An Artist Afloat
Sailing and sketching
We'd spent over a month in Kona and we still weren't getting bored. Personally, I could have stayed forever. The marina waters were clear, with daily visits by turtles who used it as a quiet place to nap. Surprisingly, they also liked to tuck in to the carcasses thrown overboard by fishing boats. I'd always thought turtles were vegetarian! A porcupine puffer made its home under the dock we were tied to, and an endless procession of tangs, boxfish, parrotfish and Moorish idols kept our keel and lines clean. We discovered great snorkeling right next to Honokohau harbour, and took the dinghy to the harbour entrance where the resident pod of spinner dolphins make a game of playing in powerboat wakes. They weren't bothered by us as we bobbed about, and repeatedly swam right past as they made lazy circles round the bay. It was a great way to spend a morning- and if we didn't want to take the dinghy out we could just walk to the headland and watch them from shore.
When we weren't in the water, Jim was on wheels- in training to try and cycle up Mauna Kea. He embarked on a training programme of stiff hill climbs and explored possible routes up to the mountain. Every other morning he'd get up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to a new place to go Up. Like in Hilo, the buses had the capability to load bikes on the front. The drivers seemed to be a quirky bunch, and bus routes were rather flexible depending on whether the driver needed a cigarette break. But fares were cheap and the service covered a lot of the island. The training plan was going well, and Up is plentiful on this moutainous isand, but the logistics proved trickier. The cabins just below the park were closed, there was no other accommodation and sneakily camping brought the complications of having to bring up enough food and water. Then the weather added to the difficulties- both sides of the island were experiencing heavy rainfall and the normally clear peak of Mauna Kea was obscured by cloud night after night- an enormous inconvenience to all the observatories up there. Jim's dream of standing above the clouds and staring at the stars seemed less and less likely.
And then, after repeatedly extending our marina stay, it was time to leave. We had farewell drinks with Gary and Joanna aboard 'Cheers', and they mentioned renting a car. Within minutes our plans had changed. Again. Justin, a local who is fitting out his own boat ready to sail to Tahiti, was a whizz on Google and knew the local rental places- and soon we had a car booked for a week, and were smiling sweetly at marina management to have our berth for another week and a half, please.
Of course, the first thing we checked was Mauna Kea's weather. Nothing hopeful for the next few days- but plenty more island to explore. And plenty of places to eat. Hawaiian food is based around pork, taro, chicken, fish and rice- often with a Japanese or Chinese twist, a touch of pineapple, an American edge or a little extra aloha which turned stodgy to succulent. Pork is cooked long and slow til it's tender and falls apart, taro leaves are treated like spinach and spices are handled with flare. The portion sizes tended to be very generous and generally lunch would feed us through to the next day's breakfast. I can recommend the orange chicken at L&L BBQ, the pizzas at the Kona Brewery and the pork and rice at Maddie's, but the grand prize has to go to the Hawaiian-Style Cafe in Waimea. My fluffy omelette was accompanied with gravy and delicious hash browns, plus a stack of pancakes the diameter of a dinner plate and as much syrup as I cared to drizzle. Thankfully we'd skipped breakfast so I made a valiant attack on the omelette, but even with Jim helping me most of the pancakes ended up in a takeaway box (and were still delicious later). We are now having a week of salads and vegetable stir fry to compensate for our week of indulgence!
In between these feasts, we managed to see quite a lot of the island. Hawai'i is full of small towns, historical buildings, archaelogical sites, dramatic valleys, twisting gulches and incredible views of the volcanoes which dominate the island. The landscape and wildlife are tied into a host of legends which explain this diverse and contradictory land of fire and snow. Pele, the volcano goddess, often takes centre stage with her jealous nature and capricious and fiery temper. The snow maidens dominate the higher mountains and occassionally Maui pops over from his eponymous island to visit his mum, Hina, who lives in the as-picturesque-as-they-sound Rainbow Falls.
Waterfalls are a feature of Big Island- especially on the Wet Side- and with the generally soggy weather they were in full flow. The north east coast is home to a lot of them, where they tumble down the sides of the beautiful but intensely private Waipio Valley. The road down to the valley is steep and suitable for 4x4 vehicles only, so we satisfied ourselves with taking in the view from the lookout at the top. Sheer cliffs fringe the flat green river valley floor before twisting out to form a vertical coastline. Waterfalls cascade off the top and tumble into the sea. The valley was decimated by a tsunami, but although few people live there now it is still cultivated. Much of it is closed to outsiders, giving it a secretive, 'lost world' feeling.
