Mānoa Valley Christmas Parade

Earlier this month, I went to see the Christmas parade with, seemingly, every Mānoa Valley resident. I took up position on the corner of Lowrey Ave. and East Manoa Rd., and saw entire streets lined with people in a festive, community spirit. Unfortunately, the parade passed by so quickly that I was only able to capture a few moments: a police motorcycle leading the parade, a school’s marching band performing Christmas carols, and a troop of Scottish bagpipe players.

Rock and Mineral Treasure Trove on Campus

I am currently taking a geology lab course at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Last Wednesday, our class walked around campus to identify different rocks using the knowledge that we had accumulated so far… and the occasional guidance of our instructor. :) I really enjoyed the tour, so at the end of the week I decided to spend more time on campus to sketch several of the rocks we looked at. I became so engrossed in the scenes that I ended up sketching for 3 hours.

I first sketched the Pacific Ocean Sciences and Technology Building where I have my class.

Then I went to the Hawaii Peace Memorial near Kennedy Theatre, which seems to be made of Granodiorite, an intrusive igneous rock (solidifies from magma).

My last stop was the Campus Center. At the Campus Drive entrance, there is a sculpture called Hina-O Na Lani (Mother of the Universe). The figure and its base are both made of popular rocks used for kitchen countertops: Granite and Anorthosite. The courtyard of the Campus Center is tiled with fairly smooth and flat rocks which, unlike the others I mentioned, are metamorphic (unmelted rock transformed by high temperature and pressure) – possibly Phyllite. Anyway, I’m getting carried away talking about rocks and what I’ve been learning!

I am unexpectedly pleased with the close-up sketches of the minerals in the rock… and would even say that they look better than the rest of the sketch. Crayon turned out to be an excellent choice of medium because of its waxy and gritty look. The colors of the minerals were great to see, and definitely something new to sketch.

I hope to sketch more of campus in the future, whether that is on my own or during an Urban Sketchers O‘ahu event!

It Was a Wet and Stormy Night and Day

This past month has been a stormy one. Hurricanes and tropical storms seemed to be barely missing O‘ahu on a weekly basis. While we have escaped a direct hit so far (knock on wood), we still see torrential downpours after thunderstorms or very muggy, wind-still days, like today. Cycling home through one of these heavy rains last week, I noticed that the water level in the stream nearby was licking the underside of the bridge. As this clearly warranted sketching, AJ and I quickly headed out again with our sketch equipment and rain gear. However, by the time we arrived, almost an hour later, the water level had dropped by at least 4 feet, and the clouds had begun to part. In my sketch, I marked the water level where it was when I had seen it running up the banks, just a few feet from flooding the street.

Solar Impulse 2 at Kalaeloa Airport

On Friday, July 17, AJ, Harald, and I arranged to visit the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), a giant plane aiming to complete the first-ever round-the-world flight solely powered by the sun. Victoire, a member of the Solar Impulse press team, was an excellent host and guide. She shared with us the technical and cultural challenges that the team encountered on their journey so far.

As we walked across the airfield, we saw forklifts loading Si2 parts and supplies onto an Ilyushin cargo plane. Entering the hangar, we got a firsthand impression of the solar plane’s size and unusual proportions. At a wingspan of 72 m (greater than a Boeing 747), the plane just barely fits into the hangar. The plane’s solar panels were covered in reflective foil, and the propellers were dismounted revealing the battery compartments. We were able to see the plane from all angles – even from a balcony above. Although it was a hot day, we greatly enjoyed our visit.

I found the Si2 challenging to sketch because of its size. I actually had to swivel my head from left to right to see the entire plane.

Due to repairs, Si2 missed its opening for the next leg of the flight and will overwinter at Kalaeloa Airport. While the plane stays here, the team will spend their winter in Europe. The round-the-world flight will continue in early April next year. We look forward to the team’s return and hope to coordinate a full-scale event to sketch the plane in March before it departs for Phoenix, Arizona.

A Humid Morning of Sketching at Kewalo Basin Harbor

Despite former Tropical Storm Ela passing the islands this weekend, we lucked out this morning with good weather at Kewalo Basin Harbor. Not that we were totally unaffected: we know of at least one person who was unable to make it because of poor weather elsewhere. The setting at the harbor was pleasant though, with moderate tourist activity, generally involving diving, parasailing, and pirate-ship tours.

We struggled again with attendance this weekend and had only six participants. Despite the low numbers we spent a productive 1.5 hours sketching a variety of scenes in the harbor and then shared our work with each other. Even with a small group, the post-sketch discussion always offers great opportunities to compare our various drawing styles, backgrounds, and equipment (micron pens, different pencil leads, and paper thicknesses).

