Plein-air artists paint up a storm in Lanai contest


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

You couldn't go anywhere on Lanai this week without tripping over an artist. Painter Mike Carroll, who came to Lanai from Chicago nine years ago, intending to stay two, organized a Lanai painting expedition for seven plein-air painters from all over the islands and the mainland.

Carroll himself set up on the Hotel Lanai lawn to paint a plantation cottage across the street. “;Great shapes and colors,”; he insisted. Fifty yards away Saim Caglayan of Kauai painted a street scene. If you drove down to Manele Bay, there was award-winning California painter Randy Sexton making the tide pools come alive on canvas.

At Fifth and Jacaranda, Kalihi-based painter Mark Brown was painting side by side with his buddy, Billyo O'Donnell, who's famous for having done a plein-air painting in all 114 counties in Missouri. The two had spotted a Lanai resident mending a fishing net and whipped out their oils.

Apparently, paint-offs like this are not uncommon. “;Some of the paint-offs on the mainland have 50 artists and are real competitive, because they name a Best of Show,”; said Brown. “;This one's not like that. We're just having a great time together.”;


A Dog's Life

Spent most of the week on Lanai, where Honolulu's Mary Charles and Tom Kiely have bought and renovated the tiny Hotel Lanai. It's never looked better in its 85-year history.

Charles and Kiely have a home on Lanai and commute back and forth from Oahu, with their golden retriever, Sebastian.

Sebastian's 70 pounds, too big for a regular airline, so he travels as air freight. Is he OK being freight? “;Coming over, he's fine,”; said Kiely. “;But just try to get him to go back to Oahu.”;


Fun in the Mud

The stunning Munro Trail, the dirt road across Lanai's ridgeline, was muddy and wet after last week's storm.

“;I'll drive you if we can make it,”; said Brian Plunkett, conservation manager for Castle & Cooke, who piled us in his truck with his dog Pono. “;If we get to the summit, we can always slide all the way back down. Long as we stay on the road, of course.”;

Plunkett, who grew up in Hauula, loves off-roading (we made it), hunting, fishing and hiking. “;People come and say there's nothing to do over here,”; he said. “;You know what's wrong with them? They're mall people.”;


Keep Gutierrez in Town

At a holiday party at Dragon Upstairs last weekend, KITV's Ben Gutierrez borrowed the piano and launched into an Elton John medley, with Pacific Business News' Chad Blair and local socialite/fashion plate/actor/PR guy Lance Rae singing chorus.

Gutierrez was ebullient for a guy who'd been told he'd be replaced as KITV's morning weather anchor at year's end. Says he, “;The unofficial line is that I am nameless corporate jetsam on stormy economic seas.”;

He's looking for a job, in news if not broadcasting, and since he's one of the most multitalented guys in town, could someone please find him one soon?


Singing Kapahulu Blues

On Stage Drinks and Grinds is just a Kapahulu Avenue bar - pool tables, video machines. A dozen or so customers clustered around the stage last weekend, raptly listening to Friends of Adam.

The group, led by guitarist Clay Campania, plays mainly for tips. “;We get a small percentage off the bar, but this isn't really a place we play for money,”; says Campania. “;When we started out, this was the only place that would take us. It's a loyalty thing.”;

The trio (Ernie Ecraela on bass, Justin Inocelda on drums) plays blues. When Campania picks up his Mexican Telecaster, he channels Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Blues in the land of slack key? “;My dad told me, 'Nobody wants to hear that music here,'”; says Campania. “;But I'm going to play what touches me.”;

Play he does. If you like your blues hard and electric, you might look for these guys. Midway through the set, Campania asks, “;Are we loud enough? Should we turn it up?”; Everyone in the audience yelled yes.


The Best Christmas Party

Among the blitz of holiday parties was one for the residents of Next Step, the “;temporary”; homeless shelter in a converted Kakaako warehouse.

It was a pretty good party - dinner, desserts, kids crafts, photos with Santa, presents for the kids, goodie bags for the adults.

I was among the volunteers, about two dozen of them. The residents, for good reason, don't like to feel that they are on display, so there's little mingling.

I lucked into two of the best jobs at the party, first reading to the kids, especially one 7-year old girl who was too reticent to tell me her name, while her 17-month old sister crawled all over us.

An even better job was scooping up cups of the chocolate ice cream donated by Jason Kim of Haagen-Dazs. Nobody dislikes the guy with chocolate ice cream.

The people we were serving are pretty much like you and me. Although a few seemed as if they'd made some bad decisions in taking care of themselves, many seemed like folks you might meet in the aisles of Safeway if things had broken better for them.

When Santa started passing out the gifts we'd all brought, I learned the name of the girl to whom I'd been reading, Tiare. I was glad I'd gone to the Disney Store and loaded up on stuffed Mickey Mouses and various dolls. Tiare got the giant Cinderella doll. After a quick snap with Santa, she disappeared to the back of the warehouse. Hope you liked it, dear.


John Heckathorn is editor of Hawaii Magazine and director of integratedmedia for the aio Group.