We are Matt and Roxy Ortiz, a husband and wife art duo who paint under the name Wooden Wave. We have an art studio in Honolulu at Lana Lane Studios where we work a block away from the sea. Surfing and spending time in the water is how we have fun and get new ideas for our art. We draw our inspiration from the playful lifestyles of those who enjoy the outdoors. Using treehouses as our main subject matter, we draw and paint environments that offer a whimsical take on nature and sustainability.
Meet Wooden Wave, the Hawaiian Artist Duo Matt and Roxy Ortiz
Growing up in Hawaii has molded us into people who love and appreciate the ocean and it's beauty. We are so excited to take this road trip and experience a completely different landscape! To start off this adventure, we will be painting a mural at the headquarters of Zappos in downtown Las Vegas. From there we will strike out on the road visiting national parks and scenic routes in Utah. Our art is often inspired by our surroundings so we are looking forward to adding to our sketch books while we travel through some of the region’s iconic locations. Our list of stops includes Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
The road trip will end in Salt Lake City where we will be participating in the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in collaboration with OluKai. With so much to see, we can’t wait to get this road trip started! We hope you can follow along with us and enjoy the ride!
Las Vegas, Nevada
“There is a healthy culture and love for murals in this part of town and we enjoyed discovering them on our wanderings.”
Back in Hawaii, people call Las Vegas the ninth Island. With one of largest populations of Hawaiians outside of Hawaii itself, Las Vegas has its fair share of islanders. It’s our first time visiting and as we approached the city on our late night flight, the glowing metropolis below certainly resembled an urban island, floating on an pitch black sea of uninterrupted desert.
We came here to paint a mural at the headquarters of Zappos which is located in the historic Downtown Las Vegas district. On our first day, we met up with Brian “Paco” Alvarez, the charismatic art curator and cultural historian. He gave us a tour of the grounds and emphasized how much value was placed on art and creativity at Zappos. There were murals all throughout the facilities, some done by Zappos employees and others by artists from the community. Paco explained how in addition building a creative work culture in-house, Zappos is also striving to support and revitalize the Downtown Las Vegas area.
When we weren’t painting we explored the downtown district. We were impressed by the iconic neon signs that framed the city skyline and lit the bustling streets. There is a healthy culture and love for murals in this part of town and we enjoyed discovering them on our wanderings. With cafes, galleries, bars and restaurants, downtown Las Vegas offers visitors a taste of the local experience. We especially enjoyed the galleries at the Art Factory, and the contemporary mix of shops and restaurants at the Container Park.
Inspired by the innovative mentality and playful spirit of Zappos culture, we set out to create a mural that could match the overall light-hearted atmosphere within the campus. We typically paint imagined tree house communities that combine rooftop gardens, solar panels, and other sustainable characteristics with half-pipe skate ramps, slides and tire swings. We derive a lot of joy from envisioning and painting these details because, after all, who wants to live in a place that isn’t fun? Drawing from the breathtaking range of warm and cool color tones that we observed in the surrounding environment, we were thrilled with idea of painting our first desert landscape! In a nod to our comparison of the desert as being an ocean of sand, we opted to portray a container ship as our dwelling instead of treehouses. But why stop there? We figured that if you are going to paint a boat in the desert, then you might as well float it in the air with some levitating rocks too! For us, this theme is perfectly summed up by one of Zappos’ stated core values, “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness!”
Valley of Fire
Nevada state Park
“As we drove deeper into the park the hues diversified and shifted quickly across a spectrum of oranges, pinks and limestone whites.”
Our first stop after leaving Las Vegas was the Valley of Fire State Park where the flat desert gave way to large outcrops of fiery red sandstone. Thousands of years of erosion have sculpted the rock structures into fascinating forms, pitted with caves and full of stratified layers of color. As we drove deeper into the park the hues diversified and shifted quickly across a spectrum of oranges, pinks and limestone whites. The road turned frequently around bends to reveal a surreal landscape that made us imagine what it might be like to live on Mars.
One thing we noticed when we stepped out of the car was the pure silence that hung thick in the air. It’s a completely different sensory experience from Las Vegas, where the cacophony of traffic and music is constant. The pavement was smooth and the road empty of other cars, so Matt pulled his skateboard out of the trunk and got in a couple of downhill sessions. There’s something peaceful in the sound of a single skateboard rolling through the stillness.
We’re excited to see the other parks on our trip – we’re off to great start and Zion National Park is next!
Zion National Park
“We hiked upstream through the cool, refreshing water until twilight, then turned back as the last rays of sunlight lit the surrounding bluffs in pinks, purples and warm grays.”
The canyon walls in Zion National Park were immense. The sheer scale and magnitude of the landscape made us feel tiny, fragile, impermanent. It is both humbling and gratifying to realize that your life is less than a blip on the geological spectrum of time. Having put our entire lives into context, it was time to go hiking, YEW!
We decided to do the “Narrows,” a water hike that follows the course of the Virgin river. It is remarkable how a relatively small river carved out such a dramatic landscape. The canyon’s sides loomed tall and hemmed us in tightly. A majority of this hike took place in the river so we were stoked to be rocking our amphibious Kamiki shoes!
