Scott Denholm is an award-winning eco-conscious surf artist based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Scott’s artwork is as organic as nature itself, enticing the viewer into perfect waves and vivid oceanscapes.
Scott’s art is making waves in its own right, so we caught up with the artist to find out more about his journey.
Hey Scott, what’s happening in your life right now?
It’s been a pretty big year so far and doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. I spent the first half of the year travelling around Australia, taking reference shots for my art and visiting art galleries and Aboriginal art communities in some of the most remote and beautiful places in the country.
This week, a commission I did about 18 months ago for the Vans World Cup Of Surfing has been released, which is a huge honour. My artwork is featured on the poster for the 2018 event at Sunset Beach and they’ve even turned it into boardshorts, trucker caps and tees. Pretty stoked to see my art on all their merch!
And right now I’m working on several private commission pieces and painting feverishly to restock the galleries that I’m represented by before the summer rush.
Have you had any good waves lately?
Yes and no, this time of year the surf goes a little dormant at home before the cyclone season. So it’s been slim pickings – I’m dying for a trip to Indo or the south pacific!
Has your relationship with the ocean always been significant? What sparked your interest in the surf scene?
My family moved to the coast in 1996 when I was 13 and I immediately took an interest with the ocean – OK, let’s call a spade a spade… I began an obsession with the ocean. I took up bodyboarding, bodysurfing and surfing with my school friends and completed my Surf Survival Course. Over time, my attraction to the ocean developed and became much deeper than just the thrill of riding waves. It was and still is, a love, respect and appreciation.
I’m fascinated by surf breaks, seasonal weather patterns, rich colours, light dancing through a wave, marine wildlife and I love capturing the emotion that it draws from us all – it’s the story of love and betrayal between nature and humanity – fleeting moments of raw power and the infinite beauty of our coastlines and oceans.
I’m always blown away by the fact that the same beach or surf break will never be the same from year to year, season to season… even tide-to-tide and moment to moment. Every single moment is unique.
Everyone’s relationship with the ocean is different. And I think most surfers and watermen would understand when I say mine is an erratic but balanced kinship – there’s a lot of emotions. I absolutely love it; I feed off it, it energises me and inspires me daily. But I’m always respectful, cautious of becoming satisfied and complacent – just when you think you’ve conquered her, or you’ve felt comfortable, she will put you back in your place and humble you with her raw power.
Do you have a creative process or does the art happen spontaneously? Do you seek inspiration or do you have more than enough ideas?
My creative process is quite organic from idea to completion. I’m lucky that I have the ocean as my inspiration and that in itself is enough to give me an abundance of ideas and material.
My whole painting process is quite an absorbing sensory experience too – I always have music playing, incense burning, chai brewed and I love feeling the texture of the canvas. I’ll often get lost in time for hours on end.
The hardest part is usually trying to make sense of an idea and getting the composition right. Once I’ve got paint onto canvas, everything flows nicely.
And although it rarely happens, If I’m ever feeling like I need to force an idea or the paint onto the canvas I’ll take that as a sign and leave it for a while. I’ll listen to my intuition and if that means I just need to take a day or half a day off – go for a surf or hike and re-energise. I go with it. I certainly don’t feel guilty about not putting paint to canvas.
What keeps you passionate and motivated? Any words of advice for creative people afraid to follow their dreams?
Passion for my art comes from the gratitude I have of being able to do what I love, day in day out and that I’ve made it into an incredibly fulfilling career – it really is the best job in the world and doesn’t ever feel like work.
Motivation, on the other hand, is probably more of a driver from my mildly competitive nature – I avoid doing things out of fear, but one of the things that keeps me motivated is regret – I don’t want to look back later in life and feel like I had more to give. I have an innate hunger to reach my full potential and that is constantly driving and motivating me to continually improve both my creative ability and within my business.
There’s so much to gain by following your dreams – what you can learn about yourself, the rewards, the gratification you get from being free – I really think everyone should do it.
I know a lot of people don’t feel comfortable chasing their dreams because of the risks involved and their fear of failure, but I wholeheartedly believe that taking risks and failing is the best way to learn and grow – even necessary – it’s not exclusive to your dreams.
I think Jim Carrey said it best, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”.
So my advice is: dive in, take risks (calculated if need be) and most importantly, don’t have a Plan B, it will always make you complacent of Plan A. And work hard, bloody hard. The best ideas in the in the world will go nowhere without hard work.
A dream surf trip to anywhere, with anyone alive or not. Where would you go, who would you be with and what would you be riding…?
I think I’d have to go wild, exploring remote Indonesian jungle waves with Steve Irwin and Rabbit Bartholomew – and I’d ride anything to suit the conditions, bodyboard, stick, log.
I got to know the Irwin family when I worked at Australia Zoo just after Steve’s death and the guy is a universal legend. And I’ve read Rabbit’s autobiography, Bustin Down The Door more times than I care to admit. Both guys were pioneers and driving forces that shaped surfing and wildlife conservation into what we know them as today.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
I have a couple. The first is “Leave no doubt”.
It’s short and simple, but I put it into everything I do – whether that be in my art career, surfing, my karate training, relationships, it’s universal. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to look back and feel like I left anything on the table, so I make sure that I leave no doubt that I’ve done everything I can within context.
The other quote channels the law of attraction and it’s also from the same Jim Carrey speech I quoted earlier.
“it’s about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it, while letting go of how it might come to pass.”
How can people connect with you and find out more?
My website is my main content hub and anyone can contact me through it. And of course, I’m all over social media and haphazardly (and infrequently) vlogging my way along this journey.