A Chat with Hula, the SUP-Board Artist

Xavier in Stories

We have previously featured Sean Yoro/Hula in a post about the viral waterfront ladies. We're back with another and with Hula himself in tow. We have reached out to him weeks ago but things, among them travel, got in the way. But it was really kind of him to follow up once the coast was clear again.

We found Sean very engaging and insightful. He seems to know what he wants in life in a way that isn't planned. Like a true surfer, he rides the waves, goes with the flow, and lets the tide wash him away to wherever it intends to. He's a real free spirit.

To start off, as you know, a lot of people have fallen in love with your waterfront ladies. What actually gave you the idea to jump into the water and start this series?

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 still working creatively. From there, I knew I wanted to figure out a way to paint in water. The concept grew slowly by slowly, each idea building into a final form for the murals.

What word(s) do you want to be associated with you as an artist? What would you want people to think of when they come across your name?

I guess it would be the two words I try to live by; Passion and Adventure. I would love to inspire people, especially the younger generation. I think its become all too common to play life safe and live a comfortable life. I hope people will be inspired to sacrifice everything for their passions and take risks.

Photo by Aaron A.
Photo by Aaron A.

What are all the art mediums you’ve used in your art career?

Since art has intrigued me from a young age, Ive dabbled in everything from spray paint graffiti, watercolor, tattoos, charcoal, acrylic, and oil painting.

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Photo by Aaron A.
Photo by Aaron A.

Where do you look for inspiration? Or if not, do they just jump out to you?

I find my inspiration a lot with nature and my environment. Growing up in Hawaii has molded a deeper connection with the ocean and nature. It has influenced me since I was young so naturally it pours out into my art.

Who are the other artists you admire?

From hip-hop artists to other street artists, I admire anyone who creates their own path and way of expressing themselves. You risk a lot more failures when you are on your own path and I really admire the ones who stay true to themselves.

Aside from painting on surfboards and tribal body paint, in what ways do you incorporate the taste of Hawaii in your art; is it more visible or is it something that’s only between you and the canvass?

I feel like my hawaiian roots have molded everything I am today, so my art is a direct taste of Hawaii on a deeper level that may not be seen on the surface.

Let’s talk about tattooing. How did it happen for you? We’ve heard that you’re not really a tattoo artist, but you did get an apprenticeship some time ago.

I knew I wanted a career in art, but didn't know what path to take. So naturally I tried everyone opportunity that came to me. I was always fascinated with tattoos and Hawaii is known for their tattoo culture. After a year of apprenticing, I stumbled into a painting class at a local community college. I immediately knew thats what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and ended up quitting tattoos and moving up to New York the next summer.

Do you see yourself performing a traditional hand-tapped Hawaiian tattoo?

I wish! I didn't get nearly enough experience as a apprentice to be able to do hand-tapped ink.  I have huge respect for those still doing this traditional process, it takes a lot of patience and dedication for each piece.

Is tattooing something you’d like to do more of sooner or later?

I would want to pick back up tattooing sooner, but right now my passion is with my paintings and I don't see that going away for a while.

Photo by Aaron A.
Photo by Aaron A.

Tell us more about your own tattoos.

I started getting tattooed when I was 18 and accumulated a full sleeve and some smaller pieces here and there thanks to a good friend. Probably my favorite thing to get tattooed is flowers, I always liked organic tattoos that can blend into your body more.

What tattoo or tattoo styles do you think would be great to add on to your skin?

I would love to get some intricate geometric/tribal like patterns in a traditional single lined no shading style. I think it'll be a good balance from the realistic work I usually get.

Photo by Aaron A.
Photo by Aaron A.

We’ve also heard that you’re not a big fan of planning ahead, so we’ll just ask what would you rather not do in the future?

Ha, good question. I'd rather not be in New York all year round, although I love this city and all its energy, it is draining to live in. I will be doing a lot more traveling with both my murals and exhibiting paintings around the world.

Thank you, Sean! You really are something.



When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife


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