Spotlight on Erik Abel

ISD 2010 Poster

By Chelsea Rauhut

Erik Abel from Ventura, California is the featured artist for SURFING and The Surfrider Foundation's 6th Annual International Surfing Day poster art. The boldness and simplicity of his contemporary but primitive design reflects his lifestyle as a surfer, traveler and urban contemporary artist.

After globetrotting for the last 15 months Abel is back in action, communicating images from his experiences with his brush and pen onto canvas, New Zealand lumber, or even a piece of driftwood.

Abel's art style has a large design element to it, inspired by years as a graphic designer. He is always on the move, constantly finding new outlets in his travels, seeing different cultures, new landscapes, new ideas, and new waves.

SURFING Magazine: You just got back from Indo… Do you get most of your inspiration from traveling?

Erik Abel: For six weeks. Got around to a few different islands… there’s way to many waves over there. I definitely get a fair share of inspiration from traveling. Inspiration is everywhere everyday though. I could also be locked in a dungeon for a week with a sketchbook and find plenty of inspiration on those blank pages.

What does your artwork usually represent?

My artwork usually represents me, or what’s going on in my head, what I like, what interests me… I’m a pretty simple guy, I like to surf, travel and make things that I like to look at… I’m seeking some sort of visual balance. I gravitate more to work that interests my eyes rather than having some deep meaning. I have to work fast or I lose interest and my art reflects that – it’s not perfect or polished.

When did you first discover art as your passion?

Well I always knew I wanted to be an artist. Art has just been such a large part of my life since before I can remember. There was never a choice for me to do anything else, it flows through my blood.

How would you say your art communicates your experiences?

I’d say it communicates my experiences pretty directly whether I like it or not. When I moved up to college in Oregon, away from the beach, ocean related things almost completely dropped out of my work; waves weren’t the main focus anymore because surfing wasn’t in my day-to-day life. It wasn’t always on my mind. The second I moved back to Cali, the waves were back in my work. Then I moved to Santa Monica as an Art Director and never saw the beach because I was working 60-70 hour weeks and my art went through a really strange period… lots of weird stuff going through my head then. When I was living up in the Portland I noticed pine trees popping up on the shore behind the waves in my paintings, also my palette changed and toned down, it started to reflect my life up there… surfing frigid waves with giant Monterey pines lining the beach, beautiful cloudy skies, huge driftwood logs on the sand… it’s no wonder I started working more with wood when I was up there. So my work is pretty locked in with what’s going on in my life… I think a lot of artists could say that. Now that I think about it I’m actually surprised I don’t paint pictures of food… it’s such a big part of my life and brings me so much happiness. Hmmm…

You're also a featured artist for Design for Humanity. What kind of pieces will you have there?

Yeah, I’m pretty pumped on it. I’ll be showing along side some of my art heroes… like Shepard Fairey, Wolfgang Bloch, Will Barras and Blek le Rat. It will be the first show I’ve painted for in a while. I’ll have 4 smaller pieces and maybe one large piece. They are all going to be this new style of wave I developed in my sketchbook in Indo, pretty different from anything in the past. Black, white and some neutral only. I’m excited to see how they turn out. I’ll post pics up on my blog when they’re done and maybe get some prints out.

What does the future have in store for you?

Question of the day! I’ve reached a point of utter confusion… which is not necessarily a bad thing. My eyes have just been opened to a wider range of possibilities over the last year; maybe it’s more inspiration than confusion.

There are a lot of things I want to accomplish but there are so many paths to explore. So for now, I’ll continue to make art, travel around looking for tubes and try to figure out this game of life. One main thing on my plate this summer is learning how to paraglide! Can’t wait!

Abel will be offering a high quality print of the original artwork for the ISD Poster on ARTSPROJEKT, which let’s you choose a print size, different material to print on and framing.

Checkout his online product and blog at