Naupaka Night

 

Naupaka (diptych) by Wendy Roberts

Naupaka (diptych)

I’m going to be teaching my first wine and paint night at Brilhante Custom Picture Framing and Fine Art in Kailua on April 29, 2017. I wanted to share a little about the piece designed for the activity. It depicts a haunting legend from Hawaiian tradition. Thanks to Tracy Brilhante for suggesting the idea of a naupaka painting!

The story of naupaka is one of my favorite tragic love stories. It has several variations, but the one I love best goes something like this: There was a lovely ali’i girl named Naupaka who fell in love with a young commoner man, Kaui, who lived near her village. The two wished to marry, but it was kapu (forbidden) for ali’i (the ruling class) to marry commoners. They asked the kupuna (village elders) if an exception could be made. The two were sent to a distant heiau (temple) in the mountains to pray to the Gods to ask if they could marry, but sadly, the sky grew stormy, and rain started to fall, a sign from the Gods that their love was not allowed.  The beautiful ali’i girl broke a complete naupaka flower, one with ten petals, in half.  She gave one of the half-flowers to her lover. “We can no longer be together.” she said as her heart broke, “I will stay here, and you must return to live by the ocean. We must never meet again.” From then on, there were two kinds of naupaka, and each grew with only five petals to reflect the tragedy of the separated lovers. The lovers are reunited when the two halves of the naupaka flower are brought together.

These paintings are meant to be a diptych, reuniting the flower halves, and thus the lovers, once more.  When designing it, I thought of the half-necklaces some people wear to remember each other and signify their bond to one another.

There is a botanical aspect to this story which is also wonderful to know.  The inspiration for the story is the two forms of the naupaka plant which never grow in the same place.  Their incomplete appearance, each sporting five petals in a half-circle seems specifically designed for a tragic love story. There is a mountain naupaka that needs the cool rainy elevations of the mountain to thrive, and an ocean version of naupaka that is often grown for its hearty ability to thrive in sun and salt spray.  Their growing needs are highly divergent so they are rarely grown in close proximity. The beach version is pure white, the mountain version varies in the amount of purple in its petals, some are white with purple stripes, some are lavender with purple stripes.  I chose to paint the more purple mountain variety, but I expect a significant number of painters at “Naupaka Night” will want to paint the variety of mountain naupaka with white petals so the two halves will resemble each other more closely.

By Land or Sea

I am excited to announce that I unintentionally dressed in the same color scheme as my painting, and also, “Peaceful Sanctuary” won first place at the HCC “By Land or Sea” show yesterday! Hooray! It was nice to see friends and meet so many wonderful people at the reception! Thank you Jennifer Rothschild for organizing so many lovely shows at HCC, and also to the three anonymous (mysterious) jurors who chose my work. It’s an honor and I am grateful!

Standing in front of my painting, "Peaceful Sanctuary" in my matching outfit. I wish I could say I planned it!

Standing in front of my painting, “Peaceful Sanctuary” in my coordinating outfit. I wish I could say I planned it, but it was just a happy fashion accident.

New Show: By Land or By Sea

I am a participating artist in the newest Honolulu Country Club Show: “By Land or Sea”. It’s a group show featuring around 15 artists.  The show will run from February 26, 2017 to April 9, 2017 at Honolulu Country Club, 1690 Ala Puumalu St., Honolulu 96818

You are invited to come enjoy the reception, March 5, 2017, 5:00 – 7:00 PM.  If you have never been to an artist’s reception before, you’re welcome to read my post about how to attend an artist’s reception.

Peaceful Sanctuary by Wendy Roberts

Peaceful Sanctuary

Fiery Sunset by Wendy Roberts

Fiery Sunset

I have two pieces on display at the show, “Peaceful Sanctuary” and “Fiery Sunset”. One for land, and one for sea seemed right.

I am looking forward to seeing the completed show.  I normally stay to help hang the artwork, but this weekend was unusually busy so I had to drop it off and leave before the hanging even began.

I really like the Honolulu Country Club as a venue. It’s a very beautiful building on picture-perfect grounds! I hope to see you there!

