Moving from graffiti and street art to painting on canvas and wood, Jack Soren, a senior from Hawaii studying graphic design, said he found his art style after years of struggling to figure out a style he resonated with.
“For most of my life, growing up painting graffiti in the streets or the gutter, that’s kind of a harsh style,” Soren said. “I wanted people to be able to relate to my artwork ... I wanted them to see it because a lot of bigger graffiti is in the mountains and retaining walls and under bridges, and only a few people who do graffiti or end up down under a bridge would see it.”
According to Soren, after getting married, he wanted to find a way to make a living through art. He said, “I tried to design a style that would work, still have a lot of elements of graffiti and street art but would be easy to live with. People would hang it in their homes and be able to relate to a little bit more.”
The start of his art passion
Soren said his parents and grandparents were painters, carvers, and designers of jewelry. He said, “They may not have necessarily taught me how to paint, but they encouraged me through space [such as] the walls in my garage to spray paint and keep it at home rather on the streets.”
He said he and his two cousins would draw in church when they were kids. According to Soren, they would draw little action figures with triangle heads as if they were all in a competition of who could draw the coolest army man or robot.
“From there, those same cousins progressed and got involved with graffiti, and we would draw on postage stickers. We’d make little stickers for ourselves and put it all over on our books and whatnot, and that’s kind of what got me into the style of graffiti and street art.”
Soren said he decided to pursue graphic design as a career. “Graphic design to me is today’s art. There’s so much opportunity when it comes to graphic design to have a job. Graphic design was a way for me to do art and realize that you can make a living on top off of digital work because there’s always a need for digital artwork.”
Mediums of choice
As a full-time student, Soren said he would start a project by doing the first few base layers and then work on it again after two weeks. “Unless there was a project I had a due date on, then I would try to hustle that out and maybe not sleep for a couple of hours to get it done and be able to finish it.
“It just varies. I guess a painting would take anywhere to like a week if I really put my mind to it, and a mural, for my most recent one, my ‘POW! WOW!’ mural took maybe five days when we worked on it.”
POW! WOW! Hawaii is an ultra-creative street art and music festival held in the Kaka'ako area of Honolulu, says Hawaii.com. It is hosted by “top local talent and well attended by global artists,” the site continues. The two-week-long festival is held annually during February.
Soren's wife, Mikayla Soren, remarked how dedicated her husband is with his art. “Whenever he gets an idea, he pulls out a piece of paper and starts jotting it down. He constantly has ideas on his mind, and he’s always drawing.”
Jack Soren said spray paint is one of his favorite mediums. “You can go so big with it and that’s where it all started – with spray paint. As I moved to canvases, I used a lot of acrylics and spray paint, both mixed mediums, as well as pastels. For bigger pieces, I’ll even use just latex house paints. I do a lot of other things like digital media and different mixed media.”
After noticing he felt unsatisfied with his finished products, he said he started paying attention to the process rather than the results. “The process was where I found a lot of the enjoyment. Just today, sweeping out the studio was really peaceful for me.
“To just clean up, move my paints around, [to] the whole process of sketching it out, designing it and putting the paint on, the process was what I enjoyed doing art the most, not necessarily the result.”
Brands and collaborations
Jack Soren said he has collaborated with Thread Wallets, POW! WOW! and My Neighbor Hayao. Participating in POW! WOW! was always a goal of Jack Soren’s, as the event started in Hawaii and is now held in different parts of the world.
“For this year, I submitted my portfolio to the POW! WOW! festival, and they contacted me and said, ‘Yes, we want you to be a part of it and paint it.’”
For the “My Neighbor Hayao” show, he said the final product was better than what he anticipated. He explained, “Japanese or anime style of drawing isn’t what I normally do, but I was invited to the show to submit a piece, and I had to find a way to relate it to Hawaii or my style. I put him on a surfboard with a little wave and had my friend help with the Japanese, and I entered it.”
Jared Wilcox, a friend of Jack Soren’s, helped with the Japanese text on his piece for the "My Neighbor Hayao" show. Wilcox said, “It’s so cool seeing him shoot for his dreams, slowly unfolding and things are happening for him. We’re really proud of him and really grateful. He’s a really great example for me. Just going off for what you love and taking that step, it’s kind of scary, him pursuing his dreams and taking the risk.”
Jack Soren also collaborated with The Little Acai Cart. A close friend of Jack Soren’s, Caleb Bishop from Mililani, said he was approached by Colby Hollingsworth, the founder of The Little Acai Cart, to help with the project. When they were talking about the logo and artwork for the cart, Bishop shared, “Knowing Jack and his talent, we both knew he would be able to get the look Colby was going for.”
The founder of Thread Wallets, Mackenzie Bauer, is a former student of BYUH and Jack Soren said they had classes together before he went on his mission. She reached out to him for a collaboration and he accepted the offer.
Life in Hawaii and the future
When they first met on the beach a few years ago, Mikayla Soren noticed how genuine her husband was. “[He is] always thinking about other people, and I feel like it definitely shows. It was the first thing I noticed, how genuine and kind he was – anything he did, he just put his whole heart and mind into it.”
Regarding Jack Soren’s personality, Wilcox said, “He’s a great human being all around. You can just tell what type of person he is like right when you meet him, and you can tell that he’s not just trying to put on a face. He’s very nice and shows the effort to care for other people.”
Jack Soren said he hopes to one day be able to work with the brands he grew up admiring in the surf and skate industry such as RVCA and Hurley. He said he would like to work with Nike or Adidas too.
“I want to be able to take it and share different stories that have to do with our lifestyle and my culture. Living here in Hawaii, the different sides of it, whether it’s the fun surfing side or the hard street side that I’ve been in and out of when it comes to the art, I want to be able to take it and share it with different people and places and foreign areas and have my art travel,” he said.
Writer: Esther Insigne