Orange Paint

The New Year stretches before us with such exciting possibility; I love that thought of a blank canvas just waiting to be splattered with the colors of our latest adventures. A cliché metaphor you’ve heard before I’m sure, but one which recently came alive for me.

I was at a kani ‘ai ka pila (backyard or beach-style dinner with local music) at Kane‘ohe on O‘ahu, and a painter was part of the evening’s ‘ohana celebrating the event with us. He had a huge canvas (about 4’ x 6’) propped up next to a table with an assortment of painter’s palettes and brushes —to share. We were all invited to pick up a brush, dabble in any color we wished to, and add our own strokes to the canvas. He started our ‘ohana painting as the party began, with the palest grey stroked in swirls and fanciful airy patterns. It was beautiful just in its merest beginnings, with nothing but shades of grey, grey-blues, and grey-blacks on the cream-colored canvas, and as I watched him I was mesmerized by how much he could do with so little color. He’d often stop and invite us to join in, but no one wanted to spoil what he alone was creating.

The brave one who picked up the first brush went straight for the brightest color on a palette; a vibrant, rich orange. The brush she chose was wide and fat, and she smothered its bristles with the orange paint, using it more like spoon than brush.

When she walked up to the canvas there was no hesitation at all; she brandished that brush with a fierce determination, and I couldn’t help sucking in my breath in alarm imagining the damage she’d do to his very gentle, delicate beginnings. Sure enough, her playful orange ripple smeared over most of the 6’ length along the bottom of the frame, whether he had already painted there or not. It was easy to imagine her strokes as the burning orange licks of a flame, but she kept it at the canvas’s base. It was all she could reach; our brave leader was three years old.

The painter? He was delighted! He stepped back to watch her with the most victorious smile on his face, and he gleefully encouraged her to milk every drop of orange out of that brush.

Are you wondering how that canvas came out in our kani ‘ai ka pila? We tentative, far too inhibited adults eventually did pick up brushes and decide on the colors we would add to the canvas too. Truthfully, we became emboldened more by a beer or two versus the child-sure confidence our young leader displayed with her orange-bathed brush. A picture of our combined artistry did emerge, and today it hangs in the home of our hostess that evening, a beautiful reminder of what an ‘ohana can create when they choose to lend their aloha to creativity’s expression.

Hiki no;
can do! Choose your colors this year. Be brave and share your stories for future editions of my newsletter, for we’d all love to hear about them!

Ka lā hiki ola.
It is the dawning of a new day, and it’s your day. Make it your best one ever.

Me ke aloha, a hui hou,


PostScript: The painter was the wonderful Solomon Enos, who illustrated Akua Hawai‘i.   You can see his art at his stunning website gallery.

Solomon was brilliant in the way he gently painted a blending of all our contributions to that canvas. When the evening was over, his gentle blue-grey swirls had totally disappeared, covered with a newer, different, layered beauty. Still, those of us who participated in the making of the art, will always be able to still see them there when we visit our hostess’s home, “seeing it” with the knowledge they cradle all we added.

More about Solomon in an article by Honolulu Weekly:

Planet Enos;
The artist from Wai‘anae creates his own reality, painting and thinking his way to a better Hawai‘i

Performance art is like recess—“an opportunity to have fun”—in Enos’s syllabus of work. This evening he’s experimenting with animation. In three hours, he draws more than 150 frames. Every so often, he stops to evaluate his progress, makes a face and continues. With a click of the mouse, the abstract drawings come to life: a friendly, upside-down skull grows a tail and becomes an amoeba-like stingray that swells into a balloon and then shrinks to a navel orange.