The Hawaii stealth project

I always seem to go on vacation with big plans. And then I spend my free time watching TV or reading. I am proud of myself on this trip, however, because I did a small part of my goal to do some painting!

A couple of years ago I made a journal in a class at the Watercolor Society of Oregon convention.

While I brought more supplies than this, I am very proud to announce that I filled the journal on this trip! Yeah!

And here it is…

Aloha, Hawai’i

Apparently, I have trouble with the vacation concept. I run around doing stuff and adventuring and having a great time, but I’m TIRED when I come back.

So today, my story is that I relaxed. I didn’t do much. That’s my story.

Saffron finch

I got up and went for another snorkel at Two Step and it was amazing.

I came back to the timeshare, then ran some errands and got a couple of gifts for friends back home.

Then I finished a book.

Then I watched a movie.

Then I decided to go for a little walk around the complex, find the beach, and take a picture of the sunset.

And locked myself out. So while I was waiting for help, I took some pictures of the amazing tropical flowers and tress around here.

Tomorrow I get up, finish packing, and get on a jet plane. It’s home for me. It’s a good thing. I miss real life (a little) and my dog (a lot).

Three adventures (with clouds)

Today is my second to last day on the island and one I had been looking forward to since signing up for the Hawai’i Island Festival of Birds. It was the day that I went to Kaloko-Honokohau for the guided bird walk. All told, we saw 18 species of birds, though except for the Wandering Tattler, I had seen most of them on the island before.

I took a little tumble (onto the sand, not lava, thank goodness) so when the walk was over I went home to sort things out. Also, it was high tide, so I had managed to get my shoes wet.

After getting sorted out, I headed to the Sheraton for the “festival” part of this event. There was a lot of beautiful art, clothing, and other items, but I managed to resist it all.

Finally, I decided I hadn’t done enough snorkeling, so I decided to go up to Wai’alea (69) which is my second favorite snorkeling spot on the island.

Rather menacing clouds were everywhere, both coming and going. While I was in the water the wind blowing over my snorkel was a whistle, but the visibility was good and it was still easy to maneuver through the water.

Here are some pictures from the last time I went to Wai’alea.

And now I’m back. I’m tired. I’m a little sore from my tumble. It’s a good day to wallow in vacation and read a book while it rains!

I’d like to speak to my travel agent

One of the charms of traveling, I suppose, is that you get to deal with the unexpected. You’re not in your nice little bubble. Okay. I’ll buy that. But is there way to convince the universe that I’ve had enough unexpected?

This morning I got up and did the first of the Hawai’i Island Festival of Bird walks I signed up for. This one was to “Pu’u Huluhulu” (Hairy Mountain).

The Kona side of the island is dry, but the Hilo side is considered wet. This hike was basically on the mountain that separates the two “sides” and it was foggy, misty, and generally very Oregon-like.

Fair enough, but I had only brought Hawaii gear… shorts and a T-shirt. So I was woefully under dressed for a brisk wind and rain.

Still, I gamely followed along up the mountain.

Up the mountain…

… and down again.

All told we saw 13 species, including a lovely dark-morph ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk).

Dark morphy ‘Io (Hawaiin Hawk) – endangered species

  • 4 – Erckel’s Francolin
  • 3 – Kalij Pheasant
  • 1 – Hawaiian Hawk
  • 1 – Eurasian Skylark
  • 14 – Japanese White-eye
  • 3 – Common Myna
  • 2 – Apapane
  • 4 – Hawaii Amakihi
  • 9 – House Finch
  • 13 – Yellow-fronted Canary
  • 3 – Saffron Finch
  • 4 – House Sparrow
  • 14 – African Silverbill

Thirteen species wasn’t a bad count, but I really wasn’t able to get a good look at the more endemic species such as “Apapane” and “Amakihi”. I heard them, but sighting was limited to little flyovers. The photos below are (alas) not mine and are FAR better than any glimpses I got.

The guides rattled off plant names, place names, and bird names in Hawaiian as I helplessly trudged behind, my knees (which I had been intending to rest on this trip) aching more and more.  I’m exaggerating a little, but the hike was a lot more vertical than I was expecting (though the length of one mile was just right).

