Welzie creates unique whimsical pieces of art inspired by his beach lifestyle and bright Hawaii surroundings. His paintings are shown throughout Hawaii’s fine art galleries and large scale murals in California and Mexico. Welzie has been a featured artist for the Greenroom Festival in Japan and the Pow Wow Hawaii mural event along with various publications. His uplifting use of color and imagery has gained international attention.
As a teenager immersed in the surfing culture, Welzie landed a job at a local surfboard manufacturer. His passion for art followed, using paint pens to draw images on the surfboards he created. Surfboards and art collided when he and surfboard shaper Carl Olsen started Two Crows Surfboards, a collaboration that allowed for complete artistic freedom which brought the inspiring surf art from the waves to the gallery walls.
Welzie works out of his studio near the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's Famous North Shore. Please contact for a studio visit.
The Welzie Interview
Have you always been into building things creating things, making art?
Since I can remember, projects were a way of life. My father is a amazing landscape painter and our home never had an empty spot on the wall. He was a graphic designer long before computers so I grew up seeing him drawing and creating designs. If I wasn't forgetting to put the caps back on the pens I was outside building tree forts or skate ramps. Always involved in making things and challenging myself to create. Im a pretty passionate guy, and the passion for creating things that make people happy has taken the lead of all my other endeavors.
What Materials do you use and how did you get involved in the medium?
The medium I use are all the same materials used in building surfboards. Fiberglass and Resin. As a young kid passionate for surfing, it wasn't long before I made my own surfboard. Carl Olsen who shapes the Sculptures and I made our first surfboards together in my parents garage at 16 years old. Covering my fathers hot rod garage with resin we were no longer able to use his space as our creative outlet. Carl and I both got jobs at the local surfboard factory and continued learning the craft almost 20 years ago. The illustrations developed from my teens as I took every chance I could at drawing images on their boards. This drawing on boards continued when I moved to hawaii as I drew on Local Professional surfers boards to not only practice but in the hopes of getting more waves in the heavily local waters on Oahu’s North Shore.
What is your daily routine for creating.?
I definelty belive in showing up daily for creativity. Not every day I feel the need to create a new piece but I show up anyways and make something wether it comes out good or not. I like gettingstarted on a new piece in the morning that way when I get really into it there is plenty of time to channel the creative energy. My studio is right at the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore, so everyday I can walk away from a piece and be reinvigorated by the perfect waves and weather. Coming back to the studio after an adrenaline filled surf is the best way for Hawaii”s colors and energy to radiate through in the piece.
What inspires you?
My inspiration comes directly form the ocean and the beauty and colors that surround my surfing island lifestyle. Everyday I am surrounded by the ever-changing energy of the ocean which keeps me in a happy creative state. Im extremely fortunate to be able to do what I love and have such a great connection with the ocean and nature. Spending time surfing with friends and enjoying the ocean just makes me want to go in the studio and make a piece of art that other can feel the same happiness and inspiration.
How do you explain your art?
Hahhaha well this is always a funny one to me. I generally like to think it is a combination of abstract expressionism with a graphic pop art imagery. My work isn't realistic or to detailed but I love the blocks of color and contrast of the black ink and the colorful background. There is such a yinand yang to my work, maybe because I'm a gemini, such as the textured colors brought out by fiberglass and the smooth glossy resin finish. The tight graphic images in contrast to the loose and freestyle background gives the pieces balance and depth. It really is an accumulation of my life as a artist, surfboard builder and that happy kid drawing all over everyones surfboards.
What projects are you excited to be working on?
The Scupltures that Carl Olsen and I collaborate on are really taking off and the possibiltys just keep growing. Were developing our process to be a able to create large scale installations that cobine the unique and smooth lines of Carls shapes and the loose freestyle colors . Our sculptures take quite a long time to complete but some of the bigger projects involve free standing whales and schools of fish weaving in and out of walls. I have also been spending a lot of time developing my skills as a landscape artist. My father is amazing landscape painter and has really inspired me to challenge my self to create pieces that make people feel like they are happy to be in the Hawaiian islands.
How has your art changed over the years and what makes it different today than in the past?
My art has changed so much over the years and really started to devolpe into my recognizable style about 5 years ago when I was just making a ton of originals. I really love creating so when people started collecting my work I was head over heels to create as much as I could. I had the mentality that the more you practice the better you get. So I just made as many piece as i could. Which is why my style has that looseness and commitment to each line. Today I spend a lot more time on each piece, making more conciseness decisions while still letting creativity flow. My colors are much more brightrer and happier than they were when I was living out of a van and just painting all day everyday. My work during that time was a lot darker and more sarcastic than it is now. My emotions definitely play out in my work, that is why I deicate myself to living a happy and healthy lifestyle so it shines through in my work.
How did you make the transition from Surfboards builder artist guy to Fine artist?