The 'Akaka Falls are much more accessible, but that doesn't stop them from being beautiful. A 400 foot waterfall drops into a pool, surrounded by emerald vegetation. It belongs in a storybook or a shampoo advert, and the viewpoint is perfectly located to take in the whole of the falls. The well-paved walk meanders past banyan trees, pretty cascades and lovely vistas, whilst orchids and ginger add splashes of colour.
A short drive away, we found the Rainbow Falls which enthusiastically launch themselves into freefall, the riverbed sloping in just the right way to give the water a run up before it takes the plunge. We were there too late to see the rainbow for which they are named- that's a sunny morning phenomenon. Behind the falls is a cave, which legend says was home to Hina, mother of Maui. A true fairytale falls, it even had a giant lizard monster to bother it, once upon a time.
After our waterfall themed day, we returned to Puna and the south coast. The Punatics were still about and the funny smell still clung to much of Pahoa. We ate brunch then drove to the tide pools near the south east tip, where I found the best snorkelling we've had in Hawai'i. The deeper pools were home to thousands of fish living amongst varied and pristine corals. I found this healthy coral very exciting- whilst the other snorkel spots we'd visited were teeming with fish, the coral was mostly bleached and dead. Parts of the west coast have reserve systems where swimming is not allowed at all- I'd like to think that those areas host coral gardens just as lush as these.
How to follow a chilly snorkel? A visit to the hot pools! Fed by underwater springs warmed by Pele's fires, the pools are a bath-like temperature. They're open to the sea, which stops them getting too hot, and fish seem to enjoy them just as much as humans. Concrete areas around the sides make access easy, but the sandy bottom and overhanging trees keeps everything feeling natural. The only occasional spoiler to the relaxation were the small fish who kept trying to nibble Jim and Joanne's legs. None of us wanted to get out, and we'd probably still be in there now if we hadn't started to get hungry.
Getting back to Kona involved driving along Saddlecross Road, which crosses the plains between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. When the weather is clear it offers spectacular views out to sea, and the sunsets are incredible. Low clouds make everything more mysterious, as the volcanic vents form odd shaped shadows and twisted trees create eerie goblin forests in the fog. Every time we crossed from one side of the island to the other the light was different, and Gary got us safely over the saddle, whatever the weather threw at us. Joanne was DJ and we usually had a great soundtrack to our roadtrips.
The west coast also had a lot to offer. We snorkelled at Two Step and saw Kealakekua, where, as Jim likes to say, "they wrote the Captain Cook Cook Book". Thankfully these days 'long pork' is not on the BBQ menus. Farther up the coast, Lapakahi State Historical Park offered the remains of a fishing village with many fascinating glimpses into traditional Hawaiian life, and the petroglyphs at Waikaloa literally made the past an open book. Carved letters and words were not modern graffiti but the recordings and experiments of people learning a new alphabet system. More fascinating, to me, were the carvings of people, boats, fish and turtles, and the mysterious but once meaningful systems of lines, dots and concentric circles which formed a method of communication long before the Latin alphabet sailed into town.
The valleys of the far north were obscured by heavy rain, but the little town of Hawi had enough cute little shops and galleries to entertain me and Joanne. It was a typical little town with buildings which just beg to be described as 'quaint,' including a historic cinema. Gary and Jim were less impressed, but cheered up when we added coffee and cake to the itinerary. They were more enthralled by the driving- from coast to rainforest to mountains. This island does manage to pack a lot of variation into a short distance.
