Having A ‘Field’ Day
It’s been an enjoyable ride for artist Mike Field, whose bold Polynesia-inspired work has been printed on everything from logos and murals to Quiksilver merchandise and oil paintings.
A competitive waterman, adventurer and renowned Big Island artist, Mike Field is equally at home paddling on the open ocean as he is creating vibrant works of art inspired by all things Polynesia. When he’s not sailing, surfing or competing in outrigger canoe races, he’s at his home in Hōlualoa creating iconic images that combine a retro Tahitian aesthetic with simple lines, bold colors and compelling, personal symbolism.
“I’ll usually add a bird somewhere in my prints and paintings,” says Field. “To me, it’s like a Pacific ‘dove of hope.’ It’s the tropic tern you see when you’re sailing between the islands that lets you know you are getting close to land.
“I also love the mālolo, aka flying fish, and incorporate both the fish and bird into my designs. They represent my kids, Luke and Paloma.”
From logos, corporate identities and fine-art prints to murals, oil paintings and apparel, Field’s work is showcased across Hawai‘i at places like Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa, at the Kuki‘o resort community near Four Seasons Hualalai, and at the newly renovated Queen Kapi‘olani Hotel in Waikīkī.
In addition, his recent art shows in New York City and Japan created a buzz, and exciting collaborations with other resorts are in the works, including the soon-to-be-reopened Kona Village Resort.
An O‘ahu native, Field moved to Kona in 2000 to work on art-related projects for the then-new resort community of Kūki‘o. His extensive background in ocean sports made him the “water ambassador” for the residential enclave. He’d take guests on paddling treks along the coast or on sailing adventures in his four-man voyaging canoe.
His artwork soon became sought after within the community. Various celebrities started wearing his art, like Leonardo DiCaprio, Eddie Vedder, Hugh Jackman and Jack Black. His art also graced many interiors. Eventually, Quiksilver asked him to produce three different M.Field lines.
In 2013, he opened the M.Field Gallery in Hōlualoa Village in a vintage cottage that dates back to the 1930s. With help from friends, he shored up the aging structure, transforming it into a homey art gallery and store, as well as a gathering place for the town’s First Friday happenings.
“We get fun people coming in all the time,” Field says. “From bums and billionaires, everyone likes to come to the gallery and do the hangout scene and talk story. I’m quite blessed that I have a watering hole at the gallery. We sit on the front porch, play music and drink beer.”
The vintage lifestyle is a recurring theme for Field, who lives with his wife, Terry, and their kids in a board-and-batten house built in 1931 by Elmer Child, owner of the first hardware store in Kona. According to Field, the house is built with square-headed nails and still retains top-quality fixtures of the era, likely originating from Child’s hardware store.
Growing up on O‘ahu, Field became interested in art thanks to his mother, who was an accomplished artist.
“I developed an artistic eye for what was legit art in Hawai‘i and what was not,” he says. “A lot of my friends’ parents had beautiful art collections. I admired work by Don Blanding, (David) Howard Hitchcock, Jean Charlot, Pegge Hopper, Eugene Savage and others. After I graduated from Punahou, I studied art on the East Coast for a while, but I was so homesick, I only wanted to draw things that reminded me of Hawai‘i, like flowers, ferns and fish hooks.”
When Field came home, friends in the graphics industry took notice of his latest pieces. Art designers at Crazy Shirts encouraged him to keep doing what he was doing. After earning his fine arts degree at Loyola Marymount University, Field returned to O‘ahu and pursued art while working odd jobs.
“I really didn’t know that I would make it. When you come back to Hawai‘i, either you have to hustle or you’re unbelievably gifted. I hustled,” he recalls. “I worked on ocean-sailing catamarans in Waikīkī during the day, and at night I’d do art. I was also coaching kayaking and paddling at Punahou School. I finally got to the point where I could phase out the day jobs and focus on art full time.”
Field continues to gain inspiration from the simple, languid lifestyle of the tropics. Every new image has a story behind it, like the hauntingly beautiful portrait of a Tahitian girl by a clothesline, or the scene of his friend Thibert Lussiaa dropping in on the point in his one-man canoe. All of his prints are very personal to Field, who can point to hidden meanings and symbols in each painting.
“As simple as they are to the eye and mind, there is a lot of deep meaning and a story behind each work,” he says. “For example, I have a big-wave surfer friend in Tahiti who is a great buddy of mine. One afternoon, we were watching the sun go down at his house in Tahiti. The coconut tree was silhouetted, and our swim trunks were hanging on clothesline. There was this guy raking leaves in the yard with his gut hanging out. When my friend suggested I sketch the scene, he told me to replace the guy with a Hinano girl. I drew her hanging her bikini on the clothesline. There’s always some sort of hidden gem that I’m playing off of.”
Field finds inspiration in old travel posters of the South Pacific. The lure of the Polynesian aesthetic is something he grew up with. From the beginning of his career, he always knew he could produce work that is simultaneously graphic art and fine art.
“I loved those old posters of how things used to be when you traveled to Tahiti — the innocence of adventure, the joy of having a cold beer after a canoe race,” says Field. “I strive to bring that feeling into my art.”
Check out Field’s work online at mfield.com.