 

How to Attend an Artist’s Reception

Artists Reception Refreshments WAG 2016

Artists Reception Refreshments

I used to think I wasn’t allowed to go to artists receptions without receiving a specific invitation in the mail.

I remember very clearly the first Artist’s reception I attended.  It was for my Dad’s solo show at Springville Museum of Art in the mid-nineties. Since my Dad was quadriplegic, he had stopped attending art openings long before I could recall due to his health, so he had only one artist’s reception that I remember.  Because it was one of his only events, and he was very ill, I think many people guessed correctly that it would be his last art show as well. Although it was announced in the newspaper, I really didn’t think about the logistics much.  I just knew the upper floor of the museum held quite a crowd. I’m not sure how many people were there, but I know it was an unusually large crowd.  I remember seeing family, classmates of his from high school, neighbors, friends.  Even some people he hadn’t seen in years attended. Many people were dressed up very nicely.  It felt more like a wedding than a gallery reception in many ways.

It was a lovely event, but somehow I concluded that art receptions were only for people who know the artist. I figured I wasn’t allowed to go to an artist’s reception if I wasn’t a personal friend. Now that I have attended many artists receptions (my own and others), I know that for most of the art receptions in Hawaii, my ideas were absolutely incorrect! I would like to encourage you to attend artists receptions, even if you don’t know any of the artists.  If it looks interesting, you should go. They are truly meant to be parties for the public. We want to see our existing friends/family AND meet new people. We love it when people take to time to see the show we worked hard to put together.

Artists Reception AHA 2016

Artists Reception AHA 2016: Most art shows have an approximately 10 minute presentation of awards and/or quick acknowledgement of the organizers and/or artist.

The real deal with art shows:

Unless there are specific invitations with specific instructions, this is the way artists receptions run:

1. Everyone is welcome.

Artists receptions are like a big, open house type party and really, crowds are a gift.  You can bring friends. You don’t have to know the artist.

2. Dress comfortably

You don’t have to dress nicely, but you can if you like.

3. Enjoy the refreshments

There are almost always light refreshments and drinks.  Yes, you can eat and drink them even if you don’t know the artist.  Go ahead – that’s why we have a refreshment table – for ALL our guests.

4. You are not obligated to buy art

You are not expected to buy something – you can certainly do so if you like, but it’s never an obligation.

5. Stay as long as you like

You can stay for part of the night, or the whole time.

6. Please don’t take it personally if your conversation with the artist is short or interrupted.

I am always trying to strike that perfect balance between visiting with everyone and swapping meaningful conversation for as long as possible.  I never manage to talk to everyone, and inevitably, at least a couple of conversations are cut short. I always wish I had more time.

7. Basic human decency is great.

As long as you don’t destroy the art, act in a rude fashion, or drink all the wine and get wasted, you’re going to fit in just fine!

8. You don’t have to be an art expert to attend.

If you don’t know much about art, you are not alone.  There are always plenty of people who come to support the artist in their life, and their attendance doesn’t center around the art.  Likewise, some people know a lot about art, but don’t know anyone. There are lots of reasons to go to a reception.  No one is expecting you to write an art review for the local paper in which you identify intriguing parallels to 15th century Italian art.

9. Just go.

If you see a show in the newspaper or on an online events calendar that you think would be fun to view, try to go on the artist’s reception night.  It will be full of energy and people.  Sometimes there is live music.  It really is like a wonderful party you didn’t have to plan.  Feel free to “crash” an art reception anytime.  And if you like the work, find the artist and say something nice.  Sign the guestbook, and enjoy the ambiance.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Art Show Rejections

This post is for other artists, especially the young ones, but really anyone who faces the challenge of a juried contest as part of their job.  Anytime you drop off work to be juried, you really hope your works get juried in. It would be great to get an award too!  In the time between submission and display, your heart may be leaping, maybe you are daydreaming about how nice it would be to win…

…until you see both pieces have been juried out and are waiting for pickup.

…until you see there is no award by your label.

If you are human, you probably feel at least a flutter of disappointment, but I am going to tell you about my first time trying to pick award winners, and hopefully you will learn not to take rejection too seriously.

