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Artist Profile: Heather Brown

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Heather Brown is a full time artist on the North Shore of Oahu. Most of Heather's inspiration comes from her love for the sea, nature, popular surf breaks, and the beauty of the islands. Heather has a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with an emphasis in printmaking. 

Q & A with Heather Brown, questions by SurfSister's Kelly Reid.

Heather can you tell us what your life was like growing up? 

I grew up in Southern California and had a lot of artistic influences in my life from a young age. My family had professional artists in it and I would spend a lot of time with my grandmother making art from a young age. After moving to Huntington beach, when I grew older I knew that beach towns were for me and what better beached to be on then those of Hawai'i, so when the time was right, I moved out here and have loved it everyday since.

When did you first discover your creative talents? 

I had always loved to make art and for the better part of my life it was always just a hobby and something I could do on my days off from being a dive master and boat captain. When I enrolled at the University of Hawai'i and decided to go for my Bachelors of FIne Arts is when I made the decison to take on art as a full time gig. I think my style came from my deep interest in old printmaking techniques that I have always admired and when I graduated and did not have access to all the old heavy printmaking machines that I was able to use through school, I decided I would try to replicate the feelings of those arts with a paintbrush.

When did you begin to surf and how did it change your life?

I had always loved to watch surfers and waves in California, but I was so deeply immersed into free diving and tank diving that I never gave it a real chance. That all changed the day I moved to Hawai'i and saw the warm clear water and beautiful rolling waves off of Waikiki. From the first day, about 14 years ago, I have been hooked! I used to go for little surfs between classes at UH. I would take my board on my moped and dart down when most people would spend their time eating lunch I would spend as many hours as I could in the water and come into my class dripping wet!

We understand that five years ago you became a full time artist, what other jobs did you do before this? 

I held jobs as a waitress, an EMT, I worked as a Dive Master and a Captain on dive boats before taking the plunge into being a full time artist.

As an artist and a surfer you will be aware of their intrinsic nature: how do you think they connect?

I think it is all just art. I listened to a great interview with an older actor and he had mentioned that everything is ART and that has resonated in me so deeply. When I am surfing I can spend hours just sitting in the lineup watching the light play on the water surface, watching the dance of the surfers jockying for waves and watching the graceful beauty of the surfers riding walls of water. It is all so artistic to me and when I get home to my studio, I just want to re-create what I just lived through for the past few hours. I get them same feelings inside my heart and mind again and just like surfing, I just want to do it again and again as each piece can be similar but so different at the same time.

Where does your inspiration come from and how do you stay inspired? 

I beleive that I live in the most beautiful place on Earth, all I need to do is look out the window, take a walk, go for a surf, play int he garden and soak in what is going on around me. Inspiration here to me comes in so many forms and never stops from the beginning of the day to when I close my eyes. I mentioned earlier some of our travels as well, which inspire me in totally different ways to see light in different forms and different aspects of nature that surround us. When I have to leave our Island nirvana, the people who come out to my shows and tell me how my art makes them happy, is more than anyone could ever ask for for even more inspiration, I have the best fans of my art in the world, they are all so loving and caring and I am the luckiest girl ever. Thats true internal inspiration to go with all of the external inspiations that fill my life.

What's your favourite art work that you have created and why?

My personal favorite piece of my own is a piece that is called "High Tide" The original hangs in our room and my husband and I spend time each day looking at it. I never know why, but some pieces just have that energy for you and other pieces to others. I am happy with each and every piece I make, because I always try to paint with the best intentions and let the piece grow naturally but some pieces definitely hang up in our home longer than others.

Can you share with us any memorable responses that you have had to your work? 

