Monday, October 30, 2017

Embracing the Unfamiliar



I’m sitting in the lobby of Daku Resort waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport and my next destination in Fiji. I’m headed for Tavenui for three days before a meditation retreat. Upon arriving in Fiji it felt quite like outer space; a totally unfamiliar and foreign landscape. The air was different, the sun is backwards, people drive on the wrong side of the road. My students all speak with an accent, though they told me that it’s me that speaks funny! People smile and greet you warmly, so warmly that you could be slightly suspicious that it’s somehow disingenuous or mocking.

And all that says nothing about how to paint the landscape…beautiful as it is, it’s not the Northwest, United States! It seemed daunting! How to capture the swaying movement of the palms in the wind and the water shimmering in the evening sunset? How do you paint the morning light when it feels like evening?All of this was quite disconcerting at first. Then came a beautiful and unexpected embrace. Instead of looking for differences, I looked for how I felt here. The sun, the wind, the light, all the flowers and the aromas. Fiji is so very alive that you can’t help but feel the energy that animates everything.

For me a rhythm quickly settled in; meditation, yoga, teaching, painting, sketching, swimming, meditation. My students(who came as a group of friends), quickly took in the lessons and put them to use. They are all receptive and strong women who took on the challenges of the lessons. We all worked together to make the most of the time, balancing painting rest and relaxation. There was frustration and there were breakthroughs. There was delight and there was fatigue.

We painted at a variety of locations including right on the grounds of the beautiful Daku Resort, a beach location with absolutely stunning views of the shoreline near the Jacques Costeau Preserve and in town looking out and the boats in the harbor. There was literally something for everyone and one needed only to plop oneself down to find a suitable scene to paint. `



We spent time working on thumbnails and planning out compositions. Especially challenging when painting Plein-air, but even more so when tackling an utterly different kind of expansive landscape.  We experimented with under-painting and it’s opportunity to provide a spontaneous and playful start.
We talked about Carlson’s Theory of Angles, aerial perspective, prismatic play of mark making, composition and lots more! Critiques were sprinkled in throughout the week, so as to offer some suggestions on how to proceed the following days.

Each day after intensive painting, we took a breather in the pool then enjoyed dinners on the veranda. I did some evening/sunset demos which were were finished by flashlight! This is where having your palette arranged by hue/value/saturation becomes an absolute necessity!

We even managed a delightful shopping excursion in Savusavu. We bought colorful dresses and trinkets to bring home.  The ladies in the shops going out of their way to help, pulling dresses off high racks and offering alterations on the spot.

For me a highlight of the trip was the invitation to a local village to join in their Fiji Day celebration; traditional singing, dancing, games and a Kava ceremony. We were served a homemade meal of traditional Fijian fare, then treated to a tour of the village. Although these people lead very simple lives they certainly seem happy to be living as a working community rather than individuals in isolation. It’s very inspiring and humbling…challenging my Western lifestyle.  We were pretty overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity extended to us.




I most definitely want to come back to these exquisite islands. The expansive panoramic views of the turquoise waters have me captivated. I hope I have enough photos and memories to let Fiji seep into my paintings for a long, long time.
Daku resort could not have been a more perfect venue for this kind of workshop! It’s a friendly and relaxed place. The staff or “Family” as they referred to all of us, went very far out of their way to ensure that we were having a great experience, that we were comfortable and safe. Everything was organized and communication clear and easy. Thanks you Wilma, George, Peggy, Mareha and all the family!
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