“Painted Paradise” by Diana Hansen-Young

“For the times when your art has lost direction, meaning, and color,” Hawaiian artist and writer Diana Hansen-Young offers “Painted Paradise: Life Lessons from My Hawaiian Easel” (2004). It reveals the artist’s intimate journey to revisit her “life studio,” regain her health, and reinvent her art.

The book is divided into four sections, punctuated with beautiful, vivid paintings and Hawaiian sayings with layers of meaning.

1. Ke‘ena kaha ki‘i: The Painting Studio. Step into your “life studio” again. Hansen-Young encourages us to look back on our life and inspiration, taking out old memories and emotions. She writes, “If life is a series of canvases, then we must claim our right to be the artist” (page 14). One of my favorite paintings in the book is “The Lei Maker,” a woman intently creating vibrant lei.

2. Mana‘o: Ideas. “Ideas for a new life are all around you. Your job is to observe and notice what resonates” (page 27), Hansen-Young reminds us. I love the photograph of four children and the painting “Keikis” that it inspired.

3. Ho‘okumu: Commence. “We must fill our days and nights with the sorcery of creation” (page 46), she challenges. There are two paintings of Pele that are just stunning: “Pele the Creator,” an intense woman whose body is exploding with fire and heat; and “Pele: The Beginning,” a women in movement with fire flaring out around her and from the palm of her hand.

4. Pono Hana: Tools. “Visualization is a very powerful tool for change. It’s even more powerful if you commit that visualization to paper,” Hansen-Young reflects. The most compelling example of visualization is a painting of the artist as a child, sitting next to her two young daughters under a mango tree. “I started to take care of myself as though I were my own little girl” (page 66), Hansen-Young reveals.

“Painted Paradise” is spiritual, inspirational, and sincere. It is a small, intimate book with sleek pages filled with vivid, and lyrical prose. The paintings are filled with beautiful women, warm brown skin, bare feet, bold gazes, and serene profiles.

Slip into the beauty and grace of Hawaii on Diana Hansen-Young’s website at dianahansenyoung.com. She has made all of her images available for free, generously sharing her passion and talent to use under a non-commercial Creative Commons license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dianahansenyoung.

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