We did a few boat things too- chiefly a big trip to the shopping behemoth of Costco to bulk buy provisions. Our last full day of car hire was laundry day. As we sat in the car, Jim checked the weather on Mauna Kea one last time. Sun. And a clear night ahead. Suddenly doing the washing turned into a scramble, as we planned the quickest way to get petrol, gather snacks and find enough warm clothes for a night up a cold mountain. We made it up to the visitors center whilst there was still plenty of room in the car park and walked up a hill for stunning sunset views of Mauna Loa. As it grew dark, telescopes were set up outside the visitors center. After a dinner of leftovers (of course), we were treated to a laser-guided tour of the cloud-free heavens, and then had a peek through each telescope. Binary stars, colliding galaxies, the Jewel Box cluster, the Cigar galaxy (actually a side-on spiral) and the Orion nebula- it made amazing viewing, like real-life Star Trek, and the volunteers were able to answer all our questions. Jim finally got to see the stars, and it was totally worth the wait.
After the car went back, it was time to disassemble our bikes and say our goodbyes. Yes, we finally managed to untie the mooring lines and make the crossing over to Oahu. The marine chandlers were calling and Prism needed work done before the passage to Canada. Hawai'i is something really special, and I've pretty much run out of superlatives to describe the landscape, wildlife and people. I'd love to sail back here next year- so long as I get a thesaurus first.
Yesterday I discovered that art pirates had struck. A number of my paintings and designs had been downloaded, then put on other websites by individuals claiming them as their own. Instead of painting, I spent the day issuing take down notices and protecting my intellectual property. It launched an interesting discussion on the Sketchbook Skool closed Facebook group. Obviously outright theft like this is not ok- but what about sharing a drawing you've copied? Or what if you're inspired by an artist's style? So I've attempted to put together some answers.
Can I copy other artists' work to help me learn?
What goes in my sketchbook stays in my sketchbook- unless I let it out. Copying from other artists is a great way to learn. It doesn't replace drawing from life- that's the best way to learn to truly see what we're looking at and develop our own styles. But if you're struggling with a technique, copying from others can be the way to get the hang of it.
What I can share- and how- can start to feel like a bit of a minefield. Recently I was struggling with how to paint watercolour waterfalls and looked at Cathy Johnson's “Painting Nature in Watercolour' to help me. Directly copying waterfalls from her books is a good way to learn how she balances light and shade and layers her strokes to create the effect of running water. I'm really pleased with how my copies turn out. But what can I do with the results?
Because Cathy published her book as an educational guide, I can be pretty sure that she doesn't mind me copying the work from it for learning purposes. However, Cathy owns the intellectual copyright to the painting I was copying. She's the one who put in the time in the field, chose what to include and what to leave out, composed the image. When I copy her painting, I'm using all of those decisions she's made. It's not ok for me to try and sell that work. Sure, the brush strokes are mine, and my work is a bit different because my style asserts itself- but Cathy's thinking is still behind it. Legally, these copies should stay in my sketchbook and I should now go forth and find waterfalls to create my own.
Sharing online becomes a little more complicated. Legally, I shouldn't do that either. Cathy still owns the intellectual copyright. Many artists remember what it's like to be a beginner and will still be happy for you to share your work if you acknowledge the source, but you should be aware that they may not approve- especially if the art you are copying is not part of instructional materials. If in doubt, ask the artist first.
How about drawing in someone's style?
Art which is 'inspired by' or 'in the style of' becomes a more complex gray area. Part of it comes down to source images. If I take Cathy's waterfall and try to interpret it using a ball point pen technique inspired by Andrea Joseph, then I am still stealing Cathy's image, but probably wouldn't get into trouble with Andrea.
If I go out and find my own waterfall and try to apply Cathy's techniques as I paint it, then it's my work. I'm making the decisions about composition and colour, I'm selecting what to keep in and leave out. It's my work and I can share it where and how I like (hooray)! It's polite if I acknowledge her as my inspiration, but not essential.
The same applies to my Tommy Kane-inspired boat interiors. They're my own observation drawings of my boat, and whilst I've applied techniques learned in Tommy's 'Beginning' class to create them, they're my own work. My own way of drawing slips in and nobody is about to mistake my work for Tommy's. I can share these drawings or sell them to my heart's content. (If you don't know Tommy's work, you can check out his blog or his fantastic book, All My Photographs are Made With Pens)
I would start to run into rocky ground if I drew similar subject matter in a similar style. If I embark on a series of Tommy Kane-style squirrels with water pistols, then Tommy would be within his rights to object- it's just all too close to his trade mark and I'm encroaching on his intellectual property.
