John Holm is a California-born surfer/artist. He first learned to surf in Santa Cruz and spent time surfing Malibu during the 60s while studying advertising at the Art Center. Working with a variety of mediums including oils and acrylic, John captures the thrill and beauty of surfing with a unique impressionist style.
What was life like growing up?
I was kid of Northern California suburbia. Lived in San Mateo County. Made tree houses, coasters and skateboards out of 2x4s. I took up surfing in high school. Weekend trips to Santa Cruz. My mother painted and my dad drew Woody’s World cartoons. Attended the Art Center in Pasadena and surfed Malibu. I was stoked when Surfer published a couple of my cartoons.
When did you get your first surfboard?
One summer vacation I made $200 in one day painting a house. So I drove down to the O’Neil shop in Santa Cruz and bought a used 10’ 2” Hobie with a wicked shark fin skeg.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
The speed and the roar behind me had me hooked.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot. My dad was a pilot so I got to ride in the cockpit a few times. I was privileged to get my Navy wings after college.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young?
My dad. He was a Marine, lumber jack, carpenter, pilot, artist and man of God.
Where did you study painting?
I studied advertising design at the Art Center and also had a lot of good drawing and painting classes. My mother painted and taught me a lot about color. My dad was an amazing cartoonist.
What is your process when creating your art?
Choosing a light source to give the painting life and mood. Mixing colors in the brush. Spontaneous strokes that capture some of that energy of surf. I like to depict friends sharing the waves.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Keiki beach with its powerful waves and rocky point. The aqua sea, black lava, gold sand and explosive white water.
What “Golden Rule” do you live by?
I try to love my neighbor.
Who/what inspires you?
The painters Severson, Ryder, Homer, and California tonalists. Also Ron Stoner whose photos really captured the beach culture. I am inspired by the grace and action of surfers on backlit waves. Mostly long boarding that reflects surfing’s heritage.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Would like to have done more to help others and spent more time at the beach.
What are you most proud of?
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Being in the ocean and negotiating waves keeps me in the moment. It’s rejuvenating.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Watching my grandson and seeing my kids’ creativity.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I’m not up on current stuff but I admire the shapers who innovate as well as reach back to the past. I love seeing these kids riding little finless pieces of Koa as Hawaiians did a hundred years ago.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have a fun 8ft. ‘80s Donald Takayama Egg. Malibu.
What’s your favorite meal?
Medium rare rib eye, scallops wrapped in prosciutto and just about anything else my wife makes.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod
Van Morrison, Adelle, Matisyahu, Jah Screechy…
What causes/ projects/ organizations do you support?
Surfrider Foundation, Surfing for a Cure, and World Vision
What’s next for John Holm?
Paint more. Surf more (in warm water).
Find out more about painter John Holm here.