You would never guess from Hula’s teenage affinity for tagging abandoned couches in his hometown on Oahu, Hawaii that he would someday become the thriving Brooklyn-based visual artist that he is today. With a background in fine art, twenty-six year old Hula has returned to his street art roots in his latest series of murals that draw on inspiration from the ocean and the island culture from which he emerged. Using unexpected mediums like abandoned urban walls and broken surfboards, Hula’s murals are truly bringing the sea to the street.
What are some of your earliest experiences with art – painting or otherwise – that left an impression on you and motivated you to pursue your passion?
Art has always intrigued me from a young age, I dabbled in every medium growing up. The most profound experience was stumbling into a portrait drawing class at a local community college. From there, I knew immediately what I wanted to dedicate my life to. The following summer I moved to New York City to pursue the dream.
“I ADMIRE ANYONE WHO CREATES THEIR OWN PATH TO FIND A WAY TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES”
Tell us about some of your favorite artists and pieces to date. What inspires you most about them?
I don’t have any specific favorite artist or pieces, but I admire anyone who creates their own path to find a way to express themselves. You risk a lot more failures when you take your own path and I really admire the ones who stay true to themselves.
Do you have favorite materials to work with? If so, tell us about them.
My favorite medium is oil paints. The longer drying times are perfect for blending smooth skin tones and getting those subtle color changes.
To what extent does location influence your artwork, and vice versa? How does this site-specific dynamic affect your working process?
The locations definitely play a key role in the artwork. With the murals, they are interacting with their environment, from the water to the walls so I have to take everything into account before I create the final product.
It doesn’t really affect my working process, I am used to using surfaces that already have their own characteristics, such as broken surfboards and wooden panels. Each time I have to be able to adapt to the surfaces and find the same balance.
Please tell us more about your recent project.
I started painting murals along the water while on my surfboard. I paint these figures interacting with the water and environment. The original idea sparked when I was working on a separate project. Since water has always been my main inspiration, I had the idea to paint these portraits of girls underwater. While doing the photo shoots for the paintings, I realized how much I loved to be in the water and working creatively at the same time. From there, I knew I wanted to figure out a way to paint in water. The concept grew slowly, each idea building into a final form for the murals.
What is the inspiration behind the markings and patterns on your female figures?
They signify the scars we get from life. Everyone has their own unique past and we deal with the scars differently. Each figure I paint them on shows different emotions and how they interact with their own markings. I feel that scars are beautiful and make us who we are.
How did you progress into painting the human form? Do you have any other subjects or themes that you enjoy working with?
I have always been drawn to capture human form since I got into art at a young age. I never got the same satisfaction I get from drawing inanimate subjects or landscapes. I love being able to bring life and emotions to surfaces with just some brushes and paint.
How does reflection play a role in your work?
The reflections in each piece definitely play a huge role. I composite and pose the figures knowing what the reflections will look like. I love how it adds a whole new level of depth to the painting, something I can’t do in the studio on canvas.
What is your opinion on the movement of street art into commercial gallery spaces? Do you feel that the genres acceptance into the international art market is a productive progression or not?
I think it is great seeing street art become more accepted and gaining credibility in the art world. It means more people will be exposed. I get the most joy from seeing people connect with my paintings, so to me it’s a great progression.
What other types of art influence your work?
Any and all mediums and genres of art. From music to dance, I’m drawn to anything that captures raw emotions.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I have many more projects in the works to continue my murals and exhibit around the world from here in New York to New Zealand and everywhere in between. Really excited to be unveiling more in the near future.
Interviewed by Brent & Robbie
Photos by Aaron Austin