Making Art in Maui
As you may know, my wife Andrea and I work online so we decided to escape the cold grey of Seattle and do our work from Maui, Hawaii for a month after first getting COVID tested for our flights. I saw all kinds of things there that inspired me, but one day in particular really made me want to create. I'd love to tell you a quick story about how a regular day or a random moment can turn into artistic inspiration, and maybe shed some light on the way that art and life are always mixing together so beautifully.
It started with a trip to the Lahaina area to eat lunch. Andrea and I made the 20-minute drive along the coast from where we were staying in Kihei and I was amazed by how lush and green everything was and how vibrantly blue the ocean water looked out the car window. The interplay between green and blue got my mental wheels turning and planted the seed of inspiration. I had no idea what it would lead to, but now my mind was fixated on the impression those two colors left.
Andrea and I had a really nice lunch in Lahaina, taking in and enjoying every moment. I am so blessed to work closely with my wife; not only is she my biggest cheerleader, but many of her ideas are the reason I've been able to grow ColorByFeliks like I have. There's nothing like having someone you love and trust supporting you. As usual, we discussed business and art ideas over lunch, and took the opportunity to start planning the rest of our trip.
On the way home, we turned a corner and suddenly I was face-to-face with Maui's huge mountain Haleakalā. I noticed how fog filled a large valley in between the mountain peaks. The cold air from the mountain met the warm, tropical air below and got caught in that valley. The effect was striking and mysterious. I came to Hawaii expecting nothing but lush, tropical climates everywhere we went, but I was pleasantly shocked by the variety of climates. There were incredible contrasts like the cold mountain of Haleakalā, which can actually have snow in the winter, tropical forest and even the hot desert-like areas near Kihei. Even though we were on a highway with no roadside, I asked Andrea to pull over quickly; I knew I had to capture the image of Haleakalā and its cradle of fog.
There's limited space for canvasses and supplies in my travel bags, so I have to choose carefully what I want to paint while I'm away from home. As I looked at the photo I'd just captured of the mountain, there was no doubt in my mind; this was worth a canvas. My creative gears started turning again and I asked my wife if she could drive us home. If you're an artist, you know the feeling: when inspiration strikes, you've got to get brush to canvas as fast as possible. After a few years of being married, Andrea understands just how powerful that urge is for me and she was a great sport about cutting our planned exploration short so that I could get started immediately. I'm so grateful for such an understanding wife :)
I set up my canvas and got the photo of Haleakalā out for reference. To be honest, though, the photo was just a jumping-off point for me. I think the most interesting part of painting is the artist's interpretation, and I find so much freedom in that. Who says everything in a landscape has to be perfectly accurate or even realistic? The exaggerations, transformations, and sometimes even fantasy that you can apply to reality with your brush are what make art so inspiring to me. One of the ways I commonly do this is by emphasizing color. I remembered the green and blue that had inspired me so much earlier and got to work.
I also thought a lot about the fog and clouds around the mountain and decided to put my own spin on those. One of my favorite things about clouds is that they leave a lot of room for interpretation. It was midday when I took the photo, but I decided to make the painting a sunset scene, using lots of oranges and yellows to express the warm feeling that came over me when I took the photo. One of the main reasons behind creative interpretation in my landscapes is emotion. Why not paint landscapes the way you see them in your mind's eye: through the lens of your unique emotions and memories? To me, that is almost more truthful and real than just making something photo-realistic, since our emotions color everything we experience.
I like to push myself in new directions to grow as an artist. As I mentioned, I only looked at the photo once before starting to paint. This is because my new growth challenge to myself as an artist is to paint from memory; to just get a quick impression of the thing and then get going. Not only is this a great challenge, but it helps me get more in touch with the realm of emotions and memories.
The final piece turned out very different from my reference photo, and that's great! Like I mentioned, I just love the process of taking a landscape and making it my own, "coloring" it not just with paints but with my thoughts and feelings. This particular painting didn't turn out like I'd hoped it would, but honestly I wasn't bummed about that at all. Part of the joy of art is that it's a constant pursuit and a constant learning process. In that spirit, the little mistakes are still lessons and give me great practice and help me get that much closer to the next level. I'm a big believer in just enjoying the process of art; it's about the moments spent with the canvas and the lessons learned, not some perfect final product.
After the painting was done I was excited to get outside and enjoy the sunset and get some more inspiration. I can't sit still, I have to keep going and that's the fun part is that it's never ending! I like to apply that philosophy to both art and life. Hawaii energizes me and gets me even more excited to create. I think part of that is because I know once I'm done with my work I can go outside and jump in the ocean or go surfing as a reward and get to soak in God's creation after creating with my hands.
It's been such a blessing to get to experience Hawaii with Andrea and get a little change of scenery to re-energize. But it doesn't take a trip to paradise to get me inspired. Life is so full of richness and experience, and most days I can find inspiration in regular routines, time spent with my loved ones, and getting little daily glimpses of God's beautiful gifts. I plan on writing many more of these blog posts to give you some insight into how I try to live in a constant state of inspiration, whether I'm at the easel or just living life. It's all a process and I can't wait to share more with you!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed hearing a little bit from our recent trip. Have you been to Maui before? Is there a certain place in the world where you feel most inspired? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!