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.

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.

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.

16 Paintings in 16 Days for 2016

A few of the completed bird paintings in the series by Wendy Roberts

My studio wall with six of the completed bird paintings

Artists thrive by taking inspiration from other artists.  In the past, I have seen other artists undertake the challenge of creating a sketch a day, or a drawing a day with various themes.  For example, Inktober – a set of 31 drawings in ink, or the “Artists Helping Artists” 30-day challenge.  After hearing about the virtues of this high-productivity commitment, I decided to try it for myself, but I didn’t want to wait to do it with a large online group, and I also wanted to make sure I could finish the challenge, so I chose 16 days.  The reasoning is that I am a perfectionist.  I want all my pieces to be strong and fully developed.  I also wanted to set a number that seemed mildly crazed, but not so many that I would be ragged by the end because I have two large painting goals going on simultaneously.  Since this is my first attempt at something like this, I figured I should do about half of a month.  I set some parameters to my challenge:

  1. I will create 16 paintings by the end of October.  This will leave me a couple of days for emergencies, and a couple of days to dedicate to a visit from our family. Painting with this type of daily commitment is rumored to set up some good habits and teach the artist a lot in a short time.  And for me, it will help me maintain fresh eyes while working on the very large pieces I am painting.  Almost every day I am already putting a few hours in on a huge waterfall landscape or my second Internet Series painting (depending on my mood).  It’s nice to alternate between multiple pieces so that I don’t get discouraged working on one large piece that takes time to be completed.
  2. Each painting is 5″ X 7″ I set this size knowing that I want good quality pieces that are complete by the end of the day.  I wanted a size that would allow me to create a fully finished piece each day while making progress on my other projects. I also know this is a good size for people who want a gift for the holidays but don’t have the budget to buy a large piece right now.
  3. Many of the pieces will involve the style I call “Tropical Leafing”.  I am working gold, silver, or copper leafing into tropical subjects in various ways, whether it is the background, delicate outlines, or joyous patterns, I want to experiment and discover the best ways to use metal leafing in these small paintings.
  4. Every painting must be very polished – I can choose to do a loose, painterly style, or a tight realism, but every piece should be an attempt at a piece worthy of a show or gallery.  I am putting my all into each piece so that despite the small size, they pack a punch.
  5. I am accountable to the Internet via my site, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, to my friend and fellow artist, Dawn Yoshimura.  You can see her work on her site or on her “Dawn Yoshimura Studio” Facebook Page.  She will not be posting every day, but she is sketching, and creating some really beautiful work. She says she will post at least some of them.

I am only two days in on this challenge, and I already see that it is going to be a good experience for me.  I feel the correct level of discomfort for growth.  I am very excited to find out what this will look like at the end.  I am going to set up a special gallery with just my 16 paintings. I will also be blogging the experience, so you can look for the posts in the category “16 paintings in 16 days 2016” to read all my posts.

Fresh Start

New Day at Kawainui - center panel of triptych

New Day at Kawainui

“New Day at Kawainui” is my latest work.  I received an invitation to participate in a show at the Honolulu Country Club.  The theme resonated with me.  It is entitled “Fresh Start”, and since I have always been a believer in the power of setting goals at the beginning of each new year, this is an exciting concept to me.  I immediately thought of the golden mornings on my walks.  Kawainui is a place where I occasionally go to walk and to clear my head.  It signals change and new beginnings to me. I had been thinking of painting it, but this was the perfect time to move this concept to the front of my queue. The invitation was a little bit of a short notice, but I wanted to create a piece based specifically on the theme, so I decided to try and see if I could paint it in time for it to dry, knowing that oil paint was definitely not a compromise.  I needed its true color to portray the vast distances of the scene.

“New Day at Kawainui” is a triptych in progress. Some paintings are so consuming that it is impossible to take them at a measured pace.  This triptych was a frenzy, a compulsion – not just because of the deadline either.  I really wanted to complete the concept while the year felt young and new. I worked with every moment I had and at a level of attention that I could not hope to sustain long term. I completely surprised myself with the pace of my progress. I finished the center panel, and the other two panels are complete except for the most minute adjustments and finishing touches. The piece as a whole is yet to be unveiled, but each piece of the triptych can stand alone, so the center panel is my offering to the “Fresh Start” show currently on display at Honolulu Country Club.

Fresh Start Invitation 2016

Also in the show is a piece that has been in a couple of other shows, “Ripening Bananas”.  It fits the theme of a Fresh Start, so it is also on display as a botanical interpretation of the theme. I love painting bananas!  They are such a visually interesting plant!

