Sunday, August 28, 2016

Planetary Conjunction, 27 August 2016

Last night – August 27, 2016 – the sky’s two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter staged the year’s closest conjunction of two planets. They appeared only about 1/15th-degree apart on the sky’s dome.  You're probably wondering how far apart 1/15th of a degree is.  It amounts to the equivalent of about 1/7th to 1/8th of the moon’s apparent diameter--it's clear as mud now, right?  We've been enjoying the recent nightly show of these planets for a couple of weeks, but last night they were REALLY close together.  I was able to get some photos.

Included in this post is a photo of the U.S.S. Coronado (LCS-4), one of the navy's relatively new class of Littoral combat ships, designed for operations close to shore.  The Coronado is an Independence-Class Littoral combat ship.  Click on the links to learn what the heck a Littoral Combat Ship is designed to do, as well as, all about the Coronado.

Also here today, is a photo of the Pride of America, an NCL cruise ship which tours the Hawaiian Islands regularly.  Her normal itinerary brings the great ship to Honolulu each Saturday morning, departing Saturday evening.  In the photo, she is heading for her next stop.  The Star of Honolulu, which has been providing passengers with wonderful sunset dinner cruises among other sailings for 55-years, is in the photo as she returns to port.

Finally, I've included some images taken from local TV news stations.  One story covers the toppling of the famous Kiawe tree planted in 1887 on the grounds of the Halekulani Hotel.  A week ago, late Saturday night, the iconic tree quietly, and with great dignity, decided to fall.  No one heard it topple over, no one was injured and even the bandstand was undamaged.  I first saw this great old tree in (about) 1979 or 80 during a brief port call by the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk (CV-63)  We stopped at Pearl Harbor on our way to a deployment to the Western Pacific, and a squadron mate told me about this wonderful hotel on Waikiki Beach. He said they had a restaurant with a lanai where people enjoyed "umbrella" drinks, a Hawaiian musical combo and a Hula dancer while watching the sunset.  He had me at "umbrella drinks".  There weren't many times during twenty-years service, when I failed to enjoy a sunset on that lanai when in town.  That initial visit was the first time I saw Kanoe Miller perform the Hula on the stage beside the Kiawe tree.  She was a former Miss Hawaii and had recently begun her career on that stage.  When she learned that the tree had fallen, she went to the hotel to say goodby, recording her visit.  Click on this link to view Kanoe's touching goodbye to her old friend.

The second story features surfers in France trying out some very interesting new "apparel".  The sport never stops evolving and what we saw was definitely a new approach to wave riding.  Okay, time to get to the photos.

How the planetary conjunction looked from our lanai without binoculars.  Jupiter and Venus win the prize for the closest planetary conjunction this year.  Here's a link to earthsky.org/ the website I visit to find out what's going on in the skies.  Click on any of the images for a closer look.

Same view with a lot of zoom on the old Canon camera.  Doesn't look like much like this, but it was great fun to watch with a cold beverage and salty snacks on a warm Hawaiian evening. :)

Two ships passing in the night.  The big one heading out is the Pride of America and the smaller one heading in, is the Star of Honolulu.

This is the U.S.S. Coronado (LCS-4) heading toward Pearl Harbor on August 26th.  For those visitors who lead normal, busy lives, here's a link explaining the name for this class of ships:  Littoral 

Stern view showing the trimaran hull.

Another view of this most unique and capable ship.  Moving on...

A great photo of Kanoe Miller, the trio and now-fallen Kiawe tree, planted in 1887.  Here's a link to a short video of her exquisite dancing.  She has that unique ability to make you think she's dancing just for you.  I think you'll see why countless numbers of fans return to the Halekulani "House Without A Key" whenever they're in Honolulu.

The short farewell video by Kanoe was shown on KHNL local news.  As she said to begin the video, "I came down to say goodbye to an old friend."

From her video...The giant tree fell but caused no damage to the bandstand/stage. 

The hotel was planning to consult an arborist to determine whether or not the intact roots would possibly produce another tree.  It's amazing how much an ancient tree can mean to us.  The Hula, view, music and drinks are still pure paradise, but without the Kiawe tree, it just won't be quite the same.

Sumo Surfing?  Wha-a-t?  These shots, taken from KGMB, "Hawaii News Now", show some adventurous athletes in Hossegor, France, trying out some new ideas in surfing.  The "Sumo Suit" acts something like a surfboard...I guess.  Not sure about the maneuverability, however.

