Ever been on a trip and thought, "I could live here"?
Now imagine this: You're out catching waves in O'ahu and those very waves spark an idea. Why not turn the beauty around you into art and pursue your dream to create?
Fast forward 18 years. You've got your own art studio and gallery in Hawai‘i, you've teamed up with big names like Juneshine, Hurley & Hawaiian Airlines to name a few, and every piece you create is like a postcard from paradise.
That's Nick Kuchar's story. He's an artist who mixes old-school surf vibes with Hawai‘i's stunning views. Nick took a break from the beach to chat with Strangers Travel about his journey as an artist and founder.
From Waiting Tables to Riding the Artistic Wave
Hawai‘i was supposed to be a short, sweet honeymoon. Instead it became home, and oh boy, more than just home. Bartending, surfing daily, Nick felt a bigger wave calling him. His wife needed some cool designs for their house, so Nick channeled his design background. But why stop there?
Hello, Etsy shop. No master plan. Just him, his art, and a whole lot of passion. And soon, everyone wanted a piece - from local hotels to art galleries & boutiques.
What's The Price of A Sunset?
How do you even start pricing art? Nick did what we all do: turned to friends, did some online snooping, and had a good look at the "Graphic Artist Guild Handbook." Contracts? Scary at first, but soon Nick realized he could set his own rules. Hourly rates for ongoing projects, flat fees for others and the delicate dance of pricing work based on which company you’re freelancing for and how many eyes will see it. The journey to find his worth was an art in itself.
His advice to younger artists and entrepreneurs: “Everything is negotiable in contracts and don’t be afraid to discuss an agreement if you aren’t comfortable with a part of it.”
His Hawai’i Influence
Having moved to Hawai‘i 18 years ago on a mere whim, the islands are more than just his home; they're the muse behind every stroke of his brush. Even as requests pour in for artwork from other locales, his heart stays loyal to the Hawaiian Islands.
Nick's love for mid-century architecture and minimalist designs, stemming from his degree in Industrial Design, infuses his artwork. When you see his travel prints, you're seeing the heart of Hawai‘i through a mid-century lens.
Big names bring big opportunities, but do they bring artistic satisfaction? For Nick, it was a learning curve. From adjusting to brand requirements to asserting his unique style, his collaborations with giants like Hurley and Hawaiian Airlines have been a dance of creativity and commerce.
Despite the burgeoning recognition, Nick grappled with the classic artist's ailment - imposter syndrome. Yet, stellar reviews and validation kept flowing in like the tides. Disconnecting personal identity from artistic creation isn't easy. But when you're surrounded by Hawai‘i's beauty, the small things just don’t matter as much. Every critique becomes a lesson, and every praise, a spark of motivation.
The Business of Art
With 70-80% of his income initially from wholesales, the pandemic taught Nick a valuable lesson in diversification. Now, he strikes an almost poetic balance with a third of his income from online sales, galleries, and wholesale each, supplemented by occasional freelance gigs.
With evolving times, Nick tapped into the power of social media, leveraging paid ads to amplify his reach. He also double-downed on original content and started producing his own podcast: Secondary Colors. The old Etsy shop? Still thriving.
For our surfer artist, the Hurley Pro stood as a dream project. A 12-year-old goal, culminating in a moment of sheer pride. Freelance collaborations are not always the most lucrative opportunities, but can be the most fulfilling.
Parting Waves of Wisdom from Nick
"Connect, connect, connect! The importance of networking and creating relationships through business can push you and others around you forward. Don’t be afraid to meet new people and businesses, and often there is meaningful work you can do together.” Says Nick
“Don’t fear failures; embrace them. Every failure is one step closer to success. Just keep failing forward."
As for the future? Collaborations with Kahala, Sunrise Shack & Almond Surfboards and more are on the horizon.
And hey, fun fact before we wrap up: all the cool art vibes you see at Strangers? Yup, that's Nick's magic touch.