April 22, 2010
Legendary artist and surfer Drew Brophy has lived the dream. Having traveled the world surfing, painting, and getting his hands dirty on a host of artistic projects, he caught up with Converse.com to let us a little deeper into his life story.
So Drew what’s your story? Where are you from? Where have you lived in/traveled to? What drew you to art in the first place?
I grew up surfing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Though being an artist was not a profession that was encouraged, I was lucky to have the support of the surfing community as an outlet for my artwork. I created t-shirts and airbrushed surfboards as a teenager.
When I was in high school, about to graduate, I met with the guidance counselor for a little direction on what to do next. He said “Drew, you can’t just paint and surf your whole life! You’re going to have to figure something else out.” I was so angry that I stood up and said “Surfing and painting – that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
When people ask how I found success as an artist, this is my answer: I made the decision early on that I wanted a certain kind of life that involved surfing big waves, traveling the world and eventually marrying and having a family. There was no Plan B – I was committed to designing this life. I had to make it work.
My dream of surfing big waves took me to Hawaii at 20 years old. I left my hometown and moved to the North Shore where I painted production surfboards for the best surfers and companies at the time.
About three years later I moved to San Clemente, California where I started painting surfboards for a company named Lost… Our painted surfboards blew up and went global, so I had the fortune of being able to travel to many countries painting surfboards and surfing waves all over the globe. I went to more places than I had ever dreamed of.
During that time period, I was also painting designs for many other companies. I’ve always said that my job is to make things look cool. Now I work with over thirty different companies that use my art and my name to sell their products, including skateboards, surfboards, skins, screensavers, apparel, balance boards, etc.
What drew me to art? It was the only thing I was good at, and I loved surfing, so I combined the two and made a career for myself.
Where do you draw inspiration from? How do these inspiring moments/events affect your art?
I’m inspired by nature and all my travels. Rick Griffin was a big influence for me, and of course the classic surrealists. But now that my art has been out there awhile, it’s come full circle for me. I’ve been inspired by some of the young artists who have been inspired by me, and now their art is blowing up. It makes me feel really good.
What is it about the surf community and art that seem to go hand in hand so well?
I like to create art that can translate the joy of surfing to someone who doesn’t surf. Most people love the idea of the surf lifestyle and art brings it to life for them. Surfing is a beautiful sport that takes you to exotic locations. The idea of dancing on the water or riding in the tube is fascinating.
What are your favorite other objects to create art with/customize?
I paint just about everything. Lately I’ve been spray painting Escape Camper vans for a company that rents them out in Los Angeles. It’s a great canvas and the camper vans are traveling all over the U.S. inspiring people.
Can you tell us a little more about your new book?
The book is called How To Draw With Drew Brophy and is published by Walter Foster. I realized the importance of the book when one of my art director friends called and asked me to refer someone who can draw. He said that all the kids these days know computer programs but not many can actually draw art. So I wanted to inspire kids to draw and have fun and show them that they can create things themselves. It’s a simple book, but it’s just what kids need. The funny thing is, most of the people who buy this book are adults. I didn’t expect that!
Why do you use the pens you do? Anything beyond functionality?
I use a lot of different mediums, but I’m known for using water-based Uni Posca paint pens. They allow me to paint quickly, and with just a dozen pens, I can do anything. I’ve painted guitars, motorcycles, cars, murals, everything, with these pens.
Drew – why Converse?
Before there were all these fancy surf and skate shoes out there, there was Converse. Memories of my childhood come to mind, sitting in class drawing waves along the bottom of my Chucks. Converse is cool. It always has been and always will be.
What does life consist of away from surfing and art?
Surfing, traveling and art is what I do. And my family is always right there with me. My wife, Maria, is my manager and with our eight year old son Dylan, we travel the world surfing and working together. It’s all intertwined. I designed it that way.
What advice would you give to young artists?
Don’t be scared to go for it. Decide that you want to be an artist, paint every day, and wake up every morning and ask yourself “How am I going to make money today doing what I love?” Be committed. Design your life the way you want it to be. Envision it and live it.