Trevor Gordon’s Artful Life
by Michael Kew
Patagonia Surf ambassador Trevor Gordon, 22, is not just a guy who, in the words of Dan Malloy, “surfs just like Curren.” Here we take a closer look at Trevor’s land-based talents.
Michael Kew: How would you describe your art?
Trevor Gordon: A bit folksy. Colorful, textured, simple. I try to paint or draw people in ordinary moments and natural situations, like a man sitting on a porch, playing guitar, or a lady stoking a campfire.
What's your process like when you create art? Do you ever sketch stuff and then make it, or do you work more spontaneously and build as you go? How does it happen for you?
I usually start painting spontaneously. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the night and have to start a painting so I don’t forget it by morning. Other times I will be listening to a song and something will pop into my head, and if I can, I will start painting something right then. More often than not, I’ll end up painting over the original idea, but it’s the initial moment of starting the painting that is hardest. My style is very quick — I can’t stand waiting for the paint to dry or washing the brushes, so I end up painting with my fingers on top of wet paint. I guess that can add to it, sometimes, but it can also screw it up.
What have you been thinking about lately that has influenced and inspired your new work? Do you draw on personal experiences or on things happening in your environment?
Last October, I was in Canada and I went crazy filling up notebooks with drawings of mythical creatures, pictures of people, and objects I saw. While there, someone said that the drawings reminded them of the Inuit art style. When I got home, I bought a few books on the subject and got really inspired from them. They seemed to just focus on super simple objects of everyday Eskimo life, with a really unique, exaggerated style. I prefer to draw things that aren’t necessarily going on around me —rather just spontaneous ideas, subjects, or themes. However, while traveling, I usually draw what’s on my mind or things I’ve seen.
Farm animals play a theme in your newer work. Why is that? Do you think it is easier to explore themes with animals than humans?
I’ve always been fascinated with farm life and that whole way of living. Although Santa Barbara is really ocean-based, there are a lot of ranches and farms surrounding it, so it’s easy to get inspired. Lately I’ve had a lot of fun with drawing portraits of animals. I can’t say exactly why — it’s just what is coming out at the moment.
Can you tell me about your upbringing and artistic background and how you have developed in style and technique over the years?
My parents both share an artistic eye. My dad went to Brooks for filmmaking and my mom used to design, sew, and sell her own line of children’s clothes. I guess some of that appreciation for design and attention to detail has rubbed off a bit on me, so much so that I sometimes have to step back from tending to the details in order to care less to get to where I want a painting to be. Like most kids, I grew up doodling in sketchbooks during school. I didn’t start really taking art seriously until high school, where I mainly focused on super detailed abstract drawings. Pens and pencil, mostly. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I starting to do bigger-scale paintings. I spent a lot of time experimenting with techniques and making tons of art and appreciating all types of it. My style has evolved through little breakthroughs in technique that I follow for a while until I grow bored and start experimenting again. But they all share a common theme.
Talk about your relationship with Santa Barbara.
I love Santa Barbara and the variety it has. The city is so close to amazing backcountry, perfect waves, and the Channel Islands. Sometimes the amount of people can become overwhelming, so I try and travel as much as possible. It’s the best feeling coming home to a place like Santa Barbara, though, because it’s a really comforting place. It feels nestled into California’s coast.
What is the connection between surfing and art?
Not a whole lot, to be honest. Not sure why that is. I just have never gotten into surf art. I appreciate it but I’ve always found it a bit cheesy to actually perform. Maybe the fact that I surf so much as it is why my art focuses on more of a land lifestyle theme.
If you decided, or were forced by circumstances to stop making art tomorrow, where would you focus your creative energy?
I would for sure focus all energy on music. I try to play music as much as possible as it is, but if I were forced into exiling my art, I’d have the energy to get over that lazy lump of actually learning to play well.
Where would you like to take your art in the future?
I hope to have the ability to get to a stage where I can have a proper studio and paint as much as possible.
Do you care where your art ends up? How has the world seen it so far?
Of course I’d like to see my art represented positively. I have been in a few art shows and have had some of my own over the last year or two that were really successful. Patagonia will be having some of my art on several T-shirts in the near future, and I’ve also made a few hand painted shirts, which I hope to expand on. People can also check out my website (trevorgordonarts.com), where you can find recent works.
Michael Kew is the author of Crossings for which Trevor did the cover art. Get the book and a bunch of regularly updated surf content at Kew's blog, Peathead.