Yoskay Yamamoto


My name is Yoskay.  Yo is a symbol for the sun but sometimes I find it ironic to have such a name because I’m sometimes a pessimist. I feel like it’s difficult to live up to such a positive symbol of a name.  I grew up in Toba, which is a small seaside town on the Pacific side of the main island of Honshu.  The population is about 22,000 and is very small.  My grandfather was born into a fisherman family but he was entrepreneurial.  He opened a small factory where they employed ten to twelve people and members of my family work there.  It is a a typical blue collar hard labor kind of work.  Since we were little, my dad’s emphasis on us was find a job or get a skill so you don’t have to do what I he does everyday.  That kind of sat on my head growing up and plus I had two older brothers and going through the Japanese high school I just didn’t feel interested.  Luckily, my mom had good friends in Santa Barbara and my parents allowed me to study abroad for high school.  Being the youngest son, they were more open to the idea.  They supported my choice of being an artist since day one.  They were a bit skeptical in the beginning and they still worry a lot because it’s not the type of job that comes with a 401k, steady pay check, or health benefits.  I used to save every show postcard that I was involved with, also magazines, toys, prints, and I would send them a copy to show that I was progressing but I’m getting worse about it now.  I was so amazed the first time I opened “Juxtapose” magazine and saw my name that I sent the entire magazine to them for one section on one page to say, “Hey Mom I’m doing something and not just messing around here.” Now my parents have seen what I do on Facebook and they are more comfortable about my career.

Define art:

It’s really difficult for me to come up with an answer because art can describe so many things.  Even if someone had a different opinion, they aren’t wrong because it’s how they are seeing an abstract idea of what art is.  There is no definitive concrete answer.  Performance art, dance, painting, and sculpture is all art but what it really comes down to is self expression and the journey in the way of pursuing the one thing that you love to do and are interested in doing.  Sometimes I paint in a certain way because I think it’s interesting not because I’m trying to make a new scratch in art history.  I focus on the progress more than a result sometimes. I think it’s a journey in a way that may take side paths along the way.  Art doesn’t mean that every art is a masterpiece.  There is bad film and cheesy art so art can be bad, it can be cheesy but it is just someone’s creation from making nothing to something.  I think good art is honest art and a good reflection of who created it.

Genre of art: Humor  

Lately I enjoy art where I can see humor of the creator.  By the time my fourth solo show rolled in, I was struggling with my own work.  Every year, I was constantly creating personal work and new themes for each exhibition.  It was a really tough for me and I started to realize that I taking myself too seriously and putting my work on the pedestal.  I was forgetting the joy of art.  Around that time, I started seeing humorous works that made me smile.  You don’t have to be serious or make sense with your art.  The last big show that I did was called “Jokes on Me … “ which took humor and parody as the main theme.  After that show, I was a little bit more relaxed and felt like I don’t have to put too much pressure on myself.  I like work that makes that me smile.  For example, I saw a piece in a magazine by Yoko Ono called Smile.  It was a small white box sitting on a pedestal.  The top is open and when you look in, you see the mirror at the bottom and you end up seeing yourself and smiling at yourself.  Work like that is great.  When people express extreme emotion, it’s really beautiful but every work doesn’t have to be that way.  It can be work that just make you smile or feel good.  Lillian Porter, Steve Powers, and Richard Jacobs have great senses of humor that put me in a good mood. 

On SF & LA:

I moved here when I was 15 just for the sake of a change and challenge.  Three years led to college, which ended up being three more years.  After that, I moved to San Francisco for about a year, lived by Candlestick stadium for a few months and found out that it’s not really my kind of neighborhood.  I moved to Mission district and I felt really at home in that neighborhood.  I was going to school part-time, worked as a barista and dishwasher, and the rest of the time I did a lot of painting to create a good body of work to take to galleries and places around SF.  For me, it was a little hard to jump into the San Francisco art circle.  I felt that it was close knit artist group and I felt like an outsider and couldn’t jump in to the gallery scene.  I ended up doing a few shows at coffee shops and around the same time, I started showing in Los Angeles through one of my mentors, David Flores, whom I met him when I interned at a Shorty’s Skateboards in Santa Barbara.  I worked there for a semester through a graphic design program and David saw some of my work, he really liked it and invited me to a group show at his boutique that he used to run with his friend, the group show included all the guys from the graphic design department of Shorty’s.  There was the first time that I felt that I could do art for a living because that was the first time I sold two or three paintings in one night.  It was nice to know that people agreed to value and the time you spent to create something from nothing and it was a really refreshing and encouraging.  David Flores got me into art shows in LA and he was showing there for a couple of shows and he introduced me to Beau Bass, who was running a gallery called Project: gallery.  I submitted seven paintings to a group show called “project: c-note” where everything was priced as $100 and luckily six or seven of my art sold on the opening or before the opening.  I started working with Beau after the c-note show and started having my art in a group shows, and then to two person shows and eventually to my first solo show in 2007.  That’s how the progress came and it’s important for me to realize the gradual steps.  It wasn’t an overnight thing.  I tried to do my best in every single, little group show. 

In San Francisco, it was kind of fun running around the city with my portfolio and trying to get someone interested in my work.  It didn’t really happen but I really enjoyed it.  It felt good to pursue my dream and I’m glad that I got to learn how to push my work as motivation because no one is going to come knock on my door.  You need to make people turn into your work and that was a big step that I learned from doing it.  I’m not usually the person to push myself on other people so it was kind of unusual to see myself that way.  When I was doing coffee shop shows, I made my own flyers and went out on my own to drop them off around the city.  I’m not sure how effective it was but I felt like it was something I had to do.  Rejection gets easier afterwards.  The first one is pretty tough and then you learn that not everyone is going to find your work interesting.  Even when you’re selling your artwork and it doesn’t sell on opening night, you just have to show it to the right person.  I think the more popular you get, the better chance you have the encounter.  I mean in SF no one thought my work was interesting and then I showed it to Beau and now he’s the gallery I primarily show my work at.  

On progress:

One thing I have difficult with is staying with my own pace.  There are so many artists that are trying to reach the same place.  Some people are running and I end up comparing myself to them.  I’m always trying to calm myself down and work hard without comparing myself to how other people are doing.  It’s a competitive world and with my personality, it’s hard for me to not compare.  Art can be a kind of a struggle for me sometimes.  

On Pow Wow Hawaii:

Holy!  Pow Wow was so great!  There were 30 international artists and every night I was surrounded by so many creative individuals.  I couldn’t believe that this is what I’m here to do, enjoy this moment and hanging out with other artists.  Everyone was so nice and everyone was trying to help each other.  It was a very inspiring environment.  I went to Hawaii once with my Jewish host family when I was 19.  We did a lot of more touristy things during my first trip and it was fun but this time it was a lot of hanging out with locals, hearing their stories, and learning about Hawaiian culture.  We were decorating Kakaako with our art and interns help us out and I liked how community based it was.

Taiyo Matsumoto


There is a book called “Gogo Monsters” and it is one of my favorite manga books that I’ve read in the past couple years.  

Wes Anderson 


I like Wes Anderson films a lot.  I think he has a personal, specific world that he creates and I enjoy seeing that.  

Red Hot Chili Peppers


RHCP is a band i grew to like more after moving to LA.  Living in this city helped me to connect with the band more.

I like John Frusciante a lot and the story of him joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers at 19, starting a heroin binge for seven years, and then coming back for the Calfornication album.  In a strange way the drug culture with music is kind of romantic and goes together.  I grew up in a small town where I never encountered recreational drugs, so I had a strong curiosity about the drug culture.  I like the story of RCHP and I think Frusciante is a good musician and his last album was so bizarre and I still really enjoyed it.

