Small Talk with Jay Nelson

On childlike creativity with the surfer, shaper, and artist

Tucked in the rows of quiet homes in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, and a short drive from Ocean Beach, Jay Nelson passes on a childlike wonder into each van draft, drawing, and painting that leaves his hands. The Vissla team caught up with Nelson on a recent trip to talk creativity, seen in an especially pure form, according to Nelson, through children.

“When I was a kid, I built a lot of weird treehouses and things. I like to tap into my inner child when I’m building,” Nelson says. “I think that kids make the best artwork. If you look at the kinds of things my daughter makes…I think that’s what I’m trying to get to with my painting and drawing.”

“As you get older, you put all these judgements on artwork,” he continues. “When you’re young, it’s just flowing out of you, when you’re a little kid. When do you start to feel self-conscious about it? All kids are artists when they’re little. All kids are like, ‘I can make a drawing.’ But then adults will say, ‘I don’t know how to draw. I don’t know how to paint.’ Obviously they do. They just don’t think they know how. At some point in our lives, we develop inhibitions around artwork. With painting, I’m always trying to get back to the feeling of what that’s like — an inner-journey back.”