We hiked upstream through the cool, refreshing water until twilight, then turned back as the last rays of sunlight lit the surrounding bluffs in pinks, purples and warm grays. Who knew that watching rocks change color could be so amazing? By the time we exited the Narrows, the sun had long since set and a full moon hung low and bright above the Canyon walls. What a beautiful way to end the day’s adventure!
Bryce Canyon National Park
“The entire valley looks like an ancient fortress with these stone turrets standing guard.”
It’s safe to say that this park blew our minds. We chose to hike the “Navajo loop” trail which winds down from the scenic Sunset Point overlook into a canyon filled with breathtaking hoodoos. These rock formations have eroded over time to resemble jagged spires of red and orange rock. The entire valley looks like an ancient fortress with these stone turrets standing guard. It’s amazing to see how nature has created such diverse landforms, we were in awe the entire time! We’ve had so much fun exploring the Southwest scenery, but after today we’re not sure if any landscape can beat the stunning Hoodoo area. We can’t wait to find out, Capital Reef National Park is next!
Capitol Reef National Park
“It made us feel more connected to the idea of art as part of the human experience, that spans the divide of time.”
After driving through a surreal moonlit landscape we arrive at midnight in the small town of Torrey, which borders the Capitol Reef National Park. The advantages of driving at night include cool temperatures, no traffic, and a chance to see the nocturnal wildlife. The disadvantage of driving at night is the nocturnal wildlife. We have to be hyper aware with the high beams on, in order to spot deer and elk (they seem to have a bad habit of crossing the road in front of your car). On this leg of the trip Roxy is at the helm and deftly avoids certain disaster with some ninja-like reflexes. Good on ya Roxy!
The next morning, Capitol Reef delivers some gorgeous views. Winding our way through the park we stop at a petroglyph site dating back as far as 300 C.E. These markings were left by the culture of the Hisatsinom, who have long since vanished. Geometric carvings of big horn sheep and human figures line the base of the towering rock face. Though the motivations for these petroglyphs remain a mystery, it was inspiring for us as artists to see ancient forms of creative expression and storytelling. It made us feel more connected to the idea of art as part of the human experience, that spans the divide of time.
The rest of the day was spent on the road, driving to the town of Moab. Along the way we passed roadside relics of Americana like rusted trucks, trailers and weather worn barns. We stopped for fuel at a general store that was built into the side of the mountain. This trip has been full of small places and moments like these that will be remembered with a smile.
“The mood of the landscape seemed to shift quickly in the filtered light and as the sun set, we felt an upwelling of gratitude and admiration for this beautiful place.”
Moab is a small town with a big heart for adventure. It’s a hub for activities like rock climbing, skydiving, mountain biking, and more. The Colorado river runs through this area and has carved out some magnificent canyon walls. We decided that the best way experience this iconic river vista would be by kayak. After being in the desert for the past week, it was so refreshing and rejuvenating to be back in the water! We spent a few hours paddling and drifting with the current. The river was broad and gentle for the most part but still feisty enough to send us down a few adrenaline-raising rapids. We were also happy to see some local wildlife, including heron, geese, and the rarely spotted river otter! The whole experience reminded us of how much we love being out in nature and that there are so many ways to enjoy it.
Next, we traded our kayak for a couple of horses. Arriving at the riverside Hauer Ranch we were excited to learn that we were the only guests signed up for the sunset trail ride. Roxy used to ride as a kid and was at ease atop her aptly named horse “Sassy.” I think that my horse Cash knew I was a rookie because he frequently stopped to nibble on tasty desert grass! Our guide Trace took us along the meandering back country trail that crossed streams and passed a myriad of unique rock formations. The striking scenery started taking on a iconic “Western” vibe. Trace explained that this particular area was frequently used in Western films. The list includes many John Wayne movies, as well as more recent films such as Mission Impossible 2 and John Carter. We loved hearing about the history of this place and it was interesting to reflect on how our impression of what the American West looks like, is in large part due to this stunning region.
On our way back to the ranch, thick clouds rolled in off the horizon and shrouded the surrounding desert in cool atmospheric grays and dark sheets of rain. The mood of the landscape seemed to shift quickly in the filtered light and as the sun set, we felt an upwelling of gratitude and admiration for this beautiful place.
Arches National Park
“The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, some of which span as much as 300 feet in width!”
As we entered the Arches National Park we were once again awestruck by the handy work of Mother Nature. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, some of which span as much as 300 feet in width! These petrified bridges were a fitting finale to our memorable national parks tour.
After hiking the park for the better half of the day, we hopped back in the car and pointed it north toward our final destination of Salt Lake City. On the highway, it’s easy to slip into tunnel vision mode but something to the left caught our attention. Dinosaurs, dozens of them! They were being installed in the desert as part of a future museum. We pulled over for a closer look and were downright giddy to find a life size T-Rex head and its pre assembled body parts strewn about the construction site. How could we resist a photo op with the king of the dinos? Thoroughly satisfied with our find, we left the museum grounds and turned back onto the highway. Jurassic Park theme music echoed in our heads as the road stretched out in front of us.
We are now in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow where we’ll be doing live art at the OluKai booth. This marks the end of our week-long adventure through the National and State Parks. This trip has definitely inspired us in so many ways and we’ll be returning to Hawaii with fond memories and a renewed enthusiasm for exploring nature in its many forms. We hope you’ve enjoyed following our journey through the Southwest!
Matt and Roxy