Having flown to the island of Hawaii and hiked to the top crater of Volcanoes National Park, I realized that I was not inspired to paint the smoldering brown crater. The only other possibility for finding an iconic subject to represent this national park was to head back down the mountain to where the volcanic lava river from the crater meets the sea.
On this segment of my quest to paint each of the national parks is Mindy, my friend from Maui. We enjoyed the views as we were winding down the mountain in search of the road that the ranger told us led to an active area where hot lava was flowing into the colder ocean water.
Now at sea level again, it was a wild and wonderful adventure to take an unmarked rough jungle road out toward the area on the island where we could see lava flowing. Parking in a lot on the sand, with pop up stands created by Native Hawaiians and locals, we got out of the car to find out what our options were to get us the remaining eight miles to the sea. Far off in the distance we could see the blustering clouds of ash and steam rising up above miles of hard but still hot lava terrain. A forbidding site and it is already 86 degrees Fahrenheit standing still.
The choices of how we could get through the next eight miles were we could walk out there and back, a 16-mile hike hot-footing it all the way; riding bikes for rent; hiring horses to ride out there; or hiring a driver that could take us six miles closer to the active lava site.
We chose the local with his jeep who shared with us a lot of local knowledge. As he drove, palming the wheel to facilitate his right hand holding a beer, we heard about how these tiny 400 square foot huts that we were driving by were allowed to be built on newly hardened ocean-front lava acres. Looking at these huts, often made from scrap wood and large palms dragged from the jungle, I couldn’t imagine how their occupants slept through windy nights and felt certain the structures would never survive a storm.
We walked the remaining two miles and finally stood at the foot of the ocean and witnessed the red-hot rivers of lava crashing into the violent waves. It was a spectacular experience to behold and led me to create the charcoal drawing featured in the Dec. 10, 2017, edition, “Awe Over Earth’s Renewal.”
The drawing establishes the subject and composition. Then I paint in oils hoping to capture with color, the power and drama of this rare scene of land being born.
See Fitz Maurice’s quest paintings at nationalparkpaintings.com Glacier National Park, Montana, and the Hockaday Museum of Art, are exhibiting the National Park Paintings series this June and July.