30 in 30: Highlights to Date

As the official 30 in 30 wraps up on Leslie Saeta’s site, I have gathered a set of 16 paintings to make a collage of my highlights to show for her conclusion posting.  Having most of the challenge complete, my daily painting habit is strong. An artist can only improve with time spent at the easel, so it’s good to hone habits and make an effort to paint as often as I can.  I will end up with a little less than 30 paintings because some are taking more than one day, but it won’t be far off. I am feeling very productive and definitely took the challenge seriously.  I spent significant time at the easel every day.  I opted not to show some pieces that need more work, but I have them behind the scenes waiting to emerge after finishing touches. 

With so many shows coming up, these little paintings are coming into existence at the perfect time.  I have already sold 6 paintings from this series, so the rewards for my work with the brush have started to flow.  I am very grateful!  My teenage daughter called dibs on the scuba dive painting from memory (“Black Coral Cave” – which I was not planning to sell). Since she was with me when we went into the beautiful caves, it seems fitting to give that piece to her. Seeing her fist pump the air when I told her she could have it was the best sort of payment!

This wraps up the official Saeta Blog timeline of the 30 in 30, but of course I will continue for a few more days to account for starting 5 days later than everyone else. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – it’s more fun to write if someone actually reads it!

30 in 30: Iiwi on a Blue Lobeliad

Iiwi on Blue Lobeliad Flowers by Wendy Roberts

Today’s bird is one of my favorites that I paint more than any other bird, the iiwi.  I love the bright red-orange color of its feathers.  I keep finding new color schemes I want to try with this vibrant red color.  This time the tiny honeycreeper is nestled on a vivid blue-purple lobeliad plant in bloom, using its curved beak to feed on nectar within the flowers.  Thanks to Kim and Forest Starr for a wonderful series of photos that served as inspiration.  

30 in 30: Day 1 of Shama Thrush in a Mountain Apple Tree

Day 1 of “Shama Thrush in a Mountain Apple Tree” Yesterday’s work was rushed and didn’t turn out well, but you will see it later on once it’s had time to be sorted out. In the meantime, I started a new painting that I will show the daily progress on. I don’t always do an underpainting, but this is a complex scene and I felt a brown undertone would be great for this one.

This painting is part of the 30 in 30 challenge.  You can see the completed paintings to date here: 30 in 30 gallery

30 in 30: Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree

Mynah Bird in a Coral Tree
Acrylic on Gessobord
5″ X 7″

Mynah birds can be trained to talk, and they do not sound like parrots.  If you want to see one that was rescued and taught to talk, I highly recommend this link:  

I love listening to this bird’s voice.  Their usual chatter includes an amazing range of sounds: the soft peep of surprise that sounds like the mew of a cat, loud squawks, shrill dual-tone screams meant to defend territory, and even clicks. I have placed it in the boughs of a lovely coral tree.  They are both introduced species from India that thrive in the mild climate of the islands, mynah birds particularly are one of the most common birds in the low elevations.

30 in 30 Black Coral Cave

Black Coral Cave by Wendy Roberts

Black Coral Cave
Oil on Wood Panel
9″ X 12″

This painting was a joy to paint, though I don’t think it is 100% done.  It is another alla prima oil painting experiment.  I felt slightly more at ease painting the entire painting in one sitting this time, though I still have many hours to log before I will claim expertise in this direct wet-in-wet painting technique.

This summer, my family went scuba diving.  It was the first set of dives for my daughters who are finally certified in scuba.  I used to have an underwater camera a long time ago, but the photos are only as good as your equipment allow them to be.  My cheap camera never did a good job with underwater photos, so I ditched the camera and got in the habit of taking detailed notes of my dives, including as many fish names as I could figure out, but I missed the visual aspect a camera can offer, even if it is subpar.  This time, rather than taking a camera, I took inspiration from a friend and talented artist, Cynthia Schubert-Richmond, who has spent a lot more time underwater than I have in a lot more locations.  She solved the issue of sharing what she saw underwater by making paintings from memory, and what a wonderful memory she has!  It’s quite a brilliant idea really, because it had never occurred to me to paint from life after the fact without a reference, let alone trying to record the underwater world with all its unfamiliar sights, which always feels so surreal to me.  Her paintings of her dive trips were gorgeous!  They are not online, but you can at least see her other amazing works.  

Her underwater scenes inspired me to sketch when I got back to the hotel in the hopes that I might be able to reconstruct the feeling of diving – painting is more accurate for me emotionally than a photo ever could be because even with the best equipment, it is challenging to take a good panoramic photo in the water, and you can’t always catch your favorite fish sightings within your favorite ocean landscape scenery.  You have to choose macro or micro when using photography underwater generally speaking.  Thus, how nice it is to be able to paint it!  This painting is like a shadow of how it felt to me when we went on our last scuba dive.  It’s not accurate physically.  I couldn’t draw a map of the location.  I was too dazzled to pay attention to how the cave was shaped.  I remember the rays of the sun shining through the multiple openings, the feeling of mystery within the system, wondering what would be around the next pillar, seeing a few spectacular and unique fish, and swimming up over the coral beds.  Most of all, I was struck by the beauty of the amazing black coral  dangling down overhead from the top of the cave like a chandelier, complete with three little cowry shells in its boughs like monkeys in a jungle tree.  Because it is a painting, I get to capture many of the aspects of this dive all in one image, albeit, you could never really do it full justice compared to seeing it in person, but this is much better than my photos ever were.  When I look at my painting, it does evoke the memory of gliding through this mysterious underwater cave for me.