After the hike I headed home, then took a snorkel down at Kahalu’u (here’s a link from the last time I was able to get pictures…)

Vacation is exhausting!

Go small and go home

You hear, “Go big or go home” all the time, but I think the lesson I need to learn is to go small AND go home.

Last night, not knowing what kind of weather the day would bring, I searched local birding areas trying to get an idea about where I could go. I was particularly interested in “forest birds” (they look pretty) and I discovered a place called Kona Cloud Forest Guided Walking Tours. I decided to sign up for a 10am tour and went to bed.

I woke up this morning and it was gorgeous and calm, so I decided to head to Two Step, among my favorite places on earth (arguably, this is my favorite spot, but it’s hard to tell sometimes.)

As always, it was amazing, though I was sad to see how much the coral has degraded since I was last there. Lots and lots of fish of all sorts, obviously. Two turtles (honu) who seemed to be going somewhere, but swam along with me for a while. And as I was heading back in from my first expedition, a spotted eagle ray came up and swam beside me before floating off again.

spotted eagle ray

THIS IS NOT MY PHOTO! This is just so you can get an idea how cool it was.

I had seen an eagle ray one other time, but this was by FAR a better view. I never realized they had a stumpy little nose!

I was only there a couple of hours, but it was great. I headed back to get ready for the tour.

When I had made the reservation, I asked how long and how hard the tour was. The gentleman assured me that it was about a mile (no problem) and about an hour (no problem.) I asked him about birds. He admitted that other guests had commented that the birds didn’t come down to be seen. That didn’t worry me too much (birds are rarely cooperative) so I made the reservation.

Before I go on with the story, I want to make sure you understand that the place is BEAUTIFUL and the tour guide (I’m terrible with names) was very nice and really took his time and let his enthusiasm shine through.

However, his enthusiasm came at a price… a lot of talking. And thus, a lot of standing around. And the tour started to go on… and on… and on… I only saw two species of common birds. Pretty soon, my knees hurt and I was hungry and my blood sugar started to drop. When it had been two hours with a pace of about 20 feet every 5 minutes because of the talking (almost all of it uphill), I HAD to tell the group that I couldn’t continue. If I had gone further I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get back down again.

It was humiliating.

But I got down, I got home, and now I’m at my computer. And FINALLY this silly hurricane has arrived!

This is good, because tomorrow is the start of the bird festival and I’m really looking forward to that!

Surrounded by water, I’m searching the skies

So this silly hurricane is taking its sweet time. It’s having some effects, but so far it hasn’t “arrived” yet. I got up this morning and checked all the reports and determined that if I went snorkeling it would probably be pretty rough and murky. I’m not sure about that decision, but it’s the one I made.

Instead, I decided to try some birding. I looked at some e-bird hot spots and decided to go to the glamorous local waste water treatment plant!

It turned out I had to hike into the site because of a gate, but they assured me that birders were allowed. It was hot and muggy, but very dramatic because of the clouds.

However, the hike in was all but birdless. I was starting to get a little nervous, but then I got to the plant and the black-crowned night herons (‘auku’u), black-necked stilts (ae’o), and Hawaiin coots (‘alae ke’oke’o)started to appear. Pacific golden plover (kolea) and ruddy turnstone (‘akekeke). Least tern and white-faced ibis. SO worth it.

And if you read yesterday’s post, you know why these photos are so bad.

After about an hour I came back and was so wet from the humidity I might as well have snorkeled. I got sorted out with water and other supplies back at the time share and headed South to do some more birding.

This part of the day was not nearly as productive, but just as beautiful.

Finally I stopped into a local farmers’ / artisians’ market. A photographer I had purchased prints from was there and I purchased another photo from her. Then there was a display of bees (to entice the purchase of honey, obviously.)

As my friend Lea said… a possible painting the making!

I have that effect

Back home, babysitting the granddog, my mom is gritting her teeth (and not exclusively about the dog.)

