I have a theory that different kinds of uses of the brain stimulate it, and that helps overall creativity and problem-solving. I’ve been putting that theory to the test this year by working on my painting alongside my writing. Until today, it’s been nothing but a source of frustration.

Something readers may not know is that, roughly at the same time I began writing (age 5) I was also drawing. I have persisted with this on and off over the years, and I collect paintings. Since roughly 1999 when we moved to Maui, I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to do landscape painting, driven by some internal drive to “paint that!” I’ve taken classes, workshops, and toured many an art show—but while I could spot good art, even buy a few pieces for my collection, I couldn’t make it happen on my own canvas.

One of the artists I’ve admired from afar for years and aspired to collect (but couldn’t afford) was landscape painter Kari McCarthy. Well, this year Mike surprised me by buying one of her paintings for me, and when I went up to her studio to pick it out, we really hit it off. I expressed my artistic frustrations, and she offered—no, INSISTED—on having me come up to paint with her. I’d taken a photo while beach walking that reminded me of her work and sent it to her, and she pronounced it “Gorgeous! Deceptively simple, and actually pretty challenging.” She’d begun painting it, and as we got together today, we decided to paint the photo together so she could help me get past some of the challenges that were holding me back.

“You have the eye to see the painting, I can tell that from your photography, so don’t give up,” she told me, dark blue eyes sparkling. “We’ll do it together, step by step.”

Kari’s an elfin strawberry blonde. Her very large labradoodle, Lucy, is never far from her side, and her studio is a lovely spacious space high in the rolling meadows and dancing clouds of Kula. The showroom is filled with expansive skyscapes and mountain and ocean vistas  that make you catch your breath at the beauty of Maui. The paintings are like photographs but so much better, a unique combination of abstract realism that never fails to please the eye.  A quality of luminosity is captured in her work that has to do with exquisite use of color and light, and careful observation of nature.

We set our easels up outside, and over the course of the next six hours Kari broke me through to the next level in my painting, generously sharing tips on color theory, composition, drybrush technique and how to lay a ruler-straight horizon line. I can’t thank her enough for the encouragement and technique tips!

We both painted effective renderings of my challenging seascape, and at the end of the six hours I was just as energized as when I first began: a sure sign that my brain, and creativity, were both stimulated.

It remains to be seen if I can do another good painting on my own, but my hope is renewed. I took home a whole new appreciation for all the ways our island’s beauty can be captured and experienced, and my easel is set up again in the corner of my office once again. I plan to “take breaks” from my writing by painting in the days to come.

Pop in and check out Kari's website here and feast your eyes on her work!

Is there a creative activity you’ve struggled with for years? What keeps you trying to master it? Have “masters” lent a hand to break you out of stuck spots?

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