Photo credits

Portrait: Emi Uchiki

Work titles from L to R:

carry me away, mixed media painting

wish to meet you one day, public installation, Hong Kong Times Square

untitled, mixed media sculpture

ginga, public mural, Culver City

Pegge Hopper


I went to Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles right out of high school.  My first job at 21 was in New York with Raymond Loewy, the father of industrial design.  For two years in the early sixties I lived and worked in Milan Italy for La Rinascente.  

Define art:

This question reminds me of how we students sat in the cafeteria with our teachers at Art Center smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee  We would ask questions like, “What is beauty?”  Today art is whatever you want it to be.  If someone pointed out Jeff Koons’ big pink poodle when I was growing up and said that it was art, I would’ve laughed.  All the barriers have come down.  You can put masking tape on the ground and call it art.  It’s liberating and also very frustrating because a lot of it is just theater and entertainment.

An appreciated art form: Writing

What I really appreciate is good writing; whether it’s a poem or prose.  You really don’t know how hard excellent writing is until you attempt do it yourself. 

On painting:

If you’re going to paint figures, you’ve got to know anatomy but a lot of artists don’t take the time to learn it.  When I was going to school, l I concentrated on life drawing; its hardly taught anymore.   Life drawing is like learning how to play the violin; learning to do it well takes a  long time.  Thats one of the reasons  I like David Hockney so much.   He doesn’t fake it.  

On the art industry and money:

The event that changed everything was when the Van Gogh sunflowers sold for $17 million.  It became a commodity to be bought and sold.  I’m fortunate to own my gallery so I can avoid some of the hype that surrounds the art business today.  

On the artistic process:

My artistic process is constantly changing depending on what I’m painting.  I approach it I guess with hope.  I hope that when I’m finished  it will make me somewhat satisfied.  I don’t think you ever really like the whole piece.  You end up liking sections of it, whether it’s conceptual, a painting or drawing, you always think, “It could’ve been better.”   For me, growth has been gradual. Perhaps spending time  raising 3 daughters has had something to do with that.    

On her painting subjects:

I’ve lived in Hawaii for 50 years this year in August.  In 1966, I was working as an art director in Honolulu and I went over to the archives and saw some old photographs of beautiful, languid Hawaiian women.  They so inspired me that I took my love of design and drawing and combined them.  My painting is very flat with a matte surface and no visible brush strokes.  Recently I’ve been doing landscapes and cloudscapes and trying to teach myself to loosen up and paint!  Some days I feel like I’m progressing, other days I feel like I’m standing still.  It’s always a battle with your critical self.  You know when you’re doing honest work and doing your best.  

Kiki Smith


I really like the work of Kiki Smith.  She does some really interesting conceptual things and she can draw.  When you see something that is compelling, you as an artist look at it in two ways.  You can look at it as the thing itself and then you try to figure out how it was created. Artists look at work on two different levels.  

El Greco 


When I first started painting El Greco was one of my idol.  I’m not quite sure why; whether it was the emotion or the clouds.

David Hockney


When you see some of Hockney’s early paintings, they just knock me out.  He did a series of LA lawn sprinklers and swimming pools that I love for their design quality. His simple, elegant line drawings of people and things are some of my favorites. The Tate Museum had a contest to list the most important items of the 20th century.  These were items like the iPhone and the computer and one of things of their lists was a line drawing that David Hockney did of two people lying in bed lying in bed together with wonderful rumpled sheets.  The honestly and beautiful craftsmanship is inspiring.

Last comments:

An artist has to create his or her own life out of imagination and years of persistence. I compare life to a huge banquet table. In our country, at this time, everything you need is on this table.  Make good choices and work to find your voice.  Being an artist is the most interesting, and sometimes the most frustrating life imaginable.  Stay curious, travel and last but not least, learn about business.  Being business savvy is not going to impair your creativity.  I love this saying: Chance favors a prepared mind.

Nicole Naone



I’m 25.  I’m Hawaiian, Korean, Puerto Rican, and Spanish, which basically means that I’m just pissed off all day.  I grew up extremely country, extremely city with two very different households and lessons to be learned from two different environments.  A lot of my art is navigating the confusion that comes with that.  

Define art:

The textbook definition of art is anything that doesn’t have a use other than its aesthetic value.  Speaking as an artist, art is a communicative tool.  It’s the language that I use to share and purge experiences and perspectives that I don’t know how to say.  

Respected forms of art: Good design and highly emotive art

I like things that are well designed, whether it be architecture, product design, or graphic design for an advertisement.  It’s funny because if you Google different sculptors’ websites, sculptors have the worst websites because we are probably trying to do it ourselves and our concepts of design are terrible because we’re so used to 3D.  I really like the precision involved in good design.  It’s like find the exact word to describe something instead of blabbering on.

I also like really emotive art from artists like Francis Bacon, David Choe, or Lee Price.  They are so raw and clearly vulnerable and broad in the way that they present their work.  The courage that it takes to do that is immense and not something that I have.  I am more like the pre-Raphaelites where they are suggestive but they don’t come all out and say it.  I have a hard time straight up saying something so when people have the boldness to do that in their art, I respect that a lot.  

On the artistic process:

I’m really into pre-gaming so even before I start touching stuff, there’s a large amount of time where I spend doing research.  I’m an info-glutton.  I want to learn and know as much as I can before I physically do anything.  In all art I think it’s really important to understand the context that it comes from.  If I make a figure, it’s important to me to know that I am saying that this is a female form in the context of female forms right now, in the context of the history of female form, in the context of sculptures of this size, in the context of sculptures in this medium, on and on.  I feel like it is really important to understand your place before you even start physically making anything. 

On the importance of art:

I think that art is a very special thing in terms of the human race.  I feel like art, music, creative expression - it is what separates us from apes.  I and any other artist has almost a responsibility to the human race to try our best at what we do.  That’s really dramatic and blown out of proportion, but I feel that way sometimes where I’m doing that thing that makes us different from animals.  People don’t need art in the way that they need food but it’s still as an extremely important part of being a human.

On sculpting:

I randomly took a sculpture class from Fred Roster and it was the weirdest thing.  I had never done it before but the second that I did, I felt like I had found what I was supposed to be doing.  I was lucky to have that experience. 

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci


It’s so cliche but I balled my eyes out in front of the Mona Lisa.  Trying to view it is the worst ever.  It’s behind this bullet proof thing, is the size of an 8 x 10, and you’re surrounded by all these people that don’t smell good.  Being Korean, I pushed myself to the front.  It was loud and horrible but when I stood in front of it, I don’t know what happened.  I connected with it so deeply and I didn’t notice the crowd or the noise.  I just stood there for ten minutes straight like a crazy person just balling.  It was really epic.  All my friends were so confused.  Just how emotional I got was weird.  I understood it’s importance, I saw it in textbooks, I knew that Leonard da Vinci was a big deal but I don’t know; it was so powerful to me.

Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya


Goya’s painting of Saturn Devouring His Son was so disturbing and so graphic.  Standing in front of it I literally felt myself almost start to throw up.  The level of disturbing was so impacting and beautiful and getting that intense of level of emotion, even though it was extremely uncomfortable, was such an amazing experience for me.  

