Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mixed Bag

Finally began the final, what I hope will be a "keeper" portrait of Halen yesterday.  It started with a  grisaille, using burnt umber and transparent oxide red.  At the end of two-and-a-half hours, I added some white and green for contrast.  His reaction was positive and in a day or two, I'll add colors and refine the drawing.  Please...Stand By.

This morning, the Volendam joined the Star Princess in port.  I took some photos as she maneuvered into Pier-11, which is in our "backyard", so-to-speak.  The decks were crowded with passengers eager to watch the approach and have their first close-up look at Honolulu.

And how about a rainbow seen from the other side of our building!  The elevator lobby looks out at the Ko'olau Range to our northeast, where most of O'ahu's rain falls.  Late in the afternoon, usually when I'm heading out for a jog, it's fairly common to see spectacular rainbows and low clouds hovering over the mountains.  On this day, I took the time to fetch a camera for a few photos.  Hope it makes your day.

This is a grisaille sketch of Halen on a 20 x 16-inch canvas (50.8 x 40.6-cm).  To make this took   burnt umber, transparent oxide red, Liquin, lots of small pieces of paper towel and about 2.5-hours.  Using the wipe out method, I don't make any marks on the canvas.  Rather, I simply schmear the loose mixture of paint wherever I think his face will be, then take it off until Halen appears.  The beauty of it is the ease with which corrections can be made.  Just slap on more paint, or take it away as required.  The Liquin keeps the paint sloppy and I use a brush to add paint where needed and the handle to measure proportions compared to the photo.

This is how it looked when I showed Halen.  Much tweaking still to go and adding color, but it's a good start for what will be the portrait he receives.

The "Big Picture" as MS Volendam enters Honolulu Harbor this morning.  Nice day for the passengers!

It's nice to see so many passengers out on deck, eager to see our fair city and get ashore to enjoy it.  With every cruise ship or plane arrival, the island is blessed with visitor's happiness.  Click on the image and you just might see someone you know! :)

And finally today, a rainbow! 

Have a great tomorrow!  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Artistic Challenges...Okay...Whining.

Fellow blogger, Rhonda Carpenter, commented the other day, that my studio view painting, "needed something."  I couldn't agree more, and in response, I did a lot of explaining (whining) about the monumental challenge of painting some semblance of the Chinatown rooftops which make up all of the foreground.

We all know there are a multitude of ways one can paint a very busy urban scene.  I often visit Terry Miura's blog, both to marvel at the beauty of his cityscapes, and learn about his thought process and working method.  I also look to the work of Richard Diebenkorn, a master of simplifying and interpreting, rather than detailing.  I need all the help and inspiration I can get to turn that foreground into something...anything!

As I wrote to Rhonda, some level of detail needs to be included, since all those rooftops are the closest things in my view.  Just what level of detail and how best to paint it is so daunting, it's been easy to just let the canvas "rest" for the last few days.  Seeing the highly-detailed work of early masters haunts me, too.

So, in order to complete this whine, I've included some photos of those Chinatown rooftops to help you understand the challenge ahead:

The "big picture".  I may have bitten off more than I can either chew--or paint! :)

See what I mean about "architecturally challenged".  Wow!  The city does a pretty good job of keeping Chinatown as it was, save for allowing solar panels and other modern systems.

Nothing is simple here.

What was I thinking?  Would a rational artist (mutually exclusive terms?) have attempted this?

This amazing condo building must be done correctly, since it juts into the harbor view and will almost be a focal point.  Maybe this isn't whining, just really hard. :)

Couldn't end this post without a rainbow.  Saw this, along with the gigantic X-band mobile radar, a day or two ago.  Click on any of the images here for a closer view.

I've posted about this before, but here's a shot from the other day.

Hope your weekend is a good one!  And, Happy Autumn, (whatever that is) everybody!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


A few posts back, I included a photo of a couple of Army--yes, ARMY divers, working to rid the harbor of a derelict commercial fishing boat.  The owner of the vessel passed away and apparently government officials have been unable to reach anyone with the authority (or money) to remove the sunken hulk.  It's been there for about eight months because officials thought the bids to remove it were too high.  Finally, the U.S. Army offered the services of their dive team to remove the vessel, using it as a training exercise.

We've been able to see a bit of their work and a couple of days ago, noticed bright orange airbags on the surface and a portion of the aft main deck.  Wednesday, we watched as it slowly moved into view, supported by the airbags.

