Street artist Beak fills the city walls with birds

Beak’s street art, such as the bird image on the right, can be found on walls throughout O‘ahu –Rick Oania-Elam

Graffiti. It’s everywhere and on everything. However, amid the many players of this illegal game exists a rare bird.

Beak, as he is known, does a wide variety of art both on and off the street.  What he is most known for though is his bird-themed art. Bird characters and the many variations of them can be seen everywhere, on all sorts of surfaces, utilizing every medium.

Bird posters pasted on electrical boxes, bird faces drawn on walls and mailboxes, even bird foot tracks stenciled permanently onto the pavement. Some birds blend in to their surroundings while others blatantly stick out like sore thumbs commanding your eyes to notice them.

“They’re almost like real birds. Some get put up and stay for a long time, while some are gone in a few days,” said Reid Villoria, an auto mechanic in Kaka‘ako who has seen dozens of Beak’s birds over the years.

“The versatility and symbolism behind a lot of Beak’s work makes it appealing to a broad range of individuals, and the skill behind some of his creations is undeniable,” said Emily Takahashi, a University of Hawai‘i art major. “I can appreciate the time he must have spent making some of these paintings. His attention to detail doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Graffiti can be broken into two categories. There is illegal graffiti done without permission from the property owner, and there is legal graffiti done with permission of the property owner.

Within these two categories is another category known as street art. Street art comes in a wide range of forms and mediums compared to traditional graffiti, which is usually based more on lettering.

Beak has built his reputation mainly around street art and said that he might have eventually gotten bored of the repetitive nature of traditional graffiti. Aside from his paintings and drawings, he fabricates wire sculptures, panelboards, cardboard cut outs and even inflatable versions of his birds, bringing a whole different aspect to public art not commonly seen in Hawai‘i.

“I always liked to put up art in strange places,” Beak said. “I like art in galleries and on canvases, but there’s just so much more to it when it was on a public surface for everyone to see and interact with.”

To Beak, the birds represent flying and freedom. He points out that he has a sense of humor and some of his more whimsical birds are highly reflective of this.

The letters behind Beak’s tag or signature also have hidden meaning. Most of the time, he substitutes the letter E in his name with the number 3, representing the year 2003 when he started doing street art and referencing the significance of the number in sacred geometry. He also writes his name as Beaks on occasion, replacing the letter S with a 5. The equation 3+5 is hidden in his signature, the sum being 8, which is representative of infinity and flow.

Beak said it’s the excitement of street art that has kept him interested in the craft for almost 15 years, though the associated danger can negatively interfere with family life and relationships.

He was arrested doing street art a few years ago. Though he said one of the police officers at the time complimented him for his work.

“Some people don’t care what you paint on their wall. They didn’t want it painted in the first place, and now they have to fork the bill to clean it up,” said one Honolulu Police officer, who wished to remain anonymous.

Others, however, appreciate Beak’s public defiance.

“I love seeing Beak’s birds pop up! It keeps my day interesting and gives the city character,” Reid said.

“Over the last ten years, Beak has painted with almost every Hawai‘i-based notorious graffiti writer,” added Keir McEwan, a longtime graffiti writer and tattoo artist at Queen St. Tattoo.

For his part, Beak plans to continuing producing street art.

“I am going to die trying to make something out of my art,” he said. “I’ve seen and felt so many positive vibes because of my artwork that there’s no way I could ever stop.”


by Rick Oania-Elam, Special to Ka ‘Ohana