Just before my first trip to Kona in September of 2012 (second trip to Hawaii) my mom and dad purchased a Nikon Coolpix camera that was supposed to be okay for snorkeling. I got five trips out with it, but just as I was going on the “big trip” to the Captain Cook monument, it broke from water damage. The seals just couldn’t hold up against salt water.

Nikon was good and replaced it. A year later (September of 2013) I took the replaced camera back to Hawaii and broke it after… five excursions. I did manage to get pictures of the “big trip” (dolphin tour with Sunlight on the Water) but it was still a little disappointing.

Still, Nikon send ANOTHER one and when I went back in December 2015, the camera made it all the way to the end of the trip, mostly because I babied it along and soaked it in water when I came back each day.

It’s been a couple years since I have been back to Hawaii. The Nikon Coolpix is still working (no more encounters with salt water to kill it) but when I was planning my packing I sort of figured this would be the trip that would end its life.

Then a few weeks ago my mom came home from Costco with a GoPro Hero 5. I was skeptical, but I did some research, and sure enough there are lots of pictures of people snorkeling with it and their website says it’s good to go. So Sunday night I charged it up, took a few snapshots, and packed it. I decided to be brave and only take this camera and my cell phone. (As a note, it’s remarkable that since the last time I went to Hawaii my life has evolved so much that the phone was a must-have; I don’t even think I had a cell phone in 2015. I had to borrow my mom’s flip phone.)

Yesterday (Monday) I hit the island (the Big Island) and after grabbing some groceries and checking into the time share, I headed for Kahahu’u Beach Park. I’m in Hawaii to snorkel!

A hurricane is on target to hit the islands, though the Kona side (my side) is usually pretty protected. Still, the waves were pretty big. But I plunged in and the second my head went underwater, I was happy. I turned on the GoPro to take some pictures of some goat fish (not very exciting) and a Moor (cooler) and then swam a few feet. I heard the GoPro turn off. And then NOTHING I did made it turn back on.

After I returned home, I examined the device. I elected to soak the camera in water, dry it, and then open it to see what was up.

This is what was up this morning.

In other words, it’s toast. Trust me, I KNOW the signs.

I talked to the GoPro people and they will fix it. But that really doesn’t help me right now.

Right now

This is particularly disappointing because I booked a trip with Into the Blue: Kona Marine Life Adventures to go on their “Combo Ocean Exhibition”…. part dolphin swim, part snorkeling adventure, part taking us to what’s good in the area.

I decided on this outfit because it was supposed to be a maxium of six people. When I went on the dolphin swim with Sunlight on Water, it was AMAZING but there were so many people it was hard to get into the water at the proper time to see things.

It turned out, in some ways, I picked a VERY good day to go out. As I mentioned, there is a hurricane (now tropical storm) that is supposed to be coming this way. Because of it, everyone was cancelling. There ended up being only me and a young honeymoon couple from Texas on the tour! The tour guide was named Chase and he gamely put us in the water six times to see a very small pod of spinners surprisingly far out in the Kahaluu bay.

Like my last excursion, they didn’t seem too social, mostly just cruising around and doing dolphin things. The last three trips, however, we were able to get VERY near the dolphins and they were all around.

The nice couple who joined me also had a GoPro (why me?) and sent me these pictures of our adventure. Thank you to David Higgins!!!

I LOVE them! Just for reference, this is a picture I got from the last tour.

I am really grieving this silly GoPro right now.

Eventually, however we had to cut the tour short. The wind was REALLY picking up and it was actually unsafe to be out on a boat the size of ours. We made our way VERY slowly back to harbor, Chase commenting he was glad he didn’t have to go further.

When we got back, the tree were looking like the trees on the right (below).

Chase offered to take us out again (free) and if the hurricane passes in time and I have an extra day, I may take him up on the offer. But tomorrow (Wed) is almost certainly out for obvious weather reasons. And Friday-Sunday are booked up with bird tours (how lucky am I? The Hawai’i Island Festival of Birds is happening while I am here!) And I’m flying back on Monday. So… we’ll see.

I’m glad I remembered my binoculars at least. Think I can manage to keep those intact?

