Le Parrain

Drew Brophy is an authentic artist, the Godfather of Surf art. Everybody involving with a surfboard knows that. He's 100 per cent dedicated to the cause. A man, but also a teacher, an altruist who wants more and more people to live from their art.

Here comes an interview with the master, a good one, no waffle!


* Do you remember your first drawings on surfboard?

I painted my first surfboard when I was 4 or 5 years old, with crayons. I wrote my name on it.

* You are from South Carolina, is there a surf culture there?

Yes, there was a surf culture there. South Carolina was a great place to grow up. The water in the summer is 85 degrees (F) and the small waves were perfect for learning how to surf. I was lucky there were a lot of nice people surfing, and there were a few small surf shops.

* You are a surfer first, and you travelled a lot, it has been inspiration for your art?

I feel lucky being a surfer, because surfing has taken me to some of the most remote places in the world.  Not many people get to go to these places. The travel absolutely inspires my art. There is something great and beautiful about every place; they are all great.


* Do you think surfing is an activity to share, like drawing on walls?

Yes, it’s much better to share an epic surf session with friends. I once surfed Teaupoo in Tahiti, all alone. I caught some of the best waves of my life, but there was no one there to share them with. It left me feeling empty.

* Who was the first artist you looked at?

Growing up, my family had a big stack of art books, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Salvador Dali. I was always really good at art, it was easy for me. I painted my surfboards because they were old and beat up, I never gave much thought to it. I just tried to make them look cool.

* And who are you look at now?

I really love Rick Griffin and Bill Odgen’s work.  They were the best in surf art! The rest of us are amateurs.


* How could you describe your style, from 10 years ago to now?

My style hasn’t changed from when I was a kid. My art has gotten better, from painting so much, but my style has remained the same.

* You live in California for a while, the Mecca of surfing...

Southern California is one of the center for the surf industry. I used to have to travel a lot to find work to make a living with my art.  There’s enough work in California so that I could settle down there. The waves are really good, too.

* I read somewhere that you are not into the "surf industry club"...

I see a lot of people who take advantage of the business of surfing. They totally miss that surfing is a lifestyle. They try to sell it, but they don’t live it.  It makes me feel out of place sometimes.


* Do you think surf culture needs more artists?

Surf culture doesn’t need anything. If you’re around it long enough, you see what’s authentic and what is not. I’m always pleased to see something that is new, that I never thought of, that tells the story of surfing in a new way. I think that’s what I did when I started painting surfboards many years ago.

* You made a lot of creations on a year, what is the most unexpected work you've been ask?

One year I collaborated with different shapers to create concept surfboards. One had a headlight on it for surfing at night. Another was called “The Pitchfork” because it had curved vampire fins. That was a lot of fun, creating something totally different.

* Are you working 7 days a week?!

Yes, I work 7 days a week and life is a vacation for me!

* One big part of your work is transmission, is that natural to teach tricks and technics for an artist?

No, it’s not natural for artists to teach their secrets. But I do it because I want to see other artists find success for themselves. It makes the world a better place.

* Transmission is important for the surf culture?

It’s important that you show people that it’s okay to put themselves out there and to be themselves in art or whatever they do.

* It seems you have a special story with Posca pens...

I started painting with Uni Posca Paint Pens in the late 1980’s. I first saw them in a magazine and wanted to paint with them but back then you couldn't buy them in the U.S.

My dad's friend Mr Rosen went to Japan a lot so I asked him to find Poscas for me there. He came home from Tokyo one day with a huge box of paint pens for me. It changed my life!  I was airbrushing surfboards at the time and Posca allowed me to be more creative.  These pens literally gave me a way to make a living with my art.


hing surfboards at the time and Posca allowed me to be more creative.  These pens literally gave me a way to make a living with my art. Poscas colors allow you to blend and makes creating art unintimidating.  It’s a great way for any young artist to get started.

When traveling around the world, I leave paint pens in every country with local artists. I've left pens with artists in Peru, Brazil, Tahiti, South Africa, everywhere I go.


* Do you have any favorite colors?

I do not have a favorite color, and I don’t feel that there are any that are missing  A long time ago I opened up the pens and mixed my own colors. Now I can mix just on the surfboard with the colors in my hand. It’s awesome!

* From France to USA, you are “the godfather of surf art”, do you feel that people are following you?

It makes me feel good to be seen as the Godfather of surf art! When I was younger I was airbrushing surfboards but none of the companies would allow me to paint with the Posca pens. Even though everyone loved my own painted surfboards, and the boards I painted for friends, my surfboards did not look the way surfboards were supposed to look. So all the surfboard companies would only let me airbrush.

I always knew that painting with Posca pens would allow myself and all the other artists to be more creative. Now, all these years later, a technique which I developed, painting with Posca pens, has given artists and surfers all around the world an opportunity for them to express themselves and make money at the same time.

I always envisioned every little surf shop having a local artist, with his own style, creating art for his community. What a great way to bring out the flavor of each location.


* A lot of people got eyes on you...

I’m always amazed that people know who I am. I’m not sure if it’s the art or my lifestyle, or just being authentic. A long time ago I understood that I bear some responsibility for what I put out into the world. 

Everyone does. Knowing that I’m being watched makes me want to contribute in a positive way. I try to help people as much as I can, to encourage young people to know that they can create a good life for themselves.


* You are dedicated in your job and family, what could be your next achievement?

I just want to chase big waves around the world. I want to ride them. I want to tell stories about them and the people I rode them with. I want to spend time with the locals at each place and learn all about them. Ireland is the next place I want to go.