watered brush.

I finished up with the remaining background areas (#8)(oops, there never was a #7!), and painted in a bluer contrast in the center areas. For these areas, I've just wet my brush and dabbed some color off the pencil point and painted that on.

I didn't try to copy all the ferns and leaves in the background of the original photo, since they would have drawn attention away from the orchid. And I didn't add the storm damage on the lower flower lip, either. Here's the photo again, to check it against.

If you'd like to try this as a tutorial, you can click on drawing #2 and copy and paste it to any program that will print it out. MSWord would work. Print on very heavy paper with some tooth or roughness to make it work best with water. Then color your own version!

In fact, you can sit at your computer, click on the link to get the big picture, and see right in front of you exactly how this orchid was done, step-by-step (and try your own flourishes if you prefer ;^)

When I was finished, I wanted to put the orchid painting into my journal in the correct spot, right after the page with the ti leaf, so using a pair of fancy-edge (scrapbooking) scissors that make a really classy torn-looking edge (check it out on the enlargement!), I cut out the orchid with about a 3/4" margin, watered down some Elmer's glue with water, used a big brush to paint the glue on the back of the painting, pressed it onto a fresh journal page from the back of the journal along with a printed-out photo of the orchid, and pressed them flat under several books for an hour or so.

Then I removed the journal page from the journal with a sharp scissor snip behind every coil in the binding. If you just tear out the page, it creates a rough edge that won't press back into the coils and stay properly ~ but if you snip it out and press it very gently into its new spot, no one will even notice it was added later, and it will stay in place. Using this method, the orchid appears in the journal across from the Botanical Garden entry as it should.

So there's your art tip for the day! I hope you enjoyed looking through it as much as I did making it. This is the sort of hands-on artwork we do in my workshops, and in fact, we'll be painting this very orchid (or one much like it) in my Nature Journaling/Sketching Workshop in Costa Rica next month. Hope you can join us ~ there are still a few openings.

My Hawaii Nature Journal ~ Day 8 ~ 12/25/2007

I purposely planned to travel on Christmas Day for two reasons. 1.) It would make the day seem less Christmassy, which was my goal (in case you're wondering about this, I really miss my siblings on Christmas, but I've decided it's insane to make the 500-mile long, icy-road trip to spend the holidays with them, so I'm trying to redirect my holiday thinking patterns). 2.) by traveling on Christmas Day, my airfare was the cheapest of any of the date combinations I tried when I bought my plane ticket online.

Leaving The Big Island was hard ~ I craned my neck to "cricking point" to get the very last glimpse as it faded to the horizon. That white area between the clouds and the vegetation is snow-capped Moana Kea.

In the Honolulu airport, the management was making a real effort to bring joy to travelers ~ most of them much less cheery about being in an airport on Christmas Day than I was. As I checked my pack for the trip home, freeing myself of luggage for a day on Oahu, we were serenaded with ukeleles and merry voices singing Joy to the World (etc.) as an airport cart filled with a load of lei-bedecked carolers wheeled slowly by.

But I was outta there! I caught a bus outside the terminal, waited a bit at a bus stop downtown, then embarked on my final outing ~ a trip around Oahu on The Bus.

Oahu's city buses travel around the island in about four hours, and the trip costs $2. If you get a transfer when you board, you can make one stop and get on a following bus for free. Pretty good deal, I'd say.

The side windows on all three buses I rode on were pretty scratched, though, so if you want to take pictures or see really clearly, it's important to sit on one of the front seats so you can see through the big front windows and out the door.

Going through Honolulu's suburbs, I spotted this funny yard decoration next to a bus stop, and the driver obligingly paused while I crouched in the doorway for 5 seconds and snapped a picture. The near snowman is made of cotton.

Sitting at the front of the bus was a terrific idea because being right next to the drivers enabled me to get acquainted, ask questions, and get more insight into island life. The drivers were in good spirits ~ they'd volunteered for the Christmas run because driving on Christmas Day pays extra and is really easy because there are few riders and fewer stops. And they didn't mind talking, volunteering all kinds of information without even being asked!

