Muralist, KAI KAULUKUKUI, on the Kaka’ako Sea Turtle & more
ECM: What was your process for painting the mural?
KK: My process can vary depending on the requirements of the design, size and intended audience. Generally, I will take a photo of the wall and create five thumbnail sketches in different directions. One or two designs will always jump out at me and make narrowing down easy, then I will draw that idea four or five times slightly different. This mural was being painted on the wall of Honolulu Beerworks, a local beer brewery and they had hoped I could create something beer related. I tried for nearly a month to execute the idea I had floating around in my mind, but after at least ten different sketches it didn’t feel right to me. So I did one honu design, as an alternative to my failed attempt to create the beer related piece, and we decided together to go that route.
Using existing marks on the wall such as doors, windows and plane changes I sketched the design out. For this I used an extension pole with a brush holder with a 2” brush as a fifteen foot “pencil” and sketched up the honu. After stepping back, across the street, and checking my layout maybe fifty times, I got the entire piece sketched up and exactly where I wanted it. I like to work in layers of paint, both acrylic and a bit of aerosol. I used a Wagner paint sprayer to lock down the background, which needed to have some depth to show the honu “floating.” Then using a brush I cut in a few details on the rocks in the foreground to heighten the sense of separation between fore and background. I began cutting in the turtle on top of the background layers to emphasize the main focus of the piece. And using layers of color on top of one another created the image of the honu and the reflection marks.
ECM: How has working with green sea turtles and other marine life influenced you as a person and artist?
KK: Working with marine life through my connection to Pangeaseed and the Seawalls: Artists for Oceans project, has inevitably changed the entire trajectory of my life and career. I spent my childhood in the ocean. I have been studying the effects humans are having on the ocean since the 90’s and I’ve always wanted to help, but felt overwhelmed and underskilled to make an actual difference. But chance had placed me in touch with people who are trying to make that difference for the sea by utilizing art and activism, and I’ve been doing my best to assist them. Besides being 75% of my current subject matter, the oceans creatures have crept into my thoughts and dreams on a daily basis. My love of, and research into, oceanic subjects has been reignited and my desire to be submerged in the sea and its issues has returned and is stronger than ever. My work now, can easily be recognized as mine due to style, but also largely due to subject matter which is marine-life influenced.
ABOUT KAI KAULUKUKUI
KAI IS BASED OUT OF HIS PRIVATE STUDIO IN PUNA, AND LANA LANE STUDIOS IN KAKA’AKO, HONOLULU. He HOLDS A VOLUNTEER POSITION AS GROUND OPERATIONS MANAGER FOR THE ‘SEAWALLS: ARTISTS FOR OCEANS’ EVENT, AN INTERNATIONAL MURAL FESTIVAL BY PANGEASEED FOUNDATION. AS A MURALIST, HIS WORK CAN BE SEEN IN HAWAI’I, CALIFORNIA, ST. CROIX USVI, MEXICO, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND, NEPAL, CHINA, AND HUNGARY. VISIT HIS SITE: ARTWORKOFKAI.COM