Billabong Gallery - Erik Abel
Erik Abel lives to paint and slide on ripples in the sea. As one of the world's leading surf artists, Abel has traveled around the world surfing, painting and designing for major surf brands for over a decade. He currently spends his days hunting waves on the rugged Oregon coast and soaking up the endless inspiration of the Pacific Northwest. Abel gives back by using his talents to raise funds for several environmental and ocean related non-profit organizations.
How did you get started as an artist?
I was interested in art since I was in diapers. My parents encouraged it. In high school, I started my own mural business and also got into some commercial design stuff like logos for friends and family, illustrated a children's book, and I even won a juried art expo with a tripped out painting of a wizard sitting on a giant shroom creating an earth-like planet out of thin air. One of the old ladies running it asked if I was on drugs when I made it. I lied. The biggest thing is, I just kept at it. I experimented with different mediums, got a tattoo gun right out of high school and did permanent damage on folks for a while until I got sick of looking at blood and people wanting really bad art on them forever. College really let me cut loose and explore more with painting and ceramics and graphic design. When I got my first iMac in 2000, that's when the floodgates opened to be able to make money doing art and design and that's what I've continued to do ever since.
What was the inspiration for your capsule collection with Billabong?
This collection was inspired by this hand colored, but very graphic, look I've been playing with lately. They are very stylized surf scenes with some abstract or pattern elements mixed in and everything looks like it's filled in with colored pencils. I dig that hand drawn aspect.
What makes this collection with Billabong special?
Anytime I get a chance to work with one of the surfing industry's giants, it's an awesome thing. I feel pretty grateful to have companies like Billabong want to promote my art to the masses. This Gallery Collection, which partners with several great artists, is awesome. I love it when companies put the artists forward.
What’s your favorite piece from your collection?
I personally like the Mountains Tee. It's got a lot of negative space around it and some weird shapes going on. The color way of the Moonrise Tee might be my fav though.
If you had to describe your art in one word, what would it be?
What’s inspiring you at the moment?
Right now I'm finding myself wanting to shift more towards abstraction, inspired by textures, patterns, and big bold color. I've always been really into big shapes, colors and forms in art and used to play around with abstract a bit in college. It seems like my art is always being pulled in a few different directions and I'm not sure what to do about it. I could fill 10 lifetimes exploring all the different paths. There's just not enough time in the day.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what’s the one thing you would want to have with you and why?
If this island has pumping waves: I'd want a bulletproof, unbreakable surfboard. Watching perfect tubes drain down the reef everyday with no way to surf them would be reason to off myself quick. If this island does not have waves: The smart thing to say here would be... the Missus. Because we all know the next best thing to getting barreled is having some good ol' sexy time. And I hear she can catch a fish with her bare teeth, so that would be a plus for survival.
Your bio also mentions that you currently live in Oregon – can you tell us how your surroundings influence your art?
The environment around me has always had a big influence on my art. The times I've lived away from the beach and surfing wasn't a part of my everyday life, the waves started to disappear from the work. Here on the Oregon coast, it's hard to find an ugly spot. It's raw here. Big trees, big rocks, big storms and not very populated. I think it's making me want to take a step back an focus on the simple beauty of things.
Thanks so much to Erik for his time! Be sure to check out his Billabong Gallery collection here. See more art at abelarts.com and follow him on Instagram and Facebook for giveaways and behind the scenes at @abelarts