For one thing, our 50th state consists of the teeniest specs of land in a vast, vast ocean. How did anyone ever find these volcanic tips in the first place? Soft, green mountains rise from coasts that stretch down below the water's surface. The air is moist, the sun's heat dispersed by salty breezes. The clouds are huge and white.
I planned this trip as I did most of the other Easel exploits, one day at a time. I found an apartment to rent in the town of Kapa’a on Kauai, preferring a local’s view of the island over the sterility of a resort. Of course it was also far more affordable than anything with an ocean view. Well, you do get what you pay for!
We could not find the “street” at first because it looked like a dirt driveway past an adult lingerie store, leading behind a strip mall featuring Ace Hardware. Rounding the corner, we were welcomed by clumps of bamboo trees circling concrete statues of Buddhas, mermaids and other iconic figures, all festooned with Christmas lights. Wild chickens and roosters scuttled around, clucking and crowing, as skinny cats darted under stairs and bushes. The apartment was one thin room wide (when standing in the middle, Allen could nearly touch both sides at once), with a loft bedroom. The only windows were up high, as we shared walls on either side. I was discouraged by the lack of a view and fought to remember that this was not a romantic get-away, but a working vacation.
Once we unpacked and settled in, things began to look up. The place was tolerably clean and there were great basics: plumpy towels, beach chairs, a bowl of fresh fruit, locally grown coffee and coconut water in the fridge. We found an amazingly good Mexican restaurant within walking distance and a bike path along the ocean started two short blocks away. The first morning we walked along the paved trail and discovered beautiful beaches and parks, as well as a set of healthy food trucks, Kombucha tea “on tap”.
During our time there, I pulled out my sketchpads and watercolors at every opportunity. The beaches on the north shore were gorgeous. One day we set up between a huge cave with trees above, rising into a towering peak of green, and a surf pounding on golden sands. I kept two watercolors going at one time, trying to catch the jungle aspect of the foliage behind and, simultaneously, the color and movement of the gigantic waves before us. Another day we took a rented motorcycle up into Waimea Canyon. The views were astounding: red layers of rock running horizontally along craggy cliffs that reached forever into the distance, far-away waterfalls punctuating the precipices with tiny white vertical lines. Of course I attempted to draw this expanse, not entirely successfully.
The day I had slated to devote entirely to painting was sunny and bright. After breakfast, Allen disappeared on the motorcycle and I took the rented car up to the top of Waiula waterfalls. I found a close-up view of the triple river of water crashing downward. The sound alone was mesmerizing. I sketched a few quick line drawings but the logistics of painting there were unworkable. I then headed to a point of land near the airport that was purported to have a unique view of the island. I was not disappointed.
I sit now, at home in my studio, looking at the artwork I produced during this fruitful 12 day excursion. I have no idea which piece will be the basis of my final Hawaii painting. I will have to make my mind up soon, as all of the paintings need to be finished by the end of this month in order to be photographed for the book. Yes! I am producing a book (with the expert help of friend, artist and designer Angela Saxon) for the show this summer at Saugatuck Center for the Arts. See you there!!!