Last year on our bi-annual pilgrimage to sample the wines and waves of a certain famous surf town/wine region, we passed a battered mailbox exuberantly painted with peace signs, ‘sick tubes’ and ‘gnarly lefts’. A sign sat out the front proudly proclaiming – “Surf Art Studio”. I snorted, “HA! Sur-Fart more like”. Visions of lurid sunsets and leaping dolphins passed through my mind, and I smiled smugly as we breezed past – everyone knows that’s not real art.
OHO! How the mighty have fallen, I hear you say. Yes, I’ll admit that since I starting surfing this year, I’ve developed a yearning to paint waves, skulls, sharks and mermaids… on surfboards. So what is this surf art genre I was previously so dismissive of? Is it all leaping dolphins, peace signs and bikini-clad babes?
Knowledge is power, so I went forth on an online quest for the true meaning of surf art – and found a delightful website called The Club of the Waves and it is so stylish, and dare I say, tasteful, that I desperately want to be one of their stable of ‘Surf Artists’. Alas, two painted boards do not a surf-artist make, so instead I will settle for a posting of surf artists that I admire, the ones who really push the surf art envelope, making jerks like myself green with envy.
The first cab off the rank is American artist Chris Robb, who features typographic stylings, oceanic colour meditations and a keen eye for design and composition.
Damian Fulton’s maverick mix of surf imagery and urban grit make for a cool-as-shit commentary on the life of an urban surfer.
It’s Dia del Muerto meets Mambo – I’m digging Shawn Griggs‘s strong graphic lines, vibrant colours and luscious paintwork.
Serenity emanates out of Wade koniakowsky’s paintings which are as close as you’re going to get (in your office) to sitting on your board in an exotic tropical locale.
Julie Merian hails from the South of France and paints über-real, stylish monochromatic pieces, critiquing urbanisation, development and pollution in the sea.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my slice of humble pie. I’ve come to realise, that whether it’s an outstanding example of the genre like the ones above, or a grubby barrel scribbled in the margins of a text book, it’s all unified by a celebration of the ocean and a recollection of that one perfect wave, and that one perfect moment.