Bold colors, geometric patterns, and botanical profiles capture the eye in Erik Abel’s artwork. Inspired by his love of the ocean, surfing, and travel, Abel’s work articulates the spirit of the water and the awe of nature. His roots as a California surfer intermingle with his experiences living around the Pacific Northwest as well as traveling around the South Pacific, Central America, and Indonesia, imparting an organic, tribal style to his subjects and compositions. Abel now lives and works in Southern Oregon. His original pieces have been featured in galleries across the country and abroad while his commercial work has attracted clients including Patagonia, Reef, REI, and Billabong. Abel gives back to environmental and humanitarian projects through nonprofit partnerships, exhibitions, and commercial projects.
What inspires your work?
The ocean and surfing have always been there for inspiration. Animals too. Nature in general is such a rich source of information. But at the basis of it all is a fascination with shape and color and form and how it all interacts. I’m a sucker for big abstract shapes. I recently started Abstract Pursuits to satisfy this whole other direction I was being drawn to. It’s a place I can be totally free.
Preferred medium / art-making process?
I love to paint and also work with wood. My paintings are all acrylic and colored pencils on wood panels. But really, just drawing in my sketchbook is where it’s at. There’s no pressure, all my ideas can just flow and I can really work stuff out, write down ideas and goals, and give all the stuff in my headroom to breathe and come to life.
I’ve been using acrylic paint for as long as I can remember but I recently had a major freak out about the use of plastic and chemicals in the studio and how my supplies are made and where they come from. Acrylic paint is basically just a blob of liquid plastic... in a plastic bottle. So lame. The world doesn’t need more plastic. I’m on a mission to change the industry. I started artdetoxchallenge.com to start the conversation, educate and inspire other artists to join me in making and using art supplies that are more human, earth, and animal friendly and I’m challenging art supply manufacturers to do that same.
Interests outside your art-making?
Surfing, mountain biking, snowboarding, not falling on my skateboard, hot tub time machines, Bloody Marys, stoney stargazing, traveling, and teaching my kids how to be responsible, well-educated humans who can properly wipe their own butts.
Tips for aspiring artist/designers?
One tip I usually give to aspiring artists is to figure out how to become a full-blown workaholic. Cultivate a selfish attitude of just wanting to be in the studio exploring your art all the time. Learn to just say NO to friends and family who want you to go party and do fun stuff and just be 80% boring to other people. Cave in 20% of the time to go have fun and maintain some relationships and go on adventures. Basically in a nutshell you have to just want to focus on making art more than you want to do anything else for a while.
One thing you can't live without?
Can’t live without a sketchbook. I feel uncomfortable if it’s not nearby. I bring it on trips where I know I won’t have time to ever pull it out, but it’s nice to know it’s there in case a lightbulb goes off and I need to get an idea down. I have a big box full of them, spanning the last 20 years or so, and it would be the first thing I’d grab in a fire. It’s like looking back through the life of my brain.
Home: Ashland, Oregon