“It all starts with a pencil and paper”… Blaze Skya - Photo: Chad Moore
When most of us rock up to our favorite surf spot it’s just the waves we’re scrutinizing, not what surrounds our source of stoke, the stuff below, above, and all around. But Blaze Skya sees it. The reef sculpting those perfect peelers, the cliffs sheltering them from the ruining wind, the life that calls these places home. His artwork reveals the intrinsic link between the natural world and the waves we surf. We’ve never seen anything quite like it, so had to find out more. Here’s what he had to say when he pulled himself away from his drawing board for a chat...
Start from the top Blaze, the who, where, what and why!
I'm 28 years old, living in San Diego, which is also where I grew up. I lived in Central and Northern California for most of my twenties and developed my style of surf art based on the open spaces and uncrowded lineups that could be found in these surf zones. I've always doodled anything I could think of in class, so I think I just merged that with my love of surfing.
Your ‘Surface’ series is dope, the cross sections of surf spots, where did the inspiration come from for it?
Thanks! I started illustrating in my style after working as an urban designer, where we rendered buildings and cityscapes with perspectives and tried to show information in clean and aesthetically pleasing ways. This inspired me to create pieces the way I do.
How do you create your art? Tell us about your process…
I hand-draw and color all of my surf art with maybe one exception. I start out sketching my idea on a small sketchpad before drafting construction lines on a larger piece of paper. I then ink the linework and use fine art markers to render color. It's an unforgiving process at times; you can't erase or cover up errors. I've definitely had to trash pieces that I've sunk lots of time into. It's all part of the process though!
What types of emotions do you hope to evoke from people looking at your work?
I want people to think beyond the surface. Surfing is immersive. Our sport of surfing and the natural world have such a deep connection. When we're surfing, or even waiting for waves, we are suspended in this environment that is filled with energy and life and the waves that we enjoy shoal on contours shaped by geological processes that have occurred over thousands and thousands of years. I want people to see this when viewing my work.
It sounds like you care about the environment, are you an advocate of sustainability?
I'm pretty passionate about sustainability, and I do as much as I can as an artist right now by getting people to think about systems through my work. I have a few projects that are more "scientific", including drawing watershed diagrams and even creating illustrations for a team that's developing an agricultural system that sustainably produces food in parts of the world with limited resources. I'm passionate about efforts like this, and my surf art is very much a part of my mission in sustaining this message.
Right on! Have you collaborated with any surf companies who share your outlook?
I've done some work with a few surf shops, like Farias in New Jersey and Surfride in San Diego, though sometimes I think the industry looks for work that’s different to what I do. My work connects with people and organizations that are passionate about the environment more so than a pure surf company.
Blaze Skya x Farias Surf - Long Beach Island, NJ
That makes sense, and I guess that’s just one reason why Patagonia got in touch with you, what can you tell us?
They asked to use a piece I created for their 2018 line. I was completely stoked on this and I can't wait until it's released.
Congrats! What’s been the biggest learning curve for you as a surf artist?
Managing communications and requests! Running a one-man show is really tough and trying to create new work on top of that can be challenging.
Any advice for kids starting out along this path?
I would give two pieces of advice. First, seek a fresh perspective by combining whatever you do with something unique. For me, it was urban design illustration and surfing. Everybody is different so use those qualities to your advantage. Secondly, always carry a sketchbook. It all starts with a pencil and paper.
Where’s your favorite spot to surf and why?
There's a spot near Santa Cruz that has it all for me; cliffs, reef, lots of life, fun surf. I'd say that's my favorite. You probably want a spot I can name, so I'll say Blacks in San Diego. That place is magic when it's on and it has this ability to be clean but produce really powerful surf.
Any upcoming shows or new pieces of art you want to tell us about before you go?
I'm currently in the process of scheduling a few shows in San Diego, but nothing is set. I'm taking a road trip up the California coast this week and hope to meet with a few galleries to try to set something up. New pieces are always in the works.
Thanks for talking Blaze, keep up the good work!