As a final note, here is my mom’s response to the news about the GoPro (as posted on Facebook): “Well, bring it back & return it. I’m going to give up on finding you a waterproof/resistant camera!”

I’m counting on it, Mom.

Sauvie Island “Big” Paint Out

The idea of the big paint out is to paint on a big canvas–but that is just a suggestion, not a requirement. ~  Celeste Bergin, Alla Prima Portland


I went to bed last night with two possible plans. Plan A: Stick around the house, do some more painting, possibly break out my new marbling kit. Plan B: Attend the “Big” Paint Out at Sauvie Island hosted by Alla Prima Portland.

Sauvie Island is about an hour an a half from me, and I really thought I would wake up and decide to be lazy. The biggest thing going for the paint out is that my friend, Sandra Pearce, was going to be there. But when I woke up this morning, I knew just where I was going.

Sandra Pearce at the paint out

I threw the painting stuff in the car (I didn’t forget that, but did forget lunch and the requirements to do a small errand while I was in Portland) and hit the road.

I’ve been out to Sauvie Island several times for the Audubon Society of Portland’s Raptor Road Trip in February, so I was familiar with the meet up area. Between you and me, I was a little surprised about the choice of Coon Point (also known as the Sauvie Island dike) for the paint out. In my opinion, there are prettier places. But there is ample parking, portapotties, and handicapped accessible trails. I’m sure that’s why it was chosen.

I was a little surprised by how many painters showed up. I counted 34 at one point, the “official” estimate was 33. The list of artists on Facebook included these names (31 including me, if you’re counting):

  • Anna Lancaster
  • Becky Land
  • Brenda Boylan
  • Celeste Bergin
  • Chris Wood Rectenwald
  • Don Bishop
  • Jaqueline Hamer Lukowski
  • Joyce Sloan
  • Judy John Shaw
  • Ken Klos
  • Kimberly Kent
  • Marti Brandtner
  • Michael Lindstrom
  • Michael Orwick
  • Michele Bufton
  • Nancy Smith Klos
  • Paul Zegers
  • Raphael Schnepf
  • Robin Laughlin
  • Sandra Pearce
  • Sharon Abbott-Furze
  • Stephanie Cissna
  • Sue Berg
  • Tim Young
  • Tom Daniels
  • Tom Kane
  • Vicki Zimmerman
  • Ward Jene Stroud
  • Yong Hong Zhong
  • Za Vue

What I’m trying to make clear is there were a lot of painters.

So with creativity thick in the air, I sat down and looked around. The wind was blowing and it was overcast. This was a change from Salem where it had been bright and sunny; frankly, I was a little under dressed. But I took out my sketchbook and started on a few ideas. I had decided to take the challenge to use a big surface seriously, so I had come prepared with a 1/2 sheet and a full sheet of watercolor paper.

I had put down the first layers on “Coon Point, Sauvie Island” (reference shot 1 above, painting below) and I was just getting started on painting number two. It was scheduled to be the dry marsh in shot 2 above. Then the clouds started going out. For about five minutes the skies were really dramatic. I had made a few light marks on my paper, but I mentally said the heck with it, flipped the painting upside down and painted the sky.

“Clouds Going Out” – 30″x22″ cold press Arches

Wow, looking at that, it’s really light. I need to emphasize this is just one layer of paint.

In fact, this is so light I went into the studio just now and took a second photo in there.

“Clouds Going Out” – 30″x22″ cold press Arches

Huh. Well, that’s not quite right either. But you get the point.

On site, I have difficulty seeing values and adjusting accordingly. I could tell at this point that I liked where this painting was going, but i wasn’t sure where to go next. So I put down my brushes and did a little tour of all the other painters.

I’m never sure just how Facebook groups work, but if you are really interested in seeing the paintings, go to  this album at Alla Prima Portland.

After seeing the amazing paintings other artists were doing, I came back and made a second pass at my first painting. I’m having the same problems with color accuracy here, but I think you can get the idea.

“Coon Point, Sauvie Island” – 15″ x 22″ on cold press

Remember, this painting was started during the cold, overcast morning. Anyway, I’ll figure it out.

