World Watercolor Month: Week One

Like any new adventure, the first step on a journey is usually made with confidence and determination, and if you are me, the next few steps might be less graceful with a mixture of pirouettes and stumbles. No matter, where water is involved any landings will be light and refreshing, or so I keep telling myself.

I also keep telling myself to “Let go, loosen up, and have fun,” this month’s self-motivating mantra for the duration of the 31 day challenge.

Doing studies, nothing serious, seems to be an easy generalized direction to start off with, and it is fun to see things evolve, to experiment and sometimes just goof off.  Day #2 is a classic example of a painting going sideways very quickly, but it became a good opportunity to doodle and play with inks. So far so good, the first week of the World Watercolor Month has been relaxing and educational.

The days tumble one into the other, a few moments here and there, a swish of the brush, and water carries dreams of colors across doorways made of paper for a month long journey of fun and exploration.

The journey so far:

 

World Watercolor Month Begins

July has arrived and along with it the first annual World Watercolor Month celebration.  Charlie at Doodlewash, who initiated the World holiday, has proposed 31 days of painting with watercolors to celebrate, and along with artists from around the World, it seems like a fun thing to do.

It all begins with one step, or in this case…one painting. Happy World Watercolor Month!

Holding a white plumeria

July 01: Holding a white plumeria

White plumeria

Sweetens gentle ocean trades

Singing island songs

-hkmb

(With no theme for the month it is just play and have fun, make mistakes and splash around. Arches #140 CP; 11″x15″ using only a flat 1″ brush with transparent Daniel Smith and M. Graham watercolors…and plenty of coffee. lol.)

June Plumeria

It was the best intention, really, to take a few days, a few moments, to wander about the yard, painting and sketching, posting #NatureDoodlewash and joining in with Charlie, (from Doodlewash), and his fun plans for June. Then one thing led to another, a flower reminded me of a painting done last summer which included plumeria blossoms and mangos, it started me wondering if it might be fun to revisit the subject, which took me back inside to the easel, splashing in paint and water, visiting memories and shutting the door on my ‘hiking’ in the yard. Easily distracted it seems.

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A result of my distraction.

Now we are counting the days, minutes even, to July’s debut of National Watercolor Month. All one has to do is visit Facebook to get a sense of the excitement and energy that is building, on an international level, for the start of Charlie’s 31 day National Watercolor Month challenge and fundraising for the Zebra Foundation. To get a feel for it, visit here, watch the video, start getting your painting gear together and join the rest of us as we wait, excitedly and with eager anticipation for the start of July.

In the meantime, there is still June, where have all the days gone? So out the door I go, and with determination not to be distracted I am met again by white plumeria blossoms waving at me brightly under a summer sun. Feels like déjà vu.

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Focus on the flowers…

The Singapore plumeria tree, our Grande Dame of the yard, despite the cat’s opinion, is wearing her summer frock of dark green glossy leaves.  A few months ago a single white flower bloomed on one of the lower branches and was promptly plucked by a howling northerly wind, our rainy season’s final stormy tantrum.

It seemed that the tree did not approve of losing the blossom so early, and as if overnight, with island magic, large bouquets of white plumeria began to flower all over the dark canopy.  The white flower petals easily reflecting the light of sun and moon had become a gleaming defiant crown of heavily scented blossoms for the tree.   Now as ocean trades slip by, the large clusters of flowers, nestled among the dark green leaves, nod and sway gracefully in the breezes, as if dancing to the song of summer.

Plumeria Sketching

Plumeria sketching

National Peace Rose Day

Peace Rose

Peace Rose

Continuing with Charlie’s invitation to find a day to doodle from National Calendar Days, today, (April 29th), is National Peace Rose Day.

War was on the horizon when French horticulturist Frances Meilland developed a hybrid tea rose with petals light yellow to cream-colored and edged with crimson pink.

Wanting to protect the new rose, cuttings were sent away to friends in Italy, Turkey, Germany and the United States.  One story has it that the cuttings sent to the United States made it out on the last flight just ahead of the German invasion of France.

The rose cuttings thrived, and because the war prevented communications between the growers, different names were given to the new rose. In Italy, it was called Gioia, meaning Joy, while Germany named the rose Gloria Dei, for glory to God.  In France, it was called “Madame A. Meilland” in honor of the breeder’s mother, and is the official cultivar name for the rose.

As the Second World War finally came to a close in Europe, the trade name “Peace” was publicly announced on April 29, 1945, the name it was given in the United States, Sweden and Norway.  Later that year delegates at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations were each given a Peace rose with note that read:

“We hope the Peace rose will influence men’s thoughts for everlasting world peace.”

Wishing for more trees (today, the last Friday in April, is also National Arbor Day), more roses, and of course more peace.

Ahead of the storm

Hope blossomed in foreign lands

Roses sweet as peace

 

Memory Keepers

Tonight in Hilo, Hawaii, the music of hula can be heard.  Carried on the evening breeze, melodic voices raised in chant and song, the percussive rhythms of shark skinned drums and hollowed out gourds, the vibrating strings of ukulele and guitars. This week marks the 53rd Annual Merrie Monarch Festival with a week-long celebration that includes parades, arts and crafts, exhibits and fairs, and of course hula, performed in traditional and modern styles.

While every day unfolds pathways for creative journeys, events like this can offer inspiration at every turn and from so many different sources such as the melody of a song, the words of a chant, the strong and graceful movements of a dancer, or the sweet fragrance of blossoms and ferns woven into a lei.