Photographs, quotes and movie references
Photographers own the rights to their work. Just like with Cathy's waterfall, they've chosen how to frame their shot and they put in the work to get it. If I draw directly from a photo I find on Google or Pinterest, I am not changing it enough for it to count as my work.
The best way to draw from photos is to make a number of sketches from a number of photo references. This helps you to really get to know the subject. It can take a while, but after a number of reference sketches you will be able to create your own unique pose, resulting in your own unique artwork. If there is one photo that you just HAVE to draw, then contact the photographer and ask their permission- and be clear if you want to sell the results. Be aware that photos of celebrities and shots from movies are also copyrighted, as are comic book and cartoon characters. So draw Star Wars characters for your kids by all means- but share online with caution and don't try to sell them, however cute your cartoon Darth Vader is!
There are also a number of websites where generous photographers post their images to be drawn. Some require credit, others like Unsplash don't ask for any acknowledgment at all.
By the time the creator has been dead for 70 years, most work is out of copyright (in the UK at least). So you can copy Van Gogh, Munch and Rembrandt then share where ever and however you like. My drawing using a quote from Shakespeare is safe to post. I have other lettering pieces which I shouldn't share as they use quotes from more recent books. In reality, nobody is likely to hunt me down if I share my lettered piece from 'The Book Thief', especially as I'm not selling it. But legally, although it's only a sentence, I do not hold the copyright. There are occasional exceptions such as J.M. Barrie's 'Peter Pan', which is owned by Great Ormond Street Hospital in perpetuity.
How does collage fit into all this?
Collage gets complicated. 'Fair use' depends on what you do with images, whether you use the whole image (such as the entire repeat in a pattern) and if your work is considered to be 'transformative'- you have taken the image and created something totally new. What your using it for also affects your rights to use it- a single piece of art is more likely to be allowed than a series of t-shirt prints. The Graphic Artists' Guild have an excellent article here and there are numerous articles on Quora including this one. News images tend to be fairer game than an artist's illustration, but be aware that different judges interpret the law in different ways- to play it safe you may want to ask permission from the source of your images.
How about Google images- I can use those, right?
Google doesn't pay any attention to licensing when it trawls the net for images. This means that the images displayed may well be copyrighted. Some will display watermarks, for others you will need to click through to the webpage. Do not use the image unless it clearly says that it's free to use through creative commons (the same applies to music and video). If you're not sure, then contact the owner.
The same applies to images on Pinterest. Seeing them does not give the right to use them. If you can't find the owner, then either don't copy that image or keep your version to yourself where it can't upset anybody!
I've put some links to sites you can use to draw from at the bottom of this page. Some will let you use the images without acknowledging the creator- others need you to give credit. Always check carefully!
How did Copyright affect this post?
Because I haven't asked if I can use their images, I've linked to Andrea and Tommy's websites instead of copying them here. I haven't included some of my favourite illustrated quotes because they actually infringe copyright (I only recently discovered this) and I guess any sketches of Han Solo I may have done will need to stay under wraps.
I can share images from Unsplash though-they're Creative Commons Zero License- so here's an inflatable flamingo. I don't even have to give credit (but I will- it's by Vicko).
Resources and disclaimers
Austin Kleon has written an excellent book, Steal like an Artist, about being inspired by others and what is- and isn't ok. And Sketchbook Skool offers a number of courses aimed at teaching you to draw like you (How to Draw without Talent, Beginning and Seeing are all great places to start).
You've probably figured out that I have no legal background and am not an expert in copyright law. I've tried to check my facts as carefully as possible, but I'd recommend contacting a professional if you have questions or concerns.
The Amazon links contained in this post are affiliate links- if you order something through them I get a small percentage (this adds nothing to the cost of your purchase but helps me buy art supplies). I've only linked to things I love.
I don't receive anything if you sign up for Sketchbook Skool. I just think they're awesome.
And finally, thank you to Peggy Bjarno, Jaelle Farye and Aleesha Sattva for suggesting some useful edits to this post!
Photos to draw
Pixabay and Unsplash have Creative Commons Zero License- this means you don't need to attribute the photo and can sell work created from these photos if you like. Freshly Curious requires image attribution- you need to name your source. If you have any other suggestions for image sources, add them as a comment and I'll put them on the list.