The nearby cows featured in many of my fellow artists paintings. I almost borrowed another sheet of paper from Sandra to do my own cow painting, but it was getting late and I hadn’t had lunch.

So after the group did a guided tour of all the other paintings, I packed up and wished the amazing Sandra luck (she’s a painting MACHINE) and headed home.

It was a good day. I’ve been painting pretty small lately, so painting big felt good. In face, I wished for a bigger brush! It’s an interesting point in light of yesterday’s post.

Learning to Paint Like Tara Choate

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” ~Edgar Degas

“Painting was easy, until I learned how. I have been having such angst about my work. I guess that is a good thing, as it keep me engaged, and growing. But why does it have to be so mentally hard?” ~ Bev Jozwiak


I tend to think of Labor Day weekend as the “real” start of the year. Yes, I make New Year’s Resolutions in January (ad naseum), but fall is when I tend to get a real spurt of inspiration to “Just do it!”

This weekend, partially because I’m dealing with a bad knee, I’ve just kind of puttered around the house. I’ve done some canning, some dog training, some errands. I turned in three paintings to Paint the Town (reception on Wednesday!) and breathed a little sigh of relief that the summer plein air schedule was behind me. Then I did something shocking….

I entered my studio, cleaned off a few surfaces, and whipped out a fresh piece of watercolor paper. After last weekend’s adventure, I had some fresh images just begging to be painted.

That’s when I got into trouble.

In the last several years I have taken about two workshops per year, with 2016 being a very active year. Each one was great, and I would come back all inspired to do new things.

But somewhere along the line, while I learned how to paint, I forgot how to paint like Tara Choate.

As I sat there looking at the blank piece of paper all I could think is, “Should I do this like _____ or _____.”

When Ruth Buchanan came over in August, she made a comment that my work (both actual painting and some planning pieces I showed her) seemed more tentative.

As the joke goes, “I resemble that.

Authentic Voice, Artistic Style… Whatever

I am not the only artist who struggles with finding their authentic voice or style. A quick Google search presents books, videos, and articles on this topic. Some of these articles even suggest STOP searching for your authentic voice.

Most 2-D artists use the term “style” rather than “voice”. Looking at Wikipedia’s entry on “Style (visual arts)“:

In the visual arts, style is a “…distinctive manner which permits the grouping of works into related categories” or “…any distinctive, and therefore recognizable, way in which an act is performed or an artifact made or ought to be performed and made”.

Style is often divided into the general style of a period, country or cultural group, group of artists or art movement, and the individual style of the artist within that group style. Divisions within both types of styles are often made, such as between “early”, “middle” or “late”.


One of my most admired local art goddesses, Margaret Godfrey, recently posted a blog on this subject entitled, “Does and Artist Have to Commit to a Style.” In the blog, she commented on a recent trip to Paris and what she had noted about how many famous painters’ style had evolved. She commented that she felt she was going into a “careful” period.

Personally, I’ve heard artists talk about an artists style being a combination of subjects, themes, forms, lines, color, and texture.

I’ve also heard the theory that an artists style is the mistakes they choose to “lean into”; over time, those mistakes become recognizable choices that everyone can see.

“Real painters do not paint things as they are…They paint them as they themselves feel them to be.” – Vincent van Gogh


Back to that Blank Piece of Paper

So with variation on all of the above (and a few more things) going through my head, I looked an my reference photo (a minor miracle in itself because my printer is… acting up) and thought a version of, “Forget it.” (You might be able to figure out what the real version was.)

I did the drawing and first painting layers on this shot.

I forgot to take a picture at this stage, but I reentered the studio later and added some more layers to produce this.

“Field Landing” – 15″ x 11″ hot press

I’m not all the way done, but it’s at the stage where I need to think a little more.

Today (for the second day in a row!) I reentered the studio. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle another balloon painting (more about that later) so I brought a simple subject with me.

“Intense Blue” 15″ x 11″ hot press

This was deliberately a simple, quick painting. I like it, though I have some more details to do.

This got me going, so I decided to tackle this.

Balloons are hard to do

I don’t know why, but I thought the balloons would be easy to do. Just put down some colors and BAM it’s a balloon.

