A Portrait of Hawaii

Pineapple Painting Tours helps clients find the artist within

By: Marty Wentzel

With Pineapple Painting Tours, clients don’t stop to smell the roses; they stop to paint a picture. But the end result is the same, as visitors take the time to appreciate the beauty of Hawaii’s nature through art.

Professional artists Linda Kane and Jinni Mitchell run the creative company. Kane is an established professor at the University of Hawaii, while Mitchell who took her first painting class with Kane is an award-winning artist whose skills also include sculpture and jewelry. As the two became friends, they started talking about how to parlay their love of painting into a profitable business, moving away from academics and toward tourism. After months of fine-tuning their ideas, they started Pineapple Painting Tours in May of 2005. Today, it’s the only company of its kind in Hawaii.

I joined the duo for one of their morning sessions at Honolulu’s Magic Island, which provides classic views of Diamond Head. Kane and Mitchell explained how they make their tours accessible to everyone, from beginners to practiced artists. It starts with the tools, said Mitchell.

“Working with high-quality materials makes a huge difference in watercolor,” she said. “Even if you’ve never painted, you get a beautiful end result.”
Each of us used a Russian squirrel brush
, chosen because it holds a lot of water and comes to an amazingly sharp point; and French cold press watercolor paper, which feels at once durable and luxurious. Participants worked on self-centering tripod easels, on top of which sat our pochade (wooden box) holding a watercolor tray, extra paints and brushes, water and paper.
Donning aprons, we primed our paper with a wet brush and began our excursions into plein air (outdoor) painting, well-suited to Hawaii’s climate. Luckily, each participant had a cut-out of Diamond Head’s distinctive profile to trace around, if they desired.
“It’s not cheating,” Mitchell explained. “It simply relieves non-artists of the pressure to create that line.”

From there, we began interpreting the scene however we wanted, while our gurus gave us personalized attention. Kane and Mitchell provided tips for putting the watercolors to their best use. They showed us different techniques, like dabbing a paper towel on wet paint to lighten or soften hues, and using strokes of different colors for texture and movement.

I’ve looked at Diamond Head hundreds of times, but during the painting class, I noticed for the first time just how quickly the light changed, altering the look of the volcano and the landscape around it. That’s why Kane hopes clients will take the tour at the beginning of their visit to Oahu.

“Painting helps you relax, slow down and look at nature more clearly than you would normally,” she said. “We’re sharing our love of the great outdoors. Sometimes we hear back from clients who say they picked up more watercolor materials

after going on our tour and continued painting throughout the rest of their vacation.”

As we painted, Mitchell handed out snacks: fresh-baked blueberry scones, ice coffee, bottled water and pineapple chunks. Her Pomeranian, Trouser, browsed the group, ready for pats. Taking a break, fellow artists compared artworks, delighted over how different each perception varied from the next.

Clients can also book Pineapple Painting Tours’ excursion to a hibiscus farm on the North Shore. Each participant picks a flower to paint while sitting under a mango tree, followed by lunch at Wailua Bakery, a local favorite.

Along with their two standard tours, Kane and Mitchell can customize sessions for individuals and groups, such as executives who need an artistic break between meetings.

“We have equipment for up to 30 people,” said Kane, “but we like to keep the tours smaller and more intimate, so that people can meet each other and chat while they’re painting.”

Agents will do well to pitch Pineapple Painting Tours to nature lovers, retirees, return visitors and less physically active travelers.
At the end of the morning, Kane and Mitchell provided protective sleeves for our masterpieces, each a one-of-a-kind vacation souvenir. My panoramic Diamond Head watercolor now sits on my desk, reminding me of a relaxing and eye-opening morning of painting in paradise.

Pineapple Painting Tours
91-1000 Uouoa St.
Ewa Beach, HI 96706

The four-hour Diamond Head painting class is offered daily at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The rate of $99 per person includes transportation from area hotels, supplies and snacks. The six-hour North Shore hibiscus painting tour costs $145 per person, including transportation, supplies and lunch.

Clients can meet the artists behind Pineapple Painting Tours by painting with them in the lobby of the Outrigger Waikiki. On the second Monday of each month from 2-3 p.m., they run a program called Postcards From Paradise, free for hotel guests.

Commission: 10-30 percent