Landing on the Big Island was like landing on the moon (not that I would know, mind you… In fact, I really dislike it when authors use an obscure simile to describe some commonplace thing; e.g. “the clouds skirted across the evening sky like the aura of a nucleus in pre-fusion excitement.”) The Big Island (as you may know) is an active volcano, and the landscape is all black rock, which makes for great sunset shots:

I really wanted to do a helicopter tour of the island; this, despite the knowledge that I have gotten airsick in the past. Ellen agreed in spite of the astronomical price (the price of the helicopter tour was like a horsehead nebula compared to a quasi-stellar radio source). We landed front-row seats, so we were able to look out the front and sides and bottom of the helicopter for best viewing action, and also best vertigo potential, incidentally.

Vantage point:

(My wife insists that I insert here that those are my toes, not hers, lest she have to live with you thinking she’s both ugly and has enormous, hairy feet.)

Our tour took us up across the “world’s most active volcano,” Kilauea. We expected to see something like this (which is what travel brochures will show along with the above claim):

(Thanks to the Volcano Club for this photo)

We ended up seeing a tiny orange dot with lots of smoke:

“What orange dots,” you might say. Right. (Want to see it in a video? Click here…)

The disappointment was palpable.

It was at this point (after circling several times around Tiny Orange Dot) that Ellen began to feel ill. I felt fine. Luckily we had a refueling stop in Hilo and Ellen was able to regroup a bit (but she never felt well for the rest of the trip). We flew up the east coast of the Big Island and into some of the amazing valleys full of waterfalls. We flew right up to one of the biggest falls on the island and had an amazing view looking up and down (which didn’t help Ellen’s airsickness).

(Want to see it in a video? Click here…)

Later I tried to capture this view in my sketchbook (I’d like to say that I was able to pull out my sketchbook and paints right there in the helicopter and whip up a painting… but alas, it was not so. I worked on this over lunch after the tour, much to Ellen’s annoyance).

The tour, although setting us back like the receding tide at the Bay of Fundy was quite worth it. Here was our route:

The rest of our time on the Big Island was very enjoyable, with plenty of leisurely pool time:

Notice Ellen’s clever use of the raft as hot tub book stand.

I tried another attempt at a non-pen and ink watercolor. This is a bush (I’m sure Hawaiians know exactly what bush it is from its incredible realism) from a nice painting spot on our lanai (that’s Hawaiian for “porch,” which is much easier to pronounce than most other words assembled from the misleadingly simple 12-letter Hawaiian alphabet).

I was quite pleased that this mudblob looked less like a random blob of mud and more like an intelligently designed blob of mud. Ellen snapped a shot of me in my lanai studio. (I’m using a larger watercolor kit here–I took both my small travel kit and this one for when I had more space.)

We found a great snorkeling spot outside of Kona—I love to snorkel where there are large varieties of coral and lots of relief in terms of coral hills and valleys. Needless to say, I painted our snorkeling experience after getting out of the water. Actually, I painted this on the way back to New Hampshire on the airplane. It was my first airplane painting attempt (as opposed to just sketching), and it worked out quite well with my tiny Winsor & Newton watercolor travel kit. The flight attendants were impressed. Endearing myself to the flight attendants is always a goal of mine on long flights.

We had a hard time leaving the pool on our last day in Hawaii, and stayed until dark. I tried to capture the palms against the dusk sky by painting a wash, letting it dry, and then outlining the palms with pen. I went over the palms several times with a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber, and where I didn’t like the effect I reinforced with more pen. One thing I need to work on is painting all the way to the edges (notice the upper right corner).

To prove how addicted I was to sketching/painting (and to underscore Ellen’s patience with me throughout the trip), I captured the thoroughly uninspiring logos of the two airlines we flew.

Finally, back at home I wanted to try my hand at another non-pen-and-ink painting. I think this is the first one I would no longer call a mudblob. (This is the Hawaiian national fish, whose name illustrates my earlier point about how 12 innocent letters can be combined in pronunciation-defying ways).

(I’ve posted my Hawaii sketchbook in its entirety in a separate post)