No. These things are engineered. And when you get in there and start looking, there is a lot that can go long if the lines aren’t just right.

Additionally, I didn’t realize just how hard the color would be; these balloons are shiny, but also translucent, except when they are throwing shade or have wrinkles.

After realizing the difficulties from the first painting, I adjusted the photo to black and white to get an idea about value for the second painting.

Do you see the problem now?

If I was teaching a class I would use this image to teach color mixing and also color value; I guess in a way, it’s my own personal class on those subjects.

“Crown Wrangler” 15″x11″ hot press

As you can see, I’ve changed the light pattern and still have a LONG way to go to darken things up. But I like where it’s going so far.

But is it ME?

I suspect that none of these three paintings are destined for shows. When I look at them, I see a lot of overthinking. A lot of choices that other people would make and then I’ve pulled back and painted like me again or (even worse) a third person altogether.

I recently joined three groups on Facebook: American Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of American, and Northwest Watercolor Society Members. The lists are active. There is some very good art shown, a lot of very earnest art, and a little bad art (yes, for the record, I believe some art is just bad.) I’ve been studying the entries trying to figure out what I’d label each piece the way I (internally) do.

For very good art, my first reaction is, “Wow!” My next thought is usually along the lines of questioning if I’d hang the piece in my home. If yes, I check my bank balance (always too low). As I usually can’t afford it, I look at what attracts me to the piece. Is it something I want to do myself? Is is something that expresses a feeling I’ve had? Is it just really pretty? If the answer is “No, I don’t want it for my own,” I ponder why not. Sometimes it’s a taste thing. Sometimes it’s a flaw I just can’t live with. Either way, I try to identify if it’s something the artist did deliberately and whether or not that taste or flaw detracts from the piece or if its necessary.

For the earnest art, my reaction tends to be, “I’ve seen it before.” A lot of the pieces I have been seeing art literally without flaw, but they leave me cold. For example, today I studied a painting of an American flag on a porch that was very nicely done. The darks and lights were attractive, the paint well handled, the drawing accurate. I mentally compared that to LaVonne Tarbox-Crone‘s painting, “State of The Nation”; it’s an extremely tattered American flag against an absolutely stark white background. AND IT’S STUNNING. Earnest art tends to have no edge. It’s seen and quickly forgotten.  Almost all art has something going for it (the exception are later), but earnest art tends to be well done but safe.

As for bad art, well… my definition is that it’s “art” done without thought. Ikea prints of Audrey Hepburn. Lowe’s canvases of flowers. Anything that’s got blood and guts (or poop) on it. And a shark preserved in formaldehyde is also not art.

All this is to say that I suspect I am in the “earnest” stage after a brief flirtation with the good stage. Rarely does progress come in a straight line.

On the other hand… maybe Calvin is onto something!

Healthy Steps – Week 34

It is a feat of personal strength that I am writing this.

I went off the rails this week. Everything in the world was too much. EVERYTHING! And the only solution was chocolate and gummy worms intermittently thrown into my mouth, much like a seal snapping a fish out of the air.

Accurate representation of my eating habits this week.

I can’t even begin to talk about all the things that are going on right now, but essentially, if you name it, it’s somehow not going right. And I’m overwhelmed and at the end of my rope.

I “only” gained 2.6 pounds and that’s some kind of miracle.

Every week, I post this list.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Hit 11,000 all seven days, taking at least one break/lunch walk
  • Tracking 4 of 7 days
  • 2 Frappuccinos per day

But this week, I am only going to work on one of these things. Here’s why.

  1. Eating my prepared food: I’m going on vacation in about a week and this next week is a holiday and three days of meetings where I will be fed. So there isn’t going to be a lot of food around the house this week. The real danger will be restraining my food intake when others are preparing food.
  2. Hit 11,000 steps: I have a hurt knee. I can BARELY make it to the bathroom and back. This is a big NO!
  3. 2 Frappacchinos per day: If you take these away, I will kill EVERYONE!

So, that leaves working on tracking. I think this is an EXCELLENT goal for the week. And maybe next week (on vacation) too.

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