I was always painting but not making a living from it. There is a big gap between making art as a hobby and being able to support yourself from your art. My surfboard building payed the bills for a long time but as I spent more time on surfboards my acrylic paintings got left unfinished and my time experimenting with the resins started to develop. Customers would come into our shop and buy a board which I fiberglass and painted and they would see my quirky resin art and often purchase it. More and more people started buying the work and I eventually went and did a few art fairs in honolulu. The feedback was amazing and we sold out of almost everything. Granted Originals were going for 60$ but it was a great way to gain some confidence that people actually liked my work. The Art festivals really got me going and brought me to the point where I thought ‘ I don't need to build surfboards, I can just paint” soon after, a customer was complaining to me about the colors on her board. After they left I told carl I just cant do it anymore. From then on out I never really looked back. I mean I still paint our team rider boards and for the occasional collector, but its just all paintings and sculptures these days. It was kinda hard at first as so much of my identity was a surfboard bulder but over time i got used to calling myself an artist and identify with who I am not so much what i do. Once the galleries started picking up my work it really influenced me to step up my game and start creating nicer pieces and spending more time on the craftsmanship. A friend of mine who worked at the famous Wyland galleries invited me to do a temporary surf art show at the Haleiwa gallery and my pieces sold so well that they just kept a wall up for me in the gallery. All the art galleries have been great and it has given me the opportunity to develop my techniques and focus on creating more dynamic pieces.
What has ben the biggest obstacle in making a licving as an artist?
I have been my biggest obstical! I am hyper critical of my work. For the longest time I worked so hard on my pieces and made so little. Looking back it was just myself knowing that i was still learning my craft and developing my style. I have probably thrown more art away than I would like to admit. Its always funny when I look outside the shop and there is someone looking through our trash bins for a special piece. I think another hurdle which took me a longtime to overcome was developing a style that I love and am passionate about. Painting with resin and the limited tools developed my style. and the ink illustrations are something that has made me happy since I was teenager. The art I make is me. Its genuine and the entire process is kinda exactly who I am as a person. Shiny on the outside but rough yet light layers on the inside. A bit loose at times but able to execute whats needed to get my goal or message across. When the art you make comes from within i believe you can do no wrong.
Why do you make Art?
Every one has made art at some point. When were kids we get handed crayons at restaurants to keep us busy and we love it. I just kinda never stopped. Im a bit of an introvert so drawing and painting is kinda my friend. I can get lost in my head while I am making things and I think thats the part I like. My brain can run off for hours when Im in the zone and when Im done with the piece I can snap back into reality. Its kinda my best friend when i don't want to have anyone around..
I remember being at a restaurant around 5 years old and my dad using the kids crayons to draw on the paper table cover. By the end of the evening the white table cloth was covered in colors and images from our evening of dinners and stories. The whole wait staff and neighboring tables took a look at it and gave my dad so much affection and praise. I then and there I wanted to be able to do the same. I wanted to make things that people liked and made them not only curious but inspired to try it themselves.
What are your goals as an artist?
Wwll i just want to be able to make a living while doing what I love. My brain has a million ideas for projects and instalations so ill stay pretty busy trying to check boxes off the list. Having a huge show in a Museum of Modern art is defiantly something I look forward to in the future. Just having that creative freedom in such import venue and beautiful space.
I think just being able to inspire a young kid to grow up and pursue a career in the creative world. There have been a lot of people who influenced me in one way or another so being able to pass along that inspiration is the greatest gift. It would also be pretty cool to have my kids read a text book about influential artists and have Welzie on a page or two.
Eventually I see having a couple signature galleries in Hawaii and California. My works lends itself to the happy beachgoer and I would really love to have the creative freedom of my own gallery space for events and shows.
How are your pieces made? What is the process?
My original resin art pieces go through the same process of a surfboard, but substituting Wood for the surfboard Foam. Fiberglass is played out over a piece of wood and laminated with white resin to create the perfect canvas to paint. Resin is then mixed up with pigments and painted over the textured white surface. After a half dozen or so colors the piece gets a smooth thick layer of resin allowing us to flatten and create a smooth surfbface for the illustrations. Once the imagery is drawn on the sanded surface an final clear coatt of resin is applied to seal in the imagery and provide a protective layer which can be shaded and polished to a shine. Finally the edges get sanded and beveled to clean it up so it can be mounted to the frame.
Where do you work?
I do all the dirty stuff down in the Wailaua Sugar mill in our two Crows surfboard factory. Here is where the background of the paintings are made and where the sanding and final polishing are made. Its a great spot in the Waialua sugar mill and the perfect industrial area for many creators on the North Shore. All the imagery is pod in my home studio on the beach on Oahu’s famous north Shore surf bReak the Banzai pipeline. Its a perfect spot to tap in the energy of the ocean to create lively and whimsical pieces. My studio is right on the bike path and I always encourage people to poke their heads in when the big doors are open.
You Oftenuse the term Freestyle? What is that and where did it come from?
