Lumina News – Putting pen to paper

Putting pen to paper



Surf Works by Russell Crotty 

While some of California artist Russell Crotty’s more recent works of surf art are refined, high-art concepts, his original surf art books were created simply by putting black ballpoint pen to paper, and the covers now bear the marks of age like dirt, coffee stains and smudges.

The latest exhibit in The Art Gallery in University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cultural Arts Building, “Russell Crotty: Surf Works,” features various modes of the artist’s surf art, including some of his original surf drawing books, map books, color washed drawings, large paneled murals and mobiles.

The Art Gallery director Aaron Wilcox said he first saw Crotty’s work years ago at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro and has wanted to put together an exhibit since he became the gallery’s director.

“I saw his work about 25 years ago at an art on paper show at the Weatherspoon,” Wilcox said. “It was a grid drawing of hundreds of little tiny battleships on paper and it just really stuck with me and I have been following his work ever since.”

While Crotty’s canvas may vary greatly in size, his surf art works all shares the same doodle-like images depicting surfers sliding down the waves that inspire him, or imagined surf spots he created by combining multiple locations.

“I had always been doodling those things since I was a kid,” Crotty said during the gallery opening Thursday, Sept. 4. “I was trying to be a painter after I graduated and meanwhile I was doing these for my own gratification and they kind of stuck.”

While his other works, like landscapes or astronomical works, may draw the attention of galleries like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Crotty said his surf art is driven by the inspiration derived from being a surfer.

“A lot of people think what I do is scribble, which is OK, but this is more of a personal experience,” he said. “It is not like I could pick up a botanical book and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to do botany drawings now.’ For me, the experience is what inspires it.”

Crotty said he was excited to hear UNCW wanted to display his surf art because larger galleries catering to the mainstream art crowd often overlook those works.

“The art world doesn’t really embrace surf culture,” Crotty said. “There are famous artists who surf, but the main art world doesn’t accept it for some reason. It is not a subculture anymore, but they treat it like that, so when they asked me to bring this stuff I was excited.”

“Russell Crotty: Surf Works” will be on display until Oct. 3 at The Art Gallery. There will be a special movie night showing of the gallery with the film “180 South” Wednesday, Sept. 17.



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