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Having experienced active and vibrant Urban Sketchers communities on the mainland and elsewhere, we remain committed to our goal of developing a similar group here. We hope former participants will keep coming and new / curious artists will check us out! Our next event will be on Saturday, August 8, so save the date on your calendar.

Barge Shipment

Last week I was at Honolulu Harbor helping ship two pallets to the Big Island on a Young Brothers barge. I intended to provide support, but ended up sketching at the main gate. This was my first time at the port to see the loading process and all the heavy equipment (forklifts, reach stackers … had to look that one up, and trailer trucks). I met very nice people – even made a friend of a security guard who requested a sketch of himself. He offered me a seat under a tent in front of the guard house – a welcome relief from the scorching heat of the day. Fortunately I had come prepared with a liter-sized water bottle… his was twice or three times the size.

Since I was unable to help, the multiple-hour visit meant I had many sketching opportunities. I used a set of liquid-ink pens and later applied crayons, watercolor, or charcoal with conté pencil. These different media/styles were spurred by a full sketchbook… I drew on spare loose paper, as well as the cardboard backing and other surfaces of my sketchbook.

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“New on the Block”

Most houses I have come across on the island have a subdued beige or grey/white hue. Exceptions can be found in the roof color where red or green make an occasional appearance. Recently though, I came across two residential houses in Manoa whose owners made bold color choices. In my sketch an aged and paled turquoise home can be seen on the right, and, on the left, a house that was just freshly painted in a new color. Originally a subtler hue like its neighbors, this residence now truly announced its presence.

I used a gel-based rollerball pen and oil pastels to portray the vivid colors.

Memorial Weekend Sketch Event

Our chapter held a sketch event this Sunday morning at Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was good to see a few returning sketchers, as well as newcomer Mayumi. The weather was great – occasionally overcast and breezy. From the top level of the parking garage we had a view of the shopping center in front of Ala Moana Beach and downtown Honolulu with the Ko’olau Range as a backdrop. Although chosen for just that reason, our location proved almost overwhelming due to the plethora and detail of targets. It was a challenge not only to pick a scene, but also to distill it while truthfully depicting the subject. This is a location with so much potential that we will have to return someday.

We jumped in at 9:30 and were yet again surprised by how quickly 11:00 arrived – time for show-and-tell. Pencil, pen, watercolor, crayon, and watercolor pencils all made an appearance. Given the similar subjects we chose (e.g., cranes, the shopping mall with scaffolding, and downtown Honolulu), it was interesting to see how differently the challenges of perspective, depth, and contrast were tackled. I came away with a greater interest in crosshatching and a desire to explore the technique more in my own sketches.

Hope to see everyone at our next event!

Evening Shopping Rush

It seemed as though I joined every valley resident at the Manoa Marketplace last Wednesday. 5:00 p.m. is the magic hour – everyone is getting home from work and is either shopping for dinner or dining there.

For this session I decided to sit down in front of Safeway to do quick drawings of people passing by, walking in and out of stores, and dining. My two sketches are time-lapses of everyone I saw over the course of an hour. I made an attempt at a fisheye view of the entire strip but found it to be a more challenging perspective to draw than I expected, due to the strongly curving lines. Instead, I settled for two standard, undistorted views in opposite directions. In terms of composition, I wanted the focus to be on people so I decided to leave the color out of objects I did not want to draw attention to.

AIA Architecture Walking Tour

Last Saturday we (AJ, Harald, and I) attended the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Architecture Walking Tour “Downtown Honolulu – 20th Century Architectural Styles”. Although AIA regularly offers tours throughout the year this one was only offered once in 2015 as part of Architecture Month.

For two hours I learned about the history and styles of buildings in the business district – a place I have spent little time in and have not cared for much before. By the end of the tour I no longer saw downtown as just a jumble of high-rises. Each building has its own story. For example, the No.1 Capitol District Building was originally the site of the first Royal Hawaiian Hotel commissioned under King Kamehameha V and opened in 1872 to host foreign dignitaries and friends of the royal family. The hotel was then converted to a YMCA in 1917 and used by the military in World War I and II. In 1926, while in military use, the hotel was demolished and a Spanish mission revival style building was erected which has housed the Hawaii State Art Museum since 2000.  An art museum in Honolulu that I was aware of, but had not been to. Will have to pay it a visit soon… It is located on the aptly-named South Hotel Street.

The final historically significant structure we visited was the Aloha Tower. Built in 1926 it originally served as a lighthouse but was decommissioned in the late 1960s and is now being revitalized by Hawaii Pacific University. The view from the observation deck is outstanding. In order not to be in the way (and view) of other visitors to the deck, we decided to sketch the tower and its surroundings from the marketplace.