I am glad I am taking my time to display the other two panels. Had I rushed the drying, I might have compromised quality or done something to endanger the long term archival outcome. I have heard of painters doing many things to try to make an oil paint dry more quickly. I was toying with the idea of trying to speed the drying, but was unwilling to do anything to endanger the piece.  An online search demonstrated that oil has to take its sweet time.  Techniques for speed-drying included painting most of the painting with acrylic and then using oil paint on the top layers (which leads to chipping later on), placing the piece in the oven to try to warm the paint (which can warp the wooden supports or even set on fire if there are flammable thinners on the piece), or adding liquin, which may yellow over time.  If I have one piece of advice for anyone who might be wondering about how to make oil paint dry faster, I would tell them to stop and let it dry naturally. Take your time and produce quality. Oils are about subtle color – they stay true and do not dry darker like acrylic, so if you need to create a piece with these advantages, there is no short cut.  It has to have time to dry. You can work with acrylics if you need something to dry quickly. Paint your oil painting and assure it is dry to the touch prior to display.  Wait 3 months in our humid Hawaiian climate to add the varnish. It’s hard sometimes to wait, but it’s worth it for the quality.

There is also no shortcut for quality work. Often, the particular piece dictates its own schedule. In my own sprinting pace for this piece, I got a lot done quickly, but it was because I was able to pack so many productive hours into the day on a piece that had a clear goal, not because I rushed the process or cut corners on the finishing details. I managed my attention span carefully with well-placed walks, housework, and family time when I would get mentally fatigued. And I utilized coffee to bring my attention to lazer focus when possible but if my work quality started to decline, I set the brush down and took a break. The ultimate goal is to make something that will last and bring emotion to the people who purchase art. It is important to treat the calling as an artist as a challenge to perfecting craftsmanship so that the longevity of the painting is assured.

A Fun Collaborative Project

One of the most unique painting projects I have done is one I completed recently in my “Convergence” art show group. We created these paintings for our show at the Gallery on the Pali, as a team.  There are 4 of us in the show, Suzanne Barnes, Cynthia Schubert, Dawn Yoshimura, and me.  Each artist was given 15 minutes with a blank canvas.  Then we passed the painting clockwise to the second painter who continued the painting for 15 more minutes, then we each passed the painting again to a third person for the next 15 minutes, then the fourth artist took over for 15 minutes, and when the painting was given back to the initiator of the painting, the results were wonderful!  We got to put any finishing touches on our painting that we wanted to add (no time limit on this last step). They turned out so well that we used them on our postcard as the symbol of what our show is all about:

Convergence Invitation

Here is a series of progress photos showing how each piece evolved:


Convergence Suzanne

(Stages painted by Suzanne, Wendy, Dawn, Cynthia, Suzanne)


Convergence Dawn

(Stages painted by Dawn, Cynthia, Suzanne, Wendy, Dawn)


Convergence Cynthia

(Stages painted by Cynthia, Suzanne, Wendy, Dawn, Cynthia)


Convergence Wendy

(Stages painted by Wendy, Dawn, Cynthia, Suzanne, Wendy)

This experience of painting as a group was about letting go and allowing the piece turn out in a way that we could each only partially control.  It encouraged us to respond to a series of paintings in various states of completion. The painting whispers what it wants you to do if you listen closely.  Sometimes I painted a lot on the works in front of me, and other times, I needed to use a soft touch because most elements of the painting were working already.  If you are an artist, grab a group of artist friends and try this. It is a really interesting exercise!

Keeping my paintbrush moving…

Greetings from my studio.  I have just finished my latest show (“Paradise Painters” at Hoomaluhia).  It went very well, and now that my show is done, it is time for me to enter a new chapter of my creative state. Before the show, I worked actively for the majority of the days producing new work on canvas or panels.  I postponed work on my mural project for a few weeks to make sure I would have enough new pieces for my show. Once the show was up, I worked more on the mural again and dreamed up the next few pieces I want to pursue. Now I must balance my massive mural project with paintings once again as I get ready for the upcomiong Windward Artists Guild show in October. This flurry of productivity has meant that I have not been communicating as much on my site lately, but I took a moment today to add a few of the pieces I created for the Paradise Painter’s show. I am looking forward to sharing the mural, but it isn’t really ready to be seen just yet. I showed a couple of previews of the secondary walls on Facebook (Wendy Roberts Fine Art) and Instagram (@wendysroberts), which I will share again here, but the main wall is a huge (10′ X 15′) scene with water lilies, foliage, a waterfall, and a weeping willow that I will be excited to debut when it is done.

Mural in progress

Mural in progress


I better get back to work at the easel in order to assure the quality of the pieces I have planned for the October WAG show will be up to my standards.  Two of my next pieces are going to be larger works in the 3 and 4 foot range.  I feel they deserve more space and more creation time to achieve the correct impact and scale.  I will check in a little later, but in the meantime, if you don’t see me much out on the town during September, you know where I am!