Friday, October 21, 2016

Ohelo (Vaccinium reticulatum), oil on canvas, 5"x7"

Ohelo is my favorite plant and as a botanist, it's usually hard to choose. Ohelo is a low-growing shrub much like blueberries on the mainland. They're more tart but no less delicious. They are only found in Hawaii and if you've visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you might have seen them growing along the road to Jaggar Museum and the Halemaumau Overlook. 

I do love painting them, because they reflect light in such a way that makes them look so luscious. When the light hits them just right from behind, they even glow. The fruits of ohelo can range in color from deep purple-red to red to orange and even yellowish so that'll give me options in painting them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Alala (Hawaiian crow) returns to the wild!

Alala, oil on canvas, 5"x7"

I've steadily checked items off my bucket list. One item, however, still eludes me but it may come to fruition this year! It is to see the Hawaiian crow (alala), which has been extinct in the wild for over a decade, fly freely in the wild again. I work with colleagues who remember the calls of this bird in the forests of South Kona, even in Volcano but by the time I started field work, there were only several remaining and slowly the numbers dwindled and I never got the chance before the last few were moved into a facility for captive propagation. The folks at the San Diego Zoo Global at Keahou Bird Sanctuary have been working tirelessly to bring this species back from the brink of extinction. Their efforts have paid off and there are over 100 birds bred in captivity and some of them are ready for release this year! My heart is full with pride in the work this group has done and so glad to know some of the members of the team personally. If you'd like to know more, please visit the Alala Project website and consider supporting them with a donation. In support of this awesome conservation effort, I will be making prints and notecards of the alala (top image) available for purchase and 100% of the funds will be donated to the Alala Project. I figure we all need to do our part to save this precious species. If you'd like more information, please send me an email or stand by for more information.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The dogs have it!

Sleeping Wilson, oil on canvas, 5"x5"

Pug, oil on canvas, 6"x6"

Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers are just fun dogs to paint. I love their distinct look and their funny-when-trying-not-to-be-funny faces.

I got the reference photos from Draw my Photos, which are royalty and copyright-free images. Thanks Christine C!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Melon and mushroom fun

Hamakua mushrooms, oil, 5"x7"

Watermelon slice, oil, 5"x5"

Honeydew slice, oil, 5"x5"

Cantaloupe slice, oil, 5"x7"

Melon seeds are HARD to paint! So, I took the melon scoop by the handle (or bull by the horns, whichever) and had at it. It did force me to take the painterly approach, which I sort of liked. I couldn't get too hung up on accuracy and it did flex my creative muscle so in a way, it was a good exercise ... tho' I won't be doing THAT again anytime soon. I painted the cantaloupe first and then the mushrooms last. Notice the pattern? Loose, less loose, kinda tight, and back to really tight again. My mantra this week ... flex that muscle ... flex that muscle ... flex that muscle ... Lord help me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Barn owl and peaches

Barn owl, oil, 5"x7"

Peaches, oil, 7"x5"

Here are a couple more realistic paintings, where I tried a limited palette and the use of a single brush. In both of these paintings, I used a size 3, Series 77, Rosemary and Co pure sable bright brush (which I HIGHLY recommend) and just burnt sienna, raw umber, cadmium yellow, bright red, soft mixing white (and some titanium white) and mars black. I might have had some leftover cadmium yellow pale left on the palette. I haven't used mars black much and instead prefer the less harsh Payne's gray but I think in this case, it really needed the oomph of a rich black to create the stark shadows since the shadows were as much of the painting as the other colors.

Friday, September 23, 2016

 Napping Buddha, oil on canvas, 6"x12"

Green apple, oil on canvas, 5"x5"

Fish escape, oil on canvas, 6"x6"

... still happily painting along and testing my ability to render things accurately. I think my next exercise will be do paint more painterly and impressionistically. It's a struggle with me ... I'm as tight as they come. Hah! 

