Paul Forney

Paul sells his paintings at the Honolulu Zoo Fence every weekend with his wife Lynn. He also sell posters and prints from his Boneyard Reef Website.

Talking to Paul at the Zoo Fence.

The Spot, poster.

Scalp Rat, poster.

Robert Wagner took some photos of Paul's paintings at the Zoo Art Fence in September, 2010:

A B17 in trouble.

A perfect day at the reef.

Body surfing a shore break.

Tubular at the secret spot.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser Article

On Monday, March 28th, Michael Tsai wrote a column on Paul and his art:

Surf-inspired zoo wall artist paints for passion, not cash

From the God's-honest to the apocryphal, every artist has a coming-of-age story.

According to legend, Pablo Picasso's genius was first recognized when he painted over an incomplete sketch of a bird that his father had drawn, causing his father, the artist Jose Ruiz y Blasco, to put away his own brushes for good.

Marc Chagall was supposedly ignorant of art until he saw a fellow student drawing a picture and immediately began his own intensive study of drawing and painting.

for 48-year-old Makakilo resident Paul Forney, whose unique brand of beach-inspired art is proudly displayed along the Honolulu Zoo "wall" across from Kapiolani Park, the light-bulb moment occurred sometime between homeroom and first period.

"We used to have these yellow Pee Chee folders that guys would fold into quarters and tape up with clear plastic and electrical tape," Forney says, his mind harking back to the hallways of Campbell High School. "Guys used to like my drawings to put under the plastic. So I'd charge them $2 or $3 for one."

Fine, so not every artist's story is made for PBS. What Forney's development as an artist lacks in romance it makes up for in clear-eyed commerce.

While he was still in high school, Forney brought four paintings to the zoo wall and proceeded to turn on the charm.

A tourist couple was drawn to one painting in particular, and Fornehy was prepared to drive a hard bargain.

"I had in my mind that I wanted $80," he says. "They went away, came back, and offered me $1,200. I just said 'OK.'"

Indeed, thgings have a way of working out for Forney. When he and his wife, Lynn, lived in Texas for several years, Forney, with no previous experience, landed a job painting city logos, school mascots, and other Texas-sized art pieces on water towers. Between jobs he honed his personal artwork, his imagination continually returning to an edenic surf spot that exists only in his mind.

"It's that same place every time," Forney says. "I can see it clearly in my head, and I try to paint it from different angles."

Forney earned enough money painting towers--187 of them by his count--that he and Lynn were able to return to Hawaii and buy the house across the street from where he grew up. These days, Forney pays the bills through his work as a house painter, but his spare time is still spent with brush in hand and that secret surf spot in mind.

On a sunny, wind-swept Sunday at the zoo wall, Forney sits in the driver's seat of his car, a faded UH cap set low on his forehead, smoking a cigarette and listening to Iron Maiden while Lynn keeps watch for potential customers from a beach chair next to their exhibition board. His bright, cartoonish "folk-type surf art" pieces are unique, even amid the diverse styles represented here.

"I paint for me," he says. "The fact that people buy my work is a bonus. Even if they didn't, I'd still be painting."

copyright 2011 by the Honolulu Star-advertiser. All rights reserved. Fair use.

Indeed. My first bonsai sensei, Jim Tatsukawa, used to say "good bonsai is what you like."

Commissioned Painting

Paul painted this one for Andrea and me. We picked it up at "the fence" on April 23rd, 2011.

February 2012 Zoo Fence Visit

Artists display their wares on the zoo fence on Monsarrat on weekends. Andrea and I visited Paul on Sunday morning, February 5th.

Paul Forney with some of his new paintings.

Paul started a new painting.

Andrea's Paul Forney print.

Richard dot J dot Wagner at gmail dot com

index.html, this hand crafted HTML file was created September 28, 2010.
Last updated May 19, 2013, by Rick Wagner.
Copyright © 2010-2013 by Rick Wagner, all rights reserved. Posters and painting images copyright by Paul Forney, fair use.