Eddy Yamamoto, or Eddy Y as he is widely known, is a self-taught commercial artist, designer and entrepreneur who has dedicated over 40 years to the creation of art – everything from textile patterns and album covers to large murals and event posters. If you live in Hawaii or have visited the islands, most likely you have encountered Eddy’s art at some point in time.
Eddy was born in Japan and moved to the Big Island at age 14. At a very young age, his mother recognized his incredible artistic talent and enrolled him in professional art lessons. “I hated school and didn’t care for art theory or the intellectual side of art, I just wanted to create.” His passion for drawing and painting only increased as the years went on, but so did his desire to create something different and unique. He put a lot of thought into the concepts behind his artwork, wanting to position himself uniquely in the market. “I always had an entrepreneurial business mind. I thought about how I could market and sell myself, not just creating the art itself. I want to do what no one else is doing. I want my work to be different and unique.”
In the 70s, Eddy discovered a niche market for surf art. His works celebrated the classic surf culture of the 50s and 60s, embodied by romanticism and nostalgia. In fact, Eddy was one of the very first people to introduce the now iconic Woody imagery into surf art. He relocated to the mainland and started designing prints for women’s clothing. As mainstream interest in surf culture started to flourish, so too did interest in Eddy’s work. His business grew off referrals, and soon he was designing entire lines of menswear surf apparel for Churchill Surfwear, Levi Strauss, Ocean Pacific, Hobie and others. Eventually, he became the Vice President of Hobie, splitting his time as a businessman between Burbank and the Big Island.
“I try to create very accurate depictions of scenes, and put my own interpretation of any scene I recreate but still be as authentic as possible. If I’m painting a car, I put great thought into every detail. The hubcaps, bumpers, the shape. The Mexican blanket draped over the backseat. All of it has to be authentic and accurate.”
In 1992, Eddy quit the business sector and returned to his artistic roots on the Big Island. Since returning to the islands, he has done countless design collaborations with various organizations, including Reyn Spooner, Merrie Monarch Festival and PGA Tour, to name a few. Currently, he is concentrating on paintings and using the knowledge accumulated over the years to share nostalgic surf culture with today’s generation.