Heather Brown: Art Inspired by the Islands

Brown with her quiver. PC: Chris Viverito Art has always been a centerfold of Heather Brown’s life. Born into an artistic family in Burbank, California, Brown was surrounded by a constant desire to create and spent her childhood doing crafts and letting her imagination run wild. As an adult, Brown […]

Brown with her quiver. PC: Chris Viverito

Art has always been a centerfold of Heather Brown’s life. Born into an artistic family in Burbank, California, Brown was surrounded by a constant desire to create and spent her childhood doing crafts and letting her imagination run wild.

As an adult, Brown began working as an EMT in southern California while simultaneously pursuing her passion of scuba and free diving. Tired of cold water and pulled by a lifelong dream of living in a tropical paradise, Brown eventually made her dream move to Oahu in 2000. Once on the island, Brown enrolled at the University of Hawaii where she earned a degree in fine arts with a concentration on print making.

Inspired by the world around her, Brown’s work has been heavily influenced by surfing and the islands and has been featured at the Triple Crown of Surfing and showcased by Rip Curl and the Surfrider Foundation. Here, Brown shares how she first began her career as an artist, how surfing inspires her art, and the steps she takes to make her work as sustainable as possible.

Brown with her art. PC: Chris Viverito

When did you get into surfing?

Shortly after moving to Hawaii, I was living in Waikiki. I would see the beautiful, calm swells breaking and watch the beauty of Hawaiian longboard surfing inspired by the beach boys from old Waikiki. I always loved watching surfing and dreamed about it living in southern California but somehow never got into it. So, with the warm, crystal clear waters of Oahu and dreamy little waves slowly breaking, I went out and bought a used longboard and spent every free minute in the water.

What inspired you to move to Hawaii?

The first thing that drew me into the islands was the warm, clear water. I was diving so much at that time that all I could think of was diving in Hawaii. Very soon after, I was captured by Hawaii’s natural beauty with so much flora and fauna everywhere. Once I started surfing, I was totally hooked—I got to be in the water and enjoy nature happening all around me. I ended up making so many new friends (including my husband) surfing Waikiki; I felt that Hawaii had embraced me in a big hug.

When did you begin your career as an artist?

I had been making and selling art for a while before and during school. I was working as a boat captain and dive master on the North Shore and picking up restaurant shifts to save enough money to try and make a start as a full-time artist. Around 2008, I took the leap with a safety net of about three months of living expenses so I could focus full time as an artist. I haven’t looked back since.

Brown’s art is heavily inspired by surfing. PC: Chris Viverito

How would you describe your art?

Abstract impression of nature.

What materials do you use to create your art?

I generally paint with acrylic paints on stretched cotton canvas. I also work with different printmaking techniques like bock printing, intaglio, and screen printing.

How has surfing and the ocean inspired your art?

Surfing gave me a whole new perspective, not only on art, but life itself. I spent hours and hours (often skipping class with friends) in the warm waters of Waikiki. The ocean inspired my early art prior to ever being in Hawaii, but once I started surfing, the ocean became even more beautiful and important to me. I loved watching the classic style of longboard surfing; it truly is poetry in motion. Surfing to me is an art—I never considered it a sport or a hobby—it is a way of life and all of life is art!

What surf related projects have you worked on?

I did the 2008 Women’s Triple Crown of Surfing art and the 2017 Men’s Triple Crown of Surfing art. I did about eight years of the main art for the Surfrider Foundation John Kelly Awards. I have worked with Surfrider for years on different projects and I donate art to them to use for their graphics. I had my own line with Rip Curl for about four years doing design for their women’s line. It’s always fun to collaborate with ocean-based companies and non-profits.

Up close. PC: Chris Viverito

What steps do you take to keep your work eco-friendly?

My husband and I run our company and since we started, we’ve always made sure that we were doing the best possible thing for the environment in every aspect of our business. We use recycled sugar cane paper for my prints, recycled mat board, and recycled cotton tote bags. We use my art to make beautiful, earth friendly products like water bottles, lunch boxes, and more to get people to stop using one-time use products. Through the years, the Surfrider Foundation noticed, and we were awarded the Hawaii based business award in 2015. It was nice to be recognized for all the work and research we did to be the cleanest company we could.

What do you hope to achieve through your art?

The only thing I have ever really wanted for my art is to bring a smile to people’s face and add a little extra aloha to their hearts. This has been my goal since the first drawing I ever made!

Heather Brown: Art Inspired by the Islands

Dong Anker

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