Sean Yoro, a Hawaiian-born artist, paints landscapes — or should I say he paints on the landscape, often taking great risks.
Sean, who goes by the name Hula, has stood on a surfboard to paint at the edge of a waterfall. He has paddled among Arctic icebergs to create his art. And he has worked for days on the watery undersides of bridges, painted the hull of an old ship and rendered images on many other man-made structures that impose on the natural world.
What he most often paints are visually stunning murals of human faces and forms — mostly women — on a huge scale.
His latest project, called Maka’u, found him precariously standing on his paddle board at the edge of a high man-made waterfall. His picture shows a female subject deep in the water and clinging to a rope to avoid being swept over the spillway. Check out the first video on this page.
The piece symbolizes the desire to hold onto one’s dreams, something that Sean struggles with daily, he told writer Nathaniel Ainley of Creators magazine.
“There are so many variables pushing you to let go of your passion, from fear to insecurity, which is what I wanted the rushing water to represent,” he was quoted as saying.
“With this piece, I was inspired to capture the raw power of water which I grew up familiar with as a surfer. Definitely the most adrenaline pumping environment I have ever painted in, it was a mental battle to stay out there and finish the mural. The intense roaring of the water and wind sweeping over was nothing I ever felt before.”
Growing up in Hawaii, surfing became part of Sean’s life. He describes his early artistic inspiration in the third video, produced for Atelier Hawaii, an intensive art program at Windward Community College, Kāne‘ohe, Hawaii. After college, Sean moved to New York, where he found a way to combine his love for the water with his newfound artistic expression. The second video shows some of his earlier work.
At the end of 2015, Sean was discovered by major news outlets and became associated with environmental causes — specifically climate change — after he traveled to the northern region of Iceland, where he painted human figures on icebergs, as described in Hawaii magazine.
Last year, he made another inspiring trip to the Canadian Arctic on a project sponsored by North Face, the apparel company. On Baffin Island, Nunavut, he got to know the Inuit community and eventually decided to use a local woman, Jesse Mike, as the model for his ice painting. On Earth magazine, Jan. 5, 2017.
As Jesse explained the sense of change in the Arctic, “For most people, it’s about the polar bears; it’s not about the people. Well, let’s make it about the people.”
The last video on this page, titled “What if You Fly,” is a wonderful 10-minute documentary of that trip to the Arctic.
Sean uses paints made with natural oils and organic pigments. They don’t last as long in the outdoors as acrylic paints, but he says he likes to see the weathering of his pieces. Of course, the melting icebergs are an even greater reminder that nothing lasts forever.
Other references worth reviewing:
- Hula, Sean’s personal website with samples of his work
- Hula on Instagram
- Hula on Facebook
- CNN slideshow