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John Van Hamersveld interviews on the art and soul of surfing: part one

In a July 31 ceremony, renowned graphic designer and artist John Van Hamersveld was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in recognition of his legendary artistic contributions to surf culture. Since creating “The Endless Summer” poster fifty years ago while attending art college, Van Hamersveld has forever shaped the imagery of the surf industry.

John Van Hamersveld's Larry Bertlemann poster for Surfing Walk of Fame (2014)
John Van Hamersveld's Larry Bertlemann poster for Surfing Walk of Fame (2014)
Courtesy of John Van Hamersveld
John Van Hamersveld's "Pipeline Wave" (2009)
John Van Hamersveld

A surfer himself, Van Hamersveld in recent years created the Duke Kahanamoku portrait for the Surfrider Foundation (2005) as well as the Billabong “Pipline Wave” poster (2009). In the 1980s, he also designed the identity of Jimmy’z surf brand, creating Malibu lifestyle imagery, and the identity of Gotcha surfwear, creating their dayglo-style imagery. These are but a few of the many surfing related projects that Van Hamersveld has worked on through the years as a prolific artist.

Celebrating this momentous honor in Huntington Beach, Van Hamersveld debuted a new poster of surfer Larry Bertlemann, also a Surfing Walk of Fame inductee. Bertlemann, a Hawaiian surfing champion known for his acrobatic style, signed copies of the new poster alongside Van Hamersveld at the event.

In addition, the current art exhibition The Art and Soul of Surfing at the Huntington Beach Art Center includes the works of eighteen artists and features Van Hamersveld’s “Pipeline Wave” images. This exhibition is presented by VANS and will continue until September 20, 2014.

In a recent conversation with Van Hamersveld, he discussed his intriguing artistic process in creating his highly impressive surfer portraits:

LC: How do you approach creating your iconic portraiture?

JVH: In drawing the portrait, it has to be recognizable. It takes skill and experience representing the personality. For the surf idol Duke Kahanamoku portrait, which I created for the Surfrider Foundation, I took a photo from a book cover and abstracted the photo image into a drawing. This drawing was laminated onto a surfboard and auctioned to a buyer.

With the Larry Bertlemann portrait, I started with a photograph that I could use for it. I built the drawing’s identity to serve as a graphic identity. After a number of sketches, I went into my own abstract vernacular of drawn lines and shapes to create the composition for the poster design.

I look at graphic design as communication, meaning that the work has to have a vibe to connect to the viewer or perceiver. I make a black and white drawing and then add color digitally, bringing in a contemporary pattern to the composition to create a vibrance.

This interview continues with part two as John Van Hamersveld discusses his influential design and creative process>>