Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Visit with Mark Brown

I had to go to O'ahu to install the big triptych I finally finished, for the Heater family's beachfront home in Hawai'i Kai. I'd been wanting to connect with Mark Brown, who is Honolulu's most active, visible and productive plein air painter (as far as I can tell). I phoned him and he kindly invited me to join his Saturday class out at Kualoa Park, on the north shore near Mokoli'i Island (Chinaman's hat). Mark conducts the class, through the U of H adult ed extension, with great enthusiasm and good humor, and it's easy to understand why everyone adores him.

Mark teaches in a very limited palette, which contrasts with my indulgence in dozens of colors. I think at most he puts out big blobs of Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Blue or Green, Alizarine Crimson (?) and Cadmium Red. With these few pigments he dashes on a wash sketch and eventually lathers on thick brushfuls of mixed colors.

On Tuesday we made a painting date, just the two of us, out on the H3 freeway near the Kaneohe Marine Base, where there is a scenic pull-out with a sweeping view of that magnificent bay and the Ko'olau mountains. Mark routinely paints gigantic canvases on site, and that day he had a 4' x 7' firmly anchored to two easels staked into the ground. It's very inspiring to watch him cover that entire white surface with paint, and in just a few hours create one of his signature landscapes.

My own version of the scene, on what would ordinarily have seemed a big enough canvas, felt small and awkward to me. It's really good to paint with other artists and be taken out of one's comfort zone. For one thing, the shadows of the clouds kept skimming up and down and over the complicated cliffs of the Ko'olaus, and were never the same from moment to moment. Perhaps in time one would learn how to capture that, the way I've learned over the years to paint the lights and shadows of the Red Road!

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