The day was off-and-on showery, but warmer outside than inside the bus. And the scenery was marvelous. The road follows the coastline, going northeast from Honolulu, looping up and around the north shore from east to west, then cutting across the southwest corner back to Honolulu.

The north shore has steep, rain-eroded mountains with windblown vegetation right next to the beach. Famous Waimea Beach, where those monster surfs you see in the X-Treme TV shows (if you watch that sort of thing) trash the surfers, was right on the bus route, so I used my tranfer there, stopping to see the big waves. Uh huh. That's it on the left. Did I miss something?

It seems that the surf ain't always up, I guess. But it didn't really matter. I had had a very interesting day, saw the outlines of Oahu, had interesting conversations with native (and proud to be) Hawai'ians, and felt supremely satisfied with the whole thing.

I even had time, after The Bus deposited me at the airport, to find a quiet spot to write in my journal, buy a fleece jacket to keep me warm, and take a short nap before catching the plane for home.
Tomorrow I will make one last entry, including the somewhat disheartening situation I found when I returned home, and what I did with one of the orchid photos I took in the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden. I think it came out pretty nice.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Hawaii Nature Journal ~ Day 7 ~ 12/24/2007

I woke up early on Christmas Eve morning. The moon was still a hand's breadth above the rim of the ocean, and a silky cream-colored path on the smooth ocean connected the moon to the shore as awakening zebra doves cooed softly. I sat on the lanai and watched the moon set while I drank my coffee and played around with a haiku:

The ocean smooths
a shining bedspread for the moon.
Doves tootle sweetly.

Then it was time to leave, and I tossed my pack and fanny pack into the rental car and headed up the road into a gathering storm. It was a wet trip, with windshield wipers going full-speed at times, but even with many stops for construction, I made it all around the island and reached Hilo less than three hours later (the car here is parked next to some sugarcane, 6'-8' tall) .

After snagging a room at the Hilo Bay Hostel, I sloshed dubiously back up the road to visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. But I was leading a charmed life this entire trip ~ it seems as though every time I wanted to take a hike or be out in the elements (except for a light soaking the first day while buying a taco at an outdoor food stand), any rain that was happening stopped when I got out of the car, waited until I had finished my touristy activities, then resumed pouring when I got back into the car (or quit entirely for a spell).

The road was awash on the way to the Botanical Garden. There were palm fronds and leaves floating across the road in places. As soon as I got there, though, the rain stopped and I had a marvelous time traversing the walkways and admiring the incredible trees, ferns, shrubs, vines, leaves (some with intricate green-on-green designs), flowers ~ including a colorful orchid garden ~ and admiring Onomea Falls and some smaller waterfalls which grace the gardens ~ for a couple of hours.

I have never visited a more attractive and bountiful botanical garden. It was quite strange to see what we have domesticated as houseplants in our houses and offices growing wildly, profusely, in this wild garden setting. Some of the leaf patterns were so outlandish I had trouble believing they hadn't been painted on ~ and it occured to me that here's an example of truth being stranger than fiction. The streams flowing through the garden were in flood, with mocha-brown water flowing riotously over the boulders.

I would have loved to sit and sketch, but the air was moist and while I never actually got wet, the air was frequently full of mist and I didn't want to get my journal damp. So I took a lot of photos. (I'll show you the results of an orchid photo in a later entry.

Finally, I couldn't absorb any more wonder, so I meandered back to the entrance of the garden. If you haven't yet read the opening journal page (at the top of this entry) you'll have to read it to find out what happened. Or you can look at the left-hand picture here.

After exiting the long-way-around, I drove a few miles up the highway to Akaka Falls, and was properly amazed at its monstrous drop. It rumbled mightily and made a huge cloud of mist as its flooding brown waters hit the bottom some 420' below.

