Graphic Artist & Seeababe Ashley Johnston's Lucky to Live in Hawaii Life

Ashley Johnston wearing the Riviera in the #MySeeaLife winning photo. Photo by Bryce Johnson.
“It’s super laid back and casual, everything you could dream of when you think of the stereotypical ‘Hawaii,’” says Kauai-born and raised Ashley Johnston of her idyllic island home. Ashley’s love for Hawaii bursts from her graphic design portfolio — hand illustrated shells, wave lines and beach zen words —...
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Ashley Johnston wearing the Riviera in the #MySeeaLife winning photo. Photo by Bryce Johnson.
“It’s super laid back and casual, everything you could dream of when you think of the stereotypical ‘Hawaii,’” says Kauai-born and raised Ashley Johnston of her idyllic island home. Ashley’s love for Hawaii bursts from her graphic design portfolio — hand illustrated shells, wave lines and beach zen words — and in her glowing smile as she plays in her native habitat of lush jungle and warm seas.

We discovered Ashley through the #MySeeaLife contest and were captivated by her stunning photo that ended up being one of the winners. We were flattered and ecstatic with her first Seea suit experience in the Riviera that she picked up at Aloha Exchange boutique on Kauai, where she is also a buyer and graphic designer. “I found out about Seea through a friend who knew the Seeababes in San Diego. The Riviera one-piece seriously changed my surfing life!" she says. "I fell in love with the functionality of it, and ended up getting more girls on to the trend. It was our best-selling Seea suit at Aloha Exchange to date.”

Ashley in her happy place wearing the Palomar in Tea Leaf and Capitola bottom. Photo by Bryce Johnson.

Being the youngest of eight kids and the only surfer of the family, Ashley shared with us her life growing up on the “garden island” and her current multi-tasking jobs juggling graphic design projects, Aloha Exchange surf shop duties and her own brand Lucky We Live Hawaii. We caught up with Ashley, our newest Seeababe to get the scoop on surfing in Kauai and how she turned her dream of making graphic design art into her livelihood.

Ashley and friends go for a hike in Hawaii. Photo by Nate Smith.
Kauai rains more than the other islands, making it the most green and rainbow abundant! Photo by Nate Smith.

We hear that each Hawaiian island has its own personality. Why do you love Kauai?

Kauai is by far one of the most beautiful islands in the state, without a doubt. It’s known as the "Garden Island" for its lush landscapes and scenery. It has a very small town feel. There are no big city scrapers or hugely developed areas. It’s just a simple and carefree lifestyle. We have a lot of outdoor activities like surfing, fishing, diving, hiking, to name a few.

Party wave, Hawaii style. Photo by Brooke Dombroski.
Ashley in between sets. Photo by Bryce Johnson.

What is the girls surfing community like on Kauai?

The surf community out here is probably a lot like anywhere else in that you know all the locals and regulars. It’s nice when you can go to your favorite breaks and know everyone out in the water. As far as the girl surf community, we have a lot of talented surfer girls on the island and many of them are some of the best on tour right now! Some ladies that come to mind are pro surfers like Malia Manuel, Bethany Hamilton, and Alana Blanchard. I see them around and its always fun when you get to surf with them in the water too.

Hawaii version of underwater aerobics. 

What are the top places and activities that you take people to do when they come to visit Kauai?

I would say for sure either taking a helicopter ride or doing a boat tour of the Napali Coast. Napali is by far one of Kauai's best gems! Some other favorites of mine are Polihale Beach on the West Side and also Hanalei on the North Shore.

Ashley in Hanalei Bay, one of the most famous landmarks on the North shore of Kauai. Photo by Bryce Johnson.
Seriously. The gifts the garden island gives are simply beautiful.
When did you learn how to surf and why is it such an important part of your life?

I started learning to surf when I was about 13 or so. My best friend and I were given some boards from our older youth group friends and got hooked on the sport. We were the typical surf groms that would get dropped off at the beach and would surf all day long during the summers.

Ashley wearing a Lucky We Live Hawaii shirt. Photo by Bryce Johnson.

How did you get into graphic design?

Growing up I always knew I was more attracted to careers in the creative field. Out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but ended up moving to San Diego because I knew it had the requirements I wanted: good weather and surf. I got really into photography while being in San Diego and started making these layouts on my computer of my photos with typography. A friend of mine suggested I take up graphic design, since the artworks I was creating were basically a form of design. I looked into the art program over at Point Loma Nazarene University. It was my dream school because of the campus overlooks the ocean and there was a surf spot right there on Sunset Cliffs. I got accepted into the school and from there began my first art classes. I never took any art courses previously to being an art student, but I fell in love with process of design.

Some of the Lucky We Live Hawaii totes featuring Ashley's graphic designs. Each shape signifies a different Hawaiian island and inside, the names of its famous spots. 

What kinds of projects have you done?

As a designer, I’ve had the privileged with working with some awesome companies and local business here in Hawaii. I've done a lot of branding, logo work, apparel design, posters, and packaging to name a few. One of my favorite things to design is the artwork for clothing and apparel. It’s always a lot of fun to have creative freedom. To see my work printed with people actually wearing it is the best feeling!

Ashley in office mode. 
Ashley's work for the clothing brand Otaheite Hawaii. She designed the business cards and illustrated the signature sea urchin print that is featured on Otaheite's dresses and tops. 

What is Lucky We Live Hawaii?

Lucky We Live Hawaii is my creative outlet and new business venture. I just launched it as an official brand and company in 2014 and I couldn't be happier! The humble beginnings of Lucky We Live Hawaii all started at the end of 2011, when I just moved back home to Kauai after being in San Diego for a couple years. I wanted to try and get my name out there in industry, so I decided a good way to do that was by creating artwork — typography posters and beach totes — to place in local boutiques.

I started printing the artwork for Lucky We Live Hawaii on trucker hats and clothing. It kind of blew up and became one of the main graphics behind my artwork and name. In my mind it was just fun way to get my name out there, but I didn’t realize I was actually creating something bigger than I could have imagined. Now I have just about 20 retailers here in Hawaii and more product that just keeps building up! Since it was doing so well, I wanted to have some separation between my design portfolio from my product shop items, so it was than I decided to create all my products under the brand, Lucky We Live Hawaii.

Hand lettering by Ashley on a T-shirt for Aloha Exchange. 

How has surfing shaped who you are and your work?

My artwork tends to have a fun, beachy, bright, and whimsical quality to it. Some dream projects would be to create some fun textiles to be made for my own clothing line or to keep collaborating with rad companies that inspire me within surf culture and outside of surf.

Through surfing I have met some of my closest friends and its one of my all time favorite hobbies. After learning to surf, the culture of it all became a huge influence on who I am. I’ve noticed one of my favorite times to surf is at sunset, where the beauty of the ocean and sky reminds me of how blessed we are. You always come out of the water happier than you did before.

Ashley in her favorite suit, the Riviera. 
Carving a line.  
Ashley during one of her favorite times of day — a sunset session. Photo by Bryce Johnson.
Thank you Ashley for representing Seea in Kauai with such pure enthusiasm, heart and elegant style! 

Shop Ashley's favorite suits: The Riviera, The Palomar Crop Top and Capitola!

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