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.

30 in 30: Pele and Friends

Pele and Friends
acrylic on canvas
5″ X 7″

Today’s piece is another commission. The bird rescuer who asked me to paint this triple bird portrait rescued/raised all three of these birds – two chicks and a dove. Amazingly, this pose is real. Pele is a tiny black chick who was feisty from day 1. Here, she has established the pecking order before she even has pinfeathers! I changed out a couple of things, adding some grass with little violets to the lawn and removing some cloth that wasn’t as photogenic as the birds. The dove’s wing in the original photo was blurry, so I fixed that as well. All in all it is a wonderfully quirky little portrait thanks to its unique source photo. I am happy with the results and hope she will like it as well!

This is day 11 for me of the 30 in 30 challenge. If you want to see the full collection so far, please visit this page: 30 in 30 Gallery

30 in 30: Akepa with Orange Ohia

Akepa With Orange OhiaAkepa with Orange Ohia
acrylic on canvas
5″ X 7″

Today’s bird is a small orange honeycreeper with some of the brightest orange plumage in the world.  The akepa is an endemic Hawaiian bird and a rare sight currently.  It lives in the branches of the beautiful ohia tree, an endemic Hawaiian tree with beautiful flowers of red orange or yellow which provide nectar for the small birds.  Lately I have felt drawn to the orange ohia blossoms.  They are a fun challenge to paint and have a peachy color as opposed to the vivid orange of the akepa.

This is day 10 for me in the 30 in 30.  If you would like to see the other pieces I have created for this daily painting challenge, please look at my 30 in 30 Gallery.

This painting is available for online purchase. If you are buying more than one, or need to arrange shipping to an International destination, please contact me and I can send a custom invoice that will account for accurate shipping costs.



30 in 30: Violet Vanda Orchid

Violet Vanda Orchids
Acrylic and Copper Leaf on Canvas
5″ X 7″

Under alternate lighting, the painting changes color

Under alternate lighting, the painting’s background changes color since it is copper metal leaf

Today I painted one of my all time favorite flowers, a rich blue-purple orchid. This one is a favorite for the depth of its color. I placed it on a copper background to take advantage of a secondary color scheme. The background changes color depending on the lighting, but I like how it contrasts with the deep violet.

Denver Botanical Garden's Tree of Orchids and Epiphytes

Denver Botanical Garden’s Tree of Orchids and Epiphytes

I love to garden.  This vanda orchid plant is in my orchid tree (a tree with many orchids planted in its branches). I have always wanted an tree filled with orchids ever since I saw a fabulous example at the Denver Botanical Garden. Theirs is a concrete structure festooned with air plants and orchids, but I saw the possibility of placing orchids in trees, and definitely wanted to plant one of my own.

My orchid tree is a magnolia tree that we were lucky to purchase with our home. It was already mature with fragrant white flowers the size of a bread plate. In its branches, I have grafted six different orchids of pink, white, purple, and magenta. The first orchid I planted on the tree is about 2 years along and has bloomed several times and gained a remarkable size. I saw its success and decided to add more orchids, but I want to be careful not to crowd the tree too much, so I have the six I mentioned for now. I place the draping orchids high and the upright orchids low. If you want to plant orchids in a tree, you need to check which climate zone you live in, which species of orchids can survive outside, and then consider water. Are you willing to water? Do you get enough rain? If you live in a rainy tropical or subtropical climate, the watering will often take care of itself and it may be easier than keeping them in pots. Simply tie the orchid to a tree branch using string or bird netting with a little puff of sphaganum moss around the roots to keep the roots wet between storms.

Magnolia Tree with the first of my orchids (not the same ones I just painted) grafted 2 years. It's larger now, and the roots encircle the tree branch.

Magnolia Tree with the first of my orchids (not the same ones I just painted) grafted 2 years ago. It’s larger now, and the roots encircle the tree branch.

They will quickly grow to anchor the plant on the tree and become free of maintenance, though if you are a doting plant parent, you could give them an occasional spray of orchid fertilizer. So far my orchids need nothing additional. They are getting everything they need in the trees. The colder climates might not be able to support outdoor orchids, but there might be a surprise species of cold-hardy orchid (A lot of them are bulbs, but you never know), or you might find a climbing vine or rose bush to give you a similar flowering tree effect. It’s nature’s original vertical gardening.

I have a couple of orchids on the trunk of a palm tree as well. I placed them on the side that gets shade in the hot afternoon sun, and they are also doing well.

30 in 30: Mejiro with Croton Leaves

Mejiro with Croton Leaves by Wendy Roberts

Mejiro with Croton Leaves
Acrylic and Aluminum Metal Leaf on Canvas
5″ X 7″

The mejiro is one of my favorite little birds to paint, so I was thrilled to receive this commission of a mejiro in a croton plant, peeking out from the leaves. In the original photo, the bird was hidden a little more, but I rendered its tail in front of the leaves to help give it more emphasis. I really liked the color scheme naturally present in the purples, yellows, grays, and greens of the croton leaves.