I've been using images from "Paint my Photo." It's a source of copyright-free photos, posted by the photographers themselves. The only request is that if you paint from the photos, you post them in a gallery on the site and acknowledge the photographer in the post. Otherwise, you're free to use the photos in any way! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

I've been busy painting!

grapes, 5"x5", oil

Cabbage and onions, 5"x7", oil

mangoes, 5"x7", oil

koi, 6"x6", oil

Kanoe, 5"x7", oil

Kilauea Iki trail, 5"x7", oil

Mauna Kea from Hakalau, 5"x7", oil

Limes, 5"x5", oil

I've been busy painting almost every day and thoroughly enjoying the process of learning a new form of expression. I've just been enjoying learning new things, stretching my limited understanding of oil paints and different media. It has been a little over 2 months since I first picked up my oil brush so these are just works in progress. The smell of stand oil reminds me of my days in college, when I took my first art class. And the sound of a brush laden with oil paints against a canvas is like music to my ears. At the time, I am so glad for the advice my art teacher gave me when she knew art was my passion. She said, "Joan, focus on getting your science degree. You can always do art." I took her advice and have loved my career in natural resources management. It took me decades to find my creativity again but I'm glad I did. It's never too late to rediscover your passion. I love what I do (as a rare plant botanist ... now an administrator) and it's never too late to find your other passions and invest in them too. Seeking balance in life has been tough these days but I definitely believe it's worth it.

Here are several paintings I've done recently, with the oldest at the bottom. I'll try to post more frequently once I get a new computer (my old beast is ready to retire and refusing to post anymore ... she's a good girl and needs her rest). For now, I hope you enjoy the barrage of images.

Monday, August 1, 2016


`Ohelo, 6"x6", oil

Dash, 5"x5", oil

Kilauea Caldera, 6"x6", oil

`Ohi`a, 6"x6", oil

Dax, 12"x12", oil

Oils are a BLAST! Where have you been all my life?! Graphite and watercolor have been my media of choice for most of my adult life and only recently found a new medium I'm enjoying. Oil painting is a totally new endeavor with odorless paint thinner and new fangled media. Granted, I do miss the smell of stand oil and turpentine (Ah, takes me back to college days when I'd sneak back into the art classrooms to paint through the night ... rather than doing what I SHOULD have been doing in the Botany Dept!). 

These are some recent oil paintings I've been dappling with. The one of Dax is my first and the `ohelo at the top is the one I finished last night. :) Discovering a new medium is like learning a new dance. It feels awkward at first and you're just fumbling about; by the second time, you see the prospects; by the third, you're trying new flourishes, by the fourth, you're moving about with more confidence; and by the fifth, well, you just want to DANCE!

Saturday, July 9, 2016


watercolor, 5.5"x9.5"

I made two discoveries today. 

First, I can listen to dozens and dozens of Greek radio stations on my phone and when combined with my little Bose speaker in my right ear, I almost feel like I am in a Greek taverna sipping ouzo watching waves of the Aegean Sea lap its shores. 

Second, depending on whether I view the same file of this mamane painting on my mac or PC, the colors are way different! The colors should be slightly greener ... more sap green, less Payne's gray. Regardless, this painting leaves me chuckling to myself. Mamane leaflets aren't quite opposite (should have remembered this as I'm a botanist after all). Ooops! Still, I'm happy with it. I have a bit more tweaking to do but I'll leave it for awhile and finish it up with fresh eyes down the road.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Wet on wet

At this point, I think I need WAY more practice with wet on wet techniques. It's something that I admire most about watercolor artists ... to be loose and yet suggest a whole background scene ... something I admittedly suck at! I'm fighting (yeah, really, literally fighting) my tight tendencies. I haven't used any masking fluid so I'm trying to get around the mamane leaves and flowers. I found out quite quickly that I can't do wet on wet on the entire painting at once because it dries too fast so I'm painting in logical sections, which seems to be working. Catch 22 tho' because I lose the looseness I long for. So yes, I feel challenged ... but at the same time, I feel very much like I'm finding myself ... like I'm getting to meet the artist that's inside and this is our first introduction.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Getting started

The Hawaiian flora is spectacular and I really don't have a good reason why I don't spend more time painting it. It really is a curious thing, especially because I have spent the majority of my life getting acquainted with some of the rarest plant species on Earth, Or, maybe in my mind it's just impossible to replicate that kind of beauty in a static medium ... or I haven't yet figured how. So, I'll give it a try and do my best to map out a painting of mamane (Sophora chrysophylla), a Hawaiian endemic plant that grows nearby. It's in the pea family so I'll have fun painting those yellow flowers and gnarly pods.

Now: With the wind blowing through the hapu`u (tree ferns, Cibotium glaucum) outside and Dax snoring at my feet, I can barely hear apapane chirping through my window. I'm feeling a little nervous because I haven't painted seriously in a long while. I just hope that mamane gods are with me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

JKPP: Kevin Henry

scratchboard, 2.5"x3.5"

Another addition to the Julia Kay's Portrait Party. This was the first time I've ever tried scratchboard and OMG, it was so much fun! This is another artcard of Kevin Henry, another member of the portrait party. Couldn't quite get the detail I was going for but I finally realized that the idea is not photorealism! If you want to check out my Flickr page, it's here.

