By Ryan Ghisetti
If he’s not hanging ten on a surfboard, Matt Beard will be hanging art pieces in a gallery. In the Neighborhood Board Shop in the round tin building on Alliance Road nestled between surfers and their boards the sound of steel drums circumvent the walls along with the atmosphere of equanimity pulsing through the veins. A path of surfboards leads you into a gallery. Art pieces line the walls and the faint smell of paint lingers in the air.
From the first impression of Matt Beard his manly physique and well-groomed beard might intimidate you. But the second he begins to discuss surfing and art a large grin appears from his beard. One thing that sets Matt apart from other artist is he is one of a select few that does live painting. While a band plays he paints a piece of art to how the music makes himfeel. Beard attempts to match his brushstrokes to the beat of the music and at the end of the band’s two hour set he produces an entire finished piece of art that is typically auctioned off to someone in the crowd. Matt thought back to his first time delving into this medium of art, “The first time I did live painting for an audience was in 2013 with the band Lik’wefi. It was New Year’s Eve at Arcata Theatre Lounge and like life I just jumped in and did it.” Music is an auditory experience but at one of Matt’s shows he translates what you hear into a tangible piece of art right before your eyes.
Matt has gumptious energy and infectious laugh, and this is especially prevalent when he discussed one of his favourite and most defining moments in his art career, live painting for a crowd while a childhood hero and famous surfer Tom Curren played music. “Tom Curren and Matt Costa are playing music. Painting with them was a trip to me, from the time I was ten years old he [Tom Curren] was a hero and here I am 39 painting and he’s sitting there playing and keeps looking back at me and keeps saying ‘hey guys check out this painting’ and im like thinking this is Tom Curren talking about me painting,” Matt still smiling from the experience.
Tucked in a corner of the Beard Art studio lies a stack of books, magazines, newspapers and yearbooks all of which have published Matt’s work. To say Matt Beard is a big deal would be an understatement. Beard has been published not only locally, nationally, but also internationally. This world-renowned artist has a large following from the surfing community for being able to capture the emotion behind waves. One of the highest acknowledgements Beard has received as an artist has been being featured in Surfer’s Journal, which profiles only one artist an issue. Matt was shocked to find out he was going to be published. “I went to surfers and asked them to capture what surfing means to them. So that way the project had a real human element and had the credibility of being someone’s moment. I had three done and went down south, I was told that I needed to tightened them up and it would be up to two years till I was printed. But when I got back home I saw that I had a message on my answering machine and they [Surfer’s Journal] gave me pages and I had to have them done quickly.”
What separates Matt from other artist is that his art blends realism and his personal artistic curved style to create a wonderful piece. “Art reflects a person’s life. When its honest is when its best. Surfing is a big part of my life. I can paint landscapes without waves because i’m human but there is a hook that the beauty of nature brings me in. Waves on a good day draw me in. Its pretty fun,” Beard explained.
Above all, what truly separates Matt Beard is his humble beginnings as a college student. Moving up from North to attend Humboldt State University and getting his first job as an artist for Humboldt Surf Company after they discovered his art on a flier asking people for rides to the beach so he could surf. Since then, Beard has worked hard to be a self-sustaining artist with his work being featured on logos, buildings, and he even has a bus wrapped entirely in his art as an add for Fertile World. Matt’s keeps true to his surfing roots that brought him notoriety, and explains that “water to most artist look like noise, but to a surfer its music.” Staying true to himself and his self-effacing nature translates as an artist, husband, and father. Matt lives his life knowing, like the waves, if you miss the first set another will be coming to catch a ride on.