Sunshine Coast Artist, Scott Denholm, was pretty surprised when he got a random call from David Happekotte, the International Art Director for surf/skate company, Vans, about eighteen months ago.

Happekotte revealed that they had been following Scott’s work for some time and indicated they wanted him to create the official artwork that would be used on the posters and merchandise  for the 2018 Vans World Cup of Surfing.  Scott was commissioned to capture the mystique of Sunset in a manner which reflected his own distinctive painting style, but also stayed true to the legacy of the fabled wave. Not an easy assignment when you are talking about one of the most iconic breaks in surfing; a location that conjures up all kinds of different images and emotions.

Scott Denholm's poster work for the Vans World Cup of Surfing.

Fortunately, Scott is an avid surfer and had witnessed Sunset in full-cry. “I was there in 2012,” he recalls. “There was a 30ft swell and I remember sitting there in awe… I’ve definitely been there and felt that.”

After receiving a very specific brief, Scott sourced some additional photographic material, channelled the feelings from his Sunset experience and set about painting on the patio of his Moffat beach home. After three goes at it and a few discussions with Vans, Scott finally produced the image, which now graces the posters, hats and boardshorts associated with this year’s Vans World Cup of Surfing.

Official Merch': Colourful boardies with a Sunset Beach motif.

For an artist who typically paints on linen and hemp canvases and describes his work as ‘contemporary ocean art’ it was certainly exciting to see one of his paintings reproduced for a different purpose.

“It looks sick,” he says excitedly over the phone. “I didn’t think something I painted could look so good on a trucker cap.”

Some of you are probably wondering if Scott’s colourful interpretation of Sunset earned him a stack of George Washingtons. “It was a very decent pay packet for a single piece of art,” chuckles Scott, going on to explain that he received a one-off payment that took into account past sales of merchandise sold in association with the event.

The money helped Scott swap the patio at home for a proper studio and further commit to his ecologically conscious art approach, which involves working with non-toxic paints and materials. Scott explains that he uses hydro-acrylic paints and works on linen or hemp canvasses because they are far less damaging to the environment than cotton, which is associated with bleaching, additional water usage and significantly lower yield for a crop.

“Linen is also what many of the masters used,” suggests Scott. “If it’s good enough for them I’ll get on it too.”

A different lineup painted in Scott's distinctive style.

Scott came to his environmental convictions via an interesting route. Back in 2006 he got a job as the social media manager for Australia Zoo in Beerwah Queensland. It was a helter skelter introduction for Scott as the week he started the job the zoo’s founder, Steve Irwin, was killed by a stingray. While the unexpected tragedy weighed heavily on Steve’s family and the staff, Scott soon found that being around the animals and the handlers at the zoo really made him think consciously about the impact of his actions on wildlife and the environment. “Once you’re in that lifestyle everything you do sort of falls into line,” explains Scott.

While Scott won’t be travelling to Hawaii to check out the Vans World Cup, he recently completed a trip around Australia seeking out ocean settings, which inspire him to get behind the easel and paint. For Scott the parts of the Oz coast where turquoise reef-waters, lap against the red desert were particularly striking.  

An ocean curl bends alluringly on one of Scott's linen canvases.

For now, Scott is happy to spend his time on the Sunshine Coast, surfing in the mornings and painting during the day. “I love seeing the morning light through the waves,” he enthuses. “Light on the water is probably the most important thing.” However, while art’s intrinsic rewards are enough to nourish his zeal, Scott concedes he is very much looking forward to the box of Vans merchandise featuring his work that is due to show up in the mail soon.