His beer can board is latest ‘feat’ for surf artist
By Steven Mihailovich
When local artist Richard Morrison sat down for a beer at the 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach one day in May, he was thinking about his enviro-surf art series, an ongoing project primarily rendering waves on canvas through pioneering techniques. Although Morrison had produced about 100 pieces at that point, he said he wanted to create a sculpture for the series, a magnum opus that could make a splash in the art world.
Morrison knew the sculpture had to be unique but he had no idea what to make. Morrison pondered his dilemma while sitting in the pub until the setting provided the inspiration. “I saw surf boards hanging [from the walls] and beer cans being thrown out and I put the two together. That’s how I came up with the surfboard,” Morrison said.
The result is a 6-foot, 2-inch-long surfboard constructed from 72 empty beer cans, which Morrison finished last month. Within two weeks of its completion, Morrison’s beer can surfboard was highlighted in Surfer and Transworld magazines, two of the top publications on the sport.
Morrison claims that his beer can surfboard is the only one of its kind and an informal search on the Internet reveals no challenges to his assertion.
“As an artist, you want to burst out of the bonds and do something new,” Morrison said. “This is so new that people don’t know what to do with it.”
The board uses six different brands of beer, including Boddingtons Draft Beer cans with metal pressurizers inside that produce a rattle when the surfboard is shaken. The beer cans were donated by the 710 Beach Club, Morrison said.
“Each beer can probably has a story behind it from the drinker,” Morrison quipped. “And I drank a few.”
Although Morrison collected enough beer cans, he lacked experience fabricating a surfboard. An avid surfer since childhood, Morrison wanted his sculpture to be practical as well.
Enter Gary Seagraves, who has been building custom surfboards in La Jolla since 1991. Seagraves was producing a movie about the surf culture at Windandsea and needed an artist to design a poster and CD cover for the film.
According to Seagraves, he approached Morrison for the job after seeing his paintings. Because Morrison was working on his beer can surfboard at the time, Morrison suggested bartering each other’s skills for compensation instead of money.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Seagraves said. “I’ve had foam manufacturers approach me, but this was the first time I’ve ever had an artist approach me. It was a cool project because the whole idea of making surfboards out of anything is cool to me. It’s a piece of art that’s actually functional.”
Seagraves provided materials and the duo completed the beer can surfboard in a week. While delighted with the outcome, including the movie poster, Seagraves said the project was an intriguing diversion, not a new direction. “I’ll drink the beer. I’ll recycle the beer cans. But I’ve helped make one beer can surfboard and that’s it for me,” he said.
While waiting for the “right swell” to try out his sculpture on the waves, Morrison said the experience provided him a greater appreciation for the painstaking craftsmanship required to manufacture surfboards.
“(Mine is) a very crude surfboard compared to what some guys make,” he said. “I have no plans to make another unless a beer company wants me to make one using only their cans and will pay me for it. Then we can talk.”
With the beer can surfboard behind him, Morrison is refocused on his enviro-surf art paintings, for which he applies his own proprietary three-step technique to produce canvases of mesmerizing waves comprised of unlikely substances, such as grass, sand, leaves and even Lego’s, emerging out of the environment.
“I make them like water shots, as if you were in the water,” Morrison said. “A lot of people think they’re created on a computer but they’re not. Half the time, I tell people about this technique and they kind of glaze over. That’s cool, because it’s about the image; whether it’s a success or not.”
Born in the Los Angeles area, the 48-year-old Morrison graduated from Otis Parsons Art School. He said he parlayed his talent into a successful career as T-shirt designer and later as a product developer for companies such as Ocean Pacific, Quicksilver, and Paul Mitchell, while producing paintings on the side for friends and select clients.
Morrison rededicated himself full time to fine art with his enviro-surf art series, which he launched more than a year ago. Currently seeking a gallery to premiere his work, Morrison wonders whether the beer can surfboard might eclipse his overall artistic vision, like serious actors who are remembered solely for a TV sitcom role.
“The surfboard is stealing the show,” he said. “It’s kind of blowing my mind. I do all this interesting art, at least to me. Here I make a beer can surfboard and I’m scratching my head, thinking this is the thing I’m going to be known for.”
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