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By Scott Whitney
Using the techniques and sensibilities he learned from the impressionists, Hawai’i painter James Hoyle works in a new language of color and movement that exalts the visual joys of life in the islands.

Perhaps the easiest way to say it is that artist James Hoyle has become the Gauguin of Hawai’i. Trained classically at an East Coast art school, Hoyle says that he was drawn irresistibly to the islands. “Something in my past drew me to study the masters then enticed me to move to Hawai’i. I just wouldn’t stop till I got here, I sold everything and came.” That was in 1977 and, like Gauguin’s move to Tahiti, Hoyle has never regretted the decision that has fashioned his art.
Working outdoors, usually on his home island of Kaua’i, Hoyle uses specially ordered, fast-drying oil sticks that are made by the same French paint company that sold to artists like Degas and Manet a hundred years ago. Traditional oils, he says, take too long to dry and leave the paintings vulnerable to wind, rain, and the inevitable volcanic red dust. The oil sticks give the speed and fastness of pastels while still delivering the fuller colors and textures that come from oil.

Inland Sunrise Ni'ihau
“Three things make a successful painting,” he says, “color, design and movement.” These are things you may only notice in their absence. “If you look at some of the paintings produced for the visitor trade, you often see a flatness, a lack of movement that resembles black velvet paintings, or color Xeroxes. That’s because movement and texture are missing. Many of these artists have innate talent, but they missed the study of the masters that would have helped them to get a palm tree or a wave to move on the canvas.
Working over the years to perfect his techniques,
Hoyle has become not just an artist,
but a real scientist of color and light.
“Of the impressionists I liked Pizarro and Manet because they taught me how to work outside, en plein air, as the French say. I also learned a lot from Georges Seurat, who developed a very elaborate color theory, juxtaposing complementary colors like red and green that are at opposite ends of a color chart. Seurat would spend all day mixing his paints and working out the colors, then he’d paint all night by lamplight.”

Hoyle’s reputation as an artist has grown in Hawai’i over the years as his dedication to the technical perfection and his frank appreciation of tropical light and colors have created a body of work that Gauguin himself would have understood and loved.

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