When Oahu native Sean Yoro, also known as Hula, started dabbling into graffiti and watercolor in his late teens, he wasn’t serious about it until he got into a portrait drawing class in college and fell in love with it. “I’m most passionate about street art and smaller works on canvas. Both have given me the ability to express myself in a natural way,” admits Sean. He describes his works as traditional realism with a modern flair. “I try to keep things interesting, always looking to capture new emotions or messages. My pieces have been influenced mostly by things I see in nature and my changing environments,” he says.
Now residing in New York, Sean has been all over the Internet and news because of his hyper-realistic murals of women, seeming like they’re partly submerged in water, done while balancing on a paddleboard. “Aside from the occasional brush rolling overboard, I’m happy to say I’ve never tipped over,” confesses Sean. These murals came about while he 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 work creatively. 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,” says Sean. The messages he hopes to capture with these murals were the connection and relationship he has with his environments, from growing up in Hawaii to moving to New York.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE WITH STREET ART IS THAT THEY SEE IT AS A ROGUE ACTION OR ACT OF REBELLION. WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS?
I think the perception of street art has changed radically from ten years ago. Yes, some people still view it as a rebellious act, but with the way street art is going more mainstream, I don’t see that misconception lasting much longer. To me, it’s in the same boat as tattoos; many of the older generation think it’s bad taste because the medium represented gangs, but now it has become its own art form.
YOU’RE ALSO KNOWN TO BE A SURFER. HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO YOU BEING A STREET ARTIST?
My family is full of surfers, so naturally, I got into surfing at a young age. Surfing has kept me connected with the ocean ever since and has influenced my life. So when I express myself through art, it was natural to use the surfboard as a platform to get me to these walls. I also paint on broken surfboards, an idea I had when I saw these damaged surfboards lying around my art studio.
“I love painting women—they give a softer, more delicate mood to my paintings.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS PAINTING ON WALLS AND PUBLIC PROPERTIES FROM SMALLER MEDIUMS?
In my studio, I’m able to control everything from lighting to surfaces, but out on the water, there are so many variables I cannot control. I had to learn to adapt to every circumstances that came up and also just let go of the things I can’t control.
MOST OF YOUR WORK REVOLVES AROUND THE THEME OF MYSTICAL WOMEN AND WATER WITH A TRIBAL TOUCH. WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FOR THIS?
I love painting women—they give a softer, more delicate mood to my paintings. The tribal tattoo like markings signify scars we get from life. Everyone has their own unique past and we deal with scars differently. I feel that scars are beautiful and make us who we are.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING A STREET ARTIST?
The best part is being able to connect directly with people, no gallery or platforms needed. With every piece, my goal is to beautify this world and hopefully inspire others to chase their passions and express themselves in their own unique way.