I was part of committee recently that awarded 12 awards to young artists.  The show had already been placed on display.  A round of jurying had already been done.  The remaining pieces were amazingly good. Inevitably, I promise you some of the best work had been juried out or overlooked already. I am always amazed at what doesn’t get on the walls at any of the shows I have entered – some of the best work gets picked up as a rejected piece before anyone gets to enjoy it.  That initial cut was done, and now we were trying to select awards for young artists we thought should get a nod of the head from our association.

It was dizzying.  There are no right answers.  There are no clear answers.  We chose the best we could with a criteria of technical skill and “wow factor”.  And this is how it is judging art.  Some people took an immediate like to a piece that others in the group didn’t understand.  We all preferred a unique set of pieces – there was some overlap, but none of the lists matched.  The amazing photographer in our group chose a lot more photographs because he could appreciate their expertise.  Another artist chose 2D art with an emphasis on technical skill.  Another artist chose mostly the mixed media pieces, valuing innovation.  Another chose based entirely on a conceptual basis – ideas-driven criteria. We then compromised to try to give each person a little bit of satisfaction.  You can’t really judge art. Each piece is made under differing criteria and in order to be even remotely fair, it feels like you would have to have 1000 categories and make the categories ridiculously narrow:

“best oil painting of people with an overall sad feeling”

“best whimsical pastel cat”

“best bas-relief carved decorative gourd”

“best documentary-style photograph depicting the theme of death and loss”

How can all these things compete with each other?  It’s like apples, oranges, a live octopus and a pair of tennis shoes! Which one is best?  Well, are you planning to eat it, put it in the ocean, or run with it on your feet?

Which one is best?

Likewise how do you compare art that really doesn’t fill the same function at all?  Are you going to put it on your wall, place it on a decorative side table, place it in a museum, wear it, use it to help make people aware of a social issue, or illustrate a children’s book with it? This would be helpful to determine the “winner”, but in many shows, there’s no answer.  It’s all competing against each other.

Which of these masterpieces is the best? Wouldn’t this be a nightmare to jury?

We chose some pieces that were innovative, or thought-provoking, or beautiful, or skillful. Many were a combo of these things.  But this small set of awards wasn’t even remotely exhaustive of all the great pieces in the room that deserved recognition.  I loved a couple of pieces I felt were rather whimsical and I would rank them as my favorites, but they lost out because they were competing with amazing hard-hitting pieces with very serious themes.  We as a society often award the depressing things even if the whimsical pieces are just as technically wonderful.  I think this might be because the whimsical pieces are more likely to be purchased for display on a wall, whereas, we still want to provide some sort of encouragement to the things that are too painful to display all the time in our living spaces.  Some of the most amazing and tragic pieces couldn’t be awarded for technical issues, or because it was similar to a piece we awarded already and we were trying to at least touch on most of the various media. The process tried to be logical, but art is not logical.

In the end, every piece we selected was lauded by at least three of our members, often all of us.  I would have made different awards if left to my own devices, and I was grateful I wasn’t left to my own devices.  The biases of each artist at least are somewhat balanced in a group. This process showed me a lot about my own biases, and about what it means to jury, and what it means to lose.

Winning means something.  It means that at least one person thought your work was the best in the room.  They really connected with it.  Generally speaking, the winning pieces are usually really genuinely good technically and/or conceptually (not always both), so when I see an artists who is winning awards, I know they have wonderful quality to their work.

Losing means NOTHING. Some of the strongest pieces are cut because of a bias (“I don’t understand pottery”, “I don’t like pieces that make me feel anxious”), a belief (“whimsical work is less worthy of awards than depressing work”, “conceptual art is more important than decorative art”), or a desire to be less biased (“I like portraits and this one is amazing, but we already selected 2 other portraits for awards, so we better try to give the award to an abstract” “we ought to spread the awards to include the 3D artists too because we haven’t awarded any sculptors yet”). All kinds considerations and justifications enter into this process, and when you are on the choosing end, you realize how arbitrary some criteria really is, but it’s part of the process that is impossible to overcome. Even with a half-dozen jurors, we still ran into some odd reasons to select one piece over another.

