Connie J. Adams, lauded as one of Maui's premier artists, is being remembered as a watercolor master who was bold and brave enough to try new things, yet compassionate and gentle in her work and in instructing adults and children.
"One thing that made Connie stand out from other artists here on Maui is that she was unafraid to keep her artwork fresh and new," wrote friend and art quilter Kathleen Kastles of Waiehu. "A skilled watercolorist, she did not hesitate to go in new directions, to try new techniques, to master new materials. She kept experimenting and growing as an artist. You could look at one of her new paintings and not recognize it as hers - she had taken her work in a different direction to keep it as original as she was."
Adams died in a car crash on New Year's Day. And she left others in the Maui art community saddened.
Connie J. Adams
This watercolor painting titled “Yapese Cross” was a much-discussed work of the late Connie J. Adams, said her husband, Marc Scott. Her skill with this painting made her a member of the American Watercolor Society.
Scott family photo
Caroline Killhour, executive director of Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao, said: "Connie was a huge part of the Hui's story, having worked as one of our core teaching artists for 11 years, regularly exhibiting her beautiful paintings in our community exhibitions and supporting the Hui as an arts advocate. We are deeply saddened to learn of her passing and remain forever thankful to her for her great contributions to Maui arts and culture."
Adams, 61, of Haiku, also known as Constance Scott, was a signature member of both the national and Hawaii watercolor societies as well as a member of the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center. The award-winning artist has had her watercolor art displayed all over the world.
The New Year's Day crash that claimed her life happened as she and her husband, Marc Scott, 64, collided with a truck at the intersection of Kahului Beach Road and Wahine Pio Avenue, police said.
The collision occurred when the Toyota Camry the couple was riding in attempted to turn left onto Wahine Pio Avenue from Kahului Beach Road, police said. The Camry collided with the truck traveling in the opposite direction. Adams had been riding in the passenger seat while Scott was driving, police said.
Scott said he and his wife had been headed to an event at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
A celebration of life will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Hui. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that people consider a donation in memory of Connie to the National Endowment for the Arts at nea.gov or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at aspca.org.
"I feel her loss every day," Scott said.
He said he suffered minor injuries in the crash.
Through tears, Scott said the greatest gift Adams gave him was the chance to see the world as she did - through an artist's eyes.
"I think it's a great gift to see the world in that light," he said.
Scott said Adams, his wife of 25 years, was a very positive person and "had a knack of keeping conversations light."
"She could put people at ease when that was important. She could intellectually stimulate them when it was important. She had a lot of qualities many don't have," he said.
The couple met while she was a nurse and he was a respiratory therapist at a San Francisco Bay Area hospital in the 1980s. Adams worked the night shift while attending the California College of Art in Oakland, where she earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts in printmaking with distinction in 1984.
Scott said Adams came from a family of artists. They knew how tough it could be to make a living as an artist, so they "gently" pushed Adams to a service career, he said.
"But she was an artist at heart," Scott said, adding that Adams was a compassionate nurse.
The two married in 1986, and moved to Saipan in 1991, for a job Scott landed.
Adams was pleased because, as Scott said, at that time he was interested in living in the tropics. She took up her art and teaching in Saipan.
Later, the two moved to Baltimore, where Adams earned a Master of Fine Arts in painting while attending the master's program at Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Scott said the two still wanted to live the island life, so they moved to Maui in 2001. They came to Maui from Baltimore the first day airports opened after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
On Maui, Adams had taught at the Hui and Seabury Hall and was also an instructor at University of Hawaii Maui College.
Kastles, who does watercolor paintings on her quilts, said Adams had a way of making her students feel comfortable with watercolor, which is a "notoriously difficult medium" because it can get "muddied very fast," and it's hard to control something so watery.
"It takes a lifetime to master, and Connie was a master. She demystified it," she said.
Kastles said Adams taught her grandson watercolor at Seabury Hall years earlier.
"She opened him up, when they were all tight and they had to have things done a certain way," she said.
Kastles recalled that at the Hui, Adams hung the portraits that her students had painted on the wall and critiqued them in front of the class.
"Somehow she was so graceful and gentle and patient and encouraging," Kastles said.
She added that Adams had a way to critique her students' work and help them make changes while also making them feel special.
Adams had her own artwork displayed and sold at various galleries around the island and on Oahu.
She currently has her artwork featured at the Viewpoints Gallery in Makawao.
Friend and artist Jim Bauer, who was at the gallery last week, called her work "beautiful, just like her."
"She was very friendly and willing to help everyone," he said.
He added that many of her paintings featured flowers and plants.
On her website, Adams said: "Botany is my muse. It provides me with enough variation of shape, form, color and line to explore until my last days."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.