Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, April 15, 1999

Best in Show: Yasuko Abeshima's "Light Pattern."

An artist’s world of
light and shadow


By Suzanne Tswei
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Maybe it's the Year of the Rabbit, or maybe the muses have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, the last thing Yasuko Abeshima will admit to is that she's a gifted watercolorist.

She has won yet another award. Her still life -- a play of lightand shadows through venetian blinds -- won the top award in the Hawaii Watercolor Society's 36th Annual Membership Show.

"This is good year for me -- very, very good," said Abeshima, who was born in the Year of the Rabbit 60 years ago in Sapporo, Japan.

The painting, called "Light Pattern," is more than another honor for Abeshima. It represents a 45-year journey.

As a girl of 15, Abeshima dreamed of becoming an artist. She wanted most in life to go to art school in Tokyo. The entrance exam required a charcoal rendering of a Greek statue, and Abeshima practiced drawing a Greek bust endlessly.But before she could submit her application, her worried parents persuaded her to follow a more predictable and sensible life.

"They told me, 'Yasuko, you know, artists have hard life. You will always be poor if you become artist.' To me, poor life is OK. But I couldn't go against my parents," Abeshima said.

Abeshima went onto Gakushuin University and studied French literature instead. Later she went to the University of Wyoming and earned a bachelor's degree in home economics. She married Fred Abeshima, a state highway engineer, raised two sons and a daughter in Hawaii and worked for 17 years as a customer service representative for Aloha Airlines.

"Open House" by Dr. Robert Fischl, a retired
plastic surgeon and part-time Honolulu resident, won the
Sunshine Arts & Gifts Award. The painting was inspired
by a visit to an open house in Kailua.

All the while, Abeshima thought about being able to paint again -- not just between caring for her children and working full time, but painting as much as she wanted and whenever she wanted. Ten years ago, when she turned 50 and the children were all grown, Abeshima figured it was time.

"Painting was never out of my blood. I quit my job because I don't want to work just for money. I said to myself, 'OK, now no more obligations, now you can have second life.' First life, I live for my family, my children, regular life. Second life, I live as an individual, for me."

Abeshima tried different media and found she likes watercolors best. She has become known for her realistic and richly coloredwatercolors of orchids and other tropical flowers on kimono backgrounds and for her imaginative compositions.

Abeshima has won numerous awards, including the coveted honor of being included in the collection of the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts, which purchases only the very best work from juried shows in the state.

"But I am not very good painter, yet. I have hard time, like everybody else. I have many, many bad paintings."

Abeshima has learned to make good use of unsuccessful paintings. She tears out the good parts and use them to make collages, and, much to her surprise, the state foundation bought one of those earlier this year.

As her 10-year cycle as an artist came to a close, Abeshima decided to give herself the test she never took. She dusted off that Greek bust, knowing full well that no matter how well she painted it, she would not be able to live life over again. "I just want to know if I could do it, just for me. I want to know if I am good enough for that art school."

She posed the bust in front of a row of venetian blinds as the sun poured through the slits, casting stark horizontal shadows. The painting, "Light Pattern," won the top award in the watercolor show.

"I think I have my answer. Now I am encouraged. I can go on painting. I can give myself another 10 years."


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