This is why you should feel good when you win, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you lose.  Winning means you connected with the specific group that selects work and made them feel something, but losing means nothing. There were so many great pieces!  We could not possibly do a perfect job of choosing the most deserving works.

Next time you are feeling down about rejection, you can do the following things:

  1. Don’t quit making art.
  2.  See if you can detect something missing in your technical skill that you can improve for next time. Know it is perfectly possible to be technically superb and still get rejected.
  3. Shrug it off – a loss means nothing! You can even enter the same piece in a later show and win first place in a different show.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep and enjoy yourself with an activity that takes your mind off your troubles for a while.  With time and experience, you will get thicker skin.

 

 

Peaceful Sanctuary

I have been getting ready for the art show at Punahou School.  It happens once a year and half the proceeds go to the school.  It’s a good way to help gifted students who need a scholarship to afford the rigorous top-notch education of this famous institution. I am placing three pieces in the show, the main piece is my newest oil painting, “Peaceful Sanctuary”.

Peaceful Sanctuary by Wendy Roberts

Peaceful Sanctuary

I wanted to use my art to make a place of refuge for our stressed-out society. Our collective minds are restless over the past few months as the world changes around us once again.  I had recently seen the Zen Show at Honolulu Museum of Art, and experienced firsthand its powerful effect on my ability to focus and recenter.  This isn’t a Zen painting.  It doesn’t follow the rules of limited palette and limited information. However, I wanted to make an image that would have a calming impact on the viewer.  It is meant to embrace and transport anyone who looks at it into a relaxing place, not just for this occasion, but for the inevitable challenges life send to us all.  Art can be a powerful aid in attaining a particular mood.  I want this painting to make you feel more peaceful, and provide a rest from your worries.  Like its subject, this place is designed to be a refuge to revitalize you.

The painting centers around the comforting, spiritual colors of blue and purple, with a myriad of greens, from softened viridian, and distant mint-greys, to refreshing yellow-greens in the foreground.  I focused on creating a sense of distance with these colors to draw you into the painting’s setting and give it a sense of atmosphere. My hope is that you enjoy it and that it brings you a moment of peace every time you look at it.  Imagine yourself at the side of the lake, listening to distant birds, hearing the rustle of leaves in a delicate breeze. Please accept the renewed hope and energy it offers to you, anytime you need it. Everything is going to be okay.

Kaena Point

Kaena Point is a very special place.  It feels like the Northern Hawaiian islands because there is some very important conservation work in progress on the remote and scenic northwestern tip of Oahu.   It is here that Laysan Albatross and Shearlings are safe to nest on the ground. My close friend and fellow artist, Dawn Yoshimura, and her husband Anders suggested the outing and we all went on a cloudy Thursday after making sure the rain was not going to be an issue.

Kaena Point with the mountains fading into the distance

Kaena Point with the mountains of Waianae and Makaha fading into the distance

The hike into the tip of Kaena is very scenic.  The mountains of Makaha and Waianae fade into the distance, and features the constant sound of the crashing waves to help your mind wander.  Sometimes the waves are so foamy that they look like milk.

Usually this is a very hot and sunny location with a deep blue ocean contrasting with the parched lava rock of this desert-like area. On the day I finally made it all the way to the point, we were fortunate.  The constant cloud cover made for excellent hiking weather, and evenly-lit photos.  The ocean looked like steel, reflecting the overcast sky, still crashing mercilessly against the sea cliffs below.  In some places we saw sea arches.

Kaena Point Sea Arches

Kaena Point has a few sea arches if you watch the coast.

We also experienced the overpowering scent of a remnant of a whale carcass which is unusual. Hopefully if you ever go, to Kaena, this will not be a feature of your hike.

Part of the amazing work being done on this site is the unfortunate but necessary eradication of all rodents.  This is a near impossible task, but the intelligent solution is to use a double door system and a rodent-proof fence to assure the birds are spared the intrusion from the introduced rodents (rats and mongoose) that have brought them to the edge of extinction by eating their eggs.  The rodent control is working.  Once you cross into the fenced area, a bit of magic takes place as you slowly spot the large white albatrosses nesting directly on the ground!

