Tawny Frogmouth Interview
This month we caught up with Stockholm-born Surf Rat, Jonas Claesson, the Freshwater Swede whose silky smooth Longboarding Moose has become a global sensation and graces this issue’s cover with the soulful style that’s made him a star.
How did you end up in Australia? Sweden’s not the best place to live if all you want to do is surf. When I found out about a friend who’d moved to the Gold Coast to complete his studies, while surfing all the time between lectures, I got over here as fast as I could!
What did you study?First, in Stockholm, I completed a year at art school, studying photography, oil painting, graphic art. It was really cool. But then I completed a Bachelor of Product Design at Griffith University.
Were you able to get a job after completing that course?Yes, with Billabong, in product design. It’s lucky I got that job. My student visa was running out quickly and I didn’t want to leave, but it was a great job too, working alongside incredibly talented people.
How did your online presence start? Instagram was in its early days. I had a hard drive with ten years of drawings I could share, so I did. They got traction pretty quickly. People really liked them.
Were they a similar style to now, animals surfing, nature focused?Yes, I’m not sure where the inspiration first came from, but about 15years ago I started painting animals doing activities I like doing - surfing, camping, hiking. And it was actually some work for H&M, when I lived in Sweden, I drew a bear holding a surfboard. That was the start, a light bulb moment in two respects. H&M liked the whole concept of portraying animals doing human activities, which was great, but with their reach, how they could show my artwork in so many stores and the fact it was popular with so many people around the world, that gave me confidence, knowing there was for sure an audience out there who enjoyed what I was creating.
Where did the inspiration for the Moose first come from?My style of artwork, I like to create big landscapes, paintings where nature is the main element. So, with the moose being made recognisable so well by the antlers, it allows me to create a big landscape and still showcase the moose in all its glory while only requiring a very small amount of the overall image and to do so with some really fine drawing, creating a good contrast with the vastness of the rest of the image.
You’ve written some books?I have a children’s book, “The Surfing Animals Alphabet”, which is the A-Z of all sorts of animals surfing. I’m also writing two more this year. One is a collaboration with my Japanese business partner, about Zen Buddhism. The other, it stars the three animals I draw most – a moose, a bear and a wolf - they go on an epic surf adventure. It starts at a classic point break, but the surf gets massive and they all break their boards charging the huge waves. A turtle turns up, in his turtle vehicle, and offers to take them to a huge mushroom oasis where they can get their boards fixed, but that journey takes them on a snow and skiing adventure too.
Sounds amazing! Lock me in a signed copy! Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?Draw and publish your work every day, no matter if it’s good or bad. Build that discipline, commit to that schedule. That way you can’t procrastinate. Inspiration doesn’t come from thin air. It comes when you sit at the desk and focus.
Do you have a suitably pretentious quote to finish on?Nature doesn’t hurry. Everything’s accomplished.