Waves of Inspiration: Hawaii

It was December, 1988. My board and bag were packed, and I had just won a $500 award from the City of Laguna Beach’s public arts competition. I was ready: it was my first trip to Hawaii and I was going by myself.

Off the plane: CZ’s first visit to Hawaii 1988

Not only did adventure await, but the course of my Life would be changed forever.

It was my first encounter with the South Pacific and the power of the Hawaiian swells. I’ll never forget seeing winter waves on the North Shore of Oahu for the first time. The sheer magnitude, mass and size of the waves are awesome sights… and definitely a Force to be reckoned with.

“North Shore Blue Wave” 36″x48″

All these years later I’m finally painting waves. It has taken so long, as Life brings me around to this subject, it’s not full circle, but more like a spiral. Last year I found myself painting water, just tranquil scenes of water. In a continuation of the theme, I’m challenging myself with moving water. But it’s not simply about water in movement, in these paintings I’m making waves.

On the other side of the world a breath of wind conspired with the sea to create this wave. A wave of energy that traveled through the waters, across many thousands of miles to arrive on the North Shore of Hawaii. And there, its energy dissipated, but its beauty and majesty was captured, by my friend and North Shore Photographer Bernie Baker.

“Wall of Water” Ke-Iki Beach, Oahu

Bernie has sent me numerous photos over the years that have tantalized my creative imagination. How many times had I seen these waves, surfing Sunset Beach, Mākaha, Bali, Tahiti.. how many times had I dreamed of them. With his photographs Bernie marks their passage in time.
In these paintings I’m not wanting to copy Bernie’s gifted and talented eye, or recreate his master photography with paint. Bernie has kindly let me use his images  as stepping stones of inspiration, and it’s been a fun and wonder-filled collaboration.

Queen’s

With these paintings I am able to reflect on my time spent in Hawaii….

Secret Spot, Lanai

The countless trips in Search of Surf…

“Yellow Hibiscus” 11″x14″

The precious times spent on the West Side with the people of Mākaha.

Yvon Chouinard, Rell Sunn, Sam George, Caroline Zimmermann
Mākaha, 1992

My incredible fortune to have befriended their “Queen”, Rell Sunn.

“Mākaha Red Hibiscus” 11″x14″

The Westside was magical, and drew me back time and time again.

“Mākaha Palm” oil painting 1995

Not just for the fabulous waves and beautiful views, but to spend time in the company of Rell.

CZ with Mākaha Royalty

Rell truly was Mākaha royalty, but in true Hawaiian Style, she held court in the most generous and big hearted way. She welcomed us, haole and outsiders, with open arms and open house.

Rell Sunn and the Westside Wahine
1994

Surfing Mākaha with the Wahine….the girls. I’d never surfed a spot where women made up 50% of the lineup, and at a serious break like Mākaha, the waves were not for the faint at heart. Somehow, with time and Rell’s benevolent graces, I was accepted.

photo: Bernie Baker

Over the course of four years I surfed some of the best waves of my Life, there at Mākaha.

“Mākaha” oil painting 1994

Truly, one of the greatest gifts my Life has given me was the time I spent with Rell.

CZ & Rell Sunn, Lanai

Rell’s death in 1998 from cancer left a huge gaping hole in all our lives. With the passing years I’ve been able to fill that emptiness with all the goodness and beauty in Surfing and the Sea.

“Plumeria for Rell” 1998

Every plumeria I paint, every hibiscus, and now every wave is an homage to Rell…

“Little Hula Heaven” oil painting 1998

Ka-polioka’ehukai: Heart of the Sea.

photo Dennis Oda
1983 Star-Bulletin photo of Rell Sunn.

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