From Pro Surfer to Art Director, Meet Ben Brough, Painter

The Huntington Beach native had wanted to be an artist since grade school, a dream he held onto even while pursuing a career as a professional surfer. Now settled in Costa Mesa, the 35-year-old artist divides his time between being the men’s marketing art director for surf manufacturer O’Neill, and making figurative paintings in his home studio. He displays some of his artwork on his blog, “Lonely Slider,” a name that reflects his lifelong love of surfing. “The name sounds sad. ‘Oh no one surfs with me. I don’t have any friends.’ It’s not really like that. When on a wave, you’re riding it by yourself.”

From ages 17 to 25, you were paid to travel the world and surf. How did that influence your art? I kept my eyes open to see different cultures and meet other artists. I would do a couple of paintings and leave them there, or sell them. I kept journals. Wherever I went, I would pick up a little piece of that place and it would become a part of me.

Do you see a distinction between your day job and your fine-art career? It’s all about staying creative, just in different mediums. After sitting at a desk all day, it’s nice to come home and throw paint around. At O’Neill, it’s about conveying messages, color placement, and composition; with paintings, it’s more loose and free, and it doesn’t need to have a message. I love graphic design and I love painting—for me it’s more about color and feeling and space.

What’s the meaning of the “33” on all your paintings? It’s my initials, BB—I don’t draw lines on my Bs. I started signing paintings like that more than 20 years ago and it almost becomes part of piece. After I started doing it, I noticed 33 popping up everywhere; it kind of creeped me out for a while.

Photographs by Jen Rosenstein

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue.

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