 You can see the surfer holding onto this modified air mattress thing, with his legs and flippered-feet free to provide both propulsion and directional control...I guess?  I wonder if locals will be using these things anytime soon.

And last for this post, clouds over the Ko'olau Range catching the last bit of sunshine as seen from Mamala Bay Golf Course.  Occasionally, Michele joins me for a late afternoon/early evening at the course.  She enjoyed the trade winds and cool of the early evening which make the place a little slice of heaven...oops, I mean paradise.

Have a nice tomorrow!
 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oh What A Beautiful Morning...

Sung to the tune of...you know.  I couldn't think of a more appropriate title for this post.  I awoke early this morning, 5:39 AM to be exact, and was treated to a glorious show.  A huge cumulus cloud formation was sitting off-shore, with a rainbow nestled in the middle.  To make it even better, several airliners took off and flew directly in front of it. 

The show continued as slices of sunshine fell between tall downtown buildings illuminating parts of Chinatown and the harbor.  And there just happened to be a bunch of brightly-painted ships in port, their colors made more intense by the strong early-morning sun.  It was one of those days I was glad to be up early.

The big picture.  The Pacific looked more like a quiet pond than an ocean this morning.  The trade winds are taking the day off, so that massive cloud formation stayed put.

Sometimes we just get lucky and it seems every ship in port has a colorful paint job.

One of the several airliners passing in front of the beautiful clouds this morning.  That very subtle rainbow was there for over half an hour.  Wonder if the passengers appreciated their spectacular Aloha Oe as they head for home. :)  The building at the bottom of the image is Harbor Court, a condominium tower located just across Nimitz Highway from the harbor.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

Our building casts a shadow over part of Chinatown.  Mornings are pretty special here and we never forget how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy this view and weather.

Have a great week! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Day Off

Sounds crazy for an old retired guy to title a blog post "A Day Off", but it's true.  I've been working hard on the portrait of Doc's father, but had the chance on Thursday to play a "new to me" golf course and jumped on it.

Mililani Golf Course is located on the central part of the island of O'ahu, in the town of the same name.  Being only about a half-hour drive from Honolulu, it's very convenient for a change-of-pace round of golf.

It was an enjoyable day, mostly due to playing partners, Richard Chang and Leroy Perry.  Both gentlemen are members of the Wailea Golf Club, which graciously allows me to join their weekly Wednesday morning game at Mamala Bay.  Though I didn't play my best, it was another great day of golf in paradise.  Thought I might share some photos of the day:

The parking lot was surrounded by fully-in-flower rainbow shower trees.  Sorry the photo doesn't do justice to the colors.

Leroy Perry gets ready to tee-off on the first hole.  How 'bout that tiny umbrella to keep his clubs dry if it rains!

Some of the local color behind the first tee.

Richard Chang just hit a great shot to the green, but what I really wanted to share with this photo, is the tree behind him.  It's a rainbow eucalyptus, aka: Eucalyptus deglupta.  It's a favorite of mine here in Hawaii, and the common name could not be more appropriate.  These beauties were all over the course.

A short par-3 temporary hole while improvements are underway.  This photo was taken from the tee and the next image was from down there, looking back up at a giant albizia tree.

This giant is an albizia tree.  They are beautiful to look at and provide abundant shade, but don't do so well in tropical storms or hurricanes.  Brought to the islands in the 1920's, they are now considered an invasive species.  The link tells about the damage caused by these huge trees on Hawaii Island (the Big Island) when they were felled by a tropical storm in 2014.

Not sure what species this tree is, but it's got a trunk only a mother could love. :)  Seems to be doing quite nicely despite being surrounded by pavement.  Hollywood writers should look at this for ideas for the next monster movie.

And now, for a touch of "aw-w-w"...A young common myna bird follows one of its parents on a search for lunch.  The youngster was chirping non-stop, perhaps begging for more food.  These birds are considered one of the most invasive species in the world today.  They are smart and adaptable to urban living.

This, and the next photo were taken August 17th, but let's all just pretend this was yesterday's show.  It's a good way to end the post and nobody got hurt.

A couple minutes later.  Wow, wow, wow.  It's quite something to be fortunate enough to watch one of nature's greatest shows every day, especially when you think about all the violence going on around the planet.  Hope there is a little peace where you live.
 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Starry Night

Not exactly a Vincent version, but quite beautiful and definitely worthy of a painting.  It was another lovely sunset and completely delightful evening on the lanai.  How we ever ended-up here will forever remain a YUGE mystery.  Here are some photos:

Sunset from our perch about four hundred feet above the street.  That's the Waianae Range in the distance.  Soon, the sun will once again be setting over the water.