Over on the Rainy side of Hawai'i, people speak of Kona as if it is some terrible, overdeveloped metropolis. Changing sides of the island, we were expecting unfriendly city people, heavy traffic and tall buildings obscuring the sun. We were wrong. But before we could explore, we had to get there.
The voyage was nothing short of spectacular. The weather cleared up enough to give me views of Mauna Kea as I sailed down the west coast, and I was entertained by breaching whales and frequent sightings of mothers and calves. My final count was four whales on the Hilo side and eight on the way to Kona. Swimming with the whales is forbidden here but they're always a breathtaking sight, especially when they launch themselves out of the water. One male was visible from miles away as he threw up huge plumes of water with tail and fins. I was so busy watching him I was taken by surprise when a mum and baby surfaced near Prism! We're meant to keep our distance but nobody told the whales that... I swiftly adjusted our course as they swam in front of us and toddled off out to sea. The distant male continued his antics for the next half hour- but I was careful not to get too mesmerised as I steered us up the coast!
After sailing all night and enjoying a whale-filled cruise in the morning, we pulled into Honokohau Harbor and were instantly baffled by the mooring system. They call it 'Tahitian mooring'- but it is unlike anything we ever saw in Tahiti. The maneuver involves catching a mooring buoy on the way past and then stopping the boat just off the dock so the deckhand (Cap'n Jim) can get a line ashore. Powerboats with bow thrusters and the ability to make fine adjustments in reverse make this look easy. On a more classic sailboat, it's more of a challenge.
Prism doesn't do well in reverse. It's very hard to steer her and if there's a current or a puff of wind, things can get messy. So we decided to go in forward. Our berth was on the end of a row, so we only had a boat on one side- initially this seemed like a blessing as the clear side gave us more room and less things to try not to hit! I turned us in to the dock, and Jim prepared a line to lasso the mooring buoy. By the time we did it, the wind had blown Prism's bow round into the fairway and no amount of steering would bring her back in towards the dock. So we had to throw Jim into the dinghy to tow a line ashore and pull us in, Mediterranean mooring-style. The marina staff were highly amused- and we didn't know whether to be glad that we were given an end berth or not. Our fellow cruisers weren't much help when it came to technique- using fenders and the boats next to you to move forward seems to be accepted procedure! And Google was no help. Any suggestions from anyone who's tried it?
Once we were safely moored, Kona turned into a social whirl. We caught up with long-time cruisers Jim and Joy, who are sailing their way to Alaska. Jim soon met Will, an Alaskan cyclist with an infectious sense of humour and a lovely wife, Carline. They were great company, shared great stories and told us all about their fascinating friend Teri, who is known as the 'gecko whisperer" for her incredible photos of geckos surfing, painting, ironing and modelling Easter bunny ears. The next day we went into Kona to see the monthly hula at the palace. The afternoon involved great dancing, beautiful music, torrential rain which flooded the roads and cocktails at Gertrudes with jamming ukuleles all around us as the flood waters rose. Between tasting samples of Kona coffee and catching the performance, we saw a lady selling cards covered with geckos. I seized the day, introduced myself, swapped cards and followed up with an email- and a friendship was born. Teri is one of those people who has a story for every occassion. Her husband Gil is great company, makes excellent fish tacos. We even got to meet Teri's gecko models- who are totally wild and pose for the fun of it!
The kindness of strangers in Kona was incredible. Chuck and Linda invited us to their home for dinner after deciding Jim seemed like a reputable sort, and Gail and John, two ex-cruisers who had thrown out the anchor, understood the value of a hot shower and the use of a washing machine. It was fascinating to trade tales, and we really appreciated being welcomed and looked after.
John and Amanda arrived from Hilo on Mahina Tiare, and I got the chance to go out paddling in a wa'a with the Waikaloa Canoe Club. This outrigger canoe holds six people- a steersman and five paddlers. Ohana Day meant that we weren't racing, but were still expected to pull our weight. Paddling in time and changing sides became an exertive but meditative experience- though I had to make sure that I didn't fall out of sync every time was saw a humpback (watching breaches from a va'a? A truly spiritual experience). We crossed the bay to Mauna Kea resort, stopped for a glass of water and then made our way back out through golden clouds of yellow tangs, passing the occasional whale and turtle.
