Havana’s Fresh Island Seafood
1 North Lake Park Blvd.
Local spray-paint artist Gary Cleaveland admits that he has absolutely no background in art. He says his creative training mostly consists of his childhood in a punk-rock part of town where he claims “everything was covered in spray paint at some point.” Yet, he says that he was always entranced with the surf and always found himself drawing its form in notebooks, napkins and any paper he could find. Eventually, fate came calling in the form of a flier he designed, for his band with one of his trusty spray paint cans. He quickly moved onto bigger fare, creating waves that stretched over his head in paint mists of blue, white and purple. From there he developed a small enterprise called ‘Red Flag Surf Studio” and began showing his large-scale paintings all over town. His new collection is on display at Havana’s in Carolina Beach.
encore: How long have you been doing this?
Gary Cleaveland: I just started painting last year, actually. I fell into art pretty much by accident. It all started with my love of music. I play drums in a band called 458 and while we were getting ready to promote a show one day, I had this idea to make a poster to pass around town. I made it with just a piece of string and a can of spray paint. I realized right then, ”Holy cow! This might be rad!”
e: And by “this,” you mean…
GC: Art! The art world! It seems limitless.
e: Where do you get these gigantic canvases?
GC: I make them all myself. When I realized I could do that, it really opened up everything. Now I’m not limited by what is for sale in the stores. If I decide I want a canvas that is 4×8, I can just make it.
e: Where do you find inspiration?
GC: Like I said it all goes back to music. I was into music as a kid when I first got into spray paint, and it continues to influence my work now.
e: What else do you use to create these waves?
GC: It’s all spray paint. That’s all I use. It’s cool because when people see my paintings, they know who it is, and I really like that. I don’t think anyone else does this kind of thing with all spray paint. The response has been good so far.
e: What can we expect at your new show?
GC: I’m bringing over one or two pieces from the show at Carolina Beach Surf Shop, but I have a couple of news ones, too. I’m excited for the public to see them.
e: Do you have a big surfer following?
GC: I admit that I originally thought just surfers would be into it. But I just showed some work last month during Art at the Arboretum and the response was crazy! Here was this crowd, which was mostly older people, and they were just flipping out over it.
e: You didn’t think the garden crowd would dig your stuff?
GC: It was surprising. Ultimately, as long as I’m happy with the painting, I don’t care who else likes it.