Surf Art Paintings by Spring Break Jake
Everything about surfing is artistic–from the mesmerizing waves, vivacious colors of the ocean, textures of the sand, shells, and rocks that line the seafloor, the diverse marine life, the beach scenery, surfboards, coastal communities, and the innate fashion statement behind wetsuits and branded gear. The outdoor water sport is an art in and of itself–a form of personal expression where personal technique and style come into play. It’s easy to see the strong correlation between surf culture and art forms, and surf art has become a powerful way to convey a harmonious interconnection between the two worlds.
Signs of surf art date back to Peru over 3,000 years ago, where carved bas-reliefs of surfers were discovered. Cave drawings of surf art and surfing from old native Hawaiians have also appeared in Hawaii, demonstrating that surf was appreciated as an art and incorporated into art across different cultures and timelines.
While the idea of surf art had already existed, John Severson–a California-born surfer and filmmaker–helped establish the surf art genre that melded the two worlds of surf and art together by creating the first issue of Surfer Magazine in 1960, which helped bring the spotlight to the free-spirited nature of surf culture. One notable artistic piece that made history for surf art was one of the first magazine covers of Surfer Magazine–John Van Hammersveld’s iconic screen print “Endless Summer.” This psychedelic, color pop illustration featured surrealist elements of sunsets, swimsuits, colorful surfboards and waves, and it changed the landscape for how surf and art were seen as a powerful force.
Surf art has always been about the passion and expression of surfing and the surfer lifestyle as seen through the lens of various mediums–drawings, paintings, and photographs. It puts emphasis on the open-minded, forever young spirit of the surfing community, embodying a sense of risk and wonder. It’s not surprising that many surfers are also artists and painters.
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Spring Break Jake, A New Take on Surf Art Paintings
Spring Break Jake offers his own take on surf art, fusing haunting elements of death and decay–such as skulls, ominous figures, and darker colors–with lighter, more vibrant elements like palm trees, ocean waves, and bright, inviting hues. Within his works, you’ll see dark shapes and cliffs painted black, contrasted with bright pink palm trees or vivid blue, heart shaped tide pools. Spring Break Jake draws inspiration from scuba diving, snowboarding, and his natural surroundings to immaculately blend the isolated nature of death with somewhat beautiful, colorful parts of life. Sunny, beachy, surf-related elements, paired with motifs that evoke death’s inevitability, seek to create vulnerable emotions and feelings around the temporary nature of life. Spring Break Jake’s art encourages us to appreciate the beauty of life and the joyful things we have access to, because we are destined to die when it is our time.
Types of Surf Art
Surf art is boundless, and much like the ubiquity of the ocean, it cannot be confined, defined, or tamed. Some styles of surf art include abstract surf art, impressionist art, pop-surrealistic art, vintage surf art, surf wave art, goth beach art, and realism. No matter the category, surf art seeks to express the passion, thrill, and peaceful “go with the flow” vibe associated with surfing. Let’s touch on a few types of surf art and what makes each unique.
Surf art serves to encapsulate everything from the tides to coastal environments and cultures–giving us a further reason to appreciate the beauty of the natural world and the art of surfing and surfers.
Abstract Surf Art
Abstract surf art paintings are meant to bring forth feeling through the use of shapes, shading, and line work. Textures, waves, lines, circles, boxes, colors, configurations, and symbols are the main identifiers of abstract art, often blended together to represent a more interpretive and less realistic representation of something such as surf art. An example of abstract surf art would be waves built out of lines and shapes–resembling the general shape of a wave, but not as defined.
Surf Wave Art
Surf Wave art is typically art–whether a painting or photograph–that features rolling waves, or a barrel. It is meant to captivate the mesmerizing beauty of a wave in motion, using fine details and colors. Oftentimes surf wave art is solely of a wave, yet you might also see a surfer within the wave, riding it or going underneath a barrel. This curling of the wave is often emphasized with vibrant colors–even some unlikely colors and hues that aren’t standard hues of water. Surf wave art seeks to embody the tranquility of swells in the ocean, yet simultaneously showcases the powerful force that the ocean is. As a viewer, surf wave art can be interpreted as the dichotomy between the powerful force of a wave and its natural elegance.
Vintage Surf Art
Vintage surf art tends to have overly exaggerated, oversaturated colors, such as bright tints of blue and orange, yellow, or pink. Think of retro pop art with multicolor schemes. This type of art truly enhances the beauty of the natural colors of the sky, ocean, and other common themes related to surfing, including surfboards, beach buggies, colorful umbrellas, and swimsuits. Vintage surf art is displayed in the form of prints, film posters, pamphlets, magazine covers, and comics.
Different motifs of vintage and retro surf art include a group of surfers at sea or examining a wave, a single surfer riding a wave or paddling out, beach scenes, pin up surfers, and often large vibrant lettering and paradise rhetoric. It generally showcases the idealized versions of surf culture and is very popular to this day.
Modern Surf Art
Modern surf art is more simplistic, typically featuring imagery of the ocean with detail to define waves in motion, colorful sunsets, defined palm trees, and surfboards. Modern surf art could even be broken down to basic shapes, interpreted as parts of the surf culture–such as wavey, curved 2D artworks. Spring Break Jake’s work is another fine example of modern surf art at its finest.
Frequently Asked Questions about Surf Art Paintings
Surf art paintings depict the surfer lifestyle and everything related to it. It can be from the perspective of a single surfer, multiple surfers, or the ocean itself and everything that surrounds surfers, including surf culture and their general lifestyle. Surf art gives more understanding into the heart of surf culture–often glorifying it or depicting the idealized version of it. From purchasing or waxing a board, to putting on a wetsuit, to applying bright white sunscreen on the nose, to riding a barrel, to crashing hard into a wave, to sharing the ocean with friends and soaking in the last few minutes of sunshine, to a lone palm tree blowing in the wind on the coast–surf art is boundless and inspiring.
Surf art paintings capture the essence of life–a metaphor or oxymoron, if you will. Surf art can simultaneously capture opposing elements, including things like joy, love, fear, power, elegance, grace, strength, poise, logic, creativity, and the free-spirit. Above all else, surf art captures expression, an admired sport, and a lifestyle.
There are many different styles of surf art, including abstract surf art, vintage surf art, surrealist surf art, impressionist surf art, modern surf art, and more experimental varieties. Surf art can be painted on so many different mediums–including surfboards themselves.
As with any painting, you paint surf art through feeling–letting your emotions guide your paint brush. How does it feel to catch a wave? If you don’t surf yourself, how would you envision the surfer to feel? Brave? Confident? Stressed? Anxious? Paint the scene around surf culture and the lifestyle of a surfer, or even the lifestyle of an observer who loves to watch surfers. Use textures, colors, and emotion to pour minute details into the ocean waves in motion, or the stillness, or the wind making contact with a palm tree. Think of how it feels, smells, taste, and use those elements to help paint a picture of the overall atmosphere, and then cover the minute details.
If you’re in the market for surf art paintings or want to explore some more examples of stellar beachy art that incorporates elements of the coast, check out Spring Break Jake’s art collection, featuring diverse prints and original surf art paintings. Kowabunga baby!
Media credit: All images in this article about skull paintings by Spring Break Jake are courtesy of springspreakjake.com or IG @springbreak.jake.