Hawaii is not just a place, it’s a way of life, and on the North Shore of the main island of Oahu you quickly fall in love with the relaxed, sunny, surftastic lifestyle. It was here, whilst on my quest to find out about Hawaii’s furniture industry that I came across a gallery were they specialized in surf art and I was immediately drawn to the work of artist Heather Brown. Her work, full of life and colour, opened my eyes to a world where her optimistic talent shows a simplified representation of the nature and environment which surround her.
Heather Brown, the internationally famous and successful artist is now, like the continual breaking waves and the surf culture, part of Hawaii. I was extremely privileged to have a moment of her time, the following interview should be read with caution as you too will quickly become seduced by her work!!
Can you tell me a little about yourself – growing up, how long you have lived in Hawaii?
I was born and raised in Southern California. My family had a lot of artists and artisans in it so when I was growing up I was always creating art in so many different types of mediums and was always immersed in it whether it be making it or watching my family market and sell it. I moved to Hawaii in 1999.
At what stage in your life did you decide to become an artist? What inspired you to become an artist? Was it a childhood dream?
I had always created art since before I could remember, but I guess I never considered it a “career” or that I was an “Artist” until I moved to Hawai’i. I was just surrounded by so much beauty everywhere I looked and felt that I needed to try and capture it in some way, to always hold on to it and share with people because it made me so happy. I was hoping in sharing it I could make others happy too. I was working as a boat captain and dive master on the North Shore of Oahu and creating art all night long that I would sell on Ebay and stuff like that, then one day I woke up and just decided to take the plunge, quit my other jobs and go for it full time.
Did you study art at school/university? If yes, did it influence your style or open your eyes to a certain way of working?
Yes, I attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa on Oahu and received my bachelors in fine arts from them. When I was in school I was focusing on print making (serigraph, linocut, wood block, intaglio), without attending school and without the access to the great art labs, equipment and materials I would have never been able to make the work that I wanted to. So, I think art school had a huge influence on me. I also had some really great professors that opened my mind at that time to colour which has obviously been a huge part in my art.
Do you have someone in your family or a good friend who is an artist or who encouraged you to become an artist?
I grew up with many artists in my family and I always had positive support in my life to do the things that made me happy.
How would you describe your style? Has it evolved since you started? What inspires you?
My style is best described by looking at my work I think. A lot of people tell me “it looks just like stained glass” or a lot of art aficionados see the link between my print making background and the paintings I do (I still do a lot of print making and even recently held a sold out show with just linocuts, serigraphs and wood block prints).
I guess if I were to describe my style in one sentence it would be Idealistic art that makes you smile and your heart fill with happiness. My style is definitely evolving, I started much more cubist I think and through the years of painting often 10-12 hours a day 6-7 days a week I have slowly been refining certain aspects. I am totally inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds me and now the great fan’s and people’s stories about how they have been connecting with my art.
Your work is very colourful, cheerful and optimistic; does it represent your character?
I think so, I try to never have any bad days and I just want everyone to be smiling and happy all the time.
Your work is very influenced by Hawaii, the ocean and surfing, do you think that if you lived elsewhere you would change your subject?
I would guess so, but when I am at my studio in the mountains of Colorado for a few months each year, I still find myself painting tropical sceneries along with more mountain influenced art as well.
How important is it to your work and to you to live in Hawaii?
Hawai’i has made me the artist that I am today, it is extremely important to me as to me Hawai’i is the most beautiful place on earth, every day I am here I love it more and more.
What is special about Hawaii to you?
Everything about Hawai’i is special to me, it started out when I first moved as just the constant great warm surf, then the flora and fauna, then the people, then the lifestyle, now it is just a huge combination of all the above. Hawai’i is where my heart and soul feel most at home and it is a great feeling to wake up that way each day!
Do you surf? If yes, how often and what is your level (Waikiki beginner or North Shore warrior)?
Yes I surf, mostly longboards. I love to surf all over the Island from Waikiki to the North Shore (but I am not charging pipeline or anything like that). I like to surf fun mellow waves and cruise on my longboard with grace.
How do you feel when you sell a piece of work?
I remember some of my early sales from when I really jumped in full time and it was incredible, I still to this day am so excited and almost shocked each time someone buys my art, for me it just makes me so happy that my art can bring smiles to peoples faces and have some sort of connection with them, it is really a great feeling.
If tomorrow there was a world shortage of paint what other job would you like to do?
I have always wanted to work with animals, but I would probably figure out a way to still create other art!
Who is your favourite artist/designer? Do you have a favourite painting or piece of furniture (which you own)?
I have so many favourite artists and designers, so many great new designers pop up all the time. I really like seeing artists and designers that are using new mediums and solving little problems with design. My husband just got me a Tim Biskup piece for my birthday, and it is my current favorite piece.
Do you produce your work, like waiting for a bus where after a wait 3 ideas come along at once or are you lucky enough to have a constant flow of new ideas?
I am actually painting right now for 4 shows in Japan at the end of April and then a 3 week Japan tour in late may. We produce everything we make at of our studio on the North Shore of Oahu. I feel like I am so back logged on ideas from the past years, I just can’t create enough art fast enough to get all my ideas out, I feel blessed in that regards for sure.
What does the future hold for Heather Brown? Any big exciting plans in the pipeline? Exhibitions?
My touring schedule is pretty full for the upcoming 18 months so a lot of travelling and creating new bodies of work which is always super fun. We are working on a few really exciting new endeavors that will be surfacing within the next 12 months or so that I am really stoked about, but can not tell you the details yet!
- Facebook:Heather Brown Surf Art
- Twitter: HeatherBrownArt
- Instagram: HeatherBrownArt
A big thank you to Heather and good luck for her upcoming tours.