Jim got man flu, I met watecolourist Jean Haines at a workshop at the local art shop and Amanda saw my Month of sea Monsters and commissioned me to her illustrate her latest book about marine diesel engines. It's been a fantastic experience as we trade ideas and inspirations and build something together. I've been learning all about the systems that keep Prism going and honing my Photoshop skills at the same time. You know you're doing the right job when you get up early, full of ideas and ready to go. My only complaint is I need more hours in the day so I can work on the commission and my book, sketch the local area and practice the new watercolour skills I've learned!
The Kona Coast is relatively flat which makes it great for biking. Hawai'i isn't really a beach destination, but there are patches of white sand if you look. Magic Sands is one of the most unusual beaches. Storm waves regularly sweep away the sand, only for it to be replaced later. It's small and full of both locals and tourists- a fun place for people watching. We liked to get poke from Da Poke Shack (delicious Hawaiian raw fish salads with rice and seaweed or edamame), and spend an hour enjoying the vibe. Nearby was another beach with great snorkelling and numerous historical sites. The beach was salt and pepper pebbles, comfy enough for me to doze off in the sun.
Cruise ship day was Wednesday, which always led to extra bustle in Kona. The Pride of America runs on a precise schedule, and I built up a mental picture of cruise director Crystal from her impossibly perky and peppy event announcements (25, blonde, ponytail, short shorts and white socks with tennis shoes). It all seemed a bit too much like floating 'Hi-de-Hi' for my taste, but the tourists all seemed happy and liked to stop and chat to me when I was sketching in town. The Princess line ships visit on a more occassional basis, dwarfing the town. But even on cruise ship days, Kona feels real. Which is hard to explain- but there's still space to walk, still room on the little beaches, no designer stores just for the rich tourists. The older buildings, full of character, have not been swept away for glossy glass and steel confections. I loved the labyrinthine board walk and the century-old Kona Inn tower, built from lava rock and looking quite medieval. When you're in Kona, you're definitely in Hawai'i- not in an identikit city which could be anywhere between London and Dunedin.
We were so happy there that when it became time to leave we extended our stay, then extended again. We got to go aboard the Hokule'a, which circumnavigated the world using traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, explored the galleries in the lovely little town of Holualoa (where many of the buildings have been owned by the same families for over a hundred years) and visited Greenwell coffee plantation, which put Kona coffee on the map- and still makes a great cup! We had other adventures too- but I'll leave them for my next blog post.
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It's been a while! No, I didn't sink or get lost at sea, and I haven't stopped adventuring- but I have had a few things going on- including a secret project which I can finally let you know about!
I've been working on an exciting illustration commission for Amanda Swan Neal of Mahina Expeditions, drawing the systems and inner workings of marine diesel engines. It's for people who never thought they could change a fuel filter or figure out how their boat's electrical system works (this was me before I started this commission)! If you're familiar with my artwork, you won't be surprised to hear that the illustrations have a fun and whimsical twist. Whilst we put the finishing touches to it, Amanda is trialing it at boat shows in the Pacific North West. Look out for her if you're in the area- you can get a sneak peek and purchase a copy (these early editions are helping to support girls' education in Fiji and Vanuatu- two places that have a special place in my heart).
I've also been the featured artist in the first 'refloated' edition of Sistership magazine (you can see a free preview here- it's a great magazine whether you're a sailor or an armchair cruiser) and my Maori- inspired watercolours have been featured by Gordon Harris- my favourite art store back in Auckland.
On the less exciting side of things, the humidity has been playing havoc with my laptop and my phone is going the way of the dinosaurs. Looks like a technical revolution is needed- or some of those sea monsters snuck into my devices!
With all this going on, plus writing and illustrating a children's book and exploring Hawai'i, I really didn't think I'd managed much painting or sketching in the last month or so. But somewhere along the line three sketch booklets got filled up and I managed to participate in the annual drawing challenge One Week 100 People. So apparently art is what I do in my time off from making art- which means I'm doing what makes me happy!
I have a couple of blog posts in the works to catch up with my Kona adventures. I'm also setting up a regular newsletter- it will come out every few weeks to keep you informed of blog posts, new artwork, videos and tips- and I'll be including exclusive creative downloads, including free colouring sheets in your first welcome email. If you'd like to sign up you can use the box below!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.