With the recent Woman Of The Water campaign, I took a moment to reflect and appreciate what Mama Ocean has done for me. She has taken me to some very special people and places. She has given me inspiration to express myself through my artwork. She has helped me escape a spiral of depression and anxiety. She has taught me to appreciate my body for what it can do, after years of self-destructive thoughts and disordered behaviours, because I only focused on what my body looked like. The Ocean has taught me perseverance, humility and acceptance.
I never realised my reliance on the ocean until a year ago. I realised the only way I could fall asleep was to think of surfing. The constant thought of surfing allowed my brain to relax and focus on one thing, and one thing only. (kind of like counting sheep I guess haha). It does the same effect to me in the water. So many things happen on land and in our lives. We are always trying to control things, our future and outcomes of things mostly out of our control. The ocean can never be controlled, you will always be at its mercy and thats the thrill of it. Some people think about life when floating and waiting for a set, I think about nothing. I soak in all that nothingness and those are the times I am happiest.
My name is Zee and I am a self-taught artist.
Four years ago, after graduating, travelling and working, I left my home in The Netherlands and moved to Australia to visit one of my best friends and to reconnect with my creative side. I then travelled to Lombok, Indonesia to make one of my dreams come true; learning to surf.
On this little island, I clearly remember the realisation of finally feeling at peace. I didn’t feel like I had to be somebody else or hold myself back in any way. I didn’t look in a mirror for three weeks, I barely touched my phone and I was learning, trying, falling and trying again. I was HAPPY. And perhaps because I was not looking for any romance at all - I was too busy focusing on learning to surf all day - I fell in love for the first time.
After a year of doing long distance, I packed my bag once again and moved to Lombok. For the following three unforgettable years, I lived ‘the simple life’ with my partner. In a small wooden cabin on the hill surrounded by lush jungle, overlooking the bay where we surfed almost every day. I managed a cafe, worked as a surf photographer and surfboard artist at the same time to get by. I had my little crew of motivating surf sisters and brothers whom I experienced some magical sessions with.
It wasn’t all picture perfect though; the 'road' in the village turned into a mud bath during monsoon season, it often rained in our bed, we had cockroaches, snakes, rats and monkeys as pets, dealt with long power cuts and the first year and a half there was no internet, to name a few examples... It was raw, real, rough, but exciting. I felt alive.
Through my job at Lombok’s first shaping bay where I learnt surfboard glassing and did lots of custom surfboard art, I became obsessed with a new medium that I wanted to explore: resin. I was seeing the ocean's textures in everything around me, and had a strong urge to try and recreate them.
Being on local Indo wages, spending a ton of money on anything other than food, petrol and transport to the surf spots wasn’t really an option. But for some reason there was this raging adrenaline in my gut that told me to go for it. I spent my year's salary to invest in materials. Half of it then got ruined due to the humid climate and Indonesian Customs. I was broke and had to borrow money to pay for my health insurance when I was 26 years old... (thanks mum!)
At the time I was the only one on the island trying this type of art; there was nobody to ask for advice, no art stores, not even a factory that sold the wood that I needed to make painting panels. The closest city was a three-hour drive and had very limited options. I had confused locals laugh at me on a daily basis when I tried to explain my plan. So in the end I had to import everything from overseas, and it took nine months to arrive because the unpaved 'road' I lived on didn't have a street name. I accidentally covered my bedroom floor in resin, almost set my wooden house on fire and I wasted hundreds of pounds experimenting with this medium to find the techniques and textures that I wanted to achieve.
But I just could not stop.
Besides resin, a big love of mine is turning surfboards and skate decks into "Rideable Art". Working for Banyu Surfboards in Lombok gave me the perfect platform to express myself by doing custom designs on their boards. I can spend hours getting lost in little details, blending colours and painting florals.
My resin art on the other hand, teaches me to let go of control and perfectionism, because usually the unplanned sections turn out to be my favourite. Resin is a crystal clear and free-flowing liquid, creating depth in solid form. Layering textures and colours and observing the chemical reactions that occur during the process, make the time and my surroundings disappear... kinda like surfing does.
In June this year I had my first exhibition in Perth, Australia and I have recently made a new base in Cornwall, UK where I can give my art my full attention and keep surfing.
My partner Anthony’s (under)water surf photography: @MYEYESWONTDRY