This is day 8 for me of the 30 in 30. If you want to learn more and see the other paintings, you can see my 30 in 30 gallery here.

30 in 30: Baby Bulbul on Orchids

Baby Bulbul on Orchids
Acrylic on Canvas
5″ X 7″

Aloha! Today I am back to painting birds. This time it’s a commission piece. This is a portrait of a bulbul that was rescued and rehabilitated after falling from its nest. The rescuer wanted a keepsake of her beloved bird. It’s very fun to take an existing photo and give it some changes to make the composition more pleasing. I added more orchids, because… orchids! Also, it is art, so I can make features of the bird that get lost in the original photo emerge more clearly. Black feathers around the face that were absorbing the light and losing some of the form. The head is now clearly seen because I can use grays, blues, browns, and blacks to make it all a little more visually clear, closer to how it would be in person. As long as I can wrap my mind around the form, I have gotten to the point where I can render some of the loss that a camera lens will create. Cameras usually push values to be more extreme than they are in real life. Shadows become impenetrable black where they might look blue, purple, gray, and brown in real life. This is the difficulty of working with photos, but if you know your subject matter well enough, you can sometimes correct the lost information.

This is day 7 for me of the 30 in 30 painting challenge. You can learn more and see the other pieces as they are revealed here:

30 in 30 Gallery

30 in 30: Kamehameha Butterflies with Red Ohia

Kamehameha Butterflies With Red Ohia by Wendy Roberts

Kamehameha Butterflies With Red Ohia
Acrylic on Canvas
5″ X 7″

After I had painted the butterflies on orange ohia in the prior painting, I decided I wanted to paint them with Red Ohia too. The name of this butterfly in Hawaiian is pulelehua, which roughly means “to float from flower to flower”, but it could be thought of as “floating flower” or “floating color” because it’s derived from the word pulelo which is “to float” or “to undulate in the air” combined with the word lehua, “reddish,” or “rainbow colored” which is also used in the Hawaiian name for the flowers of ohia lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), iconic flowers of Hawaii that are endemic and sacred to Pele, the Goddess of Volcanoes. In my imagination I think of the butterflies landing gently on the ohia tree, only to transform into a flower, and then later, changing from a flower back into a butterfly.

This is day 6 of the 30 in 30 painting challenge. You can learn more and see the other pieces as they are revealed here:

30 in 30 Gallery

30 in 30: Kamehameha Butterflies with Orange Ohia

Kamehameha Butterflies with Orange Ohia
Acrylic on Wood Panel
8″ X 10″

Kamehameha butterflies are one of Hawaii’s two endemic butterflies. Its Hawaiian name is pulelehua, which roughly means “to float from one flower to the next”. The name also includes the idea of reddish coloring (the lehua flower is a very similar color, especially the red ones when the sun is shining through its wings). In my imagination, when I hear the term, I see a vision of an ohia flower that has come to life, floating and shimmering in the sun in the form of a butterfly as it glides from flower to flower through the forest. Perhaps it is another step in an imaginative metamorphosis for these beautiful butterflies. Here I have placed the small kamehameha butterflies with the ohia lehua mentioned in their name, but I wanted to see them alight on the orange variant which is a more rare color of ohia.

Special thank you to Kim and Forrest Starr for their generous sharing of photos in the public domain that allowed me to render the orange lehua. They are photographers who seek out many native and endemic plants and animals and post them online to educate and share their vast knowledge and talents with others. I do not know them personally yet, but I imagine we may meet someday (it’s a small island!). I have found their photo collection useful several times over the course of painting Hawaiian plant life and birds, and appreciate how long it takes to hike into areas with these rare endemic Hawaiian plants. It is very kind of them to share so freely with the online community!

This is day 5 for me of the 30 in 30 challenge. I took a quick detour from birds for a couple of days, but I know I will return at least a few times to painting them. I really enjoy birds! Tomorrow I will post my red ohia variant of kamehameha butterflies, however. I couldn’t just paint one! Not with all the pretty colors of ohia that we have in the islands!

If you want to see the entire series of paintings, you can see it here:

View the other 20 in 20 paintings in this gallery >>

30 in 30: Mejiro with Jade Vine

Mejiro with Jade Vine
Acrylic on Canvas
5″ X 7″

As I have been painting birds, I find myself returning to certain birds that are extra enjoyable. The mejiro, also known as Japanese white eye, is one of my favorite birds to paint. Here, I have jade vine, the only flower I know that is naturally a gorgeous turquoise combined with the green of the mejiro, the blue gray of the distant mountains, and a warm summer blue sky to create a palette of fresh, breezy blues and greens.

This is the fourth entry in my 30 in 30 painting challenge. You can see the entire series here:

30 Paintings in 30 Days 2017