Have a look at what a re-floated commercial fishing boat looks like:

Unfortunately, that pinkish condo tower blocks most of our view, but despite that, you can see the bright orange airbags and a portion of the vessel coming into view.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Four Army dive team members at work.  I was thinking the boat might break apart during the lift, but she must still have some life in her.  Who knows?  Maybe she can be salvaged and once again return to the fishing grounds.  Maybe you're wondering why wasn't the navy involved with this.  So are we.

A closer look at the dive team and the re-floated vessel.  Is Halloween coming?

Here she is!  This image was taken from the local NBC news. 

Members of the army dive team and their diving gear.  They did a great job.  Image courtesy of KHNL, our local NBC affiliate.

Congratulations to the Army Dive Team and thanks for taking care of this problem.  Image courtesy of KHNL.

It's great that this challenging task has finally been accomplished.  What an embarrassment to harbor officials and the city and state for leaving the sunken hulk for so long. 

Have a good day!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Couple Of Not-So-New Paintings

Actually, I've been working on them, on-and-off, for three or four months.  It's about time they saw the light, so-to-speak, of this blog.

The non-objective piece has grown on me enough to finally show you.  Making a painting of shapes and colors, trying desperately to avoid seeing anything in it, has long been a goal and I may have finally achieved it.  I can honestly admit I've never seen anything quite like it.  There may be a reason for this, but I'll leave that up to the critics. :)  If you look really hard, there might be a hint of Richard Diebenkorn present, but only a very small one.  Wouldn't want to offend his family.

It's been hanging on a living room wall for about a week now, and I frequently study it from across the room.  So far, no matter how hard we've tried, neither Michele or I have seen Mickey Mouse ears or any other recognizable creature or object.  On the other hand, the colors, lines, circles and other shapes keep us quite busy.  It's a carnival on canvas;  Happy, colorful, noisy and energetic.  If there is one thing which might bother some viewers, it may be the lack of a place for the eyes to rest.  It's still too soon to say if it will remain as is.  As of this post, however, no "Eureka" moment has caused me to rush it back to the studio.

The other work is based on the view from my studio (our second bedroom) windows.  It's been a supreme effort to make it an interpretation rather than a super-realistic rendering.  The landscape paintings of Richard Diebenkorn and Randall David Tipton have been a significant source of  inspiration for this one.  It's been a monumental battle to avoid details, while including enough to make it, at least somewhat recognizable as a landscape.  I have no doubt the obsession with details comes from working from photographs for too many years.  Caring if people recognize a location is something I'm struggling to overcome.  Maybe the title should fill the bill and that might free me to simply make a beautiful painting.  This issue remains unresolved.

So far, it's untitled, oil on canvas, 24 x 30-inches (61 x 76-cm).  A flimsy paper plate was used to make the large circles, so imperfections are evident, but don't concern me--must be the Diebenkorn influence! :)  Click on either of the images for a closer view.

"Studio View", oil on canvas, 22 x 28-inches (55.8 x 71.1-cm).  Michele thought I should lose the bar across the lower part of the window, but I'm still okay with it--so far.  I'm wrestling, also, on how vibrant to make the colors.  On the day I was inspired to paint this view, it was rainy, with gray being the dominant color.  Yeah, I know.  Such days never happen here. :)  Being free, I can exaggerate or eliminate anything--right?  Many great expressive (or interpretive) landscapes exhibit not a hint of  atmospheric perspective, much less linear.  So, why all the fuss?  After all, this is just a work-in-progress. :)  One last thing:  If you've seen any of our photos of Chinatown, you know it's a  jumble of irregularly-shaped lots, with buildings which may best be described as being...shall we say, "architecturally challenged".  The entire foreground of this view is one hundred percent Chinatown.  To attempt to paint it realistically would take a very long time and require immense attention to detail and patience, neither of which are my strong suit.  I could not have chosen a more challenging view to put on canvas.  I'm going to stop whining now and get back to imagining how to simplify and interpret what I see. 

Hope you had a good day!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Paradise Helicopter Airshow

This spectacularly beautiful morning came with an unexpected airshow.  Around ten-thirty we heard unusually loud rotor noise.  Tourist helicopters occasionally fly over our building on their return to the airport, but this was different.  We were in different rooms, but both jumped up to see what was going on.

A small Paradise Helicopter was hovering above the building across the street!  We could also see workers on the roof of the twenty-two story building and figured it must mean something large and mechanical was about to be lifted to the them.

