Matt Beard is a very talented and Ocean-inspired artist. Originally from Long Beach, CA, Matt now resides in Humboldt County with his wife and children. He frequently roams the California coast in a large van full of “art and surfboards and friends and wives and childrens and on occasion even people from Oregon can be found hanging around back in there.”
Matt Beard Art
Here, Matt shares work from his new project: The Insinuation Series.
He provides a perspective that bodysurfers know well.
What inspires the “Insinuation” project?
Waves. I love ’em. That’s what each painting in this series is all about. But instead of just painting a bunch of waves, I thought it would be interesting to try to convey a sense of a wave’s presence without actually showing the wave itself. The shadow from the wave falling on the surface foam left behind by the previous wave. The water drawing off the shallows. Subtle clues, but hopefully when they register with an ocean minded person, the blanks are filled in and the wave is suddenly imagined and felt instead of seen directly.
It’s easy to paint another picture of a wave, but its not so easy to conceptualize a fresh approach to something so familiar. When you stumble onto a concept like that it’s like discovering a new sandbar or reef on a crowded stretch of coast you’ve been surfing for years. It’s exciting. And you just want to score it as much as possible before the sand shifts or the crowds show up. I’ve only had a few sessions on this “Insinuation Series” so far, but I’m looking forward to more down the line.
*I’ll be showing the entire Insinuation Series, as well as a few other unreleased works, in my first proper art show in San Francisco at the Great Highway Gallery coming up in November/December. “Like Water” will feature the work of two other artists and friends as well, Aleks Petrovitch, and Alexander Schaffer Czech. The opening reception will be held on Friday November 14 from 6-10pm. Any art-minded ocean people within driving range of Ocean Beach, SF should get down, up, or over there.
When did you first recognize your artistic talents?
Trick question. I don’t think I’ve even met them yet, so I’m not sure I could pick em out in a crowd. Art has never been something I’ve really felt all that good at, I just find it one of the more meaningful and personally satisfying things I’ve found to do with my short time here. I guess if we’re going to call that talent, then that sense of “it’s-the-thing-for-me-to-do” really kicked in when I was about 16 years old, taking an art class in high school for an easy grade because the architectural drafting class was full. It was 1991 I think, the year Rick Griffin passed away. The tribute to his life and work in Surfer magazine that year was my introduction to the idea that art could really be anything you wanted it to be. That’s when I really began to explore freedom in art instead of thinking art was just this thing for old folks to do on weekends. By the way, I love old folks. And weekends.
What are your preferred mediums?
I’ve always painted with acrylics, enjoying their simplicity. I hate paint thinner. I like water. Acrylics cleanup with water. Oils need mediums and thinners and they smell and they just seem overly fussy. I use only 3 primaries and white for all my paintings. The limited palette is actually quite versatile, and I find that it helps create nice harmonies across the spectrum of colors since nearly every stroke on the canvas contains at least in trace amounts each of those primaries to varying degrees. I’ve done series of art on various substrates, but I always come back to canvas. Wood is incredibly beautiful to work with, where the grain can become part of the art, but I think there must be a drummer living somewhere deep in my psyche, because I just can’t get enough of the way a stretched canvas vibrates like a drum while painting. Animal was the coolest muppet. True fact. Anyone that denies that, must have inhaled too many paint fumes. And speaking of inhaling paint fumes, I sometimes figure that art itself doesn’t really have much to do with the object created anyway, it’s all about what happens in the mind of the viewer as they take in the object. Like how well written poetry or verse speaks between the lines and often what is said indirectly is more powerful than when it is spelled out verbatim. I think art is like that too, and I want my art to resonate and conjure up unexpected ideas in the viewers mind, so in that sense my most preferred medium really is the human mind.
What are your earliest memories of the Ocean?
Down at Bolsa Chica in Orange County I remember one day where the sun was hot and the wind was light and the waves were at least 13 feet and my dad took me out to bob around and float over the waves and I was terrified but not too muchcause I was with Dad. That’s what I remember anyway. Looking back I’m sure it was about 1 foot. I must have been about 2 or 3 years old. I remember the taste of salt too. It was trippy. Most water didn’t have any flavor. Something different was going on out there.
How does the Ocean inspire your art?
I guess my art is just a reflection in some way of my life, and the ocean is a big part of that. I’m a bit of an introspective weirdo, so the ocean is a good friend to have. Nothing beats a fun wave and total solitude. It’s not the smartest combo here considering the annual shark voodoo going on out there, but I still find myself gravitating to offbeat sandbars at offpeak times and spending a fair bit of time in the ocean alone. She feeds a color junky like no other. Just being in the ocean and riding waves is an immersive in-the-moment experience, and I find that while painting I can often tap into that same non-thinking-just-flowing headspace. It’s fun.
Do you ever bodysurf? What are your thoughts on bodysurfing?
It’s a bit of a rarity. Nobody bodysurfs here much. It’s cold, there’s big giant hungry fish swimming around, the water is usually murky so you can’t see more than a few feet. It’s not like those films we see of Hawaii or La Jolla where it’s all crystal and blissful to just swim around. But that said, I’ve never been opposed to the 20 minute naked man session when confronted with a good shorebreak wedge and lack of surf gear. I’m not good with swim fins honestly. Just never spent the time with em to get the feel, so yeah. I guess I just lost all connection with your readers right there. But seriously if it’s just little wedges with some cushion, not right on dry sand, bodysurfing is a blast. I’m glad somebody’s out there doing it proper. It’s not me, though. I’m just a giggling kook trying not to get broken.