David Choe 


I had always been a fan of David Choe.  What I found strange though was that in my opinion, his depiction of women looked like me.  I mean there are pieces where our beauty spots line up.  It’s weird.  Very long story short, I ended up meeting him as a teenager and we’ve remained close friends through the years, but he was surprised at meeting me because he also felt he had been painting me for years before ever meeting me.  Strange.  

Photo credits:

Portraits: Mark Kushimi - http://modusops.tumblr.com/

Nicole Naone


Daniel Ikaika Ito

Journalist.  Surfer.  Boyfriend.  Brother.  Son.  Colleague.  Stoked on life.  

My name is Daniel Ikaika Ito.  I was born at Kapiʻolani Medical Center but my family moved to Hilo when I was three so I grew up there.  I always like to say that I moved out of my parents house when I was 11 to attend Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus.  I’ve been a surfer since eight after I rode my first wave at Bellows and was a body boarder up until eight grade.  When I graduated in 1999, it was a really controversial time to be at Kamehameha because it was during the Broken Trust Series when they were being really critical of the trustees.  Seeing the power of the media and how they can affect change is what really made me want to be a journalist.  I’m so excited to be 31 in Hawaii now because it is far better than I ever thought it was going to be.  I’m really thankful for young people who are showing an interest in it because really that’s what it’s about.  My dad told me that he didn’t want me to be like him and wanted me to be better than him.  I hope that the younger generation behind me will be better than myself because that just means Hawaii will grow to be a cosmopolitan that still has rural sections and will be that formula and how to live a sustainable life.  The island mentality is something that can be shared with the world because it recognizes that there is only a limited number of resources and that we’re all in this life together. 

Define art:

Art is creative expression and it really doesn’t matter what medium it’s in.  

An important type of art form: Graphic design

In the media, there is always the question of whether graphic design is art.  And I totally think it is; it is just a different medium.  To me, graphic design is up there painting and fine art.  My favorite artists are usually the ones that can blend both because it’s like writing.  There’s two types of writing; there’s standard news writing where you’re trying to document something and telling a story and there’s creative writing where you’re telling a story but you’re not worried about a word count.  I’d say the same thing between graphic design and fine art.  Graphic design is an art form but usually used in a commercial sense and used in a way to translate fine art or a concept into a commercial project.  Ten years ago, “selling out” was such a dirty word.  But its fine to sell out once in a while on a project because when you do, your allowing your message or story to told within your art to a broader audience.  I enjoy seeing one of the homies finally get their due and recognition from a brand like Hurley.  And also what people need to realize is, brah, there can’t be starving artists because then the scene itself doesn’t grow.  

On building a career:

I moved to San Diego in the the fall of 2001 because the surf media is still really centralized in Orange County.  While attending a junior college, I started doing an internship at Surfing Magazine where I got to meet some of my mentors like Evan Slater, Matt Walker, and Nathan Meyers.  After getting a DUI, I couldn’t afford to stay in San Diego so I moved home and got my first job as a journalist as the online editor of Nalu Magazine.  In May 2005, I started as an associated editor at Free Surf and then got offered a job to be the editor of Free Surf.  As an editor, I really cut my teeth as a journalist because there was a lot more responsibility than I was used to.  I really found out how to use tact in your voice because before that, my writing was really aggressive and critical of the brands and the companies that I thought were selling out Hawaiians or surfing.  A lot of it came from my anger towards how I thought “The Man” was shaping the image of surfing.  Being an editor of a magazine, you can’t be so gung-ho about stuff like that and you need a lot more balance that is more showing than telling.  

Between 2008 and 2010, I was working three different jobs at the time with the Triple Crown, ESPN, the Star Advertiser, finishing up my last semester with a Hawaiian language and math course at the University of Hawaii Mānoa, barely making ends meet, freaking out all the time because Contrast was still going on.  But it really taught me that I can handle anything.  I’m glad I went back to school and I think a lot of people for a lot of people the value of school isn’t necessarily what you learn but the time you commit to something and see it through.   

Now I’m the editor of Contrast Magazine and am still freelancing, contributing to Mana Magazine, Honolulu Magazine, and Surfer Journal.  I am a stringer for ESPN and I also maintain the Raynor surf blog.  I have another business that I partnered up with two of my classmates from Kamehameha called Paiʻea Projects where we make basketball jerseys and work with Fitted on projects.  I took a day job as a content coordinator in the communications department at HMSA because I really wanted health insurance.  I was really tired of not having health insurance.  I’m really happy because it allowed me to not have to chase a story or a new freelance gig all the time and allowed me to focus more on Contrast magazine.  I love the people that I work with and it helped extend my network beyond Chinatown’s art and music scene but to the business class of downtown.  Plus, I enjoy wearing an Aloha shirt to work everyday.  

On Contrast Magazine:

In late 2007, I had the idea for Contrast, which I originally thought was going to be a TV show.  The idea was to showcase what the youth of Hawaii was interested in an avant garde way because I always felt like a lot of publications softened up their content to appeal to an older generation.  I wanted to work with Jason Shibata, Lance Arinaga, and Zen Yoshifuku and they got Mark Kushimi involved.  Mark’s help was the biggest blessing because he is such a genius when it comes to design.  The guy is so thoughtful with everything he does and there’s always a grand intention behind it, as opposed to someone who is just doing something just to push someone’s buttons or for shock value.  The five of us formed the business in February 2008 and we were lucky because one of our partners, Scott Saito, who is a business development manager got involved.  He was real smart about not having us have a corporate credit card, filling out our loan information, and just kept us real honest on our finances.  The last person that came on was our publisher Ray Skelton.  He had an advertising background and I worked with him while I was freelancing.  Mark had the foresight to make sure that our website was up and running, made blogging a priority, and basically what you saw from February 2008 to February 2009 was us building the website, creating the content for the website, which became the content for the first issue of Contrast.  We had the intention of starting with 00 because we always wanted to be the bridge between the west coast of the United States and Japan and so in Asian cultures, they start counting from zero as opposed to counting from one in western cultures.  We’ve been doing it ever since.  Our business survived during the worst recession in the country’s history and we survived when people said print was dying and dead.

On Hawaii’s culture and its reflection in the local art scene:

I always looked at Hawaii and have always been amazed how many backgrounds, interests, and people can come and live together in paradise and create something totally unique.  Hawaii is the beach and the homeless people at the beach as much as it is the skaters at Aʻala park and the farmers on the Westside.  I think of Hawaii as being a formula for the rest of the world as a way for the rest of the world to get along.  To be honest, people here are straight up racist.  But the racism is fun and can be malicious but because it’s so pervasive, I don’t think people are as sensitive to as they would be on the mainland.  And it’s also one of those things like brah, I can laugh about a Hawaiian joke as much as I can laugh about a Podagee joke because if I’m going to be able to laugh at someone else, I should be able to laugh at myself too.  

What I see in the art scene in Hawaii is that we went from classical fine artists like Peggy Hopper and Herb Kane and now we’re seeing a transition to artists like Kamea Hadar, Kuhao Zane, and Solomon Enos.  The art that you’re looking at in Hawaii today that is contemporary and reflective of the culture and is not done by someone who grew up outside our culture that depicts romanticized sunsets, dolphins, or the “warrior” that is actually wearing a kahuna helmet and probably was not actually that ripped.  It’s real cool to see the artists coming up and translating what it means to be local and also sharing that with other street artists with contemporary artists around the world.  I think Pow Wow is a great example of that because international artists come in and we’re able to share what it means to be local here.  They get it, they love it, and they’re taking it back to wherever they’re from and are telling people how Hawaii is more than Waikiki and resorts. 