We've been enjoying this view of Mercury and Venus lately, visible even before sunset.  Last night, a friend from the building and I were having a beverage or two on the lanai after a round of golf and we saw a group of three planets to the south.  According to one of those websites with all the sky stuff  visible in August, we were looking at Mars, Saturn and Antares.  Pretty neat.  And to make it even better, there is the biggest full moon passing in view as I type this.

We've probably looked at this scene several hundred evenings by now, but tonight, all I could think of was Vincent's The Starry Night ".

More harbor reflections.

A few more.

Mamala Bay golf course 18th-green at sunset yesterday.  Just in case anyone out there is a golfer, I shot a front nine 38, which included an eagle on a par five.  It was about a ninety-yard pitching wedge, which we lost sight of in the lowering sun.  I thought it went long, through the green and into the rough behind.  Jim and I spent nearly ten minutes looking for the ball, to no avail.  I finally gave up and walked to the cup to pull the pin for Jim to putt.  You can imagine my surprise and joy at seeing my ball in the cup!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day tomorrow!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Painting And Honolulu Hale

Thought I'd share another thing I learned from the recent lessons with William Zwick, along with some photos taken during a visit to the Honolulu City Hall, known as "Honolulu Hale" in the Hawaiian language--"Hale" means "house" or "home".

Working on the portrait of Dr. McKinlay's Dad, each session begins by going over the notes from my lessons with the young Maestro.  Everyone who has visited this blog must know one of my goals is to make paintings which look like paintings--not copies of photographs.  William taught me many things to help achieve this goal, and stirred memories of many more from countless books studied over the years.   

One of the most important techniques is seeing and adding subtle mid-tone values to areas which often appear to have none in the reference photograph.  It's a huge change from years of painting only what I see in the photo.  If I get it right, the portrait should look not only more "painterly", but also much more realistic.  Working from life is the best way to see what's really there, as my lessons with William dramatically proved.  When that isn't possible, however, it's up to the artist to understand, recognize and go beyond the limitations of a reference photo.

It's the essence of what a professional artist does.  I've never used the word, "professional", when describing what I do, keenly aware of my weaknesses.  In this portrait, I'm trying hard to eliminate a big one.

A cropped image of the hands in the reference photo I'm working from.  The photo was taken with a flash, washing out much of the color.  I'm working on making his hands look more realistic by darkening the entire photo, and adding two or three values of the flesh tones to better model form.

A cropped image taken from the complete works of John Singer Sargent.  Notice the thumb.  Three values create the illusion of it turning away from the light.  Simple...right?  I found this by using another of William's great tips:  Whenever you're having a problem, look at examples of work done by an artist you admire to find possible solutions.  In my book, it's tough to find a more helpful artist than J.S. Sargent!

Moving on...A few days ago, I visited the Honolulu City Hall to update my voter registration.  As I was departing, I stopped to take some photos.  It reminded me of several of the city halls we visited while living in Italy.  When I got home, I Googled, Honolulu Hale", and Wikipedia told me all about the building, and the fact that it was designed after the Bargello in Firenze, Italy!

As you enter Honolulu Hale, there is a wide foyer, then this grand hall.  Beneath the portico to the left and right, offices are located.  The City Council chamber is on the second floor, along with additional offices.

Actually, this ceiling also reminded me of many Italian public spaces.  Huge wooden beams, beautifully painted.

That's it for today.  Hope you all have a nice evening and a good tomorrow.  Almost forgot:  Happy Painting! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dawn And Sunset

This post has a purpose.  Writing back and forth, Jennifer Rose Philip and I have been discussing the vagueries of color reproduction by electronic devices, including computers, printers, digital cameras and smart phones.  She has been doing some research into the subject, trying to get some answers to those color reproduction issues which often plague artists trying to put their best stuff on-line.

The problem is also evident in books on artists and their work, as I'm quite certain many of you have noticed.  Once, while perusing a book featuring reproductions of paintings by Richard Diebenkorn, I happened to pick-up another copy of the same book.  The color differences between the two were significant, and I had no idea which set of reproductions were closer to "reality".  

This morning, I used my Samsung Android phone to take some photos at dawn.  I think you'll agree that the colors are quite striking, but they are a much stronger yellow than what I saw.  Of course, who knows what they may look like on your computer, or phone if you visit this blog on that device.

