Modern Hawaii

How One Artist is Bringing Hawaiian-Inspired Art to the Masses

October 17, 2019 Sponsored By

Artist Nick Kuchar’s life on the west side of Oahu started with a dream-like quality. Born and raised in coastal Florida, Kuchar and his wife, Rachel, ventured to the Hawaiian islands for their honeymoon some 13 years ago and quickly decided to turn the holiday into a permanent stay. Of course, no fantasy is as simple in reality. Before launching his business, the Kuchars first waited tables and scraped-by for a few years. Though the hardship is relative: It was the landscape, sun and surf were their main drivers in those early days.

Then in 2010, life shifted. When looking for artwork to hang in their home, Kuchar instead turned to his background in design and the natural inspiration of his surroundings. “I started illustrating some of our favorite spots here in Hawaii,” he says. “It was places that we surfed at, places we hiked, or little towns we like to hang out and grab lunch at.” This soon developed into an online shop. “It kind of snowballed from there. Some local galleries found my work and we’ve grown our list of galleries that we wholesale to.”

Today, Kuchar’s small business is thriving. In his studio, situated in a small structure behind their craftsman-style home, Kuchar keeps busy sketching and framing his work while his shop manager is handling orders. While his artwork is being stocked in more and more shops across the islands, Kuchar has met growing demand by creating supplemental goods — from hats to towels, coasters and recently a collaborative run of men’s and women’s shoes with Olukai.

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Though the story sounds like he fell into success, Kuchar is the first to admit that it’s no easy task to run a creative business, particularly in a place as isolated as Hawaii. “It’s really just about cultivating good relationships and being really reciprocal with the give and take,” says Kuchar. “If you go into it, just seeing what you can take for yourself, I don’t feel like you can be successful in Hawaii. You really have to lean on each other.”

Kuchar considers his business relationships as dear and familial as the personal ones he’s developed in Oahu. The relationship-driven way of life is ultimately what took him from extending his honeymoon phase (that is, living in Hawaii solely for hiking and surfing) to truly staying for the sense of greater ohana.

“Hawaii is very family-based — community and family are very important, which is something that I really like,” he says. “We really just came out here to be part of just the outdoor lifestyle. And on top of that, we’ve found a really rich community.”

Meet the Huakai Li

The Huakai Li is OluKai’s handsome sneaker that can go anywhere without an issue. Looking to the raw natural beauty of the Waimoku Falls on Maui’s east side for design inspiration, the refined sneaker is crafted from waxed nubuck leather and is the perfect sneaker for casual adventures. Read the Story

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