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Surfboard art takes canvas from water to wall

ENCINITAS — “Working the boards” sounds like a dancing term. But if you’re referring to Toyota Carlsbad’s Assistant Service Manager Paul Dolan, you’d be talking about surfboards and art. That’s because he likes to combine both.
“I paint surfboards that go up on walls,” Dolan said. “You could still surf on them when I’m done, but for the money people pay for them, most people would rather just hang them on their walls.”
His highly decorative surfboards start at about $1,500 and take as much as two months to complete. “The project I’m working on now is taking three months. That’s because it’s a triptik mural — three boards together making up one mural.”
Dolan, who’s been interested in art since he was very young, admits he has had no professional training, but that did not dissuade him from carefully studying the techniques of other artists. “What got me started on the boards was the art of Drew Brophy out of San Clemente,” Dolan said. “He does surfboard art too, and it’s amazing!” After looking at some of Brophy’s work and becoming fascinated with his colors and technique, Dolan received a paint and pen set from his fiancé. It’s been a go ever since.
Also a tattoo artist, Dolan said it’s easier to work with the pens than with airbrushes. “Airbrushing is just too tedious,” he said. “Before you even start, you have to get the compressor going, then you have to get this and that, and the needles are always getting clogged, so you have to change them. Pens are much less work.”
Born and raised on the east side of Escondido, but now living in Encinitas, Dolan said his artistic interests began with cartooning. “In second grade, we had a book in our class by an artist that showed many of the cartoons he drew. I looked at this book and found myself copying his style and technique. Later, my mom got me a kit that also showed how to draw cartoons. After that, I found I could replicate just about any cartoon I saw.”
Over the subsequent years, Dolan experimented with various other styles and techniques. “Eventually, I gravitated into darker art forms, including graffiti art.”
That’s also when he became interested in tattoos as an art form. “My cousin had been a tattoo artist for something like 10 years,” Dolan said. “I’d sit for hours watching him do tattoos. That’s how many tattoo artists learn their trade. They become apprentices to experts until they’re skilled enough to do it on their own. Right now, I do tattoos only as a hobby, but in the past, I’ve worked for a while in a tattoo shop.”
An avid surfer since he was very young, Dolan did his first surfboard when a friend showed him a board with some jellyfish spray-painted on it. “I thought the board was kind of lame, so I asked him if he would give it to me to see what I could do with it,” Dolan said. “Afterwards, I gave the finished board to my friend’s son, whose birthday was coming up. He absolutely adores it.”
Most of the boards he receives to resurrect as art are either damaged boards or hand-me-downs. “So most of them aren’t in the best condition for surfing, but it does make them perfect for wall art,” he said.
Eventually, Dolan would like to see his art on other items, as well — shirts, hats, stickers, posters and even toilet seats. Yep, you read that right. “A friend and I are seriously thinking about trying to decorate toilet seats,” he said. “I know this sounds crazy, but like many artists, I want to spread my artistic talents across several platforms. This way if one doesn’t do well, I can always try to make my fortune off another.” Which is what Dolan hopes to do some day with his own art company.

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