By Diane Y. Welch
Fine artist Wade Koniakowsky believes in giving back to the community where he surfs and paints.
Through the Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery, in which he has a partnership with photographer Aaron Chang, the two are sponsoring an ocean art contest to benefit the Oceanside chapter of Stand Up For Kids, a nonprofit that aids homeless children.
San Diego-based youths, 18 and under, and in school, may submit ocean-inspired art for the contest. Proceeds from their $10 entry fees will directly benefit the charity, said Koniakowsky. Entries, which should be done online, will be accepted until the end of the day, Friday, March 18.
The winner for photography will have a field shoot with Chang, while the winner in the art/mixed-media category will spend a day of creating art on location with Koniakowsky. There will be runner-up prizes and the winning art will be reproduced and exhibited at the gallery, which is located at 415 South Cedros Ave. in Solana Beach. A formal reception will be held at the gallery on April 2, from 6-7 p.m.
A former commercial artist and co-owner of a successful ad agency, which he decided to leave in 2004, Koniakowsky left the corporate world and directed his energy to follow his dual passions: a love of painting and a love of surfing.
Now he is world renowned for his distinctive surfboard art which is greatly influenced by Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. In keeping with his philanthropy, several of his pieces have been donated to benefit nonprofits: the California Surf Museum, the Surfing Heritage Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, the International Surfing Museum and more.
His surfboards may be found incorporated into the decor of Billabong stores, and his designs recreated on apparel and footwear. Past commissions include a painted surfboard for the Los Angeles office of the Tahiti Tourism Board.
This year, Koniakowsky will create his distinctive montage art on a replica of a 50/50 surfboard for the 50th anniversary of Don Hansen’s Encinitas-based Surfboard and Surf Shop. “It will celebrate Hansen’s as an icon of North County coastal culture,” said Koniakowsky, who has already created several anniversary T-shirt designs that are carried in Hansen’s store.
Koniakowsky’s signature artwork can often be seen in movies, television shows and at such international surf competitions as the World Longboarding Championships and ROXY -sponsored surf events. Because of this international exposure, his surfboards have become highly collectible. Dick Brewer, renowned for his classic big wave boards, became a collector when he and Koniakowsky collaborated on a project. Troy Polamalu, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is also an avid collector.
Koniakowsky has clients in Florida, Puerto Rico, and in the U.S. from coast to coast, while his work is exhibited in 17 galleries in Hawaii.
In May, Koniakowsky will travel to Brazil to exhibit his work at an art festival held jointly in Rio and then San Paulo. Sponsored by Alma Surf Magazine, the event attracts thousands of people, he said.
Yet despite a rigorous travel schedule, Koniakowsky still finds time to teach and plans to do more. “I really want to expand the educational outreach at the gallery,” he said. On Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m., Koniakowsky gives painting demonstrations at the Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery, and once a quarter teaches an introduction to landscape painting for adults at the Pacific Surf Gallery in Cardiff.
To learn more about Wade Koniakowsky’s art or to enter the Stand Up For Kids art contest, visit www.aaronchangoceanart.com