Painting at the minimum

Artist Dave Reynolds says long-time surfers can recognize his subjects though they often are stripped of all but their body language.

February 06, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Dave Reynolds with his "Minimal Surf" art show at the International Surfing Museum.
Dave Reynolds with his "Minimal Surf" art… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

Dave Reynolds gave his new exhibit at the International Surfing Museum the title "Minimal Surf."

An alternate name for it, which admittedly sounds like a spice or a cologne, could be "Essence of Surfer."

Reynolds, the museum's exhibits director, recently created a series of paintings that strip surfing legends down to the bare minimum: no faces, no shading, no waves, sometimes only the hint of a surfboard. The images, which adorn two walls of the museum, capture nothing but the most basic body language.

Even most of the names that adorn the bottoms of the canvases are minimal: Slater, Dora, Tomson. As far as Reynolds is concerned, they're recognizable enough. Each of the images is taken from a well-known photo, and the artist guesses that many devotees would figure out the subject just by studying the pose.

"Anybody who's been surfing for 20, 30, 40 years would see that and know that's Dora's style," Reynolds said Tuesday, putting his hand over the bottom of Miki Dora's portrait to demonstrate.


Of course, they might recognize Reynolds' artistic style, too. For more than 30 years, the Huntington Beach resident has pursued his twin passions of surfing and painting — his own minimalist portrait is among those on the wall at the museum. In 1988, Reynolds launched the company Kahuna's Klassics (now better known as to design trophies for the ASP World Tour, and he estimates that he's made more than 10,000 trophies since then.

Those trophies featured plenty of illustrations, but the artist conceived them as generic surfers. It wasn't until six months ago that he began capturing specific people.

Peruse the walls at the museum at 411 Olive Ave. and you'll spot Peter "PT" Townend doing a "soul arch," twisting his torso as he balances diagonally on a board; Kelly Slater, setting his weight on his back foot as the front dangles off the board; Shaun Tomson, slouching back with his arms at his sides. Amid the paintings is a panel offering a definition of the word "minimalism": "any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect."

Already, Reynolds has gotten at least one tribute from a subject.

"I think it looks pretty cool," said Townend, the vice chair of the museum board. "I actually have it as my Facebook profile icon at the moment."

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