Sig Zane



Sig Zane is from Hilo, comes from a surfer-fisherman-hula dancer background, and is a practitoner of a culture and an artist at the same time.  The way he gets the detail on his designs is he by using an X-acto knife cutting out the designs into amberlith.  It’s a really classical way of doing design.  Sig’s art has been really influential on me because what it showed me is that you can take cultural concepts and translate it to a design that becomes a vehicle to share the culture.  A favorite piece of mine would be the Uluwehi Keaukaa print.  It’s been my favorite aloha shirt print since I saw it at Kick’s HI when Sig Zane did a collaboration with Converse and put the design on a pair of shoes and a Fitted hat.  My favorite things to buy are surf board shoes and hats and so when I saw it, it was the first time that I saw a classic aloha print design executed in a contemporary way.

Herb Kane


Herb wasn’t just a fine artist.  He was a practitioner of culture and also a sailor, a boat maker, a skilled fisherman, and a nautical engineer.  He is regarded as the forefather of Hawaiian voyaging because it was his vision in the 70s to reinvent the waʻa and bring back star navigation.  I learn more and more about Herb Kane the older I get and the more I’m pressed about how much of an instrumental figure he was in the Hawaiian Renaissance.  A lot of who I am and what I try to represent came from Herb Kane’s art.  I’m so grateful about everything he contributed to Hawaiian culture.  I don’t think I would’ve taken Hawaiian language if it wasnʻt for the Hawaiian Renaissance.  The first piece that I remember as a Herb Kane piece was “Battle at Nuuanu Pali” in front of the Midkiff Learning Center at the Kamehameha Library.  I would always walk by it and stare at it and notice new details.  When I think about how things happened in ancient Hawaii, the animation that plays out in my head has the figures from Herb Kane’s art in it.  

Paula Fuga


I always thought that Paula was the perfect medium between traditional Hawaiian music and roots reggae without being Jahawaiian.  I think she’s a fine ambassador of young Hawaiian culture.  What I love about Paula’s music is that her song writing is very insightful almost like a country singer and songwriter and at the same time too there are undertones of roots reggae and her voice.  The only thing I can say her voice is close to his young Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s. She is knowledgable with ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and the stories and when I see her perform, I get chicken skin.  Every time she’s singing about something, there is something going on in my own life that makes whatever lyric or note she’s singing resonate.  She’s so cool to hang out with because she’s such a personable person.  A lot of times, when you meet somebody that you look up to because of their work, you realize that that person you saw on TV or heard on a record is more human when you meet them but I think Paula does a good job of being exactly who she is on stage and off.  That authenticity is why she has such a a diverse following of people across America.

Mark Kushimi 


The last person who has played a role as an artist and as an instrumental part of my life is Mark Kushimi, the creative director and editor-in-chief of Contrast Magazine.  Mark is in charge of Contrastʻs overall look and feel and he is the horse pulling the cart.  He puts in the hardest, longest hours and is so thoughtful in the way that he approaches design and working with people.  What I really respect about his art is that he operates in a way that is always contemporary, edgy, but using fundamentals that you learned in school.  He loves to shoot film and is an amazing photographer and great graphic designer.  When I started out with Contrast, I was still coming from that classic newsroom mentality where the whatever the editor says goes and the editor can change whatever he feels like in a writer’s text to reflect how he thinks it should sound.  But with working with Mark, Mark made me more aware of the writer’s feelings and the importance of trying to preserve the writer’s voice in order to have that contrasting opinion inside the magazine.  Every project that I’ve worked with Mark on has been a home run and is always inspiring me because I look at his work and see it consistently get better, whether it be the cover for a magazine, the flyer for an event, an ad he shoots for APB, or just the way he lays out a story.  Because it gets better every time, it inspires me to be better every time.  Mark and I don’t always have a chance to go out together and report on a story but the stories that I have worked on with him are still on my clip file as the best stories that I have that I would show a potential employer.  I think that’s because working with him, seeing his process, makes you want to be better at what you do.   

Photo credits:

Portrait: Aaron Yoshino - www.honozooloo.com

Interviewing Ian Walsh: Lehia Apana

Officiating a Podagee Horseshoe game at the Pow Wow 2013 luau: Pow Wow Hawaii

Matty Raynor Surfboards in Chinatown: Aaron Yoshino - www.honozooloo.com

Setting up for 9 on the Wall: Aaron Yoshino - www.honozooloo.com


Julian Booker

I am a California-born, Hawaii-reared music producer, song writer, musician and performer currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a servant of peace and equality and hope to one day use music to positively influence the world.


It’s interesting that people often use race to define what they are; in my case, my race does tell a lot about me. I am Blasian (Blackanese, to be specific), and in my experience, every Blasian I have met shares similar qualities. A certain set of traits are cultivated when Black and Asian cultures fuse together, and I believe it’s the defiance and conviction required by two polar ethnic groups that attracts only the select few. For instance, Asian mothers of a Blasian child are generally strong-minded and liberal. Blasian kids, like myself, are often times outgoing, creative, and bring like, the best of both cultures. I want people to think that when they hear, “Blasian.” That’s what they should think of me.  From a non-racial standpoint, I am a composer, producer, musician, singer and songwriter who happens to be interested and involved in just about every aspect of art!

Define art:

I would take the fundamental, dictionary route and say that art is simply expression of the human condition via any medium, whether it be visual, audio, or transcendental. It’s important in our lives because it can define and push the boundaries of reality. It lets us know what is possible, while also letting us know the truth we must accept. Art has the biggest impact on the human mind. Why else would so many people pay so much for it? Especially the companies that pay for music and visual art in advertisements. Artists are more valuable than people think because media of any kind goes beyond monetary value. If art can stick with anyone forever, then it is priceless.

An important form of art: Ethnic music

I can and can’t believe Marlon chose the same topic! Hindustani music is definitely undervalued, at least in America. More people should listen to it! The singing is some of the best in the world; they hit runs like nobody’s business. And the intonation is so pure. The fact that Hindustani musicians practice in ragas, which are patterns of notes that can make up a song, ensure that going up and down the scale is never a problem. Most of the musicians have also been practicing since like, forever; it’s not like in America how you can just decide one day you’re going to do music and miraculously create a one-hit wonder. The composers in India stick. Speaking of composing, the music is also very beautifully written. If you listen to Bollywood music, the composers are very good at fusing classical and pop elements. It’s definitely something both musicians and consumers can both appreciate.

Besides Hindustani music, I suggest everyone expand their listening boundaries because there is a lot of amazing music going on all around the world that people don’t know about. In Japan, for example, Crystal Kay, a black and Korean singer, just released her latest album in the summer of 2012. The production and singing on it is so well executed. She sings mostly in Japanese but has a couple songs in English as well, so Americans would love her if they gave it a chance. Another artist who has been gaining American attention is Lianne La Havas from the UK. Her songwriting is like poetry; it kills what the most popular American artists today call lyrics. She’s sexy cool, too. And she’s dope on guitar! I think she will have quite a following in the states, but she’s been around long enough to show how musically ignorant we are. Crystal and Lianne are only two of the hundreds of artists who deserve world-wide recognition, but it’s on everyone else to push their listening boundaries that far.

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel


Billy Joel’s Scenes From an Italian Restaurant is definitely a piece I cherish. Billy Joel is my favorite song writer, and to me, Italian Restaurant is his best song that represents his artistry and talent. The piece itself is a combination of three different songs (much like Bohemian Rhapsody), with the transitions between each being seamless. The song is sung in Billy’s classic story-telling style, which gives the piece a cozy atmosphere. While listening, it’s almost like watching a movie. That type of songwriting has been missing in most music today. And although some artists try to replicate storytelling through music, they just can’t do it like Billy could.

