It may be surprising to some of you but I didn't paint very much in Hawaii. I have a degree in mathematics which, sadly, required no art classes. I did take a few classes in painting, design, and color but just a few. At the time I planned to get an undergraduate degree in math and go on to graduate work in oceanography. That didn't work out, but it wasn't a bad plan.
The class that most helped me develop as an artist wasn't a university class. It was a small class in watercolor and we traveled to a different site every weekend and painted on site.
Now, in general and definitely in theory I am opposed to this. Painting watercolors outdoors is nuts. There are bugs, and wind, and rain to name just a few of the possible hazards that can completely ruin a watercolor. Watercolors are fragile - you can ruin a painting with your own fingerprints if you handle it without washing your hands.
But horrible as the idea seemed, I loved this class. It didn't help me produce many paintings that I considered to be good. It did help me to connect with the place I was painting and thus connect with the painting itself. This is important for me. I have traveled a fair amount now and I have a lot of great photos. I can paint from photos. . . but I don't have a strong connection with places I have only visited. That connection takes time to develop. This also helped me find my inner voice - a sort of intuition while I paint. I can be very logical and organized - which can be useful even in painting and particularly in watercolor. In watercolor the mistakes can be hard to correct and can't be painted over. You can incorporate them or start again. But an inner voice is what makes the painting your own - you choose to paint what has a special meaning for you. This means you don't see it exactly the same way someone else will. The painting may allow others to see what you see.
One of my very first paintings is of the hill behind my dorm. I would see it every day as I headed home. It symbolized the new home to me - the home in Manoa valley. When I saw it as I walked home I often thought of this song:
"I lift my eyes to the quiet hills, in the press of a busy day
as green hills stand, in a dusty land, so God is my strength and stay."
These are a few other paintings from that time:
The first one - the water lilies - I was very pleased with at the time. I feel I've improved significantly since them. The second one I had completely forgotten about but I like it. The third one I didn't like when I painted it and I don't like it now. But I do like the expressiveness of it - the freeness of the brush strokes and the boldness of the color choices. Those particular mountains were fierce and exciting and the painting shows that.
It was a really great class.