Coming Soon: Artist Eddy Y’s Designs in Your Home and Even on Your Slippahs
Longtime Hawai‘i artist Eddy Y has designed surf scenes and vintage automobiles on clothing for more than 30 years. Now, he’s expanding to include casual home furnishings.
photos: aaron k. yoshino
You likely know his artwork: vintage scenes with classic ’50s-era vans and hatchbacks parked on the beach. Palm trees in the front, Diamond Head in the back. In the distance, surfers are paddling out on the swells or riding waves back to shore. And tucked away near the bottom corner of each painting, a small signature of capital letters: EDDY Y.
“The Y stands for Yamamoto but ‘Eddy Yamamoto’ sounds generic. When I started as an artist, I wanted my name to be hip so I shortened it to just Eddy Y,” says Yamamoto. “I love the American way of life. I love the music, the cars … so that’s what I portray.”
Today, Eddy Y’s art is sold exclusively through the Tabora Gallery in Hale‘iwa, but soon his work will appear on surfaces beyond paper or clothing. He’s begun collaborating with Pictures Plus, The Art Source and Island Sole to place his images on items ranging from clocks to water flasks to postcards, and prints on canvas, wood and metal. “Having dealt with hundreds of artists over the past 30 years, there is no single artist with the combined talent and experience as Eddy Y,” says Kent Untermann, founder of Pictures Plus. “His rich long history of designing art for apparel, products and fine art is a rare combination.”
When Yamamoto, who is originally from Tokyo but whose family moved to Hawai‘i when he was 14, first began as a student at UH Mānoa studying art in the early 1970s, he painted signs and took on any commissions he could. He created the artwork for Kalapana’s second album, which attracted the attention of promoter Tom Moffatt, who asked Yamamoto to design something for a Kalapana and Cecilio & Kapono concert at Aloha Stadium in 1976.
“They didn’t want people to get too close to the stage; they needed some kind of barrier. So I said, we’ll make a painting: 8 feet high, 104 feet long, and kind of like the Kalapana album cover with images of the sun setting and big surf scenes,” Yamamoto says. “Forty-thousand people came out to the concert and they all stayed a little bit away from the stage because if they got too close, they couldn’t see the painting. That was the beginning of my being a professional artist.”
He moved to California, first designing clothing for women and then swimwear for Hang Ten and OP apparel. When the Hobie watercraft company decided to branch out into clothing at the end of the ’70s, Yamamoto joined as vice president, designing T-shirts that he says helped earn the company $30 million annually in national sales. He returned to Hawai‘i in the early ’90s and designed aloha shirts for Reyn Spooner for close to 20 years, creating patterns with motorcycles, guitars, Polynesian sailing canoes and native Hawai‘i plants.
Yamamoto’s artwork began appearing in local galleries in 2001 with his signature monochromatic sand paintings, an art style he developed using color pencils and acrylic paint. “I actually laminate sand on paper and then I draw and paint on the sand itself,” says Yamamoto. More recently, he’s been using color pencils and painting on wood. When he draws images of cars, he’ll leave the wood exposed to create the wood trim of the car in the picture.
“This is exciting for me,” Yamamoto says. “I love to make art and see people wearing my designs or hanging up my work in their home.”