On becoming a surf artist and a short PSA about bullying

Fieldey painting a longboard skatedeck

Painting a digestive tract onto a skateboard… dream job!

Everyone’s got a story and this one’s mine. I’m posting this today in the hopes of showing people that there is no ‘right’ path to pursuing an art career and living life on your own terms… it’s never to late to try.

I’d also like to shout-out to anyone else who was bullied, and if you’re being bullied now, I just want to give you a hug and tell you that you’re going to get through this. You don’t choose to be bullied, but you have a choice about how you react to it, and you can choose to be a better person. When you come out the other side you’ve got an advantage over the non-bullied… you’re made of steel now and you have a sense of determination and something to prove to the world. I wouldn’t be who I am today without that experience – so thank you bullies, you’ve given me the resilience I need to do what I love.

The following is a longer version of an interview published in the April edition of White Horses magazine.

Your art background and development: tell us about how you came to surfboards as your canvas?

Like many artists I’ve been painting and drawing ever since I can remember… the feeling when your immersed in a creative project is just the best, you feel like everything is in-tune, and that you are doing exactly what you were meant to be doing – what you were designed to do. From an early age art was my escape and my solace.

When I was young I was obsessed with horses and hated school, so I spent all of my maths classes looking out the window daydreaming and drawing horses in the exercise books pretending I was somewhere else. To this day I am excellent at drawing horses and rubbish at maths. Kids used to pay me $5 to draw ‘portraits’ of their horses…which was pretty much whatever type of horse I felt like drawing except in the correct colour.

Horse drawings

16 year old horse-dork me

In secondary school I was bullied pretty intensively so art became even more important to me, becoming something of an obsession and a way to escape the miserable realities of school life. Everybody thought I’d become an artist, but in year 10, I had a careers advisor who ‘advised’ me that I’d die poor and alone if I pursued that particular career. When I finished school I studied graphic design in Sydney and took off to London for a year or so to hone my craft. I liked graphic design well enough but as the years passed I felt that the dream of becoming an artist was slipping further away… I didn’t have an artistic direction, I had stopped drawing and creating and felt like I had lost a part of myself.

In 2007 I washed up on Western Australia’s sunny shores right before the GFC when business was booming and they couldn’t pay designers enough money to come and design annual reports for mining companies. I got my first well paying job in a design company in Perth and spent the next three years or so detesting the place and the eventually the work. I took some time off to travel to South America, and that was a wakeup call for me to change some things in my life, I took on a freelance job that allowed me more time to pursue my own interests and also took up surfing.

Taking up surfing in Perth was pretty much the best idea ever – everything started to make sense and I enjoyed the beautiful beaches, the laid-back lifestyle and the crappy surf. About 6 months into my ‘learning to surf’ I mistakenly decided it was time to upgrade to a short board and got myself a 6’7″ Superfish. Couldn’t ride it worth a damn, but I had an idea that it would be fun to paint it. I dusted off my art supplies and got hold of Josh from Oceanline surfboards who very sportingly spent some time on the phone patiently instructing me how to prepare my board for painting. So, I painted my board with a fish headed woman and a banner calling it “The Fish Wife” and purposely used a kind of bastardised old-school tattoo style which was easy to paint with my limited spray paint skills… my brother filmed it for me and we chucked it up on YouTube as a tutorial and “Fieldey” was born.

Your relationship with surfing/the ocean… how has that developed?

I was born in New Zealand, but when I was 8 my parents moved to Norfolk Island, a tiny tiny speck in the South Pacific – about halfway between New Zealand and Australia. From the highest point on the island you have a 360º view of nothing but ocean – the nearest landmass being about 1500km away. The island is surrounded by huge cliffs and we routinely got hit by cyclones and wild storms that would lash the seas up to huge peaks and batter the cliffs… when I was a kid I used to go fishing off the rocks with my dad, and I was always on the lookout for the legendary “Seventh Wave” that according to local legend, could spring up unawares out of a calm ocean and sweep you off the rocks to your doom. People had been washed off the rocks whilst fishing or swimming in rock pools and I used to have continual nightmares of it.

Cyclone waves on Norfolk Island

Scary cyclone waves – bad day for fishing

Growing up like this, surrounded by an unpredictable and huge ocean as well as seeing the size of the sharks that would cruise past when we were fishing, I was scared of waves and swimming in deep water. When I was about 26 I did my PADI Open Water diver course as a way to help conquer my fears of the water and developed a love for scuba diving.

I took up surfing both for something to do, and also as a way of getting over my fear of waves… in the early stages of kookhood I went out in stupid conditions at Trigg beach in Perth and got washed back up on the beach in a tangle of bruises and surfboard after being mauled in the dumpers, but I started to learn about the right conditions and as I got the hang of things I realised that surfing is super addictive. Mostly I just love to be out on the water, it seems to induce a meditative state and that’s where most of my best ideas come from. Nowdays being on, in or near the ocean is something I regard is being necessary for a healthy and happy life… I don’t think I’ll ever live away from it.

Where’s it all heading for you

The last few years have been a crazy ride – if you had of told me five years ago that I would be painting surfboards professionally, I wouldn’t have believed it!

In the last three years I’ve painted dozens of surfboards, bowling pins, a giant remote controlled jet boat, designs for Iron Fist Clothing and heaps of skate decks.

I’ve recently opening an online store of board art decals and inlays, and I’m in the midst of filming more YouTube tutorials with sponsorship by Molotow paints, The Butcher Shop and Star Skate and Surf. I’d also like to have a fine art exhibition of painted wooden alaias that I’ve been working on.

Most of all I’m achieving my dream of being an artist and doing the things I love, and it’s a big adventure. Life doesn’t get much better!

Surfing at Trigg beach

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7 Comments

Filed under Art, Inspiration, Interview, Norfolk Island

7 responses to “On becoming a surf artist and a short PSA about bullying

  1. Anonymous

    Haylee that was such an amazing story… I still can not believe that anyone could bully you…and I am so sorry that they did but as you say look where it got you..we feel privileged to know you and follow your comings and goings with interest…don’t give up hang in there…Judy and Paul

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    • Hi Judy and Paul, thanks so much for your lovely comment! As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… I didn’t know that at the time, but I do now. I was so impressed by your stories in Sri Lanka – I hope I get to travel and have great adventures like you guys!

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  2. Anonymous

    Great story… From a great role model. I’m sharing this with my kids now, Fieldey… You rock! Sorrel xxx

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    • Thanks Sorrel! Haha – role model, lol! But seriously, no one told me this when I was going through the bullying and it really does take over your whole life, I want people to know that they’re not powerless and they have a choice about the outcome.

      Like

  3. Fantastic post! Even more of a legend in my eyes now! Where are those bullies now I wonder…in the deep dark south of Loserville where they belong! Rock on Haylee!

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  4. Pingback: Pursuing Your Passions In The Face Of Bullying | The Inertia

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