Jonas Claesson – Surf Artist

A Q and A by Alex Whitbread

Jonas Claesson, otherwise known by his pseudonym ‘Jonas Draws’, is a surf artist, and an extremely unique and talented one at that. Originally from Stockholm, Sweden, he now resides on Australia’s sunny Gold Coast. Consequently, Jonas’ work draws inspiration from his new home in Australia and his Scandinavian roots. His colourful, aesthetically pleasing drawings combine and eclectic mix of wildlife, from polar bears to seals, with surfing and the surf lifestyle. Jonas’ individual trademark style is instantly recognisable, and is often achieved using digitally coloured imagery which is both striking and vibrant.

Jonas’ C-Skins artwork – ‘Polar Bear Surfari’

Alex: Can you tell me about growing up in Sweden; which part are you from?  What was it like to grow up there?

Jonas: It was awesome. I grew up in a place called Saltsjöbaden outside of Stockholm. Very close to the ocean and big forests, did a lot of running, orienteering and skiing.

Alex: Did you surf there?

Jonas: There are a couple of surf spots about an hour drive south and north of Stockholm, but that came later when I was about 15. You can get it really good, but you have to be good at timing the elements. There are no long period groundswells, mostly wind generated short period stuff, but sometimes you get lucky.

Alex: What is your earliest memory of surfing?

Jonas: I remember first getting hooked on surfing after reading a summer issue of the magazine Åka Skidor. 10 pages were dedicated to beautiful images and stories of the North Shore and there was something about it that sucked me in…

I first tried surfing on a language course to Guernsey when I was15, and got hooked on it, the ocean, the anticipation of good waves, the smell of wax, I liked all of it, and still do!

Alex: Do your parents surf? Did they influence you in starting? If not then what did?

Jonas: Definitely not! But we did a lot of skiing, hiking, sailing and outdoor activities from a young age. I got a love for the outdoors from them for sure.

Alex: Why did you move to Australia? 

Jonas: I moved down to the Gold Coast in 2002. My good friend Camilo who I went to Portugal with earlier went down 6 months before me, and I joined him down there. It was a way for us to combine surfing with studying at the university. It was a great time, we lived in a nice old house, 6 surf hungry Swedes and an Aussie under one roof, right by the beach – good times!

For 2 years I’ve lived in Freshwater on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Freshwater is a beautiful place, just north of Manly. It has a nice community feeling to it, a fun beach break nestled in between two beautiful cliffs. There are also some great little coffee shops, bars and restaurants.

Alex: What is your daily routine?

Jonas: Right now I am travelling on the way to Galicia for a week of surfing from Sweden, so no routine…

When I’m in Australia I wake up really early most days, feed the cats – you have to feed the cats before doing anything else, otherwise they go nuts. Actually, they are probably the reason I am up early in the first place.

Then down to the beach here in Freshwater, usually with my girlfriend Steph, check the surf and drink coffee. If the surf is good, I surf, otherwise back home and start working…

Work is a mixture of drawing just for fun, drawing for clients, working on online stuff and general things like emails. I keep an eye on the surf cams, and if it looks clean I probably go for a surf at some stage. I am always on the look out for small clean waves and have the most fun when the Bower (Fairy Bower) is small, uncrowded and clean.

Alex: What does being creative mean to you?

Jonas: Figuring out ways to live the life you want to live and do what you want to do in different ways. Solving problems in non-generic ways. Coming up with clever, simple ways of communicating ideas or views on life that we all share.

Alex: Were you arty as a kid?

Jonas: I have been drawing for as long as I remember. I stopped for a couple of years here and there. In the beginning mostly knights, warriors and stuff like that… Always did extra art classes in school and after school. I also did 1 year of art school in Stockholm full time, which was awesome.

Alex: Why do you do what you do?

Jonas: That’s a tricky question. I see it more like I have this opportunity to do this, which I love, and I have to take the opportunity and see how it goes while giving it my best.

Alex: Can you describe the first time you realised that being creative is something that you had to do?

Jonas: I am not sure if it is something that I feel that I have to do, more something that I am fortunate enough to do and spend my time doing. I have had a lot of jobs that I would not describe as very creative.

‘Blood Aurora’ – Jonas Claesson

Alex: What influences your work?

Jonas: Everything around me, things I see in real life, views, photography, pretty much everything… Recently I have spent some time in the Swedish Archipelago on a island called Möja, where there are lots of beautiful old style fishing boats and I took a lot of photos of them to use for later inspiration.

Alex: What processes, tools and materials do you use?

Jonas: I usually sketch things out with a pencil, then use ink pens for all black/ white stuff. I am testing out a lot of different ink pens, but I think I have found my favourites now. When I do colour stuff it is a mix between Copic markers, water colour and Photoshop/ illustrator tweaking.

I’m looking forward to play around more with water colour. I never know how it is going to come out, and it usually ends up being something completely different from what I had in mind, which is fun.

Alex: What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Jonas: I find that the only thing that works is to just sit down and start drawing. The worst thing, I find is to wait for inspiration to kick in, or for an idea to come, because it always happens when I sit down and draw.

Alex: What’s is your favourite thing you have created?

Jonas: Maybe a piece called Searching – Part 2.

‘Searching – Part 2’ – Jonas Claesson

Alex: What are you trying to convey/communicate with your art?

Jonas: I used to say nothing; but when I think more about it, I think my new answer is the way I look at the ocean, surfing and life.

Alex: Which creative medium would you like to pursue but haven’t yet?

Jonas: Animation, and really large pieces.

Alex: What’s the best advice you’ve been given about being creative?

Jonas: That it’s just about sitting down and doing the work, rather than waiting to get inspired first.

Alex: Is there a single focus with your art, or is it eclectic? i.e. are there many different areas within the art world which interest/influence you?

Jonas: I like a lot of abstract art, water colour landscapes, photography and film.

Alex: How did you get involved with C-Skins?

Jonas: The Technical Director Mark reached out about 2 years ago and wanted to talk about distributing some of my stuff in the UK. We kept talking and last summer I visited in Cornwall.

Alex: What was the concept/idea behind the C-Skins artwork?

Jonas: Since I started surfing in cold water I’ve felt connected to the whole cold water scene, and what is colder than a polar bear surfari? That was the thinking behind it.

Alex: Have you ever worn a C-Skins suit? If so, what do you think?

Jonas: Yeah I have. It’s honestly the best suit I’ve ever had. Wear it all the time, including this morning surfing a point break called Campelo in Galicia. Brought it from Australia where I use it all winter.

Alex: What are your future plans with art and surfing?

Jonas: Just to keep having fun with it!

Photo credits – Gap Photography, Josh Moods and Jonas Claesson