That night at the Hostel Christmas Eve Party, I listened with great pleasure to Aunt Minnie and her nephew Phillip strumming their ukeleles and singing Hawai'ian (and some popular) songs, and eating some marvelous lau-laus brought by Aunt Minnie. Better than rambutans, even! They were wrapped and steamed in ti leaves, from a plant like this one I photographed in Volcanoes National Park.

That party was really splendid. If one is spending Christmas away from home, it is especially cheery to be invited to a party, to drink a beer and toast new-found friends, to share stories and adventures and talk about past lives a little, maybe, and compare notes on what we've seen and done in this life. I'm not a party-animal, but that was a perfect Christmas-Eve-away-from-home-evening. Exactly what I needed.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Hawaii Nature Journal ~ Day 6 (p.m.) ~ 12/23/2007

The place I came to see on this overcast but still warm and balmy day, was the Pololū Valley, a terrific overlook where the north end of the island plunges into the sea. Approaching Hawi from the west or leeward side, it was fun to watch the instantaneous greening-up of the terrain as the road turned the corner around the north end and entered the windward side from which all the rain comes.

Hawi is a funny, hip little backwater village. Hawi's buildings are mostly old, with some recycled into gift shops, galleries and restaurants for tourists, and it has a friendly feel to it. Reminds me of Ashland, Oregon, a couple of decades ago. A sidewalk concert with guitars, cello and vocalist was happening in front of the Kohala Coffee Mill gift shop when I passed through, so I sat down for a few minutes to listen. Quality music, smiling people.

Eating peculiar food is one of my pleasures. Show me something strange and different, and I'll almost ALWAYS give it a try. Chocolate ants, sashimi, seaweed salad, sure! ~ although I did balk once when my sister fried up some tomato worms for lunch... So the rambutan in the tiny farmers market booth in Hawi looked extremely interesting, and the tiny woman selling them showed me how to peel one and pop it in my mouth (the process was not intuitive). Oh, YUM! I bought six, and portioned them out slowly over the next two days. In the close-up picture, one is partially peeled, the other two are not. The fruit is pearly white.

Then onward I drove, further east, through tropical canyons and emerald leas. The road shortly dead-ended on the top of a bluff, and I parked overlooking the ocean. During twisty little rain squalls, I sat in my car and sketched and painted the historic site marker, but I sprinted out to sketch the awesome bluff and ocean whenever the rain momentarily hesitated.

After awhile, it dried out a bit and I hiked down over the edge a short way. The path was muddy and was reamed out four feet deep in places, but I was able to see the valley floor, WAY down there, and peer up toward the narrow valley's head, which was being inundated by a rain squall.

From partway down the path I had a really nice view of the bluff and surf, as well (see photo at the beginning of this day's entry). Coming back up I spied some neon-orange mushrooms I had somehow missed (while gawking at the scenery, no doubt) on the way down. I left regretfully, wishing for another week or two to explore and sketch.

On the way back to Hawi, I stopped to visit a tiny Chinese graveyard. Almost all of the inscriptions were in Chinese, and many of the stones were 2'-3' lava monoliths with deeply incised characters. You can see the characters on the stone in the photo if you take a good look. I was intrigued by the general shape of some of the stones -- they were apparently hewn to that shape intentionally.

I wanted to get home in time to sketch the banana tree in Shirley's back yard because I knew I had to leave for Hilo the next morning, so I started back on the high road to Holualoa. In many spots, the high road, 250, has Mauna Kea and The Saddle visible on the east and the ocean visible to the west -- another occasion on which the small size of the island tickled me -- I'd thought it much vaster on the map. I made it home half an hour before sunset, just enough time to hastily sketch one of the banana trees. It would be hard to go in the morning, I knew!

