Painting PLUMERIA memories can be accomplished if you have enough memories stored away to work from in your mind. Lately, I’ve been doing watercolor paintings of flowers that I used to make lei’s of where I grew up in Kaneohe (Kahalu’u), Hawaii. It is funny cause I start from looking at various photographs from the client and before I know it, I am just painting the colors and textures that I remember. I can almost see and smell a flower in my hands and these memories seem to guide my brush.
Right after I finished my client’s piece, I started on my own plumeria memories for a favorite family member’s birthday coming up. She and I made many lei’s together. Starting with multiple sketches of flowers until I arrive at an arrangement that suits me.
The plumeria tree has big pointed dark green leaves, and produces a thick stem that branches out to multiple pods, creating a bunch of blossoms. The plumeria is a 5 petal flower with pointed ends spreading out in an equal circular fashion. It has a sturdy tube constructed from it’s petals-creating an easy to string tube stem that begins as a cone shape coming down from the blossom consolidating into a smaller diameter to where it anchors onto the tree. While picking, you have to take care to keep the milky sap off of yourself. It really is poisonous but honestly, I have never known anyone stupid (lo lo) enough to eat that yucky tasting stuff. I remember doing the “wash your hands” thing right after picking or lei making cause it was so sticky and tasted quite vile (pilau) if you ate something and licked your fingers.
Youth FULL OF Lei Making
In elementary school the designs were fun and simple, but in high school serious designs were done to enter the May Day Lei Making contest at the state capitol. Lei making is truly an art and many Hawaiians excell at creating gorgeous and fragrant creations that are a joy to see and wear. My favorite lei is still the puakinikini for it’s wonderful sweet fragrance, it is almost a magical entrancing aroma.
We had large plumeria trees lining the dirt road in the front of our house and people used to come and knock on our door to ask permission to pick. Those trees provided the whole neighborhood with an abundance of blooming treasures to create with and me with a lifetime of painting plumerias from memory.
There was a great big one that had thick white petals with bright yellow centers and a truly heavenly perfume and the thick petals allowed it to last the longest in a lei. Right next to it was a established old tree with blossoms that had a more slender and thinner type of petal with brilliant pinks and the yellow center, it had not so sweet or heavy of a fragrance and didn’t last quite as long.
The only color missing was the dark red, at our house so I got a branch from a friend to plant in the back yard. With careful planting, watering and care, it took off and grew into a beautiful tree right in the guava orchard in the back yard. It took a couple of years before it was big enough to supply “a grocery sack-full” of flowers to work with, but even with little amounts of the dark reds some really interesting patterns and designs in our lei making came from them.
More posts like this are under the category of “Watercolors“.