Laysan Albatross nesting

Laysan Albatross nesting directly on the ground

At first, I saw one, and I was so mesmerized, I didn’t notice two more in the near distance.  We walked further in, spotting only a few birds.  Then I turned around and noticed the amazing sight of dozens of birds quietly nesting.  Somehow, they were there all along, but I did not see them until I changed my vantage point.

Kaena Point Albatross

Look past the foreground. Find every white speck. Each of those white dots is an albatross. They are not abundant, but there are quite a few.  Do you see the sneaky one in the shadow of the bushes?  Look for the pink ribbon marking the nesting site. It’s such a treat to see them nesting in a colony like this!

As we looked at the beautiful birds, we decided their subtle feather gradation around the eyes reminded us of smoky eye makeup.  These birds achieve a smooth gradient of color that would make any makeup artist jealous.

The smoky eyes of the beautiful albatross

The smoky eyes of the beautiful albatross

We even got to see some courtship competition dance-off behavior.  Two males tried to prove to a female that they had all the right moves.  I don’t know if she was expecting to catch Disco Fever, or watch them do the Robot, but sadly for them, she lost interest in both of them and their dance moves shortly after this clip was taken.

The other main attraction of Kaena Point is in this photo.  Do you see it?

Do you see something in this photo?

Do you see something in this photo? Do you need a hint? Spoiler: Look at the rocks in the middle slightly toward the right side.

Scroll down to see the star of the show:

 

Kaena Point Monk Seal

Kaena Point Monk Seal:  maximizing my zoom to catch a good-ish shot of our beautiful dog-mermaid

Monk seals are a highly endangered sea creature despite their excellent camouflage.  They lie on the beach to sun and rest.  Sometimes they are so still that the first time I saw one, I thought it was dead. Thankfully, they are just sound sleepers.  Eventually, the seal waddles back into the water using a clumsy move that looks a little like the breakdancing move, “The Worm”.  Once in the water, they are graceful and quick swimmers capable of rapid tight turns.

Tourists often make the mistake of getting too close to Monk Seals and Turtles.  There are laws prohibiting people from getting too close to these endangered species.  In the case of Monk Seals, it is also to protect people.  If they feel threatened, Monk Seals can bite. While we were there, we witnessed a couple go too close to the seal.  Thankfully nothing happened, but it does usually bother the animals, and it’s a sure way to show that you are from out of town. If any harm came to the seal, the tourists would have gotten a huge fine and/or a nasty bite.  My tip for travelers is to keep a respectful distance and enjoy watching the animals, but never stray off the trail or go past the indicated kapu (forbidden) areas which are marked with sticks in the coral at Kaena – It’s a really clever way to make sure everyone knows the off-limits zones. The sad thing about Kaena Point is that it shows you what the world used to look like before the human impact.  It’s humbling.  Thankfully, with human intervention, we can choose to save these places.  Following the rules and staying on the trail is an important part of keeping the area pristine.

We were lucky to see a pod of whales off the shore within easy visibility.  We saw a whale repeatedly smash its tail or fin on the surface of the water, creating a huge splash each time.  We saw the mist of their blowholes rising above the water as well. Amazingly, I managed to poorly capture the fin incident!

On the way back, the clouds finally broke, sending a gentle chilly rain that thankfully only caught us for about 15 minutes and made us a bit muddy.  This brings up a second tip:  Bring plastic bags or a drop cloth, and/or a second set of shoes any time you hike here.  Rain is unpredictable and very common, leaving muddy shoes that can be hard to manage. We were glad to have water and snacks too.  On a sunny day, this would be a must.  We drank more than twice what we normally would on the trail in the sun.  Make sure to pack more water than usual to stave off thirst.  Also, if you bring binoculars, maybe you will luck out and see a whale too! Most of all, just enjoy this rare place and use its inspiration to be sensitive and nurturing to our beautiful natural world!

