Interview by Glenn Sakamoto
Greg Straight is a talented New Zealand surfer/artist who first got our attention from his posts on Instagram. His playful and colorful illustrations are stunning in their complexity and order. We spoke with Greg to learn more.
Where are you from and what was your childhood like?
I was born in England and my family moved to New Zealand when I was 9. Things would have been very different if they hadn’t made the move, I can almost guarantee that I wouldn’t be a surfer.
Most of my childhood memories are of family camping trips to surf beaches and skateboarding everyday after school at local bowls. Good times and some very questionable styles!
What inspired you to begin creating art?
I have always drawn and been creative – it’s been my thing from the start. I wasn’t very sporty and was always called the art guy at school. My dad was a graphic designer so there were always pens and paper lying around. When I’d finished high school it was a natural progression to go to art school so between surfs I could learn how to paint.
What do you hope to create in the mind of the person viewing your art?
I don’t really think too much about it but I guess some sense of happiness. It depends on what the image is really. I use a lot of local NZ imagery in my artwork and some of my newer prints tap into our nostalgic memories of our childhood like summer holidays spent at the beach or the first bike you ever owned. I often try to add a bit of humor in there too, life can be too serious.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
City-wise London is pretty memorable. I lived there for 6 years and met my wife Hannah in that time. So much art, history, music, and crazy nights out. New York is pretty a pretty charismatic place too.
Beach-wise I’ve got a special place in my heart for Zippers down in Cabo in Baja. I had one session when my mate went to Lovers Cove with his girlfriend and I had it to myself as the swell picked up from 2 to 5 feet, the water was like a bath and I was the only one out for about 2 hours. We’d stayed there for 2 months and I’d surfed it every day but this day was off the cheese board. The sun was beating down and I just remember walking back to our apartment laughing like a mad man, I had just scored the session of my life with no one around!
Who/what inspires you?
Nature, local birds in the trees outside the studio, fish at the beach when you are surfing along a wave, memories, experiences, and people. I really think NZ has some very talented illustrators, artists and designers. People like Allan Wrath, Brett King and the guys at A-Plus Studio all produce amazing and inspiring work.
There are lots of overseas illustrators and graphic designers that inspired and influence me too. I’d say inspiration is pretty much everywhere.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Wow– this is getting heavy! I think to be honest and to treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated yourself. Also a bad day living is better than a good day dead! Something else I learnt from my London days is never sleep in a bathtub after 12 hours of drinking, its not big or clever.
What are you most proud of?
I illustrated my first children’s book last year and it won a Storylines Notable Book Award for best picture book, which I am really proud about and my Chelsea golden syrup artist tin just won a silver at the Best Design Awards.
I’m also stoked with seeing my artwork I created for Matua and NZ Surf Life Saving showcased on 4 x 9 foot Mals shaped by Paul Wynter at Eavor Surfboards that have just been released.
My kids make me proud all the time, too. Whether it’s Chloe playing netball or Leo drawing skateboarding hamburgers wearing cowboy hats. I really enjoy watching them growing up. #prouddad!
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
After my first surf back when I was an 11 year old grommet, I was totally hooked. It changed my life and I finally had a something I felt really connected to and have made the best friends and had the best experiences with these friends all because of surfing.
I can’t imagine life without surfing. I don’t surf as much as I’d like these days with work and a young family, but this summer I plan to head out more.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Hanging out at the beach with my wife Hannah, Chloe, and Leo. Time spent not working and just having fun. They crack me up on a daily basis and although the hairs on top are getting greyer these guys make me still feel like a teenager on the inside. Also, having a really good, uncrowded surf with my best mates.
What “Golden Rule” do you live by?
Be nice and work hard. Always good to also remember you can’t polish a turd. But as my friend Christian once told me: “You can roll it in glitter”!
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
Surfboard is my 5.8 shaped by my friend Paul Wynter. Surf spot: Fitzroy beach.
What's your favorite meal?
Fish Taco and a cold Pacifico.
What are you most grateful for?
A beautiful, supportive and healthy family. Great friends, pursuing a career I love and am passionate about, and finding surfing.
What’s next for Greg Straight?
There is a small artist range of clothing coming out next year created by me for a German-based surf brand called ION. I am about to start working on some branding illustrations and menus for a Brazillian Food Truck, which I am excited about.
I’ve also just developed a range of art prints on wood and they are being really well received so planning on creating more wood prints, more open and limited edition prints and growing our recently released kidswear line Mr & Sister – www.mrandsister.co.nz
I am super keen to jump the ditch next year, too and find some Austrailian-based stockists for my prints. And if I get a spare minute even the odd surf, fingers crossed!
Find out more about Greg and his work here: www.gregstraight.com