Meet surf artist Nathan Gibbs

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Nathan Gibbs is a painter, wood worker, designer, sculptor and self-proclaimed “Earth’s Minister of Propaganda.” He was born in Washington State on the Kitsap Peninsula and raised from 13 in North East Florida where he picked up surfing. Since 1999 he lives and works on his art career in South Orange County.

Nathan has created surf art work internationally in Fiji, Bora Bora, Moorea, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and Australia and has shown work in over 6 countries. 

We caught up with Nathan to discuss surfing, art and creativity.

Hey Nathan, how’s your day going?

All things considered my day is going well! I’m healthy, my family is healthy, have travelled quite a bit on road trips this summer, making art, and enjoying the California heat.

Have you had any good waves lately?

Good? I suppose that’s all a matter of perspective. Haha. To me if I can get out and surf and catch a few waves I consider any size good. But with regards to what most people consider ‘good’ I’m lucky to live in south Orange County, CA and we get really good surf here often. So I’ve been getting some decent chest high + waves around the Trestles area. I surf at San Onofre a lot. Very consistent surf there. I longboard and short board, so many options.

What keeps you passionate and motivated?

Well when I started painting it was just for fun. And then I started selling artwork and it became not only fun but a way of making a good income. So I’m motivated by it being a creative outlet, a way to express myself, a way to communicate environmental issues, and hopefully put some interesting looking things on people’s walls. Also most of my work is Ocean themed and revolves around Surfing in waves so since that is also a passion of mine it is a good mix to keep me motivated and creative in the painting and sculptures and woodworking that I do.

Any words of advice for creative people afraid to follow their dreams?

One piece of advice I can give is that if your truly passionate about being a creative person and you have some skill don’t worry about the income part. Find another job that will pay the bills. Then, as you progress in creating a larger portfolio of work, honing your skills, and starting to sell work and developing a marketing strategy, you’ll create better work then if you’re forced to do it to pay the bills. The art world is tough. There are a lot of people producing awesome art. So to compete takes a lot of determination and a thick skin from rejection. I may go a couple of months without selling an original painting, and then I’ll sell four of them in one month. You have to be mentally ready to whether those sorts of droughts in selling art. There are some people who can paint as their only source of income and that is awesome. But for most people especially starting out who are worried about embarking on this sort of career it’s good to have a back up plan.

In the world of art, who do you admire?

Some people that I admire as far as their creativity would be some of the old modern masters. Pollock, Cezanne, Van Gogh to name a few, as far as my contemporaries I enjoy Andy Davis’s look and feel, Matt Beard’s California Impressionism, Phil Roberts realism, and Rick Reitveld’s surreal ideas. There’s really too many to list. Also I admire these contemporary art world greats who sell nonsense for millions of dollars. Hehe 😉

What are your favourite mediums and is there anything you’d love to experiment with in future?

My favorite mediums mostly revolve around the use of acrylics and wood. I also love working in wood whether it’s turning wood bowls, using wood as my palate to paint on, or doing wood sculptures and assemblages. I also do a series of metal hardware waves which is really fun. I’d like to maybe get more into colored resin work or oils in the future but it’s tough to find time in the schedule to experiment with new things.

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?

Wow that’s a loaded question. I feel like I’d pick a surfer from a few different time periods in their prime. For sure Duke for his stoke and prestige, maybe Fred Hemmings or even George Freeth, Slater, Gerry Lopez and who knows. I’d want to surf somewhere warm, with a combo of waves, some good longboarding points, and some reef shortboard waves. Probably Hawaii in the 1950s or 60s. No crowds and pure!

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?

I guess I always try to remember there are always people who have it worse than you. So even on a bad day someone’s probably having a worse one so enjoy what you have. Try and make the best out of every situation! Sort of like to quote some lyrics from my favorite band Widespread Panic:

‘They tell me it takes sorrow, boy

To help you feel the joy

They say it takes poverty

To let you love a toy

Now you can’t have the good

Until you’ve shared the bad‘

Thanks, Nathan, how can people connect with you to find out more?

Well they can follow me on social media
Instagram: @nathangibbsart
Twitter: @Surfartist
And my website