Sure enough.  The helo made several lifts of equipment to the roof, while taking away the old components.  We both took lots of photos and I also shot a couple of videos which are now posted on YouTube, if you're interested in seeing the live action, too.  They can be found by putting my name in the YouTube search box, then, after the search comes up with all the "Garys", click on my smiling face to get to my channel.  Or...just use this link. 

When the work was done, they waved at Michele, then zoomed out of sight.  It was great fun to see their precision flying from such a wonderful vantage point.  Hope you enjoy the photos and the videos.

This was taken as they were leaving, but let's pretend they're just arriving!  Makes a better story. :)

Too much white!  Hopefully, you can see the helo turning into the building where workers are ready to attach the lifting lines.  Click on any of the photos for a closer view.

Must be exciting being underneath a hovering helo!  Do you think he gets "hazardous duty" pay?

Working their way into position to have one of the units hooked-up.  That smallish cruise ship is called the l'Austral.  She's what called a "mega yacht" and has a mere 132-cabins for those who prefer a more intimate at-sea experience...I guess. :)  She just arrived this morning taking the berth Pacific Princess was at yesterday.  But, I digress.  Back to the airshow!

Gee, I wonder what he's looking down at?  I REALLY love the zoom on my camera!!

This must be the object of his intense focus.  We saw some very delicate maneuvering to get that machinery exactly where it needed to be.

He may be lowering one of the old pieces of equipment in this shot.  That building in the background is Harbor Court.  By the way, the Tsunami advisory was cancelled this morning and no damage was recorded.  Hope the folks in Chile are doing okay.

Another close-up of the crew at work. 

Can't get much closer to the action than this.  I plan on calling the company and sending along the photos if they're interested.

Almost free, then it's time to head for home.

Have a nice day, fellas, and thanks for the great show!

Hope you all had an exciting day, too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ships Galore

The ocean off Honolulu was very busy this morning, with the arrival of the Disney Wonder cruise ship.  During autumn and winter months, visits by ships from a variety of cruise lines increase significantly and it's always fun to watch them arrive as we have breakfast on the lanai.  She joins the Pacific Princess, which arrived yesterday and is berthed directly in our view.

The Star of Honolulu was also at sea this morning, along with the Hikianalia, sister ship of the more famous voyaging canoe, Hokulea, which is currently visiting Mauritius.  Finally, navy hospital ship, USNS Mercy, sailed by on her way to Pearl Harbor, passing a nuclear submarine on her way to sea.

With the routine fishing boats, tugs, barges, tankers, container ships, parasail boats and paddlers, it was quite a show.  Almost forgot:  Divers are currently working in the harbor to re-float and remove a derelict fishing boat which actually sank at her berth a few months ago.   

Here are some photos:

The Disney Wonder.  Click on the link above to learn all about this nearly-1,000-foot long vessel.  This image was taken from the Wikipedia article about the ship.

This image, also taken from a Wikipedia article, shows the Pacific Princess in front of another cruise ship. 

Our view of the Pacific Princess at berth-11.  I'm not sure, but we think the barge is a refueling platform.  Maybe it also delivers groceries. :)

A flashback to September 10th.  That's the SS Pacific Tracker, at berth-11, being refueled.  The other vessel, nearest to the refueling barge, services ships--usually tankers--anchored at sea.  I have no idea what type of work is done by that towed platform riding high on what appear to be pontoons. 

Back to today.  Here are two divers at the surface as they work to re-float a derelict fishing boat which was so neglected it actually sank at its berth several months ago.  Officials apparently were unable to contact the out-of-country owner, and finally decided to do something about the problem.

The Star of Honolulu was out early this morning.  If you click on the photo, you can see the line-up of surfers waiting for a good wave.  The south shore is getting another decent swell for the next couple of days, with advisory level waves forecast for tomorrow.

USNS Mercy, a hospital ship heading for Pearl Harbor this morning.  Hard to miss!

A nuclear submarine passing by, with a tanker in the background.  I wonder what's in that rectangular container attached to the deck.

The voyaging canoe with the two sails up is the Hikianalia, companion vessel to the more famous Hokulea, currently in-port at the island of Mauritius.  Click on the link above to learn more about her.  This is about the size we saw her from the lanai this morning.

Zoomed in now.  Click on the image for a closer view.

That's it for today.  Time to get back to the studio.  Have a great day!    