Yesterday evening, I took a few sunset photos with my Canon digital camera.  Looking at them on the preview function of the camera, they looked, pretty-much like what I saw.  After uploading them onto our HP "Windows" computer, both sets of photos looked pretty-much like they did on the respective devices.

As I said to Jennifer, I've grown tired of making excuses for how my paintings look when posted, and I wonder if electronic device manufacturers will ever agree to an industry standard.  Imagine how much more confident we would all feel if a universal standard was established in time for us to meet our next competition entry upload deadline! 

Dawn, Mamala Bay Golf Course driving range.  The Samsung phone made the scene look much more dramatic than it really was.  I much prefer the truth.

Sunset, 9 August.  Taken with my Canon digital camera.  Having used Panasonic, Nikon and Canon, over the years,  I prefer the color software of Canon.  On our computer screen, this is very close to what I saw.  The difference in color saturation between phone camera and Canon digital camera is evident.

Have a nice tomorrow!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lesson 6

Saturday I had my last lesson, for awhile, with young Maestro William Zwick.  We worked on a beautiful tomato set-up in the usual manner, with a black background.  I'd been working most of the morning on the Doc's father's portrait and was a little tired by the time I realized it was time to get over to the Zwick Academy of Fine Art.

I was disappointed with my effort today and probably should've relaxed this morning instead of working.  Anyway, I learned a lot from the mistakes, so the path forward is clear.  It's time to put into practice what William has tried his best to teach me over the past month or so.  I'm going to continue work on Dr. McKinlay's Dad's portrait using the new method and hope it's a winner.

I didn't come home empty-handed today.  As promised, William had varnished and signed the small apple still life painting done last week, and it's now in my studio.  It will be the jewel of my personal art collection, not to mention, an invaluable teaching tool, reminding me daily, what I'm trying to accomplish.

Here it is: 

I must've taken a dozen photos, trying to find a spot in the condo without too much glare-producing light.  This image is as close as I could get to how it looks in-person.  It might seem like a simple thing to paint, but trust me, it's not.  This small painting is an excellent example of William's mastery of his craft.  The ever-so-subtle color and value changes give us all the information necessary to identify the fruit, and also understand how the light passes across the rounded surface.

This cast drawing was in William's studio and looking at this photo, you might think it was a real, three dimension cast.

That's it for today.  Hope you all have a nice Sunday.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Lesson 5

On Monday, from 2-4 PM, I was in William Zwick's Atelier, continuing the effort to see and mix colors better.  He'd eaten the mango we would've worked on had the lesson been on Saturday, so this lesson would have an apple as a subject.

The routine was similar to other lessons at the easel.  He'd set-up two easels, with the shadow box and apple between and slightly in front of us.  His palette was placed on a stand between us, within easy reach.

As usual, he'd mixed the darkest darks, I'm guessing because he figures even I could do that.  He leaves the more challenging lighter color mixtures in the shadow side, as well as, the light side colors for me.  I'm beginning to get the hang of how he does it and am able to generally get somewhere in the ball park.  Sometimes I begin by verbalizing the colors I'd select and he lets me know if he agrees.  If I'm off, I get immediate remedial instruction on why he would make different choices.  His knowledge of what every color brings to the table is impressive and I try hard to remember what he says along with what I've read.   

After the colors are mixed, he hands me a bunch of brushes, a variety of sizes of mostly bristle, with a few synthetics as well.  I select a larger brush to put in the background, working around the space and shape the apple will occupy.  Almost forgot...William is also teaching me a lot about directional brushstrokes, how, when and where to use them effectively. 

He's been trying to get me to keep the shadow side colors "organized", so that each color is darker than any color on the light side and follows the natural flow of light from the darkest part of the shadow, working progressively lighter toward the light side.  Seeing the values correctly is a must if you want a painting to look realistic.  It's all about comparative analysis, stepping back and asking yourself, is that color/value too dark or too light, and making adjustments or corrections.  I've been most impressed by the very subtle value/color shifts William sees on the subject.  Where I would often ignore a barely-noticed value shift--including this session--he never hesitates to make those very important marks which elevate his work to a professional level.  I love watching him make these extremely subtle, often one-stroke passages and am amazed at how much they add to the otherwise simple dark background.  It's a lesson I plan to employ on all future paintings. 

