Luke Taafe is a talented young Australian artist who spends his time painting and designing for the clothing company Roxy/Quiksilver when not enjoying a day in the surf. We catch up with Luke and ask him about his life and inspirations.
What was life like growing up?
I grew up in a small town in between Sydney and Newcsatle on the NSW Central Coast, Australia. It was an exciting place to be as a kid as we backed onto a golf course which was also under a kilometre to the beach. It was a really exciting time for myself and everyone around. Me and my friends would build shitty skate ramps, walk to the beach and surf all day, build fires in winter on the beach, hang with girls and generally enjoy the unpopulated area that it was.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
It always changed depending on what I was doing at the time. Locals like the late, great Mark “Sanga” Sainsbury, Ross Clarke Jones and Shane Powell were always heroes of mine. I remember my first day at high school in 1990 and seeing Ross in a school boy’s surfing picture and going, “Wow! He’s so rad!”
I loved the Powell Peralta Bones Brigade team as well (like Hawk and Cab), and my dad was someone I always looked up to and admired.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I think it was around 1984—one of those foamies wrapped in nylon and had a rubber single fin. Gave me terrible rashes but it didn’t bother me cause I was having so much fun.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I just remember going straight all the way to the beach and doing it again and again ‘cause I loved it. I was probably in “sluggoes” and had white zinc on my face as I was in the local surf club.
Where did you interest in art come from?
My interest in art came from being exposed to album covers my father had in his record room. Lots of Zeppelin, Hendrix, Black Sabbath, etcetera and I was always amazed by the art that these bands and artists used. Later on, it was graphics I was seeing on clothing, surfboards, skateboards—artists like VCJ and Jim Phillips, Mambo artists like Richard Allen and Reg Mombassa.
What is your process when creating your art?
I am kind of spontaneous in my approach to a piece. I am constantly drawing in my scrapbooks, collecting images that I like and taking photos that have some sort of personal connection. I build all my frames and half the wood I collect for bases comes from rubbish tips or on the side of the road. I find it rewarding to see a scrap piece of wood with worn colour and texture, and often wonder where it comes from and if it has a unique past or story. Recycling is fun.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I really love the California coast especially, from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. It’s an amazing coastline with great waves, interesting landscapes/people and a rich past in surf culture. Big Sur National Park is a real standout for me—the kelp beds, the marine life, the cliffs and waves and all the little overnight stays were memorable.
What is it that makes you such a nice person? What code do you live by?
Never been asked that before but I try and give the same respect to everyone I meet. I am generally interested in what people have to say and I like to see people happy.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by so much: graphics in both surf and skate culture, the ocean and the environment, vintage furniture, photography, old magazines and postcards, antiques, other artists, feelings, stickers, girls and colour.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
I lost my father to multiple sclerosis four years ago, which was hard to see as it was a degenerative disease. In the end his mind was 200% there, but his body was 1% so he gave himself in so our family could have a better life. The greatest thing I have learned in life would be to enjoy every day like it was my last. When I’m down, I think about this and it makes me feel better.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I wish I hadn’t smoked so much weed as a kid. I feel as though I wasted many years not being as productive as I should have. Making up for it now though. Sleeping has taken a backseat.
What are you most proud of?
Most proud of sticking to what I have loved in life from an early age. I am now at a stage of making a living being creative so I’m naturally stoked.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has a special meaning for me. It has given me a great bunch of friends (and continues to do so), memorable barrels, experiences and perspectives that people who don’t surf wouldn’t know and a healthy look at life. It is a great escape which has helped me out at times.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Family and friends, waves, art and design, good food and new experiences.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Dane Reynolds, Taylor Steele, Robin Kegal, Slater, Dustin Humphrey, Thomas Campbell, Joel Tudor, Rasta, James Cheale, Dain Thomas, Andrew Crockett and Ryan Heywood—all for different reasons.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have collected a fair few boards over time that sit in my garage, but boards that I ride are: a 9’4 Shaun Wilde log; two 5’10” twins; a 5’6” G&S single fin; and a 5’10” Al Merrick Pod. When it’s big, I pull out my 7’2” Hot Buttered single. Favourite board would be my 5’10” Crème twinny I picked up in the States in 2004.
Favourite surf spot would be my local—Wamberal Beach. It has a variety of reefs up the northern end and the beachies are always fun.
What’s your favorite meal?
Mexican, seafood and beer
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Bowie, Beach Boys, Hall & Oates, Justice, Joy Division, Zeppelin, Tortoise and Coltrane.
What causes/projects/organizations do you support?
Australian Multiple Sclerosis Society and The Stop Shark Finning Society.
What’s next for Luke Taaffe?
I have a few exhibitions and dates booked for next year, including a combined February show in Byron Bay with Mia Taniaka, which will be fun. Working on organizing a collaborative show for late next year and continuing my role at Roxy in graphics and traveling a bit more. So many countries and people to meet. Eventually I would like to exhibit more overseas.
Find out more about Luke Taaffe and his art here.