By Mara Pyzel
Even the waves of the ocean take on a distinctly artistic look in the eyes of North Shore-based artist Sunny Weeks. “When I’m feeling a creative block I like to watch the surface of the ocean and imagine slowing it down until it’s frame by frame. This exercise helps me envision moving energy in a frozen frame, and I like to think that my art has a lot of movement.”
Jamming to the sounds of Elvis, Madonna, and Billie Eilish in her kitchen-turned-home-studio, Sunny Weeks has compiled a repertoire of work, comprised mostly of her signature black-and-white sketches of tropical florals. Influenced by contemporary artists like Pegge Hopper and Marcello Serpa, Weeks’ drawings bring to life her Hawai’i upbringing. Her decision to limit her color use results in a modern iteration of traditional aloha patterns. This unconventional B&W depiction of techinicolor subject matter gets people talking: “As primarily a black-and-white artist, my most common question is, ‘Why don’t you do color?’” the 27-year-old explains, “My work is focused on clean and straightforward composition. I like that, with just two colors, I can influence where your eyeballs focus on first, and then where they wander to next. As soon as color is introduced, it distracts from the message. Black and white are, in my opinion, the two most powerful colors out there. They are complete opposites, representing yin and yang and are composed entirely of the existence or lack of light. It’s all about balance.” With concise lines of lei po‘o adorned wahine, ‘iwa birds mid-flight, and close-ups of palm fronds and monstera leaves, Weeks’ minimalist style encapsulates the natural beauty of daily life in Hawai’i. Her pieces are simple and impactful.
But Weeks does not completely limit her work to a black and white palate. Recently, the artist has been revisiting large-scale mural work and is widening her scope with the addition of tapestries. Another favored medium of hers: paint. “Simple pen and paper has been my foundation for Sunny Weeks Art, but I have been a painter all my life,” says Weeks. “I draw tiny works of art with pen, and do windows and walls with paint.” Needless to say, this home-grown talent keeps her work refreshly diverse.
The self-described life-long artist grew up devouring books on Frida Kahlo, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Feeling pressure to “get a ‘real job’ first”, she wound up going to college, convinced that a career in art would be impossible. After graduating, she felt the inevitable pull back into the world of drawing and painting, eventually giving in and giving it a go. “I went through a ton of jobs, got a college degree, and in the end was just miserable working for someone else and making someone else’s dream come true. In 2017 I decided it was time to buckle down and take my artwork seriously.” Since making that decision, Weeks has proudly been a part of a growing conglomerate of Hale’iwa-based career artists. “It’s been a really hard road, but it’s also been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Homegrown in Hale’iwa, the North Shore surf town has been a source of inspiration for Weeks. Iconic Hale’iwa symbols have been featured in many of her pieces, including the town’s Rainbow Bridge and ‘iwa bird namesake. While her days of longboarding the waves of the 7-Mile Miracle are admittedly a hobby of her childhood, Weeks still loves throwing on a mask and fins and allowing the overpowering sense of calm that being in the ocean provides, wash over her. “I believe salt water is important for emotional and mental health. I go to the ocean when I need to leave behind an anxiety or process something heavy. I always feel better after going to the beach […] Being in the water, weightless, feeling the currents push you to-and-fro, that’s my happy place – in the ocean.”
You can find the tropical modernism work of North Shore artist Sunny Weeks in galleries and shops throughout Hale’iwa Town including The Rocky Point Collective. She is a fixture at Kailua Night Market every third Saturday.
Follow her on Instagram @sunnyweeks.art and visit SunnyWeeksArt.com