Featured on the front page of RedBubble

After a couple of days of uploading my new art on RedBubble for the holiday gift giving season, I woke up today to great news: I was selected to be on the front page of RedBubble with one of my art pieces.  Here’s a screenshot of what I found when I went to see what they did with my work:

My RedBubble Day

My RedBubble Day

The selection was Koolau Ohia Mamo, and they used it to show off a zipper bag they produce.  I was surprised they chose one of my more mellow pieces for the honor, but it was very fun to see it on the featured area.  I had some sales and gained a small slice of “notoriety” (including some very nice comments from fellow artists and visitors to the site), so thank you RedBubble!  That was very kind!  I have done most of my updating to the images offered on RedBubble, so feel free to take a look here>>

My originals are available for purchase in Brillhante framing or on my site, but on RedBubble, you can get a whole bunch of awesome things that are useful and feature my images.  Things like tote bags, awesome stainless steel mugs, t-shirts or phone cases, sometimes even scarves or leggings if it doesn’t cross the line into ridiculous. Surprisingly, not every painting is suitable to be made into leggings.

Uh...No.

Friends don’t let friends order bad leggings.

Go figure.  I laugh sometimes when I see a particularly bad pair.   Then I disable it from being made.  Sorry, no one can order my images on leggings if it’s going to get them arrested by the fashion police!  It’s for your own protection.

16 Paintings in 16 Days is Complete

The 16 birds are now done.  You can see the whole collection in the 16 Paintings In 16 Days Gallery.  I managed to do all but 2 of them consecutively.  The last two were finished after a week’s delay. I had to complete a few deadlines before returning refreshed to my easel to complete the challenge.  I consider it successful challenge despite the timing hiccup.  It taught me a lot, and yielded a body of work that I am pleased to have.

All the Birds in Chronological Order

All the Birds in Chronological Order

The challenge involved a lot of posting on social media.  The day after I finished the last bird, I transitioned abruptly into a “dark week”.  It’s part of the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (a book that is sure to heal any creative blocks you are facing and help you set goals – it’s awesome!).  This “dark week” is a suggested exercise where you avoid going online as much as possible, and you try not to read or listen to music.  It helps you hear your inner voice, taking away a lot of the noise of the outside world.  It always feels muted and surreal, but this time was especially a large contrast with the prior days of massive online connection.  During a quiet period, my dreams become very vivid and I get a lot done.

I took part of my quiet time to give the paintings their final touches.  I made sure they were all painted on the edges, and signed on the right side.  I like the way it looks on the wall with the gallery wrap edge and signature on the right side since the image is so small.  I sometimes opt to paint my small pieces this way so that the signature can be extra large without overwhelming the image and I also feel it becomes part of the style of the painting in an unusual way.  It gives you a little something to look at from the side of the piece.  If people prefer to frame the painting, it’s okay because the signature will be hidden, but it is still there for ID purposes.  With this kind of design, framing is optional. It looks modern and finished as is.

Signatures on the edges of each bird painting

Signatures on the edges of each bird painting

I finished each painting by applying a very tough topcoat on them.

Birds in progress

Birds in progress: receiving a top coat

Because some of them are metal-leafed, they need the strength of that topcoat to protect the surface from scratching.  The rest also got a layer of topcoat just because it makes the collection more cohesive and I liked the look. The gloss coat deepens the colors and makes them look more like when I placed the paint on the canvas.  I wired the paintings for hanging and now they are all ready to ship or display or sell – whatever happens to them, they are ready for the world.

My 16 little bird paintings are perched all over my studio waiting for their debut.  They will be taking wing as the centerpiece of my show at Gallery on the Pali coming up in December of 2016.  You can see the details in my events calendar.  It has directions and all the details, but I hope if you can join us for the reception on Friday December 9, 2016 from 6 – 8 pm. It’s truly fine by me if they sell prior to the show, however.  Most paintings are available for sale, and can be shipped priority anywhere in the US for $15.  If you need international shipping, please contact me to get a free no-obligation quote.  Some of them are also available on gift items or as prints on RedBubble. I’ve been very pleased with the quality of their printing. Click here to see all my available art on RedBubble.