Living the Dream with Surf Artist Toby Ray

An Interview with Contemporary Surf Artist Toby Ray

Where do you live and what are the breaks like around your way?
I live on the North coast of Cornwall in St Eval. I'm lucky enough to have a studio in my back garden and sell my artwork both online and (on fine days) in person at The Art Shack at Treyarnon Bay Youth Hostel. If i'm up there i'll usually surf Constantine, Boobys or Harlyn. Crantock is also a favourite, and you can't beat your home break (Wembury in South Devon). I'll always try and find somewhere with the least crowds.
Surf art cornwall
What inspires you?
There's various artists that have inspired me over the years such as Turner, Warhol, Basquiat etc. Also various surf photographers like Chris Burkhard and Zak Noyle inspire my painting. The main inspiration for my work is really the whole process of going surfing. From travelling to the break, soaking in the views and landscapes, to suiting up and paddling out. It's a different experience every time. I use my iPhone camera to capture moments when out surfing. These shots then become the basis for a lot of paintings I've been doing recently.
Cornish artist
How did you get into painting?
At school I had no idea what i wanted to do in life. I grew up by the beach in Wembury, South Devon. I started surfing then bodyboarding, all the time drawing Rip Curl and Quiksilver logos all over my school books (!). I started drawing surfscapes using pastels when I was about 15. I sold a few to friends and realised i was quite good at it. School lead onto art college in Plymouth where I dabbled in photography, painting and other mediums. It wasn't until I'd completed my fine art degree that I realised my calling as a painter. Over the years I have done a bit of travelling including a year away in New Zealand where I had my first experience with a gallery actually selling my work. The gallery just so happened to be in Raglan, home to one of the worlds great left-hand pointbreaks! The dream of being able to surf and paint all day was happening. To this day that's all I've wanted to be able to do...

Do you make a living from it?
Unfortunately having a wife, son and house costs money! Therefore a job with regular income was called for and my painting was put to one side. However after 6 years of full time work and painting in my spare time I knew something had to be done. I had to get back to my dream so I quit my day job in 2012 and have been painting full time ever since. The dream is slowly becoming reality. I'm scratching a living but slowly getting more and more exposure. Through the winter I'm usually in the studio working on larger commissions and various other projects. In the summer I can be found at Treyarnon Bay painting and selling my originals, framed prints and cards.
art shack at treyarnon bay
Top tips for surviving cold water surfing?
Listen to loud German power metal before putting your wet wetsuit on to prepare! Or failing that, a decent wetsuit, hood and boots. I never wear gloves and don't drink coffee but find a good hot chocolate also does wonders post-surf!

Describe your life in five words
Really excited by the future!

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