Hanalei Valley Taro Fields- Cropping and Changing Compositions

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to have my show at the Umpqua Bank in Benicia (Thursday evening, May 11), and the focus of the show is going to be my paintings from Hawaii.  I’m madly working away, finishing up the last few pieces, but in anticipation of the show, I wanted to share a few of the completed Kauai-based paintings I’ve been working on.

Last summer I did this first piece as a horizontal ½ sheet (15"x22"), while we were in Hawaii.  It's from the taro fields in Hanalei Valley.  I was interested in the clouds bumping against the mountains, and how they softly reflected in the in the taro fields down below.  Plus, after all the warm colored paintings of clouds and oceans, I wanted to try something different!

Many months later (perhaps 5-6 months), I came back to the piece.  Sometimes a pause like that is good, where I forget about the piece and my ambitions for it, and can "rediscover" it at a later date, re-energized and free from my earlier (mis) conceptions.  I can come back with fresh eyes and better decide how to approach problem areas.


In an attempt to catch the top of those billowing clouds and to open up the bold texture of the taro fields in the foreground, I switched to a vertical orientation and worked on a full sheet (30"x22").  As I developed the piece, I felt that the clouds were too crisp.  So I tried a new technique, and, after everything had completely dried 100%, I lay down a very wet, diluted wash of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna over the entire sky and clouds, bringing it down into the mountains with water.  I don't do much glazing like that, so what was most impressive to me was how tough the underlying wash was!  The layer on top softened the whites and very mildly softened some edges, but only a little.  Very little bleeding.  All in all, it did a good job of pushing the clouds back and reducing how “sharp” they felt at first glance.  Additionally, through contrast with the clouds, the midground trees and foreground taro fields became sharper and more vibrant. 

But that wasn't enough.  There's a vastness to Hanalei Valley that I love and wanted to try and capture.  The mountains unfold one upon another as they recede into the distance.  I pieced together this rough montage of photos and pondered if I could somehow turn this into a really big horizontal piece.

The issue was that a) it was too wide, and b) there's too much taro field.  Either I had to squeeze things down into details that were too small, in order to fit it all in, or I had to crop it in some way.  I went for cropping, and got the photo below.  The mountain on the left is the one I'd painted before, so I felt comfortable painting it again, and I really liked the light on the right.  For the rest, I'd fill in the pieces here and there as I went.


For the final piece, I worked on a larger elephant sheet again (41" x 30").  I wanted to paint the section on the left in a similar fashion to the way I'd done it before, and just expand the composition to the right to amplify the sense of depth.  As the papers are the same height (30"), this was achievable.  Of course, I'm never quite satisfied.  There are things I might do different, and I'm still interested in doing a triptych of vertical pieces that would allow me to make the image even wider, but there are things to like in this one as well- particularly the sky, and the shift in lighting on the water, from shining glare on the right to the cool blue reflections on the left.