We had the good fortune of connecting with Robb Havassy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robb, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I think that there is some broader truth or universal beauty or strength in my work. When I talk counsel other creatives one of the most important things I discuss with them is that their success depends on the truth and power of the work. Most importantly is some broader universal truth, beauty or power. I tell them that they must create and share and if there is “truth” people will come like animals to water. The old “Field of Dreams” quote comes to mind. “If you build it they will come.” So with my own art and creative I believe that that “essence” of truth in some sort is readily apparent to others. People have always reacted to my creations in a way that is authentic and positive. I often hear from those who are confronted with my work that it connects with them and makes them “feel” something. That’s key for any creative to be able to turn a hobby into a career. And that’s pretty much what I’ve done. I have created things that have power, relevance or beauty and have shared them in all sorts of way. I have created fine art, Tshirts and apparel, sandals, skateboards, surfboards, books, films and so much more. My work has attracted collectors as well as companies who have been attracted to what I’ve made. That attraction has open doors and created pathways for me and my brand to flourish and grow. The reality however is that even with that “success” and appeal, my brand and my art are a means to survive. Rarely do living artist ever really become truly financially independent always and forever. Unlike so many more traditional commercial brands that are based more on real needs of the public, art has always existed outside of that real commercialism and thereby not necessarily ground in any strong financial basis for support and income. More over the industries that have historically help support my art, the surf and action sport industry in particular, have declined and almost been decimated over the past decade, so my survival and brand has fallen on my hustle and flow and again, the truth in the things that I create and their appeal to many who are exposed or introduced to it. The truth and authenticity of my creative voice, plus my hustle and willingness to try to do things that others can’t or haven’t and push my own fear away and attempt to do extraordinary things have been the core of my ability to survive and evolve my work and brand. That sort of achievement in just about any other career field would typically net solid financial stability. But with many in the creative field, especially any directly related to fine art, all that being extraordinary usually gets you is the ability to survive. It’s quite a reality check.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When people ask about my art and what I do, I tell them, “Pretty much everything.” I know that sounds a little broad but it’s a lot simpler that giving them the this long and still incomplete list: I make paintings and drawing, I curate huge group art shows, I make massive art and story books, I design apparel, I shape and paint surfboards, I’m a chef, a photographer, a filmmaker. With all that “creative” there is still more. Much of what I am known for and most proud of with my work and art is that it is as diverse as I am. I create things based on my passions and moods, so I am constantly working in multiple media and subject matters and styles. I am really good at multi tasking and extremely efficient with my time. I paint and create very fast. The secret to this is really that I don’t try to be “perfect.” I’m a 96% kinda guy, which to me means that I don’t spend a ton of time trying to find or make something that is perfect. It can happen…that perfect creation…or at least something that “feels” perfect…something that needs nothing else and is great exactly how it is. I relish in those realizations. But with everything else, I am really good at creating things fast and being able to walk away from them before they suck me in and become obsession. I watched so many artist struggle and become tortured by this. So that’s my secret…or at least one of them. Perhaps another secret to my success is that I can create ideas or art or recipes for food or anything really, in my head. I have developed what is almost a photographic memory. It’s more like a videographic memory in that I can take something I’ve seen and then work on it and develop an idea in my mind before I have done anything overtly or physically. This has alwasy been an incredible asset in my work and career. The speed at which I can create, process, and work in my mind, helps streamline an idea or project so that when it becomes “real” or physical I can refine it quite quickly. In the end it this kind of efficiency that allows me to survive. It’s like fishing in a pond with a lot of different lines and bait. Having so many things in my arsenal gives me a better chance that something will flourish or find traction and allow me to pay my bills and take care of my family and make a life for us. Over the past 11 years since become a father, that has been my main motivation with my work and life. I now identify not as an artist, but as a dad. That’s my job #1 and the reason for everything I do now. I am dad when I wake up. I am dad all day and when I go to sleep. I wear many hats but that’s the one that gives me the fuel and motivation to push my limits and my art. It’s makes me fearless and reach beyond my comfort levels. It makes what I do to give us a life something that I must do. There is no failing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In “Covid free” times there are so many great spot in LA to visit. One of my favorites has been Griffith Park observatory. I grew up watching lazer music shows in the planetarium, featuring Pink Floyd and The Police. It has such a great view of the city from up on the hill and is such an iconic location. Another thing that would be great to share would be going to a LAker game at Staples center. There are few things more LA than the LAKERS! Another great haunt is Venice beach, which is a great hub of local culture and art. There are so many great little restaurants and galleries and the beach adjacent location makes cruising the boardwalk and seeing all the interesting street performers and creatives is as unique and iconic as LA gets. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My “shoutout” is dedicated to everyone or anyone who has ever fallen in love with something that I’ve made and found a way that they can support me, whether just in positive words or cracking open their wallets and buying a piece of art, or book, a pair of sandals or calendar or anything.
Instagram: @robbhavassy and @surfstoryproject.com
Facebook: @Havassy Art and @Surf Story Project and personal @Robb Havassy