Andy Davis: Life In Color

A conversation on style and creative stoke with the SoCal artist

A surfer in an Andy Davis painting usually shows just enough face, trimming down the line, or maybe surfed-out and swinging in a hammock, brim of the hat tipped low, to show…who? You. Me.

The featureless subjects in Davis’ works are any one of us, a connection drawn from one of Davis’ inspirations, John Severson, whose opening line in the first issue of The Surfer, like an unmarked face, was both a faraway and personal call: “In this crowded world, the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.”

“My biggest influence in the surfing world with [my art] was John Severson,” says Davis. “Making films, and then starting [SURFER] magazine, shooting the photos, writing the articles, doing the illustrations — It was so insane. That’s where it all came about for me, along with watching a lot of old films, looking at a lot of photography.”

Davis just began a month-long exhibition, Eye Yi Yi, in Malibu’s Trancas Country Market, through July 1st. For those who know his work, the show is an artistic departure. There are no waves, no boards involved. For Davis, these subjects still derive their spirit from surfing, set in acrylic scenes that flit with movement, energy, and flow.

If you surf, he says, you can see it. Even if you don’t surf, you’re pulled toward the grace of the image, a subject’s dance in a summer sun’s light. “Andy’s art exemplifies surf stoke more clearly than anyone else’s,” artist Thomas Campbell says about Davis. “I think that’s why people identify with his work. Looking at a lineup from the top of a hill or observing some faceless humanoid simply getting tubed from a cool, non-invasive perspective. That’s what surfing is about, not all banners and bullshit.”

We spent an afternoon with Davis in Malibu, where he and artist Randall Christopher were busy with the final preparations for the show’s opening reception in late May. He spoke candidly about his evolution as an artist, his creative process, and his response to the emotion produced through his work.

“It’s pretty neat to feel like you made something that meant something to someone,” says Davis. “That they’re happy you made it, and that it took them out of their day to day, and they appreciate it. That it touched them in some way. It reminds them of something. It makes you feel pretty lucky that you got to do something that went beyond what you thought it was going to be.”