The response to my art over the past 6 years or so has been so incredible. From the LA Times dubbing me as "The Godmother of Modern Surf Art" (which I am still in shock everytime I see that in print) to the families that will wait hours to meet me at a show just to tell me how my art has brought happiness to their home. They are all so unbelievable, that I find myself striving to work even harder to produce even more so more people can get that same feeling. I recently received a letter from a collector who lives near the Fukoshima province in japan that experienced the horrible Tsunami and Nuclear disaster a year ago. The entire family wrote to me and let me know that their lives had been so devistated in the past year and times had never been bleaker. They told me how jobs were lost, food and clean water were scarce, they lived each day in fear of what was going to happen next. But each day, they would all come together and look at a piece of my art that I had created and  donated to raise money for the victims (the person who bought this piece then gave it to the family), they said that when they would look at my painting, whether for a few minutes or a few hours, they were able to forget about all the bad news and transform them to that beach in Hawai'i and they would smile which they couldn't so many other times in their day. They mentioned how it had brought great strength to their family and other neighbor families in such a dire time. It took me about 3 hours to read the entire letter because I had to stop so many times because of the tears in my eyes. If nothing else ever came from my art in my life than that, I would consider myself a huge success.

What have been your favourite projects to date and why?

 That's a tough one! I am so honored to have been a part in so many great projects in my carreer so far. Smme huge highlights have been when I was asked to create the art for jack Johnsons Kokua Festival and  The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing had me do their art a few years back which was another great honor. I have also done some great projects that have been a bit more underground to the mainstream like I was asked to produce the artwork for Plastic Free Haleiwa and Plastic Fee Hawai'i, which I am a huge supporter of as well as creating the art work each year for the Surfrider Foundations annual John Kelly Environmental Activism awards. These are just a few, but each project that I work on, I am so proud and honored to be a part of and I always only work on projects that are close to my heart.

How is working with Rip Curl going? What do you enjoy about this?

I have been working with Rip Curl for about 4 years now and it is great! The team that I work with are all so nice and fun and creative. My new spring line just launched and the summer line is right around the corner. I really enjoy working with Rip Curl because of the people, I get to meet great creative people from around the world and work in a form of art that is much different then what I do on a daily basis.

What is your dream project? 

I am living my dream project because I get to work on so many different things and have come to a point in my life and career that I can really pick and choose what I want to be involved in.

What are you working on at present? 

I am currently working on a show that will be happening in late March at The Heather Brown Gallery in Tokyo, Japan for the gallery 3 year anniversary! I am so proud of my gallery there in Japan, and I love going over and spending time with all of my great fans and eating some of the worlds best food!

What would you like to achieve through your art? 

I would like my art to bring smiles to peoples faces and warmth to their hearts.

We know that you have worked with a number of charities focused on environmental causes, can you tell us about this and why it is important to you? Who are you currently working with? 

I have worked with a bunch and continue to work with more each year. I think this is so important to me because my life revolves solely around the beauty of the Earth and the Oceans. We only have one and as a civilization we have made some poor decisions in the past and continue to make poor decisions in the present and many of them came from not knowing better. But the more we learn and find out, it just seems to be natural to try and make better decisions. I am by no means perfect in everything I do environmentally, but I think that each one of us just needs to start making small changes in our lives so we can keep the environment one that we want to spend time in. I am currently working on projects with The Kokua Foundation, The Surfrider Foundation (USA, Hawai'i, Japan), The Wyland Foundation, Seathos Foundation, and The HIS Hawaii Farm tours.

What do you think is the biggest threat to the environment right now? 

Us! ha ha. Nations that are putting short term economic goals in front of long term environmental goals (which coincidentally could actually be long term economic goals) But an easy answer is SINGLE USE PLASTICS.

What more can surfers do to help protect our oceans/nature? 

There are so many things, but you can really just start simple, Stop Using Single Use Plastic Products and urge your local governments to ban them. It is SO EASY. As surfers or even just people who love to be around our Earths Oceans and waterways, stop trashing them and show them a little love. Just a little effort from everyone could make such a difference, and as surfers, that should be mandatory.

You're a surfer and an artist: what is the greatest thing that you have learned in life? 

To always be positive, gentle and kind.

Can you share with us your most memorable surfing experience? 

Thats so tough! I am that person who has the best session of their life every session! But the most memorable surfing experience I have ever had was going down to the Maldives and getting married to my best friend and surfing the most perfect waves I couldn't even ever imagine existed. some days it would just be us in the water for hours and I rmember one ride where I was on a head high left, glassy as could be and 3 Uluas (GT's) were swimming in the wave face riding it with me and as I looked to the shoulder of the wave Chris was there hooting me on. It will stay in my mind forever!

What is your moto for life?

Live life, love, respect, smile and laugh each and every day.

For more of Heather's art: and blog

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