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The Good Oil

Surf artist Tyler Warren talks Bali, birds and board-riding to Tony Stanton.

TYLER, we love your work and were so happy to see it hanging in Bali. How long have you been coming to the island?
I have been to Bali twice now. The first time was 11 years ago when I was 14-years-old.

Your work reminds us of Miguel Covarrubias. Are you familiar with his work?
No, but I have looked him up and it seems like he was painting around the same time and place as my great uncle Roberto Montenegro, who was a Mexican muralist…


You seem to be channeling some great artistic associations … we can imagine art has been in your life for a long time, even though you’re still young.
I have been drawing ever since I can remember. Every child seems to enjoy drawing and painting … I just never stopped.

Your great uncle did some immense work. Does that intimidate you at all?
No, not at all … it just inspires me to keep doing what I love and reminds me that anything is possible … itโ€™s in my blood.

Were you trained as an artist?
I didnโ€™t go to a fancy art school. I attended art classes at school from seventh grade on. I went to a community college for three and a half years where I took screen-printing, drawing, metal casting, print-making, graphic design and life drawing. When I was about 20 I began working with my uncle who is a professional oil painter โ€“ I would drive up to his studio in east LA and help paint backgrounds. I learned a lot from him over the next three years โ€“ that was like art school in itself. He is a very diligent artist with a great library of art books. We were painting on a lot of large-scale canvasses.

When did you first realise that you had something of a talent?
When other kids started asking me to draw stuff for them !

Surfing is your theme … would you say you are principally a surfer or an artist?
I was an artist first I guess but grew up around the water. I started drawing when I was very young and began surfing around nine. I started selling silkscreen shirts out of my truck when I was 16 or 17.

Tell us about how you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up with good parents who always supported my dreams and aspirations. We grew up traveling, snorkeling, going to the beach, hanging out on our boat in the harbour, going to surf contests. I have always lived in Southern California. Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano are my hometowns.

How is your year split up? Or do you take it as it comes?
I just go with the flow. This past year I have been to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Morocco, Bali, then Iโ€™m going to Spain and France for an invitational logging event that Vans and Joel Tudor have put together. Then I am having a show in Waikiki with good friends Andy Davis and Jeff Canham. I’ve had two solo shows this year โ€“ one in San Diego at Loft Gallery and one at the Deus gallery on Bali. Shaping and doing commission work when I can. Itโ€™s kinda like riding a unicycle and juggling at the same time I guess. I just take it all day by day.

How would you describe your style in oil painting?
Flat, illustrative, smooth, oil, canvas, dreams, life, graphic, past, present, light, dark, contrast, depth, warmth …

Are you going to stick with the surf theme or do you see yourself branching out โ€“ and if so into what?
I actually never wanted to do surf-related work … but as I get older I realize itโ€™s what I know and understand the most โ€“ itโ€™s who I am. For the most part itโ€™s where most of my work has come from. I would love to get more into illustrating and painting live models, and designing clothing. I used to always love to draw all the models in Vogue and that kind of stuff when I was growing up. Nothing better than a beautiful gal in some heels!