Michael Jackson’s “Bad” Tour


Although in no particular order, my second piece would be Michael Jackson’s “Bad” tour as a whole. Why? Simply because it was one of the greatest examples of how to perform. The “Bad” tour incorporated the best of musicianship, song, dance, acting, fx… the list goes on and on. Michael Jackson certainly set the standard with this tour for how all subsequent performances would be done.

Bronx Guard by Tim Okamura


Tim Okamura’s painting, Bronx Guard is my third piece. It speaks to me personally, as the painting depicts a fusion of Japanese and African American cultures. In the painting, you can see Japanese and blacks adorning urban, as well as Samurai garb, as they pose and stare regally at the viewer. Okamura’s painting style is very realistic (his paintings look like photographs), and I love that he chooses to tackle cultural diversity through his art.

Les Miserables 


The musical of Les Miserables definitely had to make my top four. It is by far my favorite musical (with Lion King at a close second) as, I must admit, I find myself in tears at the end every time. The musical is so excellently arranged that the musical numbers flow into each other continuously, so that there are almost three hours of continuous music. If I had to choose one most memorable song from the production, I couldn’t because practically every song is a keeper. Les Miserables has attracted the best talent in the world, with big names such as Lea Solonga, Norm Lewis, and Colm Wilkinson. And of course, with thanks to Victor Hugo, the storyline tugs your heart strings with ample amounts of laughter in addition to the romance and tragedy.

Kamea Hadar 

Japanese-Korean-Israeli.  Born in Israel, grew up in Hawaii.  An artist.


My full name is Kamea Namba Hadar.  My mom was born and raised in Hawaii and she’s half Japanese, half Korean.  My dad’s haole and he was born and raised in Israel.  My parents got married in Jerusalem and after I was born we lived there for a few years until I was five and my brother was two and we moved here to Hawaii.  Hawaii is a great place but it’s small so traveling to Israel and to new places every year with my family helped broaden my horizons.  I’m very much a local boy at heart and I still love to hunt, fish, dive, and surf like when I was a kid.  One of my friends, Ito, wrote an article about me for Contrast Magazine and called me a Renaissance Moke; a moke that is very “local” but still cultured with broad horizons.  

Define art:

It’s a tough question and no matter which way you answer it, there is someone who is going to argue against it.  I guess that’s how philosophy is; it’s trying to define something that is undefinable.  Art can be something else for every person.  For an artist like me people can look at my art and it’s easy to say “Oh, he’s an artist,” because I paint portraits with traditional mediums like oil on canvas. I have friends who do conceptual art and it’s a harder sale in convincing the general public that it’s art.  There’s always trends in thinking what’s art and what’s not. I feel that anything can be art; cooking, dancing, anything.  When someone is passionate and creating something from nothing, its a form of art. With that being said, I definitely value craft or technique because I spent years training and painting realism so I appreciate when people not only put a lot of thought into their art form, but have the technique to do so effectively.  

On balancing past and future:

I think in life, there should always be a balance and in this case what we’re talking about is a balance between not forgetting our roots and at the same time moving forward.  How do you balance the two; tradition vs. pushing the envelope and/or carrying the tradition on? I appreciate different cultures and traditions. I’m mixed; my mom is short little Asian lady, my dad is a haole guy with a big long beard and they’re from completely different worlds and to me that’s beautiful.  I think as an artist, you should never forget how all the pieces of you interact and your histories and your families’ histories because those are important not to forget.  My grandfather’s generation from Israel that survived WWII and the Holocaust and created Israel are all dying off.  I lived in Israel recently for almost a year and I recorded his whole life story and I have a whole book and project that I’m working on that surrounds his life but it’s not the same as someone who actually experienced it.  I feel like it’s hard to keep certain things alive but its important to try. He actually experienced all those things and all I can do is tell people about his experiences through my eyes. That is a way that I keep his tradition and stories alive while still pushing forward with my own take on it.

Art School Confidential (2006)


Whenever I think of movies, I tend to think of funny movies like Art School Confidential because it makes fun of art school and artists.  It’s about this kid who is a skilled painter who paints technically sound paintings of women and a girl he falls in love with.  There is another guy who just fucks around and throws shit on the canvas and everyone is enamored with his work, calling it expressive and amazing.  To me it’s just a funny movie because a lot of times, artists are too serious.  You should always be able to joke about yourself and be down earth, not getting too carried away with having to be depressed and feel a certain way or cut off my ear to be creative.  

El Greco


Some of the El Greco pieces that I saw in Spain are just amazing to me.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to get better and better in trying to capture realism in my pieces by improving my technique.  A lot of El Greco’s forms are stretched, moved, and twisted and they aren’t exactly proportionate but they still capture the essence of the human form.  To me, that is kind of the next level.  I think copying something exactly is sometimes easier than taking something, changing it and still keeping its essence and recognizable form. It is one thing to create a piece of art that is disproportionate because you lack the skill to do so, and it is a completely different thing to have the ability to do so on-purpose. You have to learn all the rules first, before you can start to break them. 

Pow Wow Hawaii 2011


The piece that we blacked out at the end of the night from the first Pow Wow was a beautiful piece for me personally because I was there and I was a part of the creating of the painting with all those different people from all over the world.  There was something about that raw energy that was in the air which was really beautiful.  It sounds really cliche but it was one of those things where you had to be there to feel it.  I really loved the idea of blacking it out because it wasn’t really about the finished piece but more about the process of creating and sharing the personal experience with others.  

Israeli West Bank Barrier


As a very visual thinker, I find myself noticing things that others sometimes overlook or see things in a different light.  I don’t know if it’s necessarily a piece of art but but one of the craziest things I see when I go to Israel is the great separation wall which just slices through the country.  Israel is a very incredible place and to me it is one of its most defining elements.  People don’t realize how tall this concrete wall is.  When you see it, it’s a very significant thing visually especially when you know the background of it.  My grandparents were Holocaust survivors and they lived through a lot of atrocities.  They came to Israel to build a country and there is constant fighting over the land.  I wish it wasn’t something that is thought of as so negative and it is an image that sticks out in my mind and it is really significant.  History, people, cultures, and how cultures interact are things that the wall encompasses.

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A lot of people talk about doing different things instead of just doing them.  You should just think about it a little, talk about it, and then execute it.  People always overestimate things; if you have a crazy idea then just go for it - who cares!  A good example is my parents wanted to build an estate at Pupukea that could house and be a retreat for artists or creatives.  My dad taught himself carpentry and became a contractor and it was himself, my mom, my brother and I, and his crew of two or three guys who built the whole place, pouring concrete and figuring it out as we go.  People used to say we were crazy to build this huge estate but we were doing something not just talking about it and now it’s an amazing place.  They have art, writing, yoga, cooking and other creative retreats, and Pow Wow Hawaii is housed there as well.    

Additional links:

Pow Wow Hawaii - http://powwowhawaii.com/

A recap of Pow Wow Hawaii 2013 - http://hypebeast.com/2013/3/pow-wow-2013-recap

Photo credits:

Portrait: Cassy Song

Pow Wow 2013 mural: Brandon Shigeta

Kamea Hadar X Rone: Mikey Inouye

Stephen Yano

A man, a husband, a father of three daughters, a physician, a son, a grandfather, and a grandson.  

