Maile Ilima Lei #7

Smoothing and drama in the lighting is next using many of the greens, Sap Green, Hookers Green, Thalo Green, Viridian along with New Gambouge and Orange.

I put washes followed by darker greens for the vein in the middle of the leaf.

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Maile Ilima Lei #6

Looking at it from afar I see that the orange of the ilima lei is standing out too much, making it seem kind of foreign and way too obvious.

I decide to put some of the orange reflected into the green of the leaves. A light wash is added to selected leaves which brings them together nicely. Yep yep yep.

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Maile Ilima Lei #5

Now for some work on the ilima, she needs to show her orange colors and paper stacked blossoms in a rope. I slowly add Pyrrol Orange lines of the ellipse shapes from the blossoms stacked close together on the thread. The ilima lei is now beginning to look 3D.

Next, I add where the light is hitting by darkening the shadowed side of the rope. Adding Vermillion to the Pyrrol Orange the darker sides are accentuated. Just adding shadow sides and a few little lines can really make a difference.The leaves look kind of washed out don’t they?

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Maile Ilima Lei #3

I have to frequently step back and get a new perspective, to see what things really look like, every once in a while. Looking at only a little of the image done, you can see a definite change! Using just the two colors is definitely making the leis appear as though they are no longer flat. Isn’t it amazing?

This is a progressive process… just keep going till done with the first round of washes.Project for

Maile Ilima Lei #2

The initial sketch is drawn in pencil and it really needs to have some 3D. It looks so flat. The way I accomplish this depth is to show where the light is in the painting.

Where is the light? I choose a light source coming down and hitting the objects from the top left corner of the painting down to the bottom right corner. As I apply light watercolor washes I look at each object in the drawing and decide where the light would hit first to find my highlighted area. I see parts of the object further from the light and that will be my medium tones. Last, I figure out where shadows will be cast from the object. Where is the light being blocked? This is where I put my darkest colors.

I like to paint from left to right if possible because I am right handed. If I start on the right side of the painting and move to the left, I will invariably drag my hand over wet areas and mess things up. I use a New Gamboge wash to give a golden yellow color to the ilima strand establishing it as a different subject so I don’t mistake it for leaves later on.

Systematically, I highlight the leading edge of each leaf, then quickly lay some sap green into the medium tone area letting the paint do its magical watercolor mix thing in between.

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Maile Ilima Lei #1

I have a wonderful client who hires me to paint tropical flowers and leis in watercolor. She is a dream to work for.

Paint a maile lei with an ilima strand twisted around it for a wedding invitation.

I am really lucky to have grown up in Hawaii making real flower lei’s all the time with my friends. This second image is not a lei made with real flowers.

My friends and I started making lei’s together in elementary school and I still do, and I am a “Tutu” (Grandma) now. I used to enter the “May Day” lei making contest at the State Capital in high school and once I won the honorable mention. Having beautiful fragrant flowers in your hands for hours is hypnotic and lei making is a most relaxing and beautiful craft of aloha.


realistically colorful yet surreal