Once again, the two-hour session flew by, and also as usual, I was worn out.  I did manage, however, to jot a page of notes that evening, trying to preserve what he said, what he did and why he he did it.  One other thing.  The apple he painted alongside me was on the lower portion of a canvas board.  Above it, was another beautifully-painted apple.  It was done with his preceding student and I was quite taken by it.  I asked William how much he would charge for it, and if memory serves, he said, "Oh...about fifty bucks."  I only had one thing to say to that:  "Sold."  I'll pick it up at the next lesson on Saturday.  He wants to let it dry for a few days and put on a coat of spray varnish.  It's a very fair price for two small paintings by Maestro William Zwick.  For me, the painting is a master class on a canvas board, a visual record of the lessons taught yesterday, besides being beautiful to look at.

Now for a few non-lesson-related images taken during this week:

The U.S.S. John C. Stennis, (CVN-74) heading for Pearl Harbor on August 2nd as RIMPAC exercises wind down.  We watched from the lanai this time. :)

How perfect that an Hawaiian Airlines plane just happened to take off as the Stennis was passing by.

Sunset, August 3rd.  The sun keeps creeping to the south and before long, we'll be looking for the "Green Flash" again.

This morning, the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)  was heading out for destinations unknown.  That's an Alaskan Airlines jet taxing for takeoff.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

The ship and that Alaskan jet hooked-up for this photo.  Those are cargo handling cranes in the foreground.

The amphibious assault carrier gets a near-flyover by a departing U.S. Air Force C-17.  I thought the tanker added a nice punch of color.

Finally, a favorite Richard Diebenkorn painting, Ocean Park 90, from 1976.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

B.E. Esmeralda Sets Sail For Tokyo

It was Lesson 5  today, rescheduled from Saturday, but I'll post all about it tomorrow.  Today's post is about the Chilean tall ship, B.E. Esmeralda again.  Monday, at 1800-hours, she eased away from Berth-9 to begin the long voyage to her next port call of Tokyo, Japan.

Ensign Raul Villegas told me during my tour of the ship, that one of her traditions when leaving a port, is unfurling the sails.  There was no way I was going to miss that!  Michele and I began watching the harbor from the lanai at five PM. 

True to her schedule, she departed on the minute.  Once out of the harbor, she turned to an easterly heading which would take her toward Diamond Head, passing Waikiki along the way.  Not long out of the harbor, we could see crewmembers had climbed up to the yards, preparing to unfurl the huge sails.  Folks on Waikiki Beach this afternoon were in for a very special treat--besides the sunset.

Tall downtown buildings and a couple of condo towers blocked our view as the ship got closer to Diamond Head, but soon she altered her heading to a westerly course.  Not long after we saw her again, she was under full sail!  I can think of few things as beautiful and inspiring as seeing a tall ship under full sail.  It's simply breathtaking.  Here are the photos:

The B.E. Esmeralda backing away from Berth-9 at Aloha Tower.  Click on the image for a closer view of the crewmembers proudly standing at attention. 

The bow and a tug helping guide the ship away from the pier.

The Esmeralda heading out of the harbor. 

Heading east now, toward Diamond Head.  Click on the photo for a better look at the crewmembers manning the yards, preparing to let go the sails.  Here's a bit more about manning the yards:
This maneuver was originally used to display the whole crew to harbor authorities and other ships present, to show that the ship's guns were not manned and her intentions peaceful.

Here, sandwiched between downtown buildings, you can see the sails beginning to move in the trade winds as they're unfurled. 

The ship came about near Diamond Head and here she is, with the crew working to raise the rest of the sails, nearing the harbor.  The other ships are the Star of Honolulu, the Majestic and a tourist catamaran, all returning from sunset cruises.

The sunset today.

The Esmeralda in a starboard turn.  Construction of condo towers is booming currently in Honolulu, but you could probably surmise as much from the tower cranes in several of the photos.  This photo shows a personal favorite view of the ship, reminding me of every great sailing adventure movie I've ever seen.  Horatio Hornblower, Master and Commander--The Far Side of the World, Captains Courageous, Moby Dick and the Sea Hawk, just to name a few.

The sun had set behind the Waianae Range, but here she is, heading west, under full sail at last.  Sorry the dark building wall and tower crane are in the photo, but I love looking at the ship so much, I don't see the distractions.  I was also afraid that by the time we saw her again, it would be too dark for a decent photo.

A last shot in the dark.  You can see her sails are being furled as she makes ready for a night at sea, underway for Tokyo.  I hope the crew had a wonderful visit and made memories they'll hold for a lifetime.  Fair winds and following seas to the B.E. Esmeralda and Aloha Oe...Until we meet again.

Have a nice tomorrow everybody.