Wade Koniakowsky, one of the nation’s leading ocean-inspired artists, began painting at the age of six and started surfing before he was 12. By blending these two passions, he has gained worldwide recognition for his oil paintings and earned himself the unofficial title of the coolest artist in town. Recently, we sat down with Wade—our neighbor and current artist in residence—to find out why he made the career jump from advertising to painting, how he stays inspired and the one scene he could paint for the rest of his life.
BIXBY & BALL: You started in advertising and had quite a notable career, with the opportunity to lead campaigns for many Fortune 500 companies and powerful brands — what made you transition into painting?
WADE KONIAKOWSKY: The "Dotcom Boom" (1995-2001) was a very profitable era for advertising agencies. When it ended abruptly, my agency like many others was reorganizing and my job as creative director was not so creative. It was a period of dealing with non-stop "business realities". So I began painting at night as an outlet. Within a couple of years I decided I wanted to paint for a living.
BB: What artist or genre are you most inspired by?
WK: Probably California Impressionism. This art movement got my attention years before I started making my living in art. I love both the early California impressionists and the contemporary painters.
BB: How has it influenced your own work?
WK: California is magical in so many ways. I'm particularly drawn to the 840 miles of coastline. California attracted outdoor painters beginning just before the turn of the 20th century with its sunshine, variety of landscapes, and incredible natural resources. These artists developed a tradition which continues to this day—spending time outdoors, amazed at the beauty and putting it on canvas.
BB: You paint beautiful and vivid local scenes that evoke a powerful sense of place — what are your favorite locations to paint?
WK: My favorite areas are San Diego North County Coastal. These are the areas that I see and interact with every day and so I can catch the nuances more readily. Other San Diego spots such as the coast of La Jolla are also very inspiring. Hanalei Bay is my favorite tropical locale to paint.
BB: How do you stay inspired?
WK: I do the hard work of marketing (the business side) during the day and I paint at night. I look forward to my evening painting throughout the day. It makes for a long day but it ends with a rich reward.
BB: From concept to completion, what is your painting process?
WK: Start with beauty. What is compelling and beautiful to people? What would they want to live with? Now find the intersection of that and what inspires me. With this you can create paintings that have demand and you can do it with passion. The rest is disciplined application of fundamentals—keep it clear and simple. I always examine what I'm doing and where I'm going. I try not to be arrogant and work in a vacuum, but be open to how people engage with my work and the feedback I get from my collectors and fellow artists.
BB: Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, what?
WK: Jazz is probably the most inspiring and most commonly played when I paint. I've painted dozens of pieces to Miles Davis' KIND OF BLUE.
BB: What is the one scene you could paint over and over for the rest of your life?
WK: South Pacific Islands such as Fiji and Tahiti could keep me occupied for quite a while.
ART BUYING GUIDE
Buying art is often an emotional decision and one we can’t always explain—after all, it’s through the lens of our own life experience that we interpret creative expression. Even so, there are some things to keep in mind when looking for your next piece to ensure it’ll be one you’ll want to keep looking at for many years to come.
Get to know your style
Art is an opportunity to express your personality in a unique and meaningful way, not only to yourself but also to those you welcome into your home and will ultimately affect the mood and atmosphere of your space. Taking time to consider the scenes and subject, methods and mediums you are drawn to most will allow you to select art that truly reflects your style. Don’t worry if you find that you have an eclectic taste and like a wide range of art forms and styles—that’s all part of the fun!
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