I am pretty much a product of Hawaii, even though I spent a few years of training on the mainland.  I was being born and raised in Kailua on the windward side of Oahu and had a private Catholic school education at St. Louis High School and went on to UH Manoa and UH Medical School.  My mother, who had some vestiges of artistic endeavors as a pianist and an educator, always raised me with an eye and appreciation for the culture.  It used to irritate me because I was dragged to the Chinese Opera and ballets.  But, I think it turned out to be an important subliminal part of my personality, so much so that when I took pre-med courses in college, Art 101 was one of my favorite courses.  I was so intrigued by it because it didn’t conform to my science core courses.  Itʻs always been a part of me that has been a little more sensitive and more open to less than didactic scientific side of life.  

Define art:

I appreciate art on the basis of the power that it holds to affect people.  I’m more astounded by what art is, by what its power can be, if used correctly.  My experience of art has been through the little sign posts in my life have been through the performing arts.  I remember being less than excited to see “Fiddler on the Roof” when I was a kid.  It wasn’t a world shaking performance but it intrigued me that people could arbitrarily influence how I felt about a lot of things.  A stage play’s effect on a person isn’t quite as evident until it comes in a flashback. Recently, when we had the privilege of traveling to New York, we were able to see “Wicked.”  These people get up on a stage and project a story to the audience and touch them in a way that the spirit of the people is different than when they came in.  That affect is huge.  

On child development and art:

I’ve always been intrigued learning about artists who were not discovered or esteemed prior to their deaths.  Society did not choose to honor them and diminished their unique gifts and somehow because of that diminishment, they became burdened.  Society relegated artists like Hemingway, Poe, Van Gogh to the corners of society where they were forced to survive because of their social lackings.  I think Van Gogh is the perfect example of this; his brother never accepted his talent or sold any of his pieces while he was alive and upon his death, the whole world went, “Wow.  Who is this guy?”  From a pediatrician’s standpoint in watching children develop, you begin to see the inherent gifts in certain kids.  It’s been my calling to raise the esteem of art related talents in the eyes of the parents who have children and young adults even though these gifts may not match with  the cultural or economic driving motors like money, jobs, or security that parents feel are good for their future.  Granted, as a parent myself, I understand that and I see money and career as valuable. They can give oneself and one’s future family some stability that is hard to find in any other way.  However, we have to as a society, a country, a culture, a state, and as a community be careful because theoretically what that does is distinguish all the other gifts in the preference of providership, stability, and money.  As a pediatrician, I need to create an atmosphere where those gifts are allowed to bloom and flourish by helping parents and their children to treasure them as a gift and not as a burden.  The issue is to hold up the arts as a critical part of culture. I think I see it as feeding parts of us that our present drivenness does not take time to feed.  

Rubber Soul by The Beatles 


I still have the vinyl record and it was a fulcrum in my adolescence.  I think it was 1968 it came out; mid-high school for me.  It was just before The Beatles got a little too weird for me, right before Revolver and Yellow Submarine.  Rubber Soul has epic tunes like “Michelle,” “Norwegian Wood,” and “In My Life.”  It was classic ballad, classic lyric driven songs, which is a dead art now.  

Water Lilies by Monet


Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether art is affecting you because someone told you it was good or because it really is good.  The one piece that someone told me was really good and I assessed by myself that it was pretty awesome was the Water Lilies.  I don’t know if you realize the scale of the Water Lilies.  I sat there, went up to it, and looked at each little stroke and thought, “What the heck?”  How does anyone perceive what the whole thing is from the vantage point of each dab?  In all its grandness, I was like, ‘“Wow, that’s just stuff on a canvas.”  

I have always been impressed by Monet’s work.  We  got to travel to France and we went up the Seines River to the Normandy coast, on the way stopping to see Monet’s house and garden.  And again, the confusion issue for me is when art replicates history or are you actually seeing the real thing.  When we went to Monet’s garden, it looked just like the pictures, which is cool because that’s where he painted the pictures.  But you and I both know that that’s not the same Japanese bridge, the same colors, and flowers that were originally around there.  The weird thing about replication or preservation of art or even Monet’s house, is the question of whether we’re imitating history for art’s sake or is it truly historic sites of art?  I guess it ‘s purely semantic whether a person sees it one way or the other, but that was a thrill for me.  

The Louvre 


The Louvre is the grandest, hugest, most awesome, overwhelming experience of art.  It’s just room after room after room and hallway after hallway of these huge canvases.  At first, I’m just doing what everyone else is doing, pondering things.  It’s weird and really strange because I don’t go there often into that realm so I don’t know how people do this. When I got there, I found that art feeds a part of me that is really not fed sometimes; that’s a healthy feeling.  What was weird about it is how others tell you what art piece is good, or epic.  We went to see the Mona Lisa and there were a hundred people leaning into this relatively small canvas.  To be honest, I couldn’t appreciate the fine details of the painting that our guide was pointing out to us because I was too far away.  So I guess it was impressive as a piece of art but it was weird again, what people say is awesome whether one can really appreciate it as awesome.  But when we stopped to hear about other pieces like Liberty Leading the People, I was blown away after being told about the history of a piece; after looking at the color schemes, the styles, the forms, the stylistic changes between paintings.  I was also blown away by the fact that if someone didn’t tell me this, I would’ve totally missed it.  So I guess the take home is that there is great value in the preservation of that knowledge for knowledge’s sake and art for art’s sake.  

David Maile

A mixed ethnic, multicultural Native Hawaiian that comes from simple, humble, respectful roots.  Trying to make a difference in the world with baby steps and really pursuing every passion I have whether people like it or not.  

My name is David Andrew Dunkin Maile and I am 24 years old.  I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii my entire life until I went away for college.  I get my Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese from my dad’s side and I get my Irish, Scottish, French, Welsh, and German from my mom’s side.  I live on the mainland in the Southwest right now so there are a lot of layered cultures that I belong to being mixed ethnicities, multicultural, a student, and a teacher.  

Define art:

Since I am a communications scholar, I really think art is conscious of communication.  I think art in a way is discourse, the discursive form of communication.  Art is a good medium and venue to communicate any idea; to communicate yourself, things, and places to others.  The medium that you choose to do that can be anything your heart desires.  It’s historical and it always comes from somewhere.  

On lineage:

I found out recently that my great-great grandmother, Koʻolau Maile was a published poet.  She wrote two particular poems about the Wilcox Rebellion in 1889.  As an opponent of annexation and King Kalākaua’s signing of the Bayonet Constitution of 1998, she celebrated Wilcox’s efforts to overthrow the Bayonet Constitution in 1887.  Her husband, my great-great grandfather, was a part of a citizen’s committee that wrote to William McKinley in 1897 in protest of the Treaty of Annexation in 1898, which made Hawaii a republic from a territory.  I have this apparent lineage of resistance so when I think about who I am, I think of the lineages on both sides of my family.  

On poetry: 

I’m really into writing and performing slam poetry.  I think performance art is gaining a lot of ground but is also misunderstood.  There is a lot of competition around slamming that I don’t really like because it fosters this motivation to win and do well.  But what is well?  What is winning?  What is the best?  I feel like the competition aspect of slamming although interesting, amusing, and entertaining, dilutes the real purpose of it.  I think the subjectivity of slam poetry and performance poetry is really what I love, more than the competition and the objectivity of being first place with the best prize.  The ability to speak freely is not a right but an opportunity you have to take it and do it in a genuine way where you’re speaking from your mind.  I do slam competitions because I relish more opportunities to share my life, through poetry, to a larger audience.  It has nothing to do with the recognition.  

