Q&A with Wade Koniakowsky

January 15, 2020

Q&A with Wade Koniakowsky


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.





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!

Have a space in mind

Narrow down your search with some basic size requirements and determine a general color palette that works well with the other decorative elements in the room.  When considering scale, bigger is better!  Even in a small space, large art will make the room feel more open and expansive.  And remember that when hanging art over a console or sofa, it should be roughly 2/3 the width of the piece of furniture. Small pieces can be used on accent wall pieces or in a consecutive series of other small pieces that can take up wall space as needed.

Love, not like

A wise woman once asked, “Does it spark joy?”  But more importantly, do you love it?  We believe that any investment in art, however small or large, should be fueled by love for the work first and foremost.  Even if you’re not collecting fine art, your collection should be filled with pieces that resonate deeply with you and leave you feeling inspired.  When you find a piece that captivates you and keeps your attention even after you’ve stopped looking at it, you’re heading in the right direction.

Hang it like a pro (or call on one)

When it comes to installation, there are a few important things to keep in mind.  Single pieces should be hung at eye level—60” from the center to the floor seems to be the magic number—or float 4-6” above a piece of furniture, such as a console or sofa.  When hanging a diptych, triptych or grid, we recommend spacing the pieces 2-3” apart for optimal visual impact.  For oversized or heavy pieces or when creating a gallery wall, it’s often worth the extra expense of hiring a professional art installer to get it right...the first time.




“Art enables us to find ourselves
and lose ourselves at the same time.”



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