Jack Soren blends a nostalgic view of his native Hawaii with a street-influenced flair.
He’s updating the stereotypical, resort-like picture we have of the islands with his own experience in graffiti—creating a light-hearted, authentic style that’s both fresh and familiar. As part of our partnership with the Waikiki boutique hotel Surfjack, we caught up with Jack to learn more about his art and Hawaiian culture at large.
Jack, it’s a pleasure to speak with you, and I’m so excited to dig in to the mind behind my new favorite character “Lil Wavy.” To start, could you introduce yourself and your artistic style?
My name is Jack Soren, and I’m an artist from the North Shore of Oahu. My work consists of elements from the streets to the surf, and I use specific color palettes to bring life to historical figures, events and culture.
What are some things that people may not know about Hawaii?
Our unofficial state dog is the pitbull, we love our Toyota Tacoma’s and 4runners, and we steal McDonalds trays to body surf with them.
How does Hawaii influence your work?
Everything about Hawaii is magical and inspiring. I walk out my door and see life’s art everywhere I turn. There is inspiration all around me. My culture and the people here have a special spirit about them. It’s a way of life that you can’t find in many places.
Is there anywhere in particular where you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I’m in the city and when I’m in the hustle and bustle of the streets. The ocean is where I find my peace.
The pride you have in being Hawaiian is truly palpable in both your art as well as how you carry yourself. Could you dig deeper into what “being Hawaiian” means to you?
It’s a great privilege to be a native Hawaiian. In my perspective, what it means to be Hawaiian is to embody “Aloha”—which is a collection of principals like love, respect, loyalty and more all compiled into one word. We are to share this Aloha with ALL that we interact with.
Turning to art, how did you first get started? Was there anyone in particular who stands out as an influence/positive force?
In some ways, we all start as artists, and it’s the environment in which we live that cultivates and continues that artistic expression. I just never stopped. I was fortunate to grow up in a home of artists with my Dad being a Hawaiian jeweler and my mom being an all-around artist. My creative endeavors were always supported by my family. I just recently decided to make my work available to others. Really, that’s all that has changed.
What was the catalyst behind moving from creating art as a hobby to art as a business?
Graffiti was my main artistic focus for a long time, and I would get freelance opportunities to paint a friend’s food truck or design a logo. I got married my senior year of college and realized that I needed to start considering a more serious line of work. I wanted to do what I enjoyed, but it was now more of a risk going and painting graffiti, as I didn’t want my wife to get a phone call to pick me up from the police station haha. So I changed gears on my artistic abilities and decided to create a style of art more focused on a positive outlook of my surroundings. I asked my friend Bree Poort, who was a successful artist displaying in galleries and selling her work, for some advice. She helped direct me as I worked my butt off and did the dang thing. I had no idea what I was doing, but my early work was received well, and things got busier and busier for me.
Do any memories or moments stand out from your early days doing street art?
Doing street art was one of the best ways to grow up as a kid—as we didn’t have too many responsibilities. I remember things like getting arrested and homies passing out from heat exhaustion at the spot. But one of the funnier moments was when I had to stack a shopping cart to get higher on my piece, and I slipped off and fell flat on my back in a puddle. We were all laughing while I got up soaking wet. We took risks as kids, and it was all worth it.
What is it about nostalgic Hawaiian art that speaks to you? What needs updating that you’re hoping to address with your work?
In my opinion, nostalgic Hawaii in general was a purer and more genuine Hawaii. The days of Duke Kahanamoku or even when Elvis came for Blue Hawaii. It was dreamy, and that’s what I want to remind Hawaii of… “the good ol days.” Today, there is a very typical idea of Hawaiian art, and I want to disrupt that with how I see Hawaii—paradise influenced by the streets. Hawaii has always been “old fashioned,” but my goal is to take that idea and update it with a modern aesthetic.
Who would you consider to be your artistic influences?
I share an art studio called “The Helm” with three of my artist friends. They are huge influences on me and my work. We work as a team and critique each other—it’s a way for us to push and improve one another.
Other artists who influenced me from history are Henri Matisse, Kandinsky and one of my favorites is Paul Gauguin. I love how their subject matter is represented by color and mixes with the emotions of the viewer.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
I would want to be a Red Bull pilot or race dirt bikes haha. I would love to have jobs like those guys.
Outside of art, what are you passionate about?
I really like fashion and streetwear; I haven’t been as keen on high fashion, but that world is now mixed together with the streetwear world. I like to go trail riding with my friends on our dirt bikes, and I enjoy fixing up motorcycles. My wife and I like to travel and find fun restaurants and cafes. And then the obvious… anything ocean-related and skateboarding.
Is your wife creative as well?
She is one of the greatest influences of my recent work. It was actually on our honeymoon where it started. I saw the picture of Duke Kahanamoku in our hotel room and drew up “Waikiki Boys”—my first painting in my new style. She is creative in so many ways, and she has very good taste in clothing and style. She likes to make plant hangings, embroider patches for my jackets, make jewelry for herself and a lot more! I think, subconsciously, being with her has influenced my choice and use of colors as well.
What’s on your bucket list?
I never really labeled my endeavors as bucket list items; I’m more impulsive and do what I want when it comes to mind haha. We already swam with sharks, and we go deep sea fishing all the time, so those answers are out haha.
I want to learn how to shape my own surfboard. I’ve made an Alaia board, which is carved from wood, but I want to make a Fish or a Longboard.
Possibly open my own café one day!
Oh, I want to make a camping tent with one of my designs on it—that would be awesome.
I would love to live in New York for a short amount of time and have a sick art exhibition there to really soak in all that the big city has to offer.
I want to tour Europe, paint some of the cities and go to the Louvre to see all the artworks of the masters.
Wow, so only a couple things left to do…
On the subject of future endeavors, 20, 30, 40 years from now, how do you want your work to be remembered?
I want people to remember my work as something that brought them life and the wonder of a dreamy nostalgic state of mind. Allow people to catch a glimpse of paradise in everything I do.