A new approach to vacation photos

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Don Tudor and Cully Kistler were giddy Tuesday afternoon while preparing for tonight's opening. They were, as they say, having too much fun.

They took photos of themselves under a blow-up palm tree -- Tudor playing the ukulele and Kistler, in a grass skirt and coconut bra, gazing up at him. The couple was setting the stage for tonight's Hawaiian-themed opening of an exhibit of Kistler's new oil paintings, inspired by a trip she took last fall.

The first 25 people to arrive at the opening will receive leis. There will be hula lessons, Hawaiian inspired appetizers and possible ukulele solos.

When most people return from vacation, they drop their photos off to be developed. They bore their friends for a while with those photos before eventually dumping them in a box with promises of someday putting them in an album.

Instead, Kistler was able to use her talents as a painter to turn her best photos into art when she returned from Hawaii last October.

She photographed some coastal landscapes, but her eye for architecture, shape and form led her camera to less traditional imagery.

"St. Raphael" is a painting of a Catholic mission built in 1841. Kistler saw a small sign at the side of the road that she followed to the abandoned church. The roof is gone, and the thick walls are crumbling, but Kistler saw beauty in the ruins.

She painted a few other buildings she found on the islands -- an old Salvation Army building that is now a dress shop, a church that has been converted to a shopping plaza.

Among the 15 paintings on display this weekend, there is only one portrait. "Lei Maker" is a painting of a small Hawaiian girl Kistler saw on the side of the road.

"I knew I had to paint her," she said. "I flipped the car around and bought a couple leis from her. Her parents were sleeping in the car while she worked."

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