INTERVIEW: Matt Stanton Beard

Explain your ever growing presence, connection and fan-base in San Diego over the last decade despite living in Northern California?

Yeah I trip out on that. I’ve lived in Humboldt for the last 23 years, and while I did grow up in Long Beach, surfing all over Orange County, I had no connections to anyone in San Diego prior to the last ten years. I think the Surfer’s Journal piece from 2008 was a big part of it. I was immediately commissioned for some large paintings of Cardiff reef, where the clients insisted I stay in their rental house, just behind the park, walking distance to everything Cardiff. It was rough. That was my first real immersion in the area and after that I started coming to the surfboard shows in Del Mar each year and just felt like the San Diego crowds understood my art and really seemed to dig it. SD surf culture is very different from the OC surf scene I grew up with. Much more open to different influences and approaches to waveriding. I found it rather refreshing and more in tune with my surfing life up north where the art of surfing was practiced in solitude, free from any pressures to conform to anything. The California coast was already a recurring thread in my art and a natural fit, having spent so many years traveling the length of the state for school and whatnot. So San Diego sort of represents the natural end of the pendulum swing for me. The water is warm and couches to crash on are abundant, why wouldn’t I be drawn to the area? I guess the question though was more about why folks there like my art. I have no idea. I think they’re all nuts from the emotional stress of living with so many other people in a barren waterless desert. I blame it on insanity.

How in the world did you come up with the concept of “From Scratch”?
Well, I had no art on hand to bring to the gallery when the show was scheduled, so I figured I could just bring a bunch of blank canvases and make it happen. In hindsight, I think maybe 25 was too many. Pretty sure I missed a surf or two on account of working too much that week. But yeah the concept was born of pure practicality. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case I suspect she is also the step-mother of half-baked ideas.

You seem to absolutely thrive on your art being an interactive experience between you and your audience. Where I see danger, you see opportunity…what gives?

It’s a delicate balance. I’ve had some disasters, and many more near-disasters. But that’s part of the attraction for me. Working in the studio alone can get boring, and start to feel scripted. Like each piece is already done and the hours spent painting are some sort of unavoidable responsibility. Opening up the process to allow friends and strangers to make their marks on my work as it unfolds for me is a way to make the experience more alive. What is life, but a daily interaction with the unknown, full of events beyond our control? To allow others into the process, for me is the same as recognizing the hazards of the ocean- the rocks, sharks, holddowns, etc are part of the experience and that to take away the hazards completely would also diminish the quality of the overall experience. And just like in the ocean, things won’t always go down how you expect. The From Scratch show teetered on the edge of disaster for me from the getgo. Don’t get me wrong, the people who showed up and jumped into painting were awesome, they did great. I just looked and 25 canvases full of Random as they were painting and afterwards and kept wondering, “what have I done?”. I truly wasn’t sure how to take those pieces and honor the marks that were thrown down and still make art that felt complete and stood up with the rest of my work with no disclaimers required.

25 paintings in 7 days. Let’s discuss details. How many hours daily did you have to paint? How many near give-ups? Toughest challenge? Inspirations? 
Well, like I said after letting folks go wild on the first night, I looked at what was started and knew right then I had my work cut out for me. Then waking up to hear that the whole gallery may need to close in two days really shifted my gears. I had the idea to let these pieces go absolutely wherever they wanted. Politcal. Religous. You name it. But finding out I may only have two days to finish them, I did the only natural thing and sought visions of water in each and every one of them. Looking back I’m glad I kept it simple like that since it seems I was working all the way through the opening reception to get them finished as well. Not sure how many hours I painted each day, but it was rare to sleep before 1am  each day and it seems like I was starting back on them at 10am each morning. There were a few surf breaks, but still mostly quick morning sneakouts. It’s not like I was going to paint before 10am anyway. That never happens, but yeah I’d say they were mostly 12 hourish work days. Granted sometimes working looks like sitting around. At one point near the end I think I felt sick and had to sit for a half hour. After that I felt great and went the rest of the night solid. Never came close to giving up, but the sheer volume of work was the challenge, and that was mostly just mental. Painting isn’t really hard work in a super physical way, but it was brutal to push through a piece and reach that breakthrough moment where I could see where the painting wanted to go and then to have to move to the next and go back to start and push for the next breakthrough. Doing that a few times and realizing I still had 20 unsolved compositions awaiting, yeah that was hard to get my head around. No time to enjoy the progress, just keep moving. As for inspirations, Damian Fulton’s live art is blindingly fast, what he can accomplish while you turn around a drink a beer is bananas… bananas that collectively make up a perfect portrait of king kong too.
After immersing yourself 100% in your work for a week straight and creating such a startling output, how do you feel walking away from it all? 
Like I could use a milkshake. Or three. And maybe a doctor. Or at least a therapist.