Sunshine and Sand
Article originally published in 2017 for Lo & Behold
we catch up with greg straight, an illustrator and graphic designer who is influenced by the ocean which stems back to his childhood.
“I have always loved the ocean. Even before I started surfing I’d spend hours in the water, or just watching it. It’s sort of mesmerizing and calming. My Aunt and Uncle used to live at Papamoa and my family spent many school holidays down there on the beach. Sometimes I’d sit and draw the old baches along the coastline”.
His work consists of simple lines, geographic forms, iconic imagery, strong but minimal colours, and an overall fun vibe. Symbols of the villa, corner dairy, boats and iconic geographical features are craftily combined to transport the viewer to another world. A planet of sunshine and sand. He makes vector based images that often start out as a drawing and then, if necessary, are completed on the the computer.
“A lot of my work would be considered Kiwiana and taps into a collective nostalgia for summers gone by at the beach. Like those childhood memories of Mum and Dad packing up the car, taking you on a roadie to the coast to spend the holidays swimming and surfing”.
Recently, Greg has incorporated surfing and surf culture into his artwork, which includes illustrating local surf beaches and symbols of surfboards and VW wagons. Greg’s work appears in many different mediums including fine art print on gallery walls, T shirts, boardshorts, skateboards and even beer cans and surfboards.
He lives on Auckland’s North Shore in his home studio with his wife Hannah, their two children (Chloe & Leo) and cat Pebbles. Hannah also works in the studio with Greg, working on Duett Design, where she curates prints for people’s homes. He somehow manages to balance work, family life, friends and still finds time to fit in a surf, often getting up early on Saturday or sneaking out during the week. Trying to leave early and return early is not as easy as it seems. “I used to surf a lot when I was younger but with everything going on there is never really a good time to go. You have to make time.”
Greg’s story has surfing, art and the beach all intertwined together, influencing one another. He could be out surfing or driving to the beach and notice a particular detail, which influences an idea for his art. “You see that gannet flying overhead or a stingray swimming under your board, or the way the rocks look when the swell hits them and then go ‘oh yeah I should draw that’.” For Greg the ocean is a constant source of inspiration, influencing where he lives, his art, family and surf.
“The ocean gives you so much, it’s always there and always changing. Just seeing the sea makes you feel relaxed and happy. I could never be landlocked.”
Greg bought his first surfboard when he was 11 for 10 bucks.
“I remember I spray painted it red and silver with flames on it. The first surf , I snapped it. But I was so goddamn hooked”.
Recently Greg has switched to a twin fin with a Rasta graphic and it’s changed his attitude towards surfing. Now every time he goes out he is frothing again, like that kid with flames sprayed on his board.
Greg often juggles a busy work schedule with surfing. He shared a story where he committed to getting out of bed early, battled the temptation for more shut eye and made it to Piha. “It was grey, dark, and raining and I was so keen to hit snooze but I pushed myself to go. I had to smile on the way out there as the cars were grid locked on the other side of the road heading into town and I had a clear run with my board in the back. It felt like I was finally living the dream. It was an absolutely stunning morning, 2-3 feet, offshore and uncrowded. After the surf I grabbed a coffee at the Piha Cafe and I was speaking to the dude working there and said I pushed myself to come out, but better get back to work, and he said “At least you did it man, you are a bloody legend!” and I left with a smile on my face.” As Greg grows older he has realised how special getting out for a surf is and how it makes you live in the moment more.