I have a long way to go to capture a person's likeness. It's super challenging, faces, I mean and I feel pretty good if it sort of looks like him/her. Sometimes I wonder what Henry must think of this. "Good God woman, you made me look like an old man!" or "Damn, my nostrils aren't that big ... are they?" But, I hope that my art, no matter how much I need to improve, will honor the person in some way and the subject will know that by trying to capture their likeness and essence, I welcome them into my life and brain ... because for a short time, they reside there. I mean, how many other people are gonna spend THAT much time staring at your left ear?!


watercolor, 7.5"x9"

I couldn't resist painting this little guy because he was just too cute. And admittedly, I had more time so decided to paint a little larger this round. I was even able to bust out my larger paint brushes that had been neglected for so long.

I don't know about you but now I want one!

And about being creative ... I sure wish I could share with you what I feel inside when I paint or draw. It's like my insides are doing a happy dance and I get all jiggly inside. I forget to eat and just smile. I catch myself sometimes ... smiling, I mean, as if everything is right with the world.

Small format artcards

`Akala, Hawaiian raspberry, watercolor, 2.5"x3.5"

Chicken in a window, pigma micron .005 and watercolor, 2.5" x 3.5"

Marmalade in the sun, watercolor, 2.5"x3.5"

Water lilies, pigma micron pen .005 and watercolor, 2.5"x3.5"

These little drawings and paintings remind me that I need to slow down, because I seem to be able to carve only bits and pieces of my day to do something I love. These take relatively little time to do and I can finish one in a couple hours, or less.

I mean, I love my job. I really do and I work with amazing people and I know I'm destined to be a botanist and conservationist. It's my life's work and I can't imagine a better mission ... but it does take its toll. Perhaps everyone in this middle age stage goes through this. Busy with kids, work, obligations, etc. Maybe it's just important to know what you love and fix our busy lives to keep doing the fun stuff along with all the harder stuff. Celebrate the bright spots, you know?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Duck in watercolor

Watercolor, 2.5"x3.5"

I love Duck, my silkie chicken. I hatched her in my incubator and "hand-raised" her. She was a squidgy little thing that barely made it while in the incubator but she's a survivor, being the only one of four eggs that hatched. She's a beauty now and quickly becoming the queen of the coop. 

I really enjoyed painting this watercolor of Duck The paining is tiny, the size of a baseball card, but I think I was able to capture her very cute face (yes, I'm officially smitten and won't balk if you call me a chicken lady). The red stamp in the corner, while kind of crooked, is my family name in Japanese. I'm quite liking the look of it and am considering stamping all of my works with it. What do you think? Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Marine Barbaroux

Graphite, 2.5"x3.5" art card

Tiny graphite drawing of Marine Barbaroux (Miss Embe) for Julia Kay's Portrait Party. Picking up the pencil after many months is like welcoming home an old friend. I do believe that a pencil and paper will be my friends for life.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Hiker

Super Sculpey with oil paint, approx. 6 in. tall

Tried my hand sculpting with oven-bake clay and been having a blast! This sculpture was inspired by my hope to set off on new adventures this year. I have a feeling it's going to be a great year!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Exilio Cosmico

3.5" x 2.5", watercolor

A 2.5" x 3.5" portrait for Julia Kay's Portrait Party. Thought I might try a single color. Still working on the likeness but I'm getting more and more comfortable with painting faces (it's a big step because I used to avoid drawing people like the plague!) ... just one more drawing on the path to greater accuracy. :) This is Exilio Cosmico, a member of the Portrait Party. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Pigma micron 005 pen on Clearprint vellum, 5"x7"

This furball has my heart. He sheds like a husky. He is missing a lot of teeth. He loves to sleep on my head. And, I love him to bits! 

This is my pen drawing of Mr. Marmalade on vellum in my new Clearprint vellum notebook (6"x8"). It's a great surface to draw on and am loving it too!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dax, my new love

2.5"x3.5", watercolor

Dax is the new guy in my life. :) He's 3 years old and loves balls and anything to chew. He's super sweet. I'm in love. Kanoe, his older canine "sister" and Marmalade the feline head of the household beg to differ but I know he's growing on them! :D

This is a little artcard I made with transparent and a little bit of opaque watercolor.