Honoring our ancestors and our elders, being thankful for the traditions handed down while being firmly in the present and looking forward to the future, this is definitely a time for celebration and inspiration.

 

The Memory Keeper

The Memory Keeper

Stories old and new

Keepers of memory dance

Weaving lei with song

 

(Painting is watercolor and acrylic on Arches #140 cold pressed)

Flowers and Birdsong

Flowers and Birdsong

Just another pen and ink sketchbook doodle (in between projects), while thinking about friends, International Women’s Day and the monthly draw a bird day started by Laura at Create art everyday, and of course done while listening to birdsong.

Smiles of true friends lift

Hearts like flowers and birdsong

Clouds tickle the toes

Song of Joy

A cardinal sings

I remember being introduced to the Red Cardinal as a child while visiting my grandmother on her farm in the eastern United States. She loved birds and made sure to have food for them spread on the ground and attached to the ancient pear trees that stood outside of the parlor windows. It was a perfect viewing spot especially during the winter months and the flash of scarlet against the white background was stunning. “Isn’t he a handsome fellow!” my grandmother would exclaim at the sight of a male cardinal visiting her offerings of seed and suet. “Isn’t she a pretty thing, “ my grandmother would say in a softer voice at the sight of a female cardinal joining the feathered party.

Regardless of the season, when a cardinal’s familiar song and trill could be heard, my grandmother would pause in whatever she was doing and listen intently, as if the song were for her. Sometimes she would whistle in return, a conversation only the two of them could understand.

Both my grandmother and mother would often comment while listening to a cardinal’s serenade, on how happy their song was and how wondrous that a scarlet fluff of feathers could be so filled with a contagious joy that one could not help but feel lifted in spirit from just hearing its voice.

The Red Cardinal was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1929 and became well established here. To this day when I hear the familiar piping, trills and song, I take a moment from my activities and enjoy the melody. It is like hearing a familiar voice, of a dear friend, who brings with them fond memories of childhood days and can lift the soul with song.

Lehua Rain

Playing with watercolors in a new sketchbook (Stillman & Birn Zeta series), working through ideas for a new painting…and, well… one thing led to another.

Lehua Rain

In a world of gray

Thoughts of love grow like ‘ōhi’a

‘I’iwi sing in lehua rain

A native tree in the Hawaiian islands, the ʻōhiʻa lehua is the first plant to grow on new areas of lava flow. The ‘I’iwi is a scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, a native bird with a unique bill shaped for drinking nectar.  The term “lehua rain” refers to the legend of the ‘ōhi’a tree where plucking a flower causes the heavens to weep at the separation of two lovers, ‘Ōhi’a and Lehua.

Rain Song

The rains announced their arrival by softly tapping on the metal awnings over the windows, like a tentative start to a song, one note at a time. Our mountains had dressed for the occasion with gray clouds looking like misty chiffon draped across their rocky shoulders.

We have a saying in the islands, “When the Heavens weep, the Earth lives.” Imagination lives too. With these cooler gray filled days, the melody of rain song and watching as the ocean breezes blow sheets of rain into undulating shapes that dance across the yard, my imagination begins its own dance with ideas.

Watercolor beginning

Watercolor beginning

One idea comes from the sense of place, here, in the islands, where nature’s creative journey is constant, punctuated by storm warnings, lava flows, and the occasional Tsunami alert. I begin my own creative journey exploring the idea of place, with watercolor, but after a few brush strokes it becomes apparent that the air is full of moisture, causing the paper to dry slowly, almost reluctantly. This calls for a plan B, (there should always be one), bring in acrylics.

While waiting for paint to dry between the applications of watercolor layers, I sort through carved linoleum tiles to be used later with the acrylics. Having a theme, or a story, (every painting has a story even if it is only in my head), helps me choose patterns and determine whether I need to carve any new tiles.

Acrylic step 1

Acrylic step 1

When the watercolor portion has completely dried, my next step is to apply a layer of matte medium. This is the most nerve wracking part as I have to be careful not to disturb or lift the transparent watercolor beneath. After a few deep breaths and keeping my fingers crossed, the painting is set aside over-night to dry.

Acrylic step 2

Acrylic step 2

With the morning comes a new melody. The rains have introduced sporadic percussive rhythms, charged with energy, heavier and faster with a few pauses as though between musical sets. My painting has dried so I put away my watercolor brushes and reach for the acrylics.

Acrylic step 3

Acrylic step 3

First, a stroke of acrylic color, next a flurry of activity involving scraping, lifting, spritzing of alcohol, more paint, more lifting, (this time with a linoleum tile leaving a design impression in its wake), and maybe some added scrubbing and scratching with an old plastic hair curler. Working in small sections because the paint dries faster and is permanent, this process, this dance, is repeated over and over.

Like the rain, there is a sporadic rhythm with a few pauses to let the paint dry, to take a step back and see where this journey is heading. Eventually I come to that point where I need to take a longer step back, so off I go to make myself a cup of tea and enjoy the music of a rainy day.

By the time I return to the painting with a fresh eye and make a few finishing adjustments, the night has gathered and the rain has faded away.  Tomorrow will begin a new painting, continuing the creative journey where ideas are like rain puddles waiting to be splashed in, tonight the brushes are stilled, and the only sounds left are the measured drips of water off the leaves and a cricket singing its lullaby into the darkness.

Life Waters

Life Waters