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another Oil Sketch

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I worked on another oil sketch of Halen.  This time it was on a canvas board with a blue ground.  As expected, wiping off the raw umber left mid-tones and highlights of the light blue color and that wouldn't do.  I don't remember what I was thinking when putting that light blue acrylic paint on the board, but it should have been left for non-human subject matter.

So, out came the transparent red iron oxide and titanium white to see what could be done to cover Halen's blue face.  I worked considerably longer on this second sketch, employing a small brush to augment the paper towel bits and my little finger.

I just returned from showing both sketches to Halen and I think he would have been quite pleased to take the latest sketch and call it done.  He knows me well enough by now to understand that could never happen.  His art class in college taught him a lot about artist's mentality.  So, work will continue tomorrow.

Seeing the two sketches like this, it's easy to how making multiple "trial" works could benefit the final painting.  Click on any of the images for a closer view.

Second sketch and reference photo.  The first version was a solid jumping-off point for this attempt.

I hope this much-improved likeness will lead to a better sketch tomorrow.

Have a great day everyone! :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Back To The Easel--Really!

With ocean swimming now relegated to a "recreational" activity, I've just begun a second attempt at a portrait of a friend who also happens to be a security guard in our building.  After an exceptionally bad case of over-working the first version, I did away with it a couple of weeks ago.  I'm using a new reference photo and a combination of new-and-old techniques to paint this one.  The image below is the "new" technique (for me anyway!) of doing a preliminary sketch.  The "old" technique is the wipe-out process to create the drawing and establish values and stop.

Halen, oil sketch on canvas board, 14 x 11-inches.

Halen, the new reference photo, taken August 31st.

The subject agreed to another photo shoot and we got several possibilities.  Friday, while heavy rains pounded O'ahu, I began work on the first choice.  For a drastic change, I prepped four 14x11-inch canvas boards with a variety of acrylic colors to use for preliminary sketches!  Shocked?  Me, too. :)  This is something new for me.  Generally, I just go for it and live with the countless changes, pretending that it's all part of my quirky working method.  It's about time for a change!   

The board dried quickly, so next I prepared a mixture of raw umber (oil paint) and Liquin and  covered the area where his head would be located.  Then, to create the drawing, I used small bits of paper towel to remove the dark color where the lights and highlights would be.  It's easy to see values and achieve a likeness without the stress of working on what would, in previous portraits, have been the one-and-only canvas.  Also, there's no need to rush this stage, as is often the case when working with quick-drying acrylics.  If a mistake is made, it's easy to simply re-apply the dark mixture and either remove less, or leave it alone if a darker value is required.  Complete flexibility is the beauty of this process.

I always enjoyed using this method and don't know when exactly, or why, I stopped.  Seeing a face come into being--in three dimensions--simply by removing paint, is nothing short of magical.  Working in monochrome also eliminates the brain freeze which can set-in when color enters the equation.  Bottom line:  It's a great way to get a solid likeness and correct values.

The hard part, for me anyway, will be remembering it's only a sketch and being able to let go after any issues with composition and color are resolved.  And do additional sketches if necessary. :)

Taken July 13, 2015, here is the original reference photo and early work on the now-destroyed first portrait.  I much prefer a good view of the subject's eyes and as you can see, that was not the case in the first version.

This image was taken not long before I destroyed it.  Halen was pleased with it, but after trying  many different shirt colors and backgrounds, I became less and less satisfied.  Too many corrections on the canvas and not my best effort, by a long shot.  All the grief prompted the decision to scrap this one and try the time-honored tradition of using sketches to work everything out BEFORE beginning the final painting.  Old dog, not-so-new trick--who'da thunk it was possible!

The two large canvases are still in-work and I hope to share them soon. :)  It's a monumental struggle to change from copying to interpreting, so it may be awhile before I have the courage to reveal any progress.

Have a nice Sunday!     

Sunday, September 6, 2015


The 46th annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim was canceled Saturday, when race officials, after consulting with ocean safety personnel, determined that the high surf made conditions too dangerous.  The late evening news on Friday forecast waves between 7-10-feet for Saturday.  When we arrived at Kaimana Beach and looked out to sea, it was obvious they were every bit that high and more.  What was really frightening was seeing them crashing across the route we'd being swimming to reach the first turn buoy.  Friday, on my final training swim here, there were no breaking waves ahead of me, so I felt Saturday would be okay.  That optimism was now dashed.

