We took a Day Off with artist, surfer and shaper, Mitch King, in his hometown of Oceanside, CA. Read along as we chat with Mitch about all the things you want to know about good people doing good things.
Mitch, what are you up to right now?
Currently sipping on a beer and cutting a check to the DMV. Man this state is getting expensive..
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?
I'm from San Diego born and raised, living in Carlsbad at the moment, which isn't so bad. I work over at Christenson / Moonlight Glassing which is a surfboard factory out in San Marcos. When I have some free time I paint and design things here and there...
How long have you been surfing for, and what got you started?
I think I started surfing around the fourth grade. My mom grew up surfing in Pacific Beach and my pops is a really good bodysurfer who grew up in La Jolla, so naturally, I just fell into it.
How did you get connected with Christenson?
So my mom grew up surfing in PB as well as her brother, who was a really good knee boarder, and Skip Frye had been shaping boards for them since the 70's. So as a kid I grew up being down at Skip's shop all the time. He'd always let me ride his fiberflex skateboards in the back of the shop and I would see Chris back there not really knowing who he was because I was just a kid. At the time Chris had a shaping space right across the way from Skip. So my folks met him through Skip, then fast forward six or seven years, my dad ran into him in Cardiff and he asked my dad if I needed a job. My pops said shit yeah he does and so I started working for him in high school.
What sparked your interest in working with a shaper?
I suppose I always looked up to shapers. I saw early on through Skip, and then through Chris, the craftsmanship that goes into making a board. There's a rich history in surfboard making and I wanted to learn as much as I could and I still am. Also, I saw that I didn't have to sit behind a desk at a certain time everyday. There's a bit a freedom that goes along with it.
What kind of boards have you been riding lately and what’s been getting you excited?
I've been diving into my folks old stash of Frye's lately. Been riding a lot of longer, glider type boards, 10-11 footers. They're so much fun its hard to put em' down. I also just shaped a noserider for myself so we'll see how that goes.
How long have you been making art?
I've been making paintings and drawings since high school. But it wasn't until I had fucked up my hip surfing and eventually had to get surgery on it about seven years ago, that I had the time to really start diving into art more. I had a short stint in the Forest Service doing wild land firefighting, but after that injury I had quit the Forest Service because hiking that much was out of the question and so I made a decision to try and start putting my art out there more.
How would you describe your art and it’s influences?
That's a tough question, I guess I would describe them as abstracts. I don't like to think of them as mandala's, even though some might call them that, just because mandalas are these ancient, sacred designs that many people use as a form of meditation. When I paint these it is relaxing, but it's mostly a test of my patience and takes a lot of concentration and wouldn't concentration be the opposite of meditation? I don't know, but I was always really into the aboriginal art from Australia, as well as Pollock and Rick Griffin, just to name a couple inspirations. I love all the earth tones the aboriginals used and their repeating dots- such a trip.
Do you think surfing influenced how you got into art?
Surfing definitely influences the type of life style I choose to live, I'm not sure it's exactly influenced my art directly though.
Did you have any mentors or artists who helped guide you along the way?
Chris has helped me out so much, bit of tough love when I was younger, making sure things were getting done the right way. He'd also taught me to be savvy in a business sense, which I'm still trying to figure out hah.. I was living with a good bud Colin Whitbread for a while too, he's a really good artist and surfer, he always encouraged me to do my thing and I thank him for that.
Most of your work seems to have a psychedelic influence, where did that stem from?
It just stemmed from how I grew up, my friends I hung out with, music I listened to, the books I read. I can't say that taking psychedelics hasn't had any affect on my art.. I always get stoked to finish a painting, step back and watch a two dimensional piece start to move and take on a 3D affect. They can have that illusion..
What message do you hope your work will convey to people?
I don't really have a message behind my work, it's pretty non objective. I like people to take from it what they will and have their own connection with it.
What’s your favorite medium?
For the paintings I mostly use acrylic, sometime's gauche. Lately I've been trying to learn as much as I can about glassing surfboards from Nainoa, Chris's laminator. He's a master at his craft and I'm just trying to be a sponge and soak up his knowledge. So I'd say as of late my favorite medium is polyurethane resin.
Did you go to school or all self taught?
I never made it to art school. I don't have anything against it, just not for me. I guess I'm enrolled at Moonlight Glassing. Between our senior laminator Gary Stuber and pin line/ airbrush wizard Peter St Pierre there's easily over 60 years of board building knowledge there. There's a lot to learn!
What excites you most about everything you do?
The constant change, there's always something new going on at the shop or in the studio so things don't get too stale.
What does an ideal day look like for you?
Tubes boobs and doobs
What’s next for you? Upcoming shows? Surf Trips? Etc
Heading down to Baja next week for a little while, there's supposed to be some swell so I'm crossing my fingers. I don't have any shows on the books right now, but I'd love to show some work at a gallery sometime this year. That's the goal at least!