I've been amused, being from gigantic Oregon, at the emphasis Big Island dwellers place on The Big Island's great size. "It's BIG," they say, eyes large. "All the other islands could fit on The Big Island!" At first I was impressed, but then I missed the turnoff to Hwy 250 coming back from Hawi, and while watching for it, I ended up clear across the island at Honoka'a before I realized I must have driven by it. Gave me a good chuckle.

So, I end here with a split journal page, one side is about December 23, and the other begins December 24, but I did want to include my drawing of the rambutan in this entry. The business card honors the honu, or sea turtle; I must confess to having bought a little ceramic sea turtle to commemorate my sea turtle adventures, at one of the galleries near Hawi. So endeth December 23.

My Hawaii Nature Journal ~ Day 6 (a.m.) ~ 12/23/2007

The difficult thing about keeping a journal on a trip is that, as a rule, you can't record an event while it is happening. I mean, if you're recording it, it stops or changes since you aren't experiencing it so much as drawing or writing about it. That means that my entries about a morning, for instance, may get made at some convenient stopping place in the afternoon, over lunch, or maybe even that evening or the next day. So the dates and times get all screwed up.....I'll have to put some of the journal pages out of order to keep things even halfway linear.

On the 23rd of December I planned a trip up the Kohala shore along the highway that skirts the northwestern coast of The Big Island. This leads past some fine sandy beaches and Lapakahi State Historical Park, an ancient Hawai'ian settlement that is being excavated, and ends at Hawi and the Pololū Valley on the north shore.

I guess I'm just not much of a beach bunny. At Hapuna Beach (considered one of the best there is) there were people playing in the water, surfing, and making sand castles, but I just wanted to photograph the neat plants and shoreline. Check out the lovely spiral forms of the flowerlets on this beach plant!

So while I didn't get much of a tan at Hapuna Beach, I did think it was lovely and I stayed awhile to watch the kids play in the surf. Somewhere along that coast, I also watched some kayakers heading off to explore the shoreline, which looked like a neat way to spend a morning.

The surf was really gentle compared to what pounds the Oregon coast -- that really surprised me, since I previously had the impression that Hawai'i was mainly pounded by giant surfing curls. Funny how we get misled by tales of the spectacular, huh?

My next stop, Lapakahi State Historical Park, was a much more fascinating experience. Lava rock enclosures surround where thatched houses once stood, the rock foundations stabilizing the roof posts and providing protection against the wind. There are also a couple of reconstructed houses with grass roofs, and the visitor center has some very interesting aerial photo/reconstructions of the way it was/is.
I monopolized the docent shamelessly, and he showed me how the kukui nuts and pandanus fruits were utilized (see the journal page).

One thing that really fascinated me was the coral beach -- not coral sand, but HUGE chunks of coral, some as big as a grapefruit, washed up over the seasons (I presume). Many of the Hawaiian beaches I've seen have occasional coral chunks on them, but this one has coral boulders, which are protected from being carried away by the Park designation, I suppose. In the beach picture above, all the white stuff is coral chunks. I wonder if all Hawaiian beaches used to look like this? In the coral close-up picture, the coral with the "fingers" is about five inches across.

I'm not sure why people in Hawai'i today don't still live in these carefree (and "free") thatch-roofed houses. In this forgiving climate, with food on the doorstep (beachstep?) and clan gathered around, what more could we humans need? Am I missing something?

I'm a little short on time today, so I'm going to end before that day's lunch. My little Instant Hawaaian book says the pronunciation of the "w" following an "a" (or beginning a word) may be either "w" or "v." So depending on your preference, I had lunch either at Hawi or Havi. It's spelled Hawi. And lunch consisted in part of a wonderful little fruit, called a rambutan, that looks something like a tentacled red sea urchin. Rambutan is NOT a Hawaiian word, and in fact it sounds rather Indian to me. Nevertheless, it was delightful, and I'll tell you about it in the next blog, so keep tuned.

p.s. according to that little book, my Hawai'ian name would be Ailina, AH-ee-LEE-nuh, with the Ah and ee slurred together.

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

Related Posts with Thumbnails