Artist Interview: William Sager

Not every artist get to experience their craft the way Bill Sager does. His art can be enjoyed under his feet on a wave, esthetically enhancing a Josh Oldenberg shaped surfboard. When two met, they immediately began combining Bill’s art with Josh’s shapes. Providing the boards with a layered, smart look, Bill brings a depth that unmistakeable. In addition to working with Josh, Bill spends his days as a senior designer at a design and innovation shop, called Bulldog Drummond.

Tell us about your background as an artist. How did you get inspired to seek out a life as an artist?

I’m a graphic designer by trade, but I studied fine art years before I ever touched a computer. The transition from drawing and painting to Illustrator and Photoshop was not that easy for me. But now I love it because you can produce so much at a faster speed. I think most artists are worker bees, always wanting to produce something. I feel lucky to be in the field that I’m in.

What is the most important aspect of your art that makes it different from what other people are doing?

It’s all about layers, whether it’s graphic design or surfboard art. I try to approach every project like a painting. I map out a rough idea, then build on it with many layers. I hope the end result is something that has richness and depth.

Where do you get your inspiration? What other artists do you feel are standing out these days?

There are so many good artists and designers out there today, especially in California. But I try to pull my inspiration from the past. Artists who had a broad range of talent like graphic designer Paul Rand, and Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. They never focused on just one aspect of their art. They were constantly trying new things and that helped them develop their own unique styles.

You do some art for Josh Oldenburg on his boards. How did you two get connected? And what’s your take on his boards?

I met Josh through Garrett Highhouse, a photographer I work with. Garrett and I have been surfing together for a few years and we both like the same design aesthetic. He asked if I wanted to do some artwork on a new pig his friend was shaping for him, so he introduced me to Josh and we started on three boards right away. That’s what’s cool about Josh—he isn’t afraid to let me experiment on his boards. He wants to try new designs, but every board he shapes is based on concepts that are proven in the water.

How does your process work together (with Josh)? Does he show you the board he is making and then rely on your for the artistic touch? Or is there a theme from the get go?

It depends on the board. Josh gives me a heads-up on what type of shape he’s working on and I’ll start sketching some ideas. When he has the board ready, I add my pencil work and print design, then send it back to the shop for glassing. Once Josh is done sanding, I add another layer to the design with paint, then Josh finishes off the board before it hits the water.

As an artist there has to be an internal spark that keeps you motivated, seeing as how it is a self-reliant thing. In other words, how do you stay motivated to keep creating?

For me, it’s all about the process. I have fun working on these projects. And there’s an unknown when you start something new. It’s like the anticipation when walking into a thrift store or sitting in a lineup waiting for the next set to roll in. You have an idea of how it should go, but you don’t really know how it will end up until you’re fully in it. It’s that unknown that keeps me going.

What has been getting you the most stoked these days?

The surfing community has a wide range of characters. I think we all feed off each other. I recently met Mike Black (director of “Invasion! From Planet C” and “Jazz The Glass”) while surfing San Onofre. He sat down and told me his life story, where he grew up, how he got into surfing and a crazy story about a road trip he took with his brother back in the 80s. He is easily the most stoked person I have ever met. The world needs more Mike Blacks.

Any upcoming projects that we should keep an eye out for?

Josh and I have a few new boards in the works, and later this month some of our work will be up at an Igloo show in Little Italy. Stop by and check it out.

To stay up with Bill’s work, follow his blog at

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