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Sean Yoro (Hula)

Sean Yoro - Hula
Words / Megan Tomino

Sean Yoro aka Hula hit the street art scene with a bang with murals of larger-than-life-sized women painted in oils that seem to float just above the water line on the walls of a flooded abandoned building. To achieve these portraits, Sean used a stand-up paddle board, an anchor, and a lot of balance—some pieces took upwards of nine hours to complete. Sean’s murals may seem like the stunt of a seasoned street artist, but that isn’t the case.

As a kid growing up in Hawai‘i, Sean was always tagging couches left on the curb and covering sketchbooks from beginning to end with his drawings. After high school, his family’s connections in the airline industry allowed Sean to travel frequently. He’d often spend weeks abroad where he noticed how traveling to foreign countries had a way of reminding him that he was just a visitor. These moments of culture shock made Sean acutely aware of why he was different from the locals around him. In trying to come to terms with the isolating feeling of being an outsider, he sought out a way to bring a sense of home back to him. It turns out that it was the ocean that made this happen for him. “Whether I was in South Africa or Bali, as soon as I jumped in for a surf, I would feel more relaxed and comfortable in the place I’m in,” recalls Sean.

When he thinks back to creating his murals, Sean says, “I feel I unconsciously did the same thing in the street art world. I felt very foreign entering it…but that was all gone once I headed to the ocean.”

Any novice artist would find that making a splash (pun intended) in the art world while staying true to your style is a daunting task. Constantly second-guessing yourself, holding back, and other self-torturous thoughts are just a part of the process. Sean spent years researching art history and experimenting with different techniques, constantly pushing himself to produce artwork. Eventually, pouring his heart and soul into a project while anticipating a good reaction by his audience only to be disappointed, took a toll on him. Sean began to feel himself slipping, putting less effort into his pieces. Again, it was the ocean that pushed him back onto the right path as he thought back to an experience he had in Hawai‘i.

“One morning I paddled out on one of the biggest days I’ve ever surfed in North Shore,” remembers Sean. “It was really early, about 6AM, and I was one of the first guys out there. A huge wave came toward me and I hesitated and didn’t go for it. The next wave that came was even bigger. It pounded me and broke my board, so I was done for the day. Ever since, I regretted not giving that first wave a shot.”

That day the ocean taught him a life changing lesson; you only get one chance to do something, so if you’re going to do anything, commit to it. He decided to cast all expectations aside and focus only on his passion and what he could do to make himself feel accomplished as an artist—his murals and to finally become a part of the street art world.

Sean didn’t see exactly where his work could fit into the street art scene so he had to carve it out himself. Sean ended up in a place where his comfort zone intersected this foreign territory, a place where water met walls. This axis was the perfect blank canvas to bring his first statement of “street” art to life. From there, everything else fell into place: the use of a paddle board, his familiar oil paints and subjects–beautiful wide-eyed girls with flowing hair.

From there, the Internet did the rest of the work, as his murals went viral via the likes of Hypebeast, CNN and other high profile media outlets he never dreamed he’d be featured on. When asked if he anticipated a response of this caliber Sean says, “Getting a good reaction was the goal, but I never thought I would get this much exposure.” Literally overnight, Sean’s Instagram following grew from a few thousand to over 49K, with phone calls pouring in with offers for work. According to Sean, the most rewarding result from his murals aside from the overwhelming support is that he can now make a living off of his art. “I know it’s rare to be able to make a living as a full-time artist,” states Sean. “It feels great to have this sort of validation that I’m on the right path.”

This feature can be found printed over 12 pages in Contrast 15
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