When I write, I think about struggle, power, disrupting the norms of Western society.  Whether or not a person identifies and understands what the poem is and where it comes from is a different story.  I recently wrote a poem about my grandpa who passed away in May, connecting it to my Hawaiian identity, how I am away from home, how people don’t understand my last name, and all these other issues.  So it’s not about me just slamming; its a story about the history of my grandfather, my name, my lineage, myself and other people who are part Native Hawaiian, part indigenous, mixed race, or come from cultural backgrounds.  

An uncommon genre of art: Academic research

Art can be an action, a word, a language and to me, academic work is art.  Sitting down to write a research paper is the same to me as writing a poem.  Maybe some people agree or disagree with me but the medium doesn’t necessarily have to be “normal.”  There is something being communicated through it that makes it art.  Research is creative, has kaona (hidden meaning) to it, and comes from a place that is important.  For me, it comes from my heart.  I like being able to say the same thing in a different way for a spectrum of audiences from writing research for a research oriented crowd or for teaching or a slam for 30 or 50 people that I don’t know.



I’ve gone to three of his shows and I really like the art he creates with his lyrics and songs.  He is trying to raise consciousness about social injustices and things that people don’t feel comfortable talking about while trying to go against the normalized grain of what good music is.  It’s not just describing something but telling a story and going one step further and critiquing an element that we see in our everyday lives.  Whether it’s marriage equality in Washington State in his song “Same Love,” or thinking about capitalism and commodification in “Thrift Shop,”  what really sells him is his narrative and story that is deconstructing something.  Whenever I go to his concerts, it’s always nice to see his passion about that live.  The art he makes isn’t just what is said that room but it’s what people take home from the concert and how it changes their way of thinking.  For some people it will and some people it won’t but at the end of the day, he’s bringing to light these issues in a very critical way to try and raise awareness and deconstruct how we systematically operate in our lives.

Anis Mojgani


Anis Mojgani grew up in New Orleans but he lived in Portland for a long time.  He is a part of the group, Write Bloody, that publishes out of California and now has a physical store in Texas.  He’s my favorite poet because he’s very creative in expressing his identity and his life in a way that is very abstract.  Even if you haven’t met him or heard him speak, by reading his poetry you feel like you can picture yourself in his life.  Itʻs an out of body experience.  I feel like it’s very important to be transformative in a poetic way so I really appreciate his work.

Keith and Daniel Maile

I find inspiration from my father and brother in their art because they make Native Hawaiian crafts and forms using native materials.  They make things like poi boards and pounders, lei niho palaoa and work with different materials like bone and milo and kou wood.  Whenever I come home I try to learn from and make with them.  But for right now, they have what they’re trying to do and I have what I’m trying to do and we meet at the same place.  They’re trying to perpetuate Hawaiian culture from a practioner’s standpoint and I’m trying to deconstruct Hawaiianess from an academic level.  If I could choose a different life, it’d be a life like theirs and it’s very inspirational for me to be doing what I’m doing with that kind of background in my family.  I don’t think they’ll fully understand how much I appreciate what they do.  It’s always important for me when talking about who I am to talk about them and what they do because I draw strength from them and their art.  I love my dad’s and brother’s dynamic; my dad is very open about his art and my brother is not as open but he loves telling the story of where it comes from. 

My dad is a Maoli Artisan and woodturner.  He likes to make a lot of bowls but the story of how it’s was made is more interesting than the shape.  Some certain woods smell a certain way and he can identify a wood just based on the smell of it.  My brother goes one step further where he knows the specific history of everything he makes like how it was made back in the day and what it represented.  For example, he made me a lei niho out of a sperm whale tooth.  In ancient times, when a sperm whale would land ashore and perish, the chiefs would kapu (taboo) the beach.  To keep the mana (power) of the animal and Kanaloa (god of the sea and ocean) alive, they would harvest the tooth and refine them for the aliʻi (chief) so it could be celebrated.  My brother gave this piece to me for Christmas and the story he told me made the receiving the lei niho piece 50 times more valuable.  I do slam competitions because I relish more opportunities to share my life, through poetry, to a larger audience.I do slam competitions because I relish more opportunities to share my life, through poetry, to a larger audience.

Additional links:

An ABQ organization that David slams with - http://www.abqslams.org/  

Some of David’s poetry is recorded and published here - http://www.missivelit.com/

Jordan Higa

Light Chaser, Image Maker, Nature Appreciator 


I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and went to an all-girls private school, which I think really helped foster my creativity, personal interests, and artistic growth at a very young age.  The opportunities and support that came from the small environment helped with my transition into college, where I decided to major in graphic design.  I figured it was a good way for me to still practice art but make it relevant in a world where technology is becoming a driving force behind expression.  I spent four years in San Francisco, a city that opened me up to different ways of creating and people.  I moved to New York when I graduated to work and challenge myself in a big city.  It was shocking at first feeling so small and insignificant, but I think we all need to feel that at some point in our life, especially when we’re young. It ignites this fire in you to put yourself out there, take chances and stand out.

Define art: 

Simply put, I think art is an expression of how we perceive the world.  It’s not limited to any medium and it can be anything. You see different approaches to art; some people are conceptual, some people are technical.  I think the artists who really speak to me are those who can marry both well.

On the artistic process:

I try to develop concepts that other people may not immediately think of and present them in a way that makes people see a subject differently.  My process varies depending on the medium.  With photography, I enjoy capturing the spontaneity of life within my subjects, so I let the imperfections be when I’m shooting and editing.  I also love to draw, and there’s something about not being able to “command + z” that makes me feel so present and human.  Designing is where I marry all the assets and consider presentation. It’s more controlled than my other processes because I have to consider placement, color, size, etc. using a limitless amount of tools. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll pair my work with music to create a mood and push the feeling even further.  

On Fiji and “Aloha Namotu”


Right before I left on a trip to Fiji, I quit my job.  It was a really crucial moment in 2012 for me, and the trip was the perfect opportunity to unload my mind and disconnect on a small island with other artists and surfers.  Fiji was beautiful and I captured some really amazing images.  It was the best trip of my life!  When I got back to New York, I started thinking about how I could incorporate my enthusiasm and images into a fun personal project.  Some of the people that I went on the trip with established a free dental and medical clinic in Fiji so I thought it would be a great idea to make a photography book and sell it to contribute to their cause.  Through the project, I rekindled my passion for incorporating illustrations into my designs, discovered a creative process that brought me balance and learned how to market myself. But most importantly, I realized how I want to contribute to the world. I truly believe that we’ve all been blessed with skills so that we can pursue them. It’s our responsibility, as people of this planet, to share them in a way that brings us peace and makes the world a better place.

The Selby


The Selby is a blog that I worship because the creative mind behind it, Todd Selby, found a way to successfully share his interests in art with people.  He started by asking his cool friends who had interesting homes if he could photograph them in their creative spaces.  He would hand-draw, illustrate and watercolor the interviews he had with them and present it on his website.  Today, we have so many technological tools to create with and so much competition that it’s important to incorporate a personal touch in our work.  It’s art that I really appreciate and what I hope to achieve: finding a way to wrap up all my interests and sharing it with the world in a way that is fun and progressive.

Ryan McGinley 


At 25, he was one of the youngest artists to exhibit his photos at the Whitney Museum. His subjects are of nude people interacting with nature.  The concept behind his style is that he doesn’t want people to dictate a certain time or place when they see his work; he wants them to be completely timeless. The first time I saw his work was at a small gallery in San Francisco and it made me feel so free! He creates this breathability and minimalism in his images that strips life down to the essentials and makes you feel like you’re part of the adventure. He’s shot for Levi’s as well as other fashion brands and I admire the way he can shoot commercial while staying true to his personal style.  

