The excitement was palpable at Koa Gallery a few days before "The Sketchbook Show" was to open. Gallery director David Behlke and his student staff bustled quietly about, painting walls, mounting images and rearranging displays in the Kapiolani Community College space.
A visitor came in to get a preview of the show, slowly perusing page after page in book after book of the collected experiences, reflections, inspirations, experiments, plans and talents of some 45 local artists. The gallery’s quiet intensity was punctuated by exclamations of delight and awe as sketchbooks revealed the intimacies of each artist’s genius.
Esther Nowell’s sketchbook documents a trip to Asia. Mounted ticket stubs, pamphlets and photos intermingle with the artist’s journal entries and painted sketches of picturesque villages and countrysides.
Every page of Kandi Everett’s books are filled with glorious life drawings, embellished with strokes of washes that add lyricism to the quick sketches.
Duane Preble’s contributions include sketchbooks of various sizes, including a tiny pocket-size book that contains one of his favorite sketches, that of a homeless man he met in Washington, D.C. Another book contains photographs of the man and his belongings, draped with an American flag. Next to the photographs, Preble had gridded out a plan for a painting of the man.
"The magic of this show is that we get to see the point of view of each artist," says Behlke. "The audience gets to share in their private moments."
The show also sheds new light on some artists. Bernie Moriaz, known for his wildly bright sculptures crafted of found objects, reveals a reflective side in felt-pen sketches of restaurant workers busy at work in the kitchen. Behlke says Moriaz’s parents owned a French restaurant outside of West Point military academy in New York when he was growing up.
Abstract painter Debbie Young took her sketchbook to a jazz concert and came away with lively pen drawings of musicians at their instruments. One can almost see the energy of the music in the lines of her sketches.
Behlke calls the exhibit a "white-glove" show, saying visitors who carefully wash their hands will be allowed to actually turn the pages of most sketchbooks. He also plans to leave Post-It notes around the gallery so fans can write notes to the artists and stick them into the sketchbooks.
The dynamic show will undoubtedly have something for everyone to enjoy.
"It’s sort of like Christmas," Behlke says with delight.