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Drawing and Painting in Hawaii

After two years of no travelling, my wife and I decided to head back to beautiful Hawaii (the island of Oahu to be exact) in November 2021 for some rest and to spend some time with family. I also wanted to take this opportunity to get in some drawing and painting. Hawaii is filled with so much inspiration and if your a creative person, you won't have to look long for something that inspires you. My goal was to bring my art supplies and try to spend some time drawing, sketching and painting as much as possible, when time allowed. What follows are my sketches and studies I did during the two weeks, I would have obviously liked to have gotten more done but I'm happy with what I did complete. I'll also try to explain each piece for context. I hope you enjoy the art as much as I did making it.

Plumeria sketches

My first sketch is of an iconic flower in Hawaii, the Plumeria! When I first saw this flower years ago I knew I had to draw it someday. The shape and colours of the flower make it a lot of fun to illustrate, and it can be found almost anywhere as the flower is extremely common in Hawaii. I found two great specimens under Plumeria trees that we had in the neighbourhood where we were staying. I wanted to really focus in on that iconic shape, so I started with some relatively quick sketches exploring that, there really is a "flow" to the shape. I also wanted to do a colour study as the colours are so vibrant and I really enjoy the softness. I redrew the flower and let watercolour do its thing, its a very loose painting, a lot of wet into wet was used to help achieve that nice gradient you see on the petals. After adding some notes, I decided it was time to move onto something else.

Koko head crater and Koko head

This next drawing I did while I was sitting at Waialae Country Club. I positioned myself with a great view of the shoreline and just started sketching. I wanted there to be a distinct transition between foreground, middle ground and background. There’s not much else to say about this sketch other than the main focus is Koko head crater and Koko head, seen in the distance.

I really enjoyed how this next sketch came out. My wife and I spent some time in Kulaoa park on Oahu, where there is a great view of Mokoli’i island, I really like the shape of this island, it’s very unique. I had to start over a couple of times as my angles were off and the shape of the island really is the personality. I set up at a nearby park bench and sitting there while sketching with the ocean breeze hitting me was an awesome experience. At one point I was completely surrounded by hens and a rooster who decided I needed some company. Definitely one of my favourite spots to sit and draw!

Me sitting in Kulaoa park drawing Mokoli’i island (left)

Plumeria watercolour study

Just up the street from where we were staying is the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. The crater itself was created about 50,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption. In the 50’s it was established as a botanical garden, where the 60-acre floor houses plants and trees from Hawaii, the America’s, Africa and Madagascar. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk this garden so I spent a few hours there on the trails. While there I ended up doing a sketch of another plumeria I found growing in the plumeria grove. I took some photos of it as well so I could finish it with some watercolour and ink later on. I really enjoy painting the many colours you can find of plumeria, it lends itself well to watercolour and getting those nice mixes between the vibrant colours.

This drawing is from another trip to one of the many botanical gardens on Oahu. My wife and I spent some time in Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden, which is situated in the heart of a neighbourhood. I had seen this great picture of a waterfall there and I knew I had to draw it. We searched it out and after finding it I sat myself down on a rock nearby and started drawing. I chose the toned paper to better illustrate the water with a white pen to really give it impact. The experience was amazing, I was right beside the flowing water of the stream and the entire time was very peaceful and relaxing.

Waterfall in Liliʻuokalani Botanical Garden

This was the last drawing I did right before we left to come back home. I based it off of some reference photos I took one day while eating breakfast outside. We had some sparrows who were interested in our food and they seemed pretty relaxed around us and were fairly close, which was a great opportunity to get some photos. I took quite a few of them and really wanted to create some drawings from them as I’ve always liked the shape of sparrows. I had some ideas for some sketches I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until I found out that Aaron Blaise was hosting an art challenge that I really had to think hard about an idea. The art challenge was based off the theme of The Drama of Nature. Part of the challenge was to use reference photos to help create a new and original illustration. One morning I had this idea pop into my head using some of the reference photos of the sparrows, so I quickly drew out some thumbnails, focusing on the composition and placement of the birds. On a really rainy day I decided to stay in and develop this drawing. I sat down and started the process, loosely developing the birds and making sure I liked the placement. I decided that the one bird looking back should be closer to the other two, so once I had decided that, I had my composition figured out. Another element of the challenge was to think of the “story” behind your image. The one I thought up was that a group of these sparrows were relaxing on a wall when one of them becomes alerted to something behind them, I didn’t want to show what it was as that could be interpreted by the viewer, and given that these birds are usually very jumpy it could really be anything. I wanted the drawing to be relaxing to look at but at the same time with some tension being present using that one bird. I spent 5 hours and 20 minutes developing the entire drawing and I’m really happy with how it turned out, I’m so excited for it that I may use it as a base for a digital illustration later down the road.

Sparrows drawing


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