Beach Bliss: Surf artist finds it’s swell at WindanSea

By Leigh Ann Dewey


He is a familiar site at Windansea Beach and throughout La Jolla.

Brush to canvas, artist Glenn Chase spends his days capturing popular beach scenes that have come to mean “La Jolla” to residents and visitors alike. From building-size storefront murals to framed prints and originals in private collections, his renderings of the Cove, Bird Rock, the Children’s Pool, Little Point, the La Jolla Caves, and other landmarks are recognized throughout La Jolla and beyond.

While he enjoys creating his artwork from viewpoints up and down the coastline, “I like to sit on the boardwalk at Windansea,” he said. “It’s become my little outdoor studio.” Chase, 60, frequented La Jolla years ago, then returned in 2003 and now lives in Bird Rock.

A lifelong surfer, the ocean and his love of riding the waves inspired and fueled his natural artistic talent throughout his life. He was born in Van Nuys and raised in Huntington Beach, and began surfing as a young boy. “Back then,” he said, “I couldn’t even carry a big board.”

Though he had no formal art training, Chase had parents with artistic leanings. At an early age, he could be found dabbling in his mother’s art supplies. “She was an art teacher,” he said. “She always had an art studio in the house. I’d come in and goof off, play with the paint.” His father, a career police officer, was also a sculptor.

The family moved to Florida, where Chase continued to pursue surfing and where he graduated from high school. He first saw San Diego while visiting his brother in the Navy. The two explored the area, camping at Torrey Pines.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Chase combined his natural artistic talent with his passion for surfing by penning illustrations for a number of publications. His works were published in Surfer magazine, including his fantasy pen-and-ink series, “Aqua Elves.” The elves lived in hollow trees and surfed with the help of a live, surfboard-shaped creature. “They didn’t have to paddle out,” he said.

Among other projects, Chase created the movie poster for the surf film, “The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun,” and he spent time as a “roadie artist” for the Grateful Dead.

Chase traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico and Maui to surf and paint. He stayed in Maui for 18 years, supporting himself by working as a chef and teaching art classes. His works were displayed at Lahaina Art Society galleries and art shows. He returned to La Jolla seven years ago.

“It’s just such a friendly atmosphere here,” he said, “and so beautiful.”

As he paints at his Windansea outdoor studio, “all kinds of people come by,” he said. “Every local in town walks by and sees me … Tourists say, ‘that would make a great souvenir.’ ”

He recalled a time he was painting a beach scene near the Shack. A man said he wanted to buy the painting as a honeymoon present for a wedding couple, and asked Chase if he could paint them into the picture. “He was ecstatic with the result,” Chase said.

And though he could have chosen to support himself with another career to make more money, “I decided to focus entirely on my art,” he said. “I’ve been a chef and I have painted houses. Then one day, I decided if I did that (my entire life) I would miss out on time doing my art. I decided that one of the keys to happiness is to do what you love. If you have a talent, do it.”

Today, Chase supports himself through sales of his art in mediums ranging from pen and ink, to watercolor and oil, and sculpture.

Want to see more?

  • Moonglow Design Gallery, 5763 La Jolla Blvd. (858) 750-2452.