Monday, January 31, 2011

Special Feature: Surf Artist Fernanda O'Connell "Surfing keeps me interested in painting"

Surf and Seascape Artist Fernanda O'Connell grew up in Sao Paulo in Brazil and now surfs the oceans of the world. With her art she captures moments and perspectives of the ocean that are quite unique. Currently she surfs, paints and is preoccupied with issues that affect Indonesia and its people. With tradeyourtalent she speaks about growing up in the chaotic city of Sao Paulo, being one of the first females to bodysurf, why painting keeps her surfing and how she raises awareness for the critical conditions of the oeans. 

What was it like growing up in Sao Paulo in Brazil?

Growing up in Sao Paulo was intense. It is such a big chaotic city! I am part of a big family that is really close. Even though we lived on the city, my uncles owned a boat and we used to get to the beach very often and from a very young age I knew deep in my spirit that I was going to leave Sao Paulo and travel the world in search of waves, different cultures and a seaside lifestyle.

Why did you start surfing?

My older cousins were surfers and they were my heroes, they meant the world to me and introduced me to the surf and music. Back then stand up surfing wasn't that big for females but bodyboarding was starting to appear and somehow females in Brazil took to the sport. I was 10 or 11 then, when I travelled to the States and got my first Match 7-7 bodyboard.

When did you start doing surf art, what does it mean to you?

I always dabbled into drawing. My mum thought I would become an architect... But when I started travelling around Australia, Indonesia and particularly the Canary Islands I felt the need to draw the seascapes. I was so attracted to drawing and painting waves and that was back in 98. When I settled in Ulladulla I went to an art teacher to teach me the skills to use the paint brush and realised early on the importance to find my style and signature brushstroke so that my work could become recognisable. The recognition for my work grew very quickly and I guess it is a blessing to be able to make a living painting a subject that has been my passion, the ocean. Painting waves keep me interested in surfing, and surfing keeps me inspired to paint!

Your art is really unique. Have you met other artists/surfers doing this? What do you think your connection is?

Thank you, I appreciate it! Through generic websites such as and artists get a chance to become aware of other surf artists. I got a chance to meet Jay Alders in Brazil at the Festival Alma Surf which is an artist I really appreciate, and Erick Wilson which is an amazing environmentalist. My latest trip to Hawaii I got to meet Jennifer Prince, Mark Daniels and Patrick Parker which was really nice. And of course, because of the internet I keep in touch with fellow brazilian artists and a fair few european artists.

Is surfing a form of art to you ?

Surfing is surely a form of art. It requires a lot of practice and perseverance to perfect your surfing. I believe creativity is very much a part of surfing as a surfer performs the manouvers in a wave.

What is your favorite place to surf?

I will always have a heart for Indonesia. The arquipelago of the Mentawaii Islands have endless world class breaks. I love the romance of arriving on a uncrowded surf spot and jumping out of the boat and surf all day! But I also love the breaks around my home,  especially Ulladulla Bommie.

The oceans are endangered.  Do you think your art can help to protect them  ? 

I have been involved with Surfrider Foundation through the invitation of the Malibu Boardriders in California for the last 2 years and been personally preoccupied with the issues that affect Indonesia and its people and donated to SurfAid. I would like more and more to collaborate with such organisations, donating and raising awareness of the critical conditions we now face.

                                                         For more on Fernanda  visit: 


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