Capturing the Essence of Australia’s Coastline: An Interview with Scott Christensen
At 26, Scott Christensen picked up a paintbrush and dipped it into oil paints for the first time. Today, he stands as a leading name in the world of surf art, capturing the heart and soul of Australia’s ever-changing coastlines. Born out of necessity and a pivotal life change that included leaving a secure job and embracing fatherhood to twins, Scott’s journey to artistic acclaim can only be described as exceptional.
“Failure was not an option,” he often recalls. With more than 350 original paintings and over 4500 Canvas Editions sold, it’s clear that he’s not just succeeded; he’s thrived. His artistic idiom is best described as ‘stylish photo-realism,’ capturing the quintessence of the Australian landscape in vibrant colors and meticulously crafted compositions.
We caught up with Scott to discuss art, life, and the creativity that fuels his remarkable journey.
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Hi, Scott! How’s your day going?
Great! We’ve just arrived home from a trip to Mount Isa and preparing to dive back into my latest painting.
Tell us a little bit about your path to artistry?
Well, I’d always been pretty good at school with arty things and started surfing when I was 17 with my now wife… and we were hooked so when I began to paint, it was a natural subject that interested me – and as it turns out it’s quite a difficult thing to work out – how to get the surf to look great… there are a lot of elements at play… Light, reflection and refraction… You really need an understanding of what’s going on to be able to accurately presented with paint on canvas.
Can you describe your creative process and how it’s influenced by the ocean and waves?
Well, we are always at the beach, or around the coastline somewhere… We love the van life and always have. I think I have a keen love of all things natural… I love the play of light and the effect the changing light has on any landscape… when it comes to the beach the wind tide and weather conditions change things so often I always find myself captivated and looking around at everything. I’ve had some amazing surf experiences and caught some epic waves and that just adds to my addiction to the ocean.
What mediums do you prefer to work with when creating your surf art, and why?
I love working with acrylics because it’s fast and water wash up but then I also add some oil paints over the top and love to play with the transparency and smoothness that these paints offer so acrylics and oils are what I know best and stick to.
Are there specific surf spots or coastal landscapes that inspire your artwork the most?
I surf mostly from Noosa in the north to Byron Bay in the south Which are probably the most busy surf locations in Australia… it wasn’t always this way, so now we always consider where will be the least people in the water and that’s where we go. I love Byron Bay, I love the vibe and I love walking barefoot around the town. The Pass is a classic aw- inspiring part of the world I’ve painted many scenes from around the Byron region… Noosa National Park is another incredible spot. We’ve surfed every beach there and surfed Tea Tree during Covid with zero crowd… It was small but no one else in the water with you at Tea Tree Bay is an almost spiritual experience.
Have you faced any challenges in translating the dynamic nature of surfing into static visual art?
Absolutely… It took me about five years of really frustrating work trying to get the ocean looking right… It honestly takes a great amount of study and focus to workout how to get the paintings looking really good… I basically have dedicated my life to it and feel pretty content with the work I do. I’m always chasing perfection but am realistic and know there isn’t such a thing.
In the world of art, who do you admire?
Actually don’t follow what many other artists are doing… In the beginning, I did and loved the work of Martine Emdur a Sydney-based artist who captures the play of light on and under the ocean surface better than anyone I know… she is a master. I probably follow musicians more than I do visual artists. I love the Australian music scene.
Do you have a favorite piece of surf art you’ve created? What makes it special to you?
I always think my latest pieces my best but when I look back I think the painting evolution Was an epic step forward in my ability to capture the depth of a crashing wave… It’s one of those pieces where I look back and I’m proud of the image I’ve created.
Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations in the works that you’re excited about?
I love painting and every new painting is a big project for me so I’m very lucky that way but in the last few years I’ve also began teaching online through a video programme called “Paint the Ocean” It’s been massive with over 3600 students taking part and at the beginning of 2024 I’m going to begin working on a sequel course which I’m pretty excited about.
How can people buy your art and find out more about you?
Best way is online at www.scottchristensen.com.au and if you’re close to Redland Bay you can book a time and come to the studio. You can find me on socials at ScottChristensenArtist and If you want to learn to paint you can check out www.painttheocean.com.