Deanne Cheuk


She is an illustrator who makes these beautiful watercolor illustrations and typography.  The first time I saw her work was in a Japanese magazine.  At the time, I just started designing and I was so committed to creating only on the computer that I forgot about propelling myself forward as an artist. She encouraged me to maintain my interests off the screen and find a way to incorporate them into my design work.  It was an important realization for me at the beginning of my design education and I credit her as one of the people who pushed me to develop a personal style.

Neil Kellerhouse


It took me a while to realize that Kellerhouse was the mastermind behind my favorite movie posters for “The Social Network,” “I’m Still Here” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”  He pairs inventive imagery with traditional typography to create a very tangible mood.  It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the dramatic, airbrushed and glamorized movie posters I’m used to seeing.  He has a gift for making his subjects raw and relatable yet polished.  He has a style that I’ve always admired and it’s inspiring to see someone doing something different in the movie industry. 

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I recently rebranded myself and I was trying to think of something that represented my philosophy when it came to living. In almost everything I do, I try to achieve middle ground between life’s extremes (yin and yang): beach and city, pencil and pixel, dark and light and etc.  Often times, we’ll assign each end with a positive and negative value, training us to see one as better than the other.  We fail to realize that there is beauty in both and they exist because of each other.  My logo is “++,” which represents the two positive values that I place on both ends of the spectrum.  The dot is where the magic happens, where I try to live and work.

Casey Liu

Creating is a constant 


I was born and grew up in Hawaii where I was raised very much around family. I’m a middle child, stuck in between two younger brothers, a younger sister, and an older sister. My dad comes from a large Hawaiian family while my mom comes from a smaller one.  I always had a balance between the two and I think that has a lot to do with my personality. I think going to a public school also played a part in developing my personality. Growing up, I never felt like I couldn’t be whoever I wanted to be or that I had to chase after something. It wasn’t really competitive, but I always felt motivated and encouraged through my surroundings. 

Define art:
I believe that anyone can express themselves because art is simply self-expression. However, when I truly appreciate a piece of art, I feel a difference sense of that word. Art that I really appreciate will stir up an emotion, like joy or anger. An artist needs to have technical skill rather than just throwing something. Sometimes art can only mean something to one person but when it is able to invoke emotions from anyone who sees it—that is what I love about art.

An important genre of art: Recycling and upcycled art
I’m interested in the art of upcycling. I was raised to be wise with my money and it’s taught me to appreciate reusable goods. These artists create these pieces, not to be cheap, but to show people that this is something you can do with everyday tools. I went to this one market in Portland and there was this guy who made bowls out of spoons and robots out of other utensils. When I see a particular piece like this, I always look at it for a while. It’s not art that you would usually see for sale everywhere but he makes it simply because it causes others to stop and think. I sell jewelry, clothing, and art on etsy so I get to see a lot of art on the site as well. 

On Christianity and living:
Whether or not you believe in Christianity, I do believe that the Bible has words of wisdom that has shaped me into the person I am today. One of my favorite scriptures from the Bible is Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” It’s saying to not worry about tomorrow: the clothes you’re going to wear, the food you’re going to eat. Instead, look to the birds of the air; they don’t sow, they don’t reap, they don’t do anything but fly around but they always have a place to stay and food to eat. Look at the flowers, the wheat, the grass, the fields; they’re here one day and could be thrown in the fire the next but they’re still more beautiful than our own possessions. As humans, we place ourselves lower than birds and plants in our mindset, yet how much more are we provided for and are favored over these beautiful creatures? I’ve always seen this passage so heavily in my life because I’m provided for in every situation, from food to clothes. We should know that we’re worth more and and our dreams do not have to be put on hold because of fear of the future, fear for security. “Do not worry.” I love that.

Boka Marimba


When I went to Portland Saturday Market, they had live music there. There was an amazing, big family band called Boka Marimba. They played all these different instruments and were really cultural and really polished. I’ve never heard anything like them and we sat for an hour just watching them. I don’t often listen to cultural music but it just felt so good to listen to. You could tell that they loved what they did; their faces were so lit up and so happy. We would look around and see all these little kids dancing like crazy. It was awesome to have all of that being created just by that one group of musicians during a show.

I love body art; piercings, tattoos, and especially hair. I love how people use their hair to express themselves, either in a insane way or a more subtle approach. I believe that hair really frees a person and helps to bring out a personality as well. I had a friend that had really long hair to her bum for the longest time and then when she cut it off, I felt like I finally recognized her. I told her, “That’s your hair! That was always supposed to be your hair.” I have another friend that changes her hair every month, whether it be an undercut, a new color, whatever. I asked her what made her cut it off and she said that she was just tired of maintaining it and just using it as a shield that gets in the way of being who you are. She didn’t like the idea that if her hair were to burn off, she’d be depressed so she wanted to be able to do whatever she wanted and still be comfortable in her own skin. It’s an interesting art form that I have yet to explore.

Jade Novarino


I have a lot of friends that are artists. My friend Jade is one of my favorite people. She’s an artist in the sense that she has no specific form of art. She’ll make videos with her iPhone, taking photos with her toy camera, anything that makes her feel something, she’ll film it, sketch it, draw it, she even does poke and stick tattoos! When I was visiting her college in Portland, we were eating Thai food and her friend came in and collapsed on the ground because she was tired of finals. Jade jumps up with her camera and takes her picture with a disposable camera. She’s silly but she’s an artist in every form of the word. Everything she makes is raw emotion.

Lionel-Keone DeGuzman


My boyfriend is a skater and a musician and he’s very good at both at them. We’ll be sitting around and listening to a certain genre of music for a while and he’ll start creating music in the same style. People think that you need to grow up influenced by a certain genre of music just to obtain the skill, but not for him. Its like he creates art out of thin air, but it’s really from his heart. What I love the most is he does it just because it’s fun. He does it because it makes him feel happy and it’s something fun to do with friends. I also really value him as an artist in my life because he always encouraged me before I ever decided to pursue photography as a full time career. Even when I was a crappy photographer, he would always tell me that I could do anything I wanted to because he thought my work was the best. I believe he had a big impact on my art because he brought out dreams and goals in my life that I was trying so hard to suppress.

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I believe that there are talents and gifts that are placed in people that can be developed. Some talents were destined for us to pursue, even though some of us choose not to nurture those talents. Then there are talents that we all choose to pursue because everyone else is and we want to fit in. That’s why we drop things, that’s why we give up, and that’s why we get over things. We never pursue things for the right reasons, it should be in us. When it comes to art, there is something in you that drives you to be a photographer, a painter, a musician, a sculptor, whatever. If you feel it, just go for it. Nothing is holding you back but yourself. People don’t have the power to decide the course of your life; they can speak at you but you don’t have to let them speak in you. Words only have the power to bring you down if you let it; but if its in you, let it come out.  

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Art is labeled as high, low, good, and bad and these cookie cutter definitions segregate people by their tastes and perceptions. Art is comprehended by everyone in different ways and through conversation, we can learn how art can have many meanings and play multiple roles in our lives. With each interview, we can use our common love and interest for artistic creations to bridge gaps and create connections between people where there were none previously.

To keep it simple:
I like to talk to people.
I like art, a lot.
I think we can understand people on a different level by talking about art; experiencing what they have and feeling what they have felt.
And I'd like you to listen to what they have to say too.

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Editor - Sarah Tama