“Maui a’ la plein air”.
Last November, for the Thanksgiving Holiday, Dean and I decided to go to Maui for a vacation/painting trip. I had recently been introduced to plein air painting in the summer and had gone to Kauai to plein air paint in June. Had such a great time, that we thought Maui would be a perfect place to practice some more. Yes, I could plein air here on Oahu, but planning an outer island trip is so much more exciting! You are on vacation, in a different place, with different, beautiful scenery. It is really very inspiring.
Our first stop was a place called Pa’ako Beach, or “Secret Cove”. We have been here before, but I had never painted here yet. I thought that if I went early enough in the morning, there wouldn’t be that many people. Not being too experienced in plein air painting yet, I wanted to find a bit more secluded spot so that I could fully concentrate on painting and not have to worry about everything else going on around me. The morning was beautiful, and no one around. I set up my easel, excited about giving plein air on Maui a try.
Let me tell you a bit about my easel (see pic above).
Since I was just starting out with plein air, I didn’t really know how involved I was going to become with it, so I didn’t want to splurge on the $450 Soltek that many of the plein air painters rave about. That is just nuts! I have also never really liked French easels. They are big and bulky, and seem like they would be a pain to use outdoors. So instead, I decided to get a bit creative, and put some of my “lightweight backpacking” skills to use.
Here’s how it works. A $28 aluminum easel (which I already had), a $3 cookie sheet as my palette tray, two sticks of cut bamboo for brush holders, and Brighton “donated” his doggie treat pouch to me to use as a paper towel holder that fastened to the leg of the easel with a Velcro strap. It may not have been the prettiest set-up, but it did actually work quite well (and was VERY lightweight!).
As I started sketching out the beautiful scene in front of me, I was thinking “This is just too perfect! A gorgeous setting with no one around – what a great place to practice”. No sooner did this thought pop into my head, the people started arriving! They must have come by the busloads! I started to get pretty nervous, to the point where I could barely hold my paint brush, much less think what I needed to do next! It was a somewhat stressful 2 hours, but I managed to keep on painting. Luckily, most of them just came to see the beach and snap a few pics, then they moved on to other scenic spots, I guess. People would come and look at my painting, most of them very polite and complimentary, but by the time I finished, I was completely drained!
Why they named this place “Secret Cove” is beyond me!
The next day, we drove down to Polo Beach.
Again, nobody on the beach as I set up, but I knew from yesterday that most likely wouldn’t last long. I was right, within 10 minutes of starting, the beach was swarming with people.
For some reason, it didn’t seem to bother me as much today, and I was pretty happy with how my painting was coming along. Then, right as I was getting ready to paint in the rocky shoreline, a group of people set up a large pop up tent, completely blocking my view of that section I was working on! I did the best I could, just one of the obstacles of plein air painting! It was actually kind of funny!
See the blue pop up tent behind me?
We spent the evenings walking the Kamaole Beaches. This was one of Brighton’s favorite parts of the trip.
After a few days in Kihei, we decided to stay upcountry at a beautiful little place called Kula Kottage. The views were AMAZING, and from the deck is where I did my 3rd Maui plein air.
I decided to make the scene more rural, omitting the spanish style house, but leaving the rustic shed, and adding in a pasture with cows.
I painted on primed canvas sheets taped to plexi. I put felt "spacers" on the plexi, so I can stack the paintings together while they are still wet. This makes traveling with wet paintings much easier.
The sunsets here are out of this world
(but man was it COLD!)
One day, we drove up to the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm. The views here were gorgeous too, and they gave me permission to drive up on the lawn past the fence and paint from there. It was great because the day was bright and sunny but the air was nice and cool. Dean and Brighton hung out in the rental car right next to me as I painted, and since we were outside the main visitors area, we had the place to ourselves.
Look at that view behind them. I almost couldn't decide which way to paint!
Here is where I ran into another somewhat amusing obstacle. I was totally into my painting, and starting on the actual lavender plants (which are not that easy as you might think to paint). All of a sudden, one of the workers from the farm comes up with a chipper/mulcher and a pitchfork and starts forking out the lavender plants and throwing them into the chipper – completely pulverizing them into mulch! Oh no! No more lavender! Well, it wasn’t quite that bad, he did leave a few, but I did find that somewhat funny.
I didn’t get to finish up this painting, as the air turned so cold that I couldn’t stay out any longer and had to call it a day.
"Hurry Up, Mom. I'm freezing my little Yorkie ears off!"
That evening, we headed down to Makawao to check it out. I am not big on shopping at all, but I did enjoy the art galleries. It is so inspiring to see local artists’ works, and how they interpret Maui’s landscape through their paintings. Two artists’ paintings that I really enjoyed were Betty Hay Freeland and George Allan.
The next day, we decided to hang out at Kula Kottage. It was so beautiful here, why did we need to go anywhere else? I set up my easel and began painting the neighbors picturesque raised lanai. (This actually belongs to the owners of Kula Kottage. Their residence is right next door.)
The weather was a bit crazy this day with high wind warnings. It actually blew down poles that knocked out the electricity for a few hours, but luckily, you don’t need electricity to paint, so I wasn’t affected. The gusty conditions did make it a bit hard to keep my easel in place though. The patio chairs kept sailing across the deck like the Exorcist, and it finally got to be too much for painting.
We took a drive through the country roads and were rewarded with gorgeous evening lit horse-filled meadows. (This was so inspiring to me that I actually did an Upcountry painting when I returned home.) What a BEAUTIFUL place Kula is!
A baby deer in the center. Too cute!
Our last day found us driving through Ulupalakua. On our way back, along the side of the road, I found a view that I really liked.
I set up my easel and got to work. The country air was wonderful. Sunny, but nice and cool. It sure didn’t feel like we were in Hawaii.
Haleakala holds a special place in our hearts, as we have spent nene-filled days and dark starry nights inside the crater. The fact that I was now painting along it’s outer western slope made it even more special!
Well, there you have it. A Maui plein air adventure that holds great memories for me. I got in a bit more plein air experience, and found out that I love it even more now. We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at Kula Kottage, and the very next day, Jerry’s Artarama happened to be having a “Black Friday” sale. Brighton couldn’t resist buying me my very own SOLTEK! He says he did it because it was a deal too good to pass up, but I think the real reason was he was just a bit embarrassed by his mom with her cookie sheet bamboo plein air contraption. (Plus, he wanted his doggie treat pouch back.)
Thanks Bry! I love it!
Mahalo for taking the time to view my artwork.
ALOHA FROM HAWAII !
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