Published on December 4th, 2012 | by kiwisurfmag3
Kiwi Air Brush Artist Extraordinaire
Christian Chapman: Air Brush Artist Extraordinaire and Surfboard Shaper
I grew up in Sumner, Christchurch. Our house had a view of the Southern Alps in one direction and out front we looked out upon the Sumner Bar which is one of the best waves in Christchurch. Growing up in Sumner provided me with a really laid back lifestyle. I started surfing and when I left school at sixteen Ian Thompson offered me a job as a board sprayer at his Exit Factory. I studied art at school but my pass marks weren’t that great, I found it really hard to work within the confines of the system. Once I’d worked at Exit for quite a while and had a couple of other jobs as well I decided it was time to try out living in Oz. So when I turned 23 I just had to explore that vast horizon. With the obvious drawcards world class waves and board shorts in winter!
When I arrived on the Gold Coast I found that for me it was every bit as good as I’d heard. Crazy warm water all year round , getting barrelled three times on one wave at Kirra (1996) and partying like the world was gonna end tomorrow! This was damn well heaven for me!
When I first got here I made some decisions which meant life was pretty tough. Umm I was a grommet and I lived in the moment, therefore any money I had was demolished on beer even before rent or food. So it was pretty tough until I learned to pull my head in and set a few goals to aim for.
I currently have a Surfboard factory/Art studio on the Gold Coast. I first learnt to shape at the Nev factory on the Goldy around eight years ago. Nev showed me a few things and one of his ghost shapers a guy called Bob Male taught me a lot as well. I also learned how to do channels from Al Byrne. I went on to ghost shape for JR and Fire Wire. In the past I went on to shape a lot of stockies under my own label but these days I tend to just shape custom boards for guys who turn up and want a new stick. Most of my boards are sold through word of mouth. My shapes all go to the JR factory to be glassed. There’s been quite a big down turn in the industry on the Gold Coast and while things are booming in the mines, the rest of the country is still finding it quite hard. When I set up my factory here I’d be doing in excess of fifty board sprays a week plus shaping. These days I’m doing about fifteen sprays and a few shapes but I’m concentrating on my painting to fill in the gap financially and my painting sales have really taken off.
I airbrush surfboards for twenty five companies from the Sunny Coast to Sydney. I also paint art pieces on canvas for several galleries throughout Australia. The pay is better and obviously stronger than the NZ dollar and for me and there are far more opportunities on offer here. On average I sell two or three paintings a week and the price of these range from $500.00 for a small work up to $3,500 for some larger works. I’m selling paintings all over the world now, for example just last week I sold three at the top end of my range to United States. I have a Facebook page with a huge following and its going really well. With my paintings now I use brushes to hand paint all the intricate lineal work and I use an airbrush to add the soft tonal elements.
There are still a lot of things that I miss about New Zealand – Monteiths and Speights swappa crate! The solitude and empty lineups, close contact with my wider family, Cookie Time biscuits, Akaroa fish n’ chips. But I’ll never damn well miss the 5mm wetsuits and the icy cold southerlies. So I plan to stay in Australia, the Goldy has been home now for fifteen years but I think that I’d like to maybe move down the coast somewhere a bit more laidback when I’m older.
I still and always will support the All Blacks and The Warriors. I surf way more over here than I did in New Zealand and I also surf heaps better quality waves with breaks like T.O.S, Burleigh, Currumbin, and Coolie. Even the beach breaks get epic on their day. There are some pretty solid days when me and good mate Dan Garbes will surf hell waves out the front at Nobby Beach, big peaks breaking on good banks with only a few guys out at each peak. Four feet plus tends to thin the crowds out a bit and a heap of guys will drive down to the points all the time for every surf! To cope with the crowds I tend to avoid D’bah but when places like the Super bank are firing there are times when I just have to join the sheep and if I’m lucky get a few insane barrels. A typical day off if the surfs good for me would be to hit Straddie super early and have a couple of long surfs until around lunch time or just after lunch. Then it’d be a slow cruise back down the coast and finally celebrate with a few scooners at the surf club later on with a few of my best mates!
Living and working on the Gold Coast can be hard but if you chip away at it and get yourself established the climate and the quality waves make it really worth while!