Surf, Sun, and Sustainability: Laihha Organna’s Island Illustrations ‘Spread Stoke to All’
“How can I make this as weird as possible?”
It’s a question Maui-based illustrator Laihha Organna always asks before beginning one of her sun-kissed designs. “My artwork is inspired by surfing, women, and all things weird,” she explains in an interview with Her Waves, an online platform that supports the creative intersection of surf and art.
Created primarily with an iPad, Organna’s digital designs are dunked in warm bronze, as though they’ve been basking in the Hawaiian sun all afternoon. No stranger to Hawaii’s natural beauty, Organna—who goes by loindaflow online—is an avid surfer who channels the rush of wave-riding into her work. “I believe surfing holds many universal lessons the world could benefit from,” she tells Her Waves. “When I realized the lack of representation for all women in surf culture, it became an inspiration for my artwork.” Organna decided it was time to retire the surfer dude stereotype, replacing him with sporty women on surfboards and plenty of eye-popping skulls.
Elsewhere, Organna’s artwork highlights the island chain’s unique flora: tropical monstera, colorful hibiscus flowers, and sweeping palms ornament her work like living jewels. With a background in sustainability, water resources, and permaculture, Organna is committed toward the health of her community and the surrounding ecosystem. She often creates designs for mission-driven brands, Hawaii-based businesses, and of course, forward-thinking surf companies with groovy vibes. She notes, “Through my artwork, I aim to spread a positive message, encourage others to have fun, promote inclusivity, and spread ‘stoke’ to all.”
In Today's Q+Art Interview…
Laihha Organna discusses her post-work surf ritual, developing her own blueprint for artistic success, and recognizing her limiting beliefs surrounding money.
Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?
Laihha Organna: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book taught me that it's OK to embark on your creative pursuit alongside other professions, and to not burden your art with the responsibility of taking care of you in the beginning.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
LO: I personally make sure to surf just about everyday after I "clock out." I show up better at work when I take the time to surf and be outside.
What does success mean to you as an artist?
LO: It is so important to define our own success, being that we all have different goals in mind. There is no blueprint to success for everyone if your ideal lifestyles are varied. Personally, success to me is working on projects I am passionate about, getting to surf everyday, travel to new places each year, and making enough money to eventually buy a home. My success is not measured by money or followers, but by progress to my overall goals and how I feel each day.
What role does the artist have in society?
LO: It is our responsibility as artists to know our monetary value in the industry. Not just for ourselves, but for the entire artist community. Our skills have worth, and not trusting in your skills enough to charge what you are worth degrades the value of art as a whole.
What role should money play in the art world?
LO: There is no product or service to ever exist that did not require some form of art to create or sell itself. Art is the root of all money, it is literally everywhere. More money should go towards art as a valuable investment for any product or service. Additionally, we should normalize talking about money and art. Art students should be taught how to manage money and make sales, allowing them to become financially successful.
What’s your relationship with money?
LO: I grew up with little money. I was raised by my single grandmother who worked as a waitress. I had everything I ever needed though. My parents struggled with a lifetime of hunger, homelessness, and addiction. So I've had every reason to think in lack when it comes to money, but I've worked hard to rewrite my story. While I still struggle from limiting beliefs around money, I've taught myself how to manage it and why itʻs a tool and not inherently evil or stressful. When I have money, I have a greater ability to give to myself and others. I am constantly working on my relationship with money!
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
LO: I am currently working on a variety of projects, including apparel designs and logos for brands that have similar missions, to embrace people to get out and surf or skate. I just love these kinds of projects so much!
What do you do to maintain your mental health?
LO: To maintain my mental health, I ensure that I have time to: draw just for me outside of client work; surf and workout nearly everyday; spend time with friends doing stress-relieving activities. Recently, we've loved pickleball, Mario Kart, and playing card games; laugh. It makes everything better.
How does your geographical location affect your work and/or success?
LO: Being in Hawaii, the cost of living is so high, I do need to charge more, which can impact what clients book with me. The time difference also makes it difficult to not get too sucked into work first thing in the morning when the rest of the world is already busy.
On a more positive note, I feel that art is valued at a higher level here than other places, as art is rooted in cultural expression on the islands. Art is more embraced at a young age and the tourist industry allows for more opportunities for artists to sell prints, stickers, shirts and also create beautiful, photo-worthy spaces through mural art. My niche as a surf artist in Hawaii allows for an abundance of opportunities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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