The surfer and artists talks diving for money, living in in paradise, and what it takes to try and conserve it
Interview by Anna Langer
I have lived in Hawai’I for about 14 years now, I moved here from Southern CA. It was a really easy decision for me to make the move as my life has always been centered around the water and what better place to be surrounded by water than the most isolated island chain in the world? When I first arrived I just did whatever I needed to do to be able to live here (which is usually working multiple jobs) I worked my way to a Captains License and Dive Master Certification and I was working on The North Shore doing dive trips until I finally decided to make art a full time career, enrolled into the Bachelors of Fine Arts program at University of Hawai’I and took it from there.
What I love most about Hawai’i? Everything! The water-everywhere-part is one of my favorites though, you are never far from water of some sort. The natural and diverse beauty of the Islands always keeps me interested and amazed. Pair those with great waves, warm water and friendly people and you have a perfect place. It’s great to surf almost any day of the year in warm water, the diverse natural beauty, the great people and the temperate climate are all so great. I would say the downsides are the cost of living (sunshine tax!) and anywhere we go takes a long time to get to.
I was an only child and my family was always quite artistic. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who was a professional artist and we would spend hours and hours working on art projects in just about every medium. I was also and still am today a HUGE animal lover and always had many pets and animals that I would take care of.
I have many idols and people I look up to. In the art world, Hundertwasser and Paul Klee are some of my absolute favorites along with Andy Davis and Thomas Campbell. I also am just amazed by musicians like The Mattson 2, Ray Barbee and Tommy Guerro. They are just so artistic in what they do and like myself, I feel they would all be doing the same exact things even if they were not making money doing it, you can really see and fell the energy they all have.
I have been into art since I was a little girl. My family has many professional artists in it, so it was just kind of how I grew up. I was more interested in art than TV or video games or anything else. I just think that everything is ART and I even had my mom write to M&M’s when I was too young to write by myself and tell them they should add Blue as a color because it is such a beautiful color (they did later on, I like to take credit for it! Hahaha…)
After I graduated with my BFA from UH I was still working as a Dive Master/Captain and I would work 6 days a week from 6am-6pm and get home and paint until about 3am everyday. One day, totally exhausted, I decided that I needed to either take the plunge or stop wearing myself so thin. I worked really hard for a few more months, saved every nickel and dime until I had enough to sustain life for a 6 month period without “working other jobs” and I just focused 100% on creating art, really working out my own personal style and coming up with a business plan on how I could make it work. My long hours (12+ a day, 7 days a week) started to pay off and when my husband and I met, he helped really bring a solid business plan to my art so I could focus only on creating art and he does everything else for me and the business now.
When I moved to Hawai’I and laid my eyes on the gentle blue rollers that come into Waikiki every day, I was hooked on surfing (and I hadn’t even been in the water on a board yet!). So I borrowed a board and was hooked by the end of the first hour. I had a little moped and would go to the beach with my board every single chance I got, between classes, after class, early mornings, it was just so magical to me.
To me, surfing and art is one in the same. Great surfing style to me is the best art out there. There are so many unbelievable colors and hues when you are sitting out in the water. The light is constantly changing showing those of us who are lucky enough to be in the spot a different scene everywhere you look. I can’t imagine surfing and creating art afterwards.
I painted an original piece for my husband a couple of years ago called “High Tide” which we both love so much, that it is one of the few originals of mine that I still have hanging in my house and we enjoy it every day. That painting actually spawned an art show I had called High Tide as well as our clothing line called High Tide.
I have been working with Rip Curl for about 4 years now. I even have my own line with them now, “Rip Curl by Heather Brown” I love my relationship with Rip Curl, they are still a private company, no stock holders and other things to make things difficult, they are like a big extended family to me. They treat us so well and they are so earth conscious too. I have a long time relationship with Jack and Kim Johnson and their amazing foundation here in Hawaii, The Kokua Foundation and I do a lot of work with them. Every year I work with numerous non-profits like The Wyland Foundation, SeaThos Foundation, The Surfrider Foundation (to name a few) I love to work out of my box sometimes and these guys are all so great!
I try to make sure that I wake up with a smile everyday, I smile at people, I try to always be nice to everyone. I try to live in an eco-friendly way (I am not perfect) and spread the ALOHA around the world.
A few years ago, The Kokua Foundation and I worked on a campaign called Plastic Free Haleiwa and then Plastic Free Hawaii and then Plastic Free Schools. With this we just hope to get people to stop using single use plastics as much as possible, we also make reusable shopping bags. I thought that if people liked the art, maybe they would stop using so many single use plastics, so we started another little off shoot company called Green With Aloha. I have been so happy to go to the store and see people using my bags instead of the single use plastic ones and have seen lots of my bottles around too. It’s small things we can all do!
We do a lot of little things in our lives to live more eco-friendly, like on single use plastics. We compost and have worm composters on our property. In our personal lives we recycle and re-use as much as we can and that has gone to our business as well. All the packing materials that we use are re-used and we urge the consumer to re-use if they can or at least recycle. We print everything with water based inks. We print our paper products on sugar cane paper which is a byproduct of the sugar industry that used to just be burned or land filled. We use all bleach free, post consume recycled papers for other products and our business printer is always filled with re-used papers. All of my art can be framed, but we will only frame for people using reclaimed materials, it is all much more labor intensive, but I think it is worth it. We just released a new edition of IPhone cases as well that use only 100% post consumer recycled plastic. We turned down many offers from other companies to produce these until we found one, Tru-Protection, that would make them out of 100% post consumer recycled plastic.
Check out more of her art on heatherbrownart.com and follow her inspiration on HeatherBrownSurfArtBlog.com