Skye Walker is a California artist and surfer who is devoted to living out his dreams. His creations are rich, dynamic paintings that are emotional, moving, and connected to the rhythm of the ocean. Skye shares with us his heroes and his unique perspective.
What was life like growing up?
My parents, Morris and Lynn, were entertainers and they performed all over the USA and overseas (entertaining the troops in Vietnam) as well as singing and doing comedy. When my sister, Amoris, and I were old enough, they brought us into the show and we formed a family band called The Earth Walkers. We performed all over the USA for schools and community centers with a message of saving the environment. I played banjo, dad guitar, mom and sister sang and we did a bunch of comedy.
It was a different upbringing for sure, but one I’d never change. We moved around a lot before and after our tours of the States. This made it hard to be by the ocean all the time, thus making it hard to surf, but when I could, I certainly would.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
I’d say Bruce Lee. I watched a lot of his films growing up and read some of his work and studied martial arts at times. Talk about a guy who was purely devoted to his passions and dreams, and wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way! One of my favorite quotes of all time came from Bruce, and it relates to everything including surfing: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
When did you get your first surfboard?
I started surfing when I was 15, but didn’t get my first board until I was 19 because I was living in Oregon and didn’t get to go as much as I wanted to. It was an old 9′ 6″ Donald Takayama noserider that was beat up. It broke on an average size day of surf after having it for a month.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I think it’s the feeling that everyone gets when they first stand on a board and ride a wave—stoked, completely stoked.
Where did your interest in art come from?
My dad did a lot of art and graphic design while I was growing up, but I always drew as a kid at home and in school. Whenever I was bored, or had a pen and paper, I would doodle.
I have boxes and boxes of drawings I did when I was a kid. I would sit in my room and just draw. Even in high school, I was perfectly content with sitting in my room with my music on and drawing and painting for hours on end. When I was nine years old, I sent a drawing to Garfield creator Jim Davis. He wrote me a letter back, saying “good job” and keep it up. That letter inspired me to pursue a career and lifestyle as an artist. Of course, I was an impressionable nine year old, but I haven’t lost interest in it yet.
What is your process when creating your art?
Lately I’ve been working pretty organically—meaning I’ll get an idea, and just go for it with minimal or no sketching … unless it’s a commissioned piece. Then I will do a detailed sketch first. But it’s been pretty liberating to just paint and draw and see what happens. I’ve been really interested in lots of layering and textures underneath the subject matter. It is appealing to the eye, both close and from a distance. Even if it’s just the pencil lines or the start of the painting that I didn’t like and lightly painted over, it creates an interesting depth to the piece.
This has also led me to not hang onto something that I’ve just painted too tightly; if I don’t really like it, I’ll paint over it. I never used to do that. I would get down on myself for not getting it right the first time. Art is all about change—you can always change it and make it better.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I recently went to Panama on a surf trip, and it was such a lush, beautiful, tropical environment. Out in the country is so far removed from the city and junk, and it’s just nature. The locals who live out there don’t care about technology, pop culture or any of the things we are inundated with every day. They farm and hang out with their families in a simple, country living lifestyle. Simple living equals less stress. I also just went to Big Sur. What a magical coastline that is. I hope it stays that way.
What is it that makes you such a nice person? What code do you live by?
My mom always said to live by the Golden Rule—“Do onto others as you would have them do onto you”—so I try and abide by that. And I try and make people laugh a lot. There is nothing better than making people smile and laugh.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature, surfing, music, the female figure, and artists who are doing their own thing and not worrying about what others think.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That everything happens for a reason. And mom was right—eating your veggies is good for you!
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
That I didn’t invest in energy drinks when they first came out. I’d be rich right now!!
What are you most proud of?
I guess that I’ve always known that I wanted to be (an artist) and I’ve stuck with it. I know a lot of people who are talented artists or have potential, but they let it slip away so they could get a job or they just didn’t stay focused. I’m not a great artist by any means. I will always strive to be better. However, I will always be an artist no matter what. I’m also very proud of my family.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing is such a personal sport. You don’t need anyone else to do it with, and it’s all about just being in the water gliding along and enjoying yourself. You also have to push yourself to become better, but you do it at your own pace. Surfing is not how it looks to others. It’s how it feels to you. I have always loved the ocean and, like so many, have been drawn to it. If I’m feeling uninspired, sad, upset or just want to get some waves, it’s right there waiting for me no matter what.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Making others happy.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Dang! Tough question. Off the top of my head, Kelly Slater is still unreal. Dave Rastovich is forging ahead with environmental endeavors and he’s not just being a “pro surfer” and Steve Barolotti is an amazing journalist who writes stories that help people understand the sport of surfing and its subtle qualities based off his travels and experiences. To understand where the sport is going, you have to look at its past, and Joel Tudor, aside from being an amazing surfer, has always been a big proponent of understanding the history of surfing and respecting it. But there are so many other surfers, shapers, artists and organizations that are doing so much for the sport. It’s hard to point them all out.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
Currently I have a 10′ Hobie Vintage longboard, 6′ 6″ Hobie Retro Egg, a 5′ 8″ Hobie Circa 71 fish (currently my favorite board), a 5′ 10″ KG Twinzer that I’ve beat to hell, a couple other fishes and three thrusters. I like to mix it up depending on the conditions, plus it’s fun to ride different boards. I have a new 5′ 10″ quad Wood Custom Surfboard on the way. I think this will be my new favorite board. Micah Wood is a talented shaper and has a great future ahead of him. (Check out his boards at: www.woodcustomsurfboards.com.) My favorite surf spot is Swamis. But as long as I’m catching some waves and having fun, that’s all that matters.
What’s your favorite meal?
Dang! Too hard to answer. So much good food out there. Lately I have become a huge fan of a good veggie breakfast omelette with a side of toast, butter and jam. It’s quite choice.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
The Black Keys, Junior Boys, The Black Angels, Stellastar, Band of Horses, Cut Copy, Ray Lamontagne, to name a few.
What causes, projects or organizations do you support?
Currently I’m working with Pro Peninsula and CERF (Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation). I think it’s really important to support non-profits that are trying to make a difference in, not only the surf world but, the world itself.
What’s next for Skye Walker?
I’m working on some new art and trying to figure out where to do the next show. I have to wrap up a couple commissions for some clients; homes, which is great. I also just started a small t-shirt line called Glide (www.glidecollection.com) with my friend, Mark Connelly. We donate a portion of the proceeds to Pro Peninsula, which is dedicated to strengthening individual and community efforts to protect the natural environment throughout the Baja California peninsula. They are doing great things for the environment down there and this is one way we can help out. We are currently working on some new tees which we hope to have out before the holidays.
And other than that, I’m just blessed to live where I live, be healthy and have amazing friends and family. Without these people in my life, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
To learn more about Skye Walker and his art, click here.