Haahahha yeah Freestyle has really become our mantra for life. Its basically a postive spin to something unexpected. When we first started experimenting with our proprietary techniques painting on surfboards there were a lot of accidents and experiments. When something didn't really come out the way we wanted we would just say “ freestyle” and add something to it untill it started looking good. Sometimes this took ages to bounce back from a bad color or composition but freestyle always works out in the end as long as there is good intentions. It can be just committing to your mistakes and laughing about it. its defiantly a loose term and can be used in almost every situaion.
When Carl Olsen and I were making him a longboard while he was visiting from the mainland I invited on putting some color on the board. Carl was hesitant as usual and was really into just getting a clear board done asap. With his back turned i mixed up some red in the resin and went about my way. glassing the board in a unfamiliar fashion and just really making carl nervous. My last min idea of putting color in the resin backfired when we flipped the board over and we had done the traditional method of taping off the bottom of the board to control the paint. When we flipped the board over carl saw his board and the look of horror only led me to respond “ Don't worry its freestyle” at the point I had no idea how i was going to make this board come out right but I followed the freestyle and went for a new technique. And it worked. The freestyle became a beacon of hope and our two crows surfboard company was launched from that one afternoon. With that we created a surfboard company where creativ freedom was mandatory.
Shows and Press
May 2006 - Featured Surf Artist in Free Surf Magazine
May 2007 - University Of Hawaii Manoa BFA Show.
February 2008 - Artist for the NFL Pro Bowl Surfboard Auction, Honolulu, HI
March 2009 - Collaboration with Two Crows Surfboards
June 2009 - "Superfluous" Art Show at Circus Gallery, Haleiwa, HI
November 2009 - "Palimpsest" Art Show at Circus Gallery, Haleiwa ,HI
January 2010 - "Bugly" Art Show at Circus Gallery, Haleiwa, HI
January 2010 - "Coffee and Bong Hits" book release
February 2010 - "Coping: Art and Skateboarding" Art Show at Circus Gallery, Haleiwa, HI
March 2010 - "Residence" Art Show at Circus Gallery, Haleiwa HI
October 2011 - Two Crows Gallery Art Show, Haleiwa, HI
February 2012 - "Wet Art" show Santa Cruz, CA
March 2012 - Collaboration Surfboard Series with Heather Brown and Two Crows Surfboards Waialua, Hi
May 2012 - "The Thin Line: Art, Design and Everything in Between" Art Show at R&D, Kakaako, HI
May 2012 - Collaboration Show with Heather Brown at The Heather Brown Gallery in Tokyo, Japan
May 2012 - Featured Artist for the 2012 Greenroom Festival in Yokohama, Japan
July 2012 - Poster Art for the North Shore Music Festival
November 2012 - Art Show at Surfing The Nations, Wahiwa, HI
November 2012 - Painting of the Refinery Project's Art Bus. Waialua, HI
December 2012 - Art Show at The Refinery Project in Waialua, HI
January 2013 - Art Show at Ong King Gallery, Chinatown, HI
January 2013 - Art Show at Mod. Vintage, Honolulu, Hawaii
January 2013 - Artist Feature in INNOV8 Magazine, Go Airlines. Hawaii
February 2013 - Art Show at The Refinery Project/Pow Wow Hawaii Waialua, HI
February 2013 - Pangeaseed Art Show at Box Jelly in Kakaako, Hi
February 2013 - Art Show at Ong King Gallery, Chinatown, HI
February 2013 - I HeART The Ocean Art Show/ Fundraiser for Substainable Coastlines, Daimond Head HI
February 2013 - Sunset Beach Elemanary Art Auction Fundriser, Waimea Bay, HI
March 2013 - "Sharks and Ships" Art Show at The Box Jelly, Kakaako, HI
March 2013 - Surfing The Nations "Into The Wild" art show in Wahiawa, HI
May 2013 - Art Show at Mercury Bar, Chinatown, HI
May 2013 - Art Display at Jewl and Juice, Kailua, HI
July 2013 - Art Display at Capitol 360 building Waikiki, HI
August 2013 - Art Show with Pangeaseed at Mark's Garage in Chinatown, HI
September 2013 - Art Show at Ong King Gallery Chinatown, HI
October 2013 - Feature in Aloha Street Magazine, Japan
November 2013 - Haleiwa Joes Art Show Haleiwa, HI
November 2013 - Surfing The Nations Art Show in Wahiawa, HI
December 2013 - Art Show at Third Stone Gallery, Waialua, HI
December 2013 - Wyland's 8th Annual Surf Art Show in Haleiwa, HI
December 2013 - Feature in Free Surf Magazine
December 2013 - Feature in Japan's NALU Magazine
January 2014 - Published "How To Build A Surfboard" 72 page illustrated book on building surfboards
June 2014 - Solo Show at Wyland Gallery Haleiwa, Hi
July 2014 - Solo Show "Off The Deep End" Greenroom Gallery Waikiki, Hawaii
July 2014 - Haleiwa Arts Festival Haleiwa, Hawaii