Artist Nick Kuchar’s life on the west side of O‘ahu 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 starting their business, the Kuchar family waited tables and scraped-by for a few years, though the hardship was relative; 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 Hawai‘i,” he says. “It was the places where we surfed, trails we hiked, or little towns we loved hanging out and grabbing lunch at.” This soon developed into an online shop. “It kind of snowballed from there. Some local galleries found my work and now, we’ve grown our list of galleries that we wholesale to.”
Today, Nick's small business is thriving. In his studio situated in a small structure behind their craftsman-style home, Kuchar keeps busy by sketching and framing his work while his shop manager is handling orders. His artwork is being stocked in more and more shops across the islands, and Nick has found a way to meet his growing demand by creating supplemental goods to support the business — from hats and towels to coasters and recently, a limited edition collaborative run of men's and women's shoes with OluKai.
We collaborated with Nick on the Modern Aloha Collection, asking him to illustrate his version of an aloha print. In a convergence of traditional and modern expression, Nick's research led him to illustrate “canoe plants” that were brought as food staples when ancient Polynesian voyagers reached their new destination in the Hawaiian Islands. Kuchar illustrated maiʻa (banana), ʻulu (breadfruit) and ʻohe(bamboo) leaves to bring this collection to life.
“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,” says Kuchar.
Watch the video below to step inside Nick's studio, and be sure to check out his work at nickkuchar.com.