It's a fortunate individual who has a passion and the support needed to pursue it. If Darrell Orwig was given to pasting bumper stickers on his truck, there would be three - "I'd rather be sailing," "I'd rather be riding a horse" and "I'd rather be painting."
That doesn't cover all of his interests. His wife, Mary, and a phalanx of friends are equally important. "If I could trade all my friends in for cash, I could pay off the national debt," he said.
Anyone who has been involved in Maui's art scene for any length of time knows Darrell, his work and his unflagging sense of whimsy and humor displayed by his "shoe-box" constructions.
The Orwig home-studio-office is behind a brown board fence on the edge of Makawao. The sound of a motorcycle brings out Darrell. He's moving slowly but has a smile and a warm greeting for the visitor. His unlined face belies his 69 years.
A small front yard is dominated by a life-sized wooden horse with a realistic head. "I throw my saddle on it and practice getting on and off," he says. "I'm afraid he's about to lose an ear." On the porch, an orange cat dozes. He opens his eyes and submits to being petted. "He must like you. Normally, he takes off."
Inside, Mary emerges from her office where she works as a certified public accountant. A friendly greeting is followed by "You can sit over there," motioning toward a table. Her smile matches Darrell's. She heads back to her job.
The place is a homey art gallery. Every wall is covered with Darrell's paintings. Each warrants close examination. Each includes subtle surprises and hints at something more than can be seen. While grinding up a pot of coffee, Darrell talks about how various paintings came to be. In a hallway is a portrait of a high school friend. The face reflects friendship and a decades-long struggle with the aftermath of Vietnam combat. He's the one who introduced Darrell to horseback riding.
Darrell began painting as a kid. "I've been into realism from the get-go," he says. That includes a tour as a combat artist for the Coast Guard during Operation Desert Storm. He says he's "gone beyond decorative art" and is avoiding "the pressure to sell." He's had numerous shows and has work hanging in Oahu galleries. Mostly, he sells via word of mouth.
Eight years ago, Darrell was told he has Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. "I'm dealing with it head-on." Medications are "on the low range of dosage. I don't know what it will be like in 10 years."
He's turned the disease into motivation. "I don't want to end up in a basket with nothing done." No self-pity. His art, horses and sailing his 16-foot, sloop-rigged pocket cruiser named "Annie" are part of "my therapy. You have to be up and alert." He grins while talking about riding a horse at full gallop or "sailing on a screaming reach. They are freeing experiences."
Recent adventures have included pack trips with an Apache guide. "I dreamed of riding across the Great Plains. Then I discovered it was chopped up by fences." He's been back to the Gila Mountains in New Mexico several times. That sort of thing "is what keeps me going. I'll continue until I can't do it anymore."
Darrell has ridden on service trips into the crater with his son, a National Park ranger who was born while the Orwigs lived at Kaluanui. As a caretaker and artist in residence, Darrell did what was needed to make the weed-choked, neglected place home for Hui No'eau. The son, Stephen, daughter-in-law, Piper, and grandson, Graeme, live nearby.
Darrell leads the way down a flight of stairs to his two-room studio. The first has a fleet of airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Some are radio-controlled. There are work-littered benches on three sides. Later, he would flip through his working sketchbook, pointing out trail-ride images.
The next room is dominated by a large biplane Darrell built from scratch, right down to shaping shiny metal details on the engine and creating people in the cabin. It's red and appears in several landscapes hanging on the wall. "The first time it flies is thrilling. After that, you worry about it crashing."
There's a long painting of a midnight locomotive. The speed and power of the massive machine is obvious - an apt representation of passion, the driving force in Darrell Orwig's life. He didn't say.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.