I checked-in and received a bright orange cap and had my entry number written on each arm and the wave letter on each calf.  Proceeding to the timing chip officials, I was given an ankle band with the timing chip attached.  With that accomplished, Michele and I began the nearly hour wait till the "E" wave would be called to the start line at the water's edge.

Lots of swimmers were taking the opportunity to enter the water for a warm-up swim.  I decided against joining them, saving my energy for the imposing first leg of the race.  The waiting was not fun.  I was in the final wave to start the race and wouldn't enter the water till 8:50AM.  It was impossible to take our eyes off the crashing surf and completely hopeless trying not to imagine being pounded onto the reef by one of those very large waves.  I was really worried, thinking that maybe I should watch this one from the beach.  As Clint Eastwood famously said in several of his "Dirty Harry" movies:  "A man's gotta know his limitations."

With less than thirty minutes remaining till the start of the race, the announcement came over the public address system:  "Due to dangerous surf conditions, today's race is canceled".  A shock-induced hush fell over the crowd.  We didn't hear any calls to re-think the decision, just silence.  It was as if everyone knew it was the right call, despite the disappointment.

Personally, (and secretly) the cancellation was a huge relief.  My hope was to have a confident, personal best swim, but it was in serious jeopardy with the arrival of this swell, which oddly enough, had nothing to do with the two recent hurricanes.  It was really sad for those who came here from as far away as Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as, across the Mainland.  No refund, no re-schedule.  The surf is forecast to continue dangerously high through Monday.  And by then, the monthly visit by box jellyfish will happen.  That usually lasts for a couple of days.  So, it's over.

We departed the beach and made it home by 9:30AM.  To assuage the disappointment, I consumed a second, more serious breakfast.  What the heck, I thought, I already had a ginger capsule working for me! :)  To further alleviate the funk, I watched college football games most of the day.  Perhaps the most depressing result of the cancellation, was having to do my run in the late afternoon.  Can't spend an entire day doing nothing!  Oddly enough, it actually made me feel better.  Funny how that works.

The following photos of the non-race, are from Michele and two local TV stations who covered the story.

The email assigning my number and wave for the race.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Dawn on race day.  Seemed like it was going to be perfect.

The "Pride of America" heading into the harbor on her normal early-Saturday morning port call.  Notice how calm the ocean is.  Silly me...I was fooled into thinking maybe surf conditions wouldn't be as "exciting" as forecast.

A shot of part of the crowd milling around Kaimana Beach at 7:43AM.

H-m-m...those waves look pretty serious.   Again, click on the photo to make them look more ominous!

The man in the light blue swim cap is one of the elite swimmers.  Notice his number: 67.  The three young men in the upper right are also in the fast movers group.  We think one or two of the elite swimmers may have tested the water conditions and reported their findings to race officials.

Turns out, only about 800-people signed-up for this year's swim, so I have no clue why my number was 1232.  It may have something to do with how far down the list I'd finish! :)  Could they possibly have known I was a "weak swimmer"?  I also have no idea why Michele used this shot to exercise her photographic creativity.  Glad I had that ginger capsule!

All the local Honolulu television channels covering the race also carried the cancellation on their evening news broadcasts.  

The WRS President in a telephone interview, explained the reasons for the rare cancellation.

Channel 4 showed some brave entrants testing surf conditions prior to the cancellation.

The looks on these swimmers faces says it all.  I wonder if the elite group could've handled the conditions.  On the other hand, there were quite a few children entered, as well as, a number of us geezers.  I know we would have had a very challenging time out there.

Another shot of swimmers checking the conditions.  The key thing to notice here is the length of that breaking wave.  It would've been virtually impossible to alter course far enough to avoid the heaviest surf.  And if your timing was off trying to cross the reef between sets, being slammed onto it by one of those crashing waves was a definite possibility.  

Another great shot of what we would've had to deal with had the race gone on!  Expert surfers and stand-up paddlers, however, were having the time of their lives.

Entrants calling it a day following the cancellation announcement.

So, "the plan" was to complete the race, "retire" to the studio and paint (and act my age) for the next six months or so.  But...wouldn't it be a terrible shame to let all that training go to waste.  Ocean swimming has become a great source of conditioning, weight control and enjoyment, not to mention being easy on the body.  It will continue to remain part of my life to be sure.  Whether or not I'll enter the race next year is a question at this point.  I'd still love to be able to say I did it.  Guess we'll just keep swimming and see how I feel at the time. :)

Enjoy Labor Day everybody!