Say aloha to the summertime vibes of artist Kim Sielbeck

Artist Kim Sielbeck invites us to her tropical island of kawaii cats, puppies and Hawaiian vibes.

The sun always shines in the work of Kim Sielbeck. While we enjoy a rare summer heatwave over in our little corner of the world, Kim can find inspiration in the day to day paradise that is her home of Hawaii. 

The illustrator, painter, and surface designer recently turned her back on the big smoke of NYC to relocate to the island that she once called home in her youth; as part of a Coast Guard family, Kim was born in Alaska and lived all around the US as a child. Her clients so far have ranged from the likes of Pepsi to British brand Propercorn, helping her to catch the eyes of major London agency JSR, with whom she recently signed. Kim's clearly one to watch, and an artist bringing her sunny, vibrant style to all corners of the world.

Her most recent stopping call is Japan, from where she chatted to Digital Arts about her work for a new Tokyo exhibition, and the fact she's more of a Joe Strummer than a ukelele strummer at heart.

GL: How's Japan so far? Is it your first time there?

KS: "I am so excited to be showing my work in Japan. I was here in spring as part of a Hawaii Music and Life festival with Mori, a Honolulu-based shop and art community. I just finished up a week-long exhibit at a Hawaii festival in Osaka, and am currently in Tokyo, where I’m showing work this month.

"I made all new work for this show, including 5 new landscape paintings, some smaller 8 x 10 pieces and 16 'Puppy Pineapple' portraits. I also painted a mural during the Osaka show, and we were able to dissemble the wall and bring it to Tokyo."

Kim at work on her mural in Osaka.

GL: That's a lot of shows. It seems Japan has a thing for Hawaii.

KS: "In my experience from these shows, Japan loves everything Hawaii. There are festivals all over the country every month celebrating the culture, including hula shows, art shows, clothing, etc.

"I'm over here with Polu Gallery, which is a Hawaiian gallery owned by Jun Yoshimura, who's from Tokyo. He has a lot of connections here in Japan, and that's resulted in some great opportunities."

Puppy Pineapple portraits by Kim; how kawaii.

GL: You recently signed to the JSR agency; how's that been so far, and what attracted you to them in the first place?

KS: "Being based in a tiny corner of the world, managing time zones can be very tricky and exhausting. I’ve worked with a few companies in Europe, and for me, finding an illustration agent based there to represent me made sense.

"JSR works with some artists and photographers who I adore, including Iain Macarthur, so signing with them was an obvious choice for me. They’ve made the process of signing so easy, and I’m excited to see what opportunities will present themselves."

GL: How is the Hawaii arts scene? Any names you'd recommend? 

KS: "I’ve found the art scene in Hawaii to be incredibly supportive and positive. Coming from a competitive, oversaturated market like New York City, I had no idea what to expect. I think I still have that New York hustle, which comes in handy when the beach is so near.

The Blue Hawaii series

"There are tons of great artists in Hawaii. Sarah Caudle is my studio mate and makes gorgeous resin seascapes. Lauren Roth is an expert in watercolor florals and is opening her own shop soon. I’m in Japan right now with Steven Kean and Peter Shepard Cole, who are both surfers and have unique, beautiful ways of interpreting the waves that inspire them. There’s no shortage of inspiration or talent here."

GL: Who are your inspirations from outside of Hawaii?

KS: "Other inspiring artists for me are David Hockney, Matisse, Rousseau, Alexander Girard, the artists/designers behind Marimekko, plus folk art from around the world.

Coco Kitty print

"Some of my favourite artists on Instagram at the moment are Liv and Dom, Cachete Jack, Sara Andreasson, Mike Perry, Bodil Jane (and the other 800+ people I follow.)"

GL: You've done art for punk acts like Sum 41 and Puppies. Does punk influence your work, or do you see yourself designing for more laid-back, ukulele-based music some day?

KS: "I’ll always be a punk at heart. Puppies was actually my band back in Brooklyn. For me playing music is a creative outlet that’s so different from the solitary work of creating art. Being in the moment, creating something with other people in that moment, being loud.

"Playing music is something I’ll always do - we’ll see how Hawaii influences that, but I can’t see myself mellowing out too much."

Art for Puppies album Monster Island

GL: What are your plans once you come back from Japan?

KS: "I’ve been painting and illustrating pretty nonstop since January. It’ll be nice to take some time off; I have some friends coming to visit in Hawaii, which is always a good excuse to play tourist and see other islands. I’m also very excited for some big upcoming collaborations I can’t talk about yet."

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