30 in 30: Ripening Bananas

Ripening Bananas
Acrylic on wood panel
11″ X 14″

Today I finished my revamp on the Ripening Bananas.  Above is the revamp.  Here is the original before revamp:

Ripening Bananas

Ripening Bananas – before revamp

Everything is more defined now, and the composition changed.  I feel like I understand the banana plant more fully than I did 3 years ago since I am now the proud and hassled owner of a small banana grove that requires a lot of pruning and removal of suckers. Just a tip for any of you who have bananas, they grow better fruit, and more of it if you limit the number of suckers.  What was 2 “trees” 3 years ago has necessitated more than a dozen “trees” to be removed. I am learning to get the unwanted suckers chopped down early.  It’s very cathartic to go out into the back yard with my favorite horihori knife (a gardening knife that is my favorite tool of all time – Here’s a link to it – I highly recommend it for you or for a gift that anyone with a yard or a talent for gardening can use – it’s well made and hands down the best weeding/hacking/sawing tool you could ask for in the garden).  I can use it to chop down even the big “trees”.  Bananas are not a woody plant, hence why even though people call them a tree, they are actually a giant herb!  The “trunk” is actually a stem, but it is as thick and tall as a tree, so the source of the confusion is obvious. Individual bananas are called “fingers”, and the whole stalk is called a “hand”.  I have had three harvests to date, with my largest 2 hands of bananas weighing in at more than 60 pounds each!  It’s a plant that inspires generosity since it’s too much fruit for one family to use.

This is part of the 30 in 30 challenge, day 16, but two of the painting took 2 days, so It’s painting number 14 in 16 days so far – I am hoping to eventually catch up, but I am freely following my inspiration in my daily painting regimen – if I feel like making a larger piece, I have been spending the extra time to do it. This may mean a catch up session eventually, but my gallery for the 30 in 30 continues to grow!.

30 in 30: Day 1 Ripening Bananas Revamp

Ripening Bananas
In Progress, Day 1
Acrylic on Wood Panel
11″ X 14″

Sometimes I end up repainting things if I discover that they need a little revision.  Today I got halfway through changing a painting that needed another session to perfect some of the values and balance.  Its title is “Ripening Bananas” I realized the composition would be better if I complimented the far left banana flower with a second, closer banana flower on the right. The bananas could combine with the flowers to lead the eye in a triangle instead of the arching motion of the eye in the prior version.  I am so tired tonight I can’t finish the painting with fresh eyes.  I have logged a few hours of painting (and done a lot of necessary domestic tasks), so I am hanging up the apron for the night after a long day’s work.  I will pick up the revision tomorrow, so today is just a blog post.  I am learning that the larger paintings really do need two days, even if they are just a revamp like this.  Last time around I never tried anything larger than 5 X 7, so this is a new lesson of the painting challenge for me.

30 in 30: Hawaiian Moorhen

Hawaiian Moorhen
Acrylic on Gessobord Panel
5″ X 7″

Today’s bird is a lovely little endemic Hawaiian Moorhen.  I love the long brightly colored legs, extra long fancy toes, and rubbery red beak of this wading bird.  They are a common sight at Hamakua Marsh next to Kailua town, but it is sadly endangered.  It’s always strange to see this rare little chicken-sized bird running around so close to stores and boutiques considering its conservation status.  One of its main Oahu wetlands is really close to the town center of Kailua.  This bird has a lot of aliases: Hawaiian common gallinule, Hawaiian common moorhen, mudhen, and in Hawaiian it is `alae `ula (“burnt forehead” – for its prominent red frontal shield). They can be surprisingly friendly, but shouldn’t be fed by hand since many human foods (bread!) aren’t nutritious in the correct ways for birds. 

30 in 30: Java Sparrows in an Avocado Tree

Java Sparrows in an Avocado Tree by Wendy Roberts

Java Sparrows in an Avocado Tree
Oil Paint on Gessobord Panel
8″ X 10″

Java sparrows are highly social, and tend to fly in adorable little groups.  Here they are perched on the branch of an avocado tree with avocados that are just about ripe.  I usually work rather slowly on oil paintings, but this was one where I tried to get more comfortable with alla prima (wet in wet).  I like how easy it is to soften edges, but shudder to think how long this took. I ended up going in the second day to sharpen some details, and it took the equivalent time of 2 – 3 little paintings to get it all perfected (which makes sense because it’s twice as big too) but it was so good to return to oils after a couple of weeks of acrylics.  They are so different from each other! I like them both about equally, with a slight preference for oils.  Though I realize acrylics are far superior for a challenge like this where the timing is so quick, I know I will be using oils again just to hone my alla prima direct painting technique. This leaves me wondering what to do about the extra day I missed.  I painted the full usual amount of time, but because it was larger it took 2 days, and I missed one day.  So do I make 29 in 30?  30 paintings for 31 days?  Maybe I can squeeze 2 paintings into a day?  Hmmm…  we’ll see.  I know the main goal of painting daily has been fulfilled regardless.

If you want to see the rest of the pieces in the 30 in 30 and read more about the challenge, please visit the 30 in 30 Gallery, or view the prior blog posts.