Artist Interview: Andoni Galdeano

Andoni Galdeano is a surf artist out of Spain who started painting as a young kid in the Vasque Country. He was one of the pioneers of surfing Morocco 20 years ago with amazing local knowledge which has has recently shared with travelling pros to the area such as Alex Knost and Robin Kegel. Andoni has settled in Portugal and continues to travel the world painting and designing. 

What inspired you to become an artist? Was there a moment when you realized that being an artist was the path for you?

I think you must be born as an artist. It is not something you can turn yourself into. You need to have that seed inside you.

I have been drawing since i was a child, it just came out naturally. I remember my dad getting real angry as I was drawing in all the house walls even before I learnt to speak, that´s why he bought me and my brothers a chalkboard to share, but i never let them use it much as I was drawing bigger, bolder and all over their stuff. I was fully committed into spending my time on it all day long.

Are you formally trained? Or have you just learned by doing?

Yes I started taking lessons with Manuel Balsa “el ruso” an acclaimed Vasque Country artist at a young age, but drawing classic Greek figures was not my thing at that age, so my parents took me to some experimental place were some artists from different countries were gathering, so i learned with them. I was only 13 at that time and they were living on the beautiful countryside, they were living in an old barn. I worked there with mixed media, wood, metal, clay… I loved being able to get my hands dirty with whatever was going on there. It was so good to explore, guided by those amazingly talented people, I learnt a lot about the process of creating stuff from any sort of idea.

What mediums do you work in? Is there a particular medium that you tend towards? Is there any that you’d like to expand to? And what is the key to being able to expand your repertoire of art?

Oh, I use whatever i find on my way, it can be paper of any kind, cardboard, walls, small stones, driftwood… I love using chalks,pencil, Posca markers, acrylics, watercolor, oil painting… Anything you can imagine.

I have painted from 65 foot murals to clothing and surfboards… What I like is drawing and if it can be related or themed around the ocean ,which is my passion, even better. I am really interested in technique, the variable speed of the art stroke, to play with pressures with my art brushes or markers, the intuition involved on that. It is pretty much like surfing isn´t it?. I see the wave as a canvas and our board is the brush, so we express ourselves trough movements and draw our lines to connect with the ocean with different speeds and pressures, it is art, a sacred dance in a moving mountain. Surfing is indeed a beautiful thing.

I think the goal of any artist should be to keep on learning, discovering, and interacting with his environment, people and nature. We need to evolve, to keep moving, to stay fresh and to not loose interest in what we do. The key to expand our repertoire is simple, never forget your inner child, get excited about things and be open to infinite solutions to solve a single problem.

Describe your style.

Versatile and intuitive, I like to work with my hands and to get them dirty with paint. I love to create around the ocean theme. Since I discovered surf, skate and all the sports that involved some gliding in the late 70´s when i was a very young kid, all my world turned upside down and from that very moment it all changed inside me at both a personal and an artistic level. ( see picture below) (1979)

Being a full time artist is not always an easy thing to do. How have you been able to carve out of a life as an artist? What are the keys to being able to focus solely on creating?

Yes, as you well put, it is not an easy task and very few of us are lucky enough to make a living out of art, my personal history is pretty unusual. I jumped on my old vespa motorbike to pursuit a dream of freedom, when I was 20 years old and drove across the whole country with only $150 USD in my pocket. I ended up in the southern point of Europe, a village called Tarifa. It was a wild spot, super beautiful with plenty of waves and wind and very cheap too in that time. I decide to settle down there and started working in small jobs. Soon later in mid 80´s the village became a pilgrimage place for european surfers and windsurfers and surf shops started popping out every corner. This allowed me to design plenty of logos, to decorate spaces and sell a lot of custom designs for workshops and t-shirt lines. It was like being at the right place in the right moment. After some years I designed what i thought was a very good logo and I decided to keep it for myself and to build something around it. That same brand was selling millions of dollars the next years, I stepped out of the management but i still design and draw all their stuff. So I would say my history is the story of the pursuit of a dream and turning it into reality in a very organic and natural way. This now gives me the opportunity to do what I like and to travel the world chasing swells and making art. I believe I am a very lucky person and that a lot of factors have gotten together to allow this happening to me.

Tell us a little bit about your experience in Morocco. How long have you been travelling there to surf? How have you seen the surf culture there change?

I firs crossed to Morocco in 1981 in an small “Renault 5” packed with or windsurfs and surfboards to seek for adventure (see picture below) We found nobody on it´s beaches, it was a wild empty land. We were kind of shocked because there are only 9 miles of water between Europe and Africa but they were at least 100 years behind in technology at that time. This contrast was such an experience, and really opened our eyes to what the world looked like out of our comfort zone.

Today the good spots there are experiencing a big change, hotels and surf-schools are popping out everywhere. Surfers from USA and Brazil. There is still a lot of empty waves tough, as it is such a big coastline. It´s oriented similar to how Portugal is, but the waves have a thousand miles more to travel from the north Atlantic and this as you know is very good for the surf. Not long ago I met the Gato Heroi crew there doing some secret board testing in perfect breaks with no one else in the water. I have driven my car 4000 miles with the surfboards on top going trough Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal. All the coast if full of uncrowded gems to surf on far from our known little piece of the world. (see picture below)

What about the surf culture where you live in Portugal? How has it changed? Where do you see it going in the future?

Surfing in Portugal is amazing, I found this house right in front of Sao Lourenço point ( this spot is known as the Portuguese “Sunset” ) Because it gets similar to the hawaiian homologue when it is pumping. (see picture below) I feel so lucky to have this quality surf right peeler in front of my balcony. Food here is good and the people is kind and nice. The surf here is based on the short board truster in a 99% of the cases although it is a new breed of very innovative people pushing the new shapes. People like Rui from “Magic Quiver” who brings beautiful crafts from Ryan Lovelace, Robin Keagel, Neal Purchase, The Malcom Brothers or John Wesley to name a few. There is also a very talented shaper here called Nico, he started “Wavegliders” he is a real foam artist and his boards are excellent.

I guess in the future it will happen the same thing that is going on California right now, and we will be embracing all that DIY culture that is happening there in your neck of the woods. People will start using alternative shapes to what they are used to, with plenty of width and volume, I really love that direction. To move away from corporations and to support small business with plenty of soul run by true insiders and not wall street corporations that are in it only for the money. We need to focus on creativity, friendship, sharing what we got, and only worry about smiling and enjoying our limited time on this world. We should never forget our inner child and the wanting to keep learning and discovering all the time just as happened at the very beginning of this sport.

What can we expect to see from Andoni Galdeano in the near future?

Basically I´d like to start a more personal project that let me express my personal taste and preferences, less commercial, and putting all my soul into it. I feel that is what this beautiful surf world deserves, to bring back it´s spark. For me, Korduroy is representing that movement and it is being for me a real source of inspiration connecting all this like minded people. I feel honored to have you letting me speak and showing you this, my more personal side. Congratulations for your site, and keep up the good work.


You can check Andoni’s art here
This interview and it’s art has been curated and translated by Carlos Sáez

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