THE ART OF SURFING
Artist: Jay Alders
By: Nick McGregor
Surrealistic wave riders in nothing but board trunks lean into exaggerated soul arches. A bikini-clad young woman’s alluring curves mirror a lineup’s pristine geometry, backlit by a smoldering orange sunrise. Elongated surfboards speed gracefully across idealistic, crystalline blue peaks. But the tropical qualities of the ocean-and-beach-inspired paintings of Jay Alders, meticulously created mostly with oil paints on wood panels, belie the artist’s chilly New Jersey upbringing. “Let’s face it: Cold water sucks,” says Alders.
The 38-year-old surfer, skateboarder and snowboarder now lives near Belmar, a small Jersey beach town 30 miles east of Trenton. “I’m constantly dreaming about being somewhere else, or visually reliving trips I’ve taken,” says Alders. “Every artist has the option to gear his images towards something that he’s running to or running from — and I prefer to paint things I’m running towards. Ice cream headaches are not at the top of my favorites list.”
Alders creates his paintings with multiple transparent layers of oil. “I build things up phase by phase, and each phase has to at least dry overnight,” he says. “A couple hundred hours per painting is not out of the question. Quicker pieces can take two to three weeks, while larger, more detailed pieces can easily take a couple of months.”
His distinctive stretched figures bear a faint resemblance to Alberto Giacometti meeting Salvador Dalí, and he has now transferred his paintings to many media, including skate decks, surfboards, album covers, guitars, T-shirts, tattoos and even vaporizers. He’s also repeatedly taken part in FestivAlma, a surf art and music bash held in Brazil each year, which has featured musicians G. Love, Donavon Frankenreiter and Matt Costa. And Alders is serious about his photography of musicians, models and coastal scenery. “I don’t even comprehend how people get bored,” says Alders.
Alders’s surfing, skating and drawing began to blend at a young age. “I was one of those kids who was doodling on everything,” he says. “I was never very good at team sports, so in between skating and surfing, I was locking myself in my room to draw.”
Although there is a precise realism to his surrealistic paintings, Alders rarely depends on photos. ”Usually, it’s a mental image that will come to me: that one wave you replay after a session, or that one sick move the guy next to you did,” he says. “I start sketching, something stokes a creative fire in my head, and then I have to get that image out.”
The last few months have been particularly good to Alders, with Brazil’s Almasurf magazine naming him “Best Surf Artist of the Past Decade,” & Surfer’s Path Magazine featuring his work on the cover of its first 2011 issue.“I like making art that people can look at, get lost in and take inspiration from,” Alders says. “There’s a lot of negativity around the world, and I don’t want to add to it with my paintings.”