An Interview with Paiko’s 2018 Artist in Resident, Wyatt Hersey
Paiko invited artist Wyatt Hersey to Oahu for a week to soak up the island’s energy and create for us an illustration expressing our love for Honolulu’s trees. We were excited to work with Wyatt as we were drawn to his work’s simple beauty.
After a visit to Tantalus Botanicals to see our friends Chris and Michelle, we sat down with Wyatt on a bench in the forest to talk about his background and artistic process.
The Arbor Day Tee Shirt we created with Wyatt’s illustration is available here. $10 from each sale goes to starting a project to inspire isle residents to preserve and plant trees around their homes and neighborhoods.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the Bay Area… I lived in Santa Cruz for 3 years and then Olympia, Washington, which is where I finished school. I studied field ecology-Birds.
Favorite medium for art?
I love painting and I usually paint with acrylic paint. Right now, being here this week I’ve been using gouache, which I’ve been really enjoying. In terms of my inspiration, I’m mostly inspired by printmaking, which is funny because I don’t really do printmaking much. But I’m inspired by screen printing and block printing and how those styles lend themselves to graphic styles of art. I used to screen print at home, but it’s really difficult to do unless you wanna invest money in getting a setup, which I just haven’t. It’s easier to paint. I can still be inspired by those things, but I can just go get a panel, and I paint. I can do it anywhere.
Favorite place in Hawai’i that you’ve visited?
That’s a hard one. I hiked the Aiea loop trail, and that was really awesome. I was able to see some of the native trees and to see the native honeycreepers, which was a goal of mine. And then yesterday I went up onto the North Shore and snorkled… I think it was called shark cove? Shark’s cove; That was really awesome.
Favorite location personally and for art inspo?
Favorite location anywhere?! This year, probably one of the most inspiring places for me was the North fork of the Feather River, which is right behind my house, where I live in the summers. And I would go any free time I had and I would draw, but often times I would just like lay out and decompress and go swimming in the freezing cold water.
Hawaii’s been incredible. It’s been really cool to come here and get inspired by the tropical plant shapes and flowers. It’s so weird; It’s like back, to the thing Michelle was talking about, with the roses. Being from the mainland, we’ve been programed to think certain things are beautiful, some of these Hawaii flowers are weird to me, but they're really beautiful and it’s cool to celebrate them because… a rose doesn’t represent this landscape at all. If you appreciate the flowers that grow here, it can create more connection and appreciation of where you are.
Does your location affect your art?
Yeah, where I am definitely does affect what I am creating. My work is always about nature and peoples’ relationships to nature and just connecting with nature. So my art has a lot of natural environments and usually houses too, because that’s part of it. And vibes of landscapes definitely. Hawai’i took me three or four days to get relaxed into the feeling of being here. Everyone's super laid back, not trying to get anywhere at certain time.
Everywhere does have a different feeling that affects people and how they exist.
What is your take on the tree situation in urban Honolulu?
I did notice there aren't very many trees. And there definitely could be more. They are so beautiful and they're so varied in their shapes. But also just thinking about their role on planet earth. And all that they give to us as people and all the other beings on the planet is really awesome. We can thank trees for being able to breathe oxygen. We wouldn't be able to be here if it wasn't for trees and other plants. And the vast majority of our shelters…most of them are made with wood, which is something to be grateful for, for everyone's grateful for shelter.
Also one of the things I get most excited about in life is gleaning fruit. Finding trees that aren’t being harvested and getting permission from people and harvesting food that’s not being used. And there’s so much. Where I live in Chico’s amazing. There's tons of almond and walnut and pecans and there’s so many different types of fruit.
What do you want people to take away from your Paiko illustrations?
An appreciation of trees. And I feel like what I want people to take away from my art, no matter what I’m doing, is a sense of celebration and joy. And, like I said, it’s pretty much always humans and nature. Putting energy of appreciation into life and nature.
Story by Emma Oshiro