Studio - Surf Culture Art
Interview - Esker
Photos - ARTBYMW
Matthew Wigglesworth imbibes a creative style that transcends all genres of surfing.
Whether you ride a fish, longboard, mat or short board his eclectic imagery capture
the character of surfing in a way that sets him apart from other surfing artists -
Hey Matthew. At what point in your life would you say you decided you wanted to become an artist?
I've always loved art from a very young age. But as I grew other things began to dominate my interests. In my later teens when I started surfing, I picked up sketching again on and off but nothing serious. It wasn't until much later, disenchanted with the daily grind of work, that I began to look inwards for more meaning. I spent many years searching for what made me truly happy. I realised that I had ventured off my true path. From that point forward I reconnected with what was missing, a major part of that was being an artist again.
How did ARTBYMW start?
I started a surf brand a few years ago and it was doing quite well. However, I began to feel the pressure of getting seasonal lines out and stuff like that. I never started it to be a mainstream brand or to follow fashion trends. I just wanted simple clothing that would last for many seasons instead of just being a fad item. I didn't feel like it was necessary to keep swapping clothes because the season or fashion changed. So I closed it down, but before I did, a French surf company in Biarritz bought some of the artwork for their clothing lines. At around the same time I decided to travel around France and surf. I stopped by the shop in Biarritz to meet the guys who owned BTZ. I was stoked and humbled to see my work on clothing and hanging on the walls
in such a beautiful shop and part of the world. It was funny because when I turned up to say hi, they were like, "oh, you're a guy". I guess they hoped that I was a girl ha ha and were surprised to find I wasn't. Anyway, I realised that it wasn't the surf brand they were buying into, it was my art. I decided to give this some serious thought, so I rented a little cottage in the French countryside where I could just switch off from everything. I bought a sketch pad and some pencils and just buried myself into art again and thought about what I wanted to do. That's when ARTBYMW began.
Is every illustration inspired by a certain individual or is it purely from your imagination?
There is so much I haven't put down on paper yet; if only I could record my thoughts. Some of the imaginations I have are wild and I can't get them out.
I am always inspired by people with style and grace. Anything that captures what I love about surf and its culture inspires me. When I see these people
I draw them, but never quite as they are in reality, it's always with my view of things. So some are from real people, some from what I imagine and others are a bit of a mix.
When you draw, are you electronically drawing on a tablet or computer, or old school pen on paper?
I mainly use an iPad Pro and a Wacom Cintiq. They are very forgiving. I get away in my van for surf trips occasionally when I need some space and to get away from the digital world. I take my sketchbooks and pens with me to draw and get good vibes.
When did you start to surf & what is it about surfing you love?
My dad was a great swimmer in his day. He was even in the Olympic swimming team but never made it out to the Olympics because he couldn't afford it. But he always took us in the sea and especially in the waves. He was a beatnik kid body surfing and belly boarding in Cornwall for a bit. I think that being around those vibes had an impact on me. I was also really into the VW scene. I had an old 66 bug and 72 bus, so the two worlds went together. I started surfing seriously around the age of 18. After seeing a surf mag for the first time, I got stoked on it so I hopped on the first bus to Cornwall, a six hour ride from my house at the time, jumped off and checked in at the first hotel I found, bought a wetsuit and board. The wetsuit turned out to be a girl's one.
I was such a kook ha ha. Never looked back though and it changed my life and still does.
It's very hard for me to express in words how I feel about surfing. I’m not crazy for huge surf like some. For me a simple clean wave is all I need. A nice peeling shoulder to slide on. I love just feeling the ocean, seeing the rainbow spray off the back of a wave, the whole thing is like a temple to me. It’s just hard to express it right, it keeps me balanced and calm.
What is your craft of choice when it comes to everyday sessions?
I have quite a few boards and have a relationship with them all. I have an old fish which I love. I got it in the UK before the whole retro board scene became popular. People used to look at me with the board and probably thought I was some kook. I never cared. But that board has since died with too many dings, it's a log now. Locally though, because the waves aren't great that often, I surf my 7'2" single-fin. It drives amazing bottom turns that I love and it's a fun ride. Otherwise my 5’6” mini-simmons inspired board will do.
Would you say that being an artist has actually influenced the way you surf?
Yes in a way. When I draw I visualise the whole scene in my head. So when I surf I think about what I love to draw and it has changed me.I’m trying to surf my true style like trying to draw my true art.
The two seem to be merging in some way.
You are well travelled, what sort of a traveller are you, organised or free to roam?
Definitely free to roam. I was in California a couple of years ago and I flew into San Diego without a plan other than to rent a car and surf. The guy at the rental company was from London originally and was Persian. I used to have a Persian girlfriend back in the day and so we got talking and hit it off, so he upgraded me and let me choose any car on the lot, ha ha that was so fun. Anyway, I chose the biggest thing so I could sleep in it and then drove straight to Walmart and got a blowup bed and sleeping bag and just slept in the car. I travelled up and down the coast just surfing and eating tacos and fruit. I do that all the time when I travel, just go with the flow and stop when I feel good about a place. I'm going to Japan in May and have got to know someone on Air bnb. They seemed really nice so we got talking and although their digs are fully booked, I’m crashing on their studio floor. We are going to a Japanese temple to meditate. I love that, travelling allows you to be open and free and meet like minded people. I like to keep it loose.
Does the Welsh surfing landscape inspire you in any particular way artistically?
It’s beautiful, it really is. Many of the bays in Wales are still so rural and raw. You can drive out and be alone surfing a remote break with very little material influence. So in that setting I can just chill and have a nice peaceful session. That allows me to tune in to some calm vibes and then I can think of creative things. Likewise I go out into the woods and mountains a lot too and that inspires me in different ways. But I don't draw landscapes so I’m not sure.
You seem like quite a spiritual guy, for someone embarking on this way of life what advice can you give them to help simplify and balance their lives?
I don't want much materially out of life. I’m happy with a simple life and lifestyle. Being an artist allows me to not follow a set routine and the normal 9-5 lifestyle. But it comes at a cost in a way, in that I don't make a load of money, I make enough for my needs, money isn't my main ambition in life. So I think it's about what are you going to be happy with in life? What’s enough? What’s sufficient for your needs? That’s how I do it, I work out what I need and then work hard to achieve it, but I keep it realistic.
I get up super early and practise yoga and meditate and say prayers. That keeps me humble and in tune with what’s real in life. I keep my patterns simple and balance it all out. I eat healthy food and spend time with my wife and kids and friends. I spend time travelling and exploring. I love surfing, skating and walking. I spend time drawing, creating, reading and working. I balance it all out so I can find calm and not let the ambitions of the world and society
I guess what I’m trying to say is nothing new, find what you love and work really, really hard at it. It takes time so practise patience. Be happy with what you have and be grateful for life and whatever it throws at you, it will all work out in the end. Be humble and kind to people. Do some work for free from time to time and smile. I believe we all have gifts, something special in us all, so connect to that special you and shine.
Esker and Matthew have collaborated to produce some beautiful limited edition prints which can be found in the Esker Gallery soon.
Matthews work can also be found on his website www.surfcultureart.uk