AUGUST 2006. NEWPORT BEACH, CA..............
I am sitting here in Robb Havassy home. Robb’s
house is surrounding by what it seems, hundreds of Paintings
that is just mind blowing and never ending. I always
find something new every time I come over to his house.
I met Robb Havassy last year at the Rob’s Machado
surf festival and our friendship has grown ever since.
If you know Robb, he is living a great life surfing,
traveling and keeping busy doing what he loves to do.
Just being an artist.
CODY GRAHAM: Hey Robb, How you doing?
ROBB HAVASSY: So good!
CG: How old are you?
RH: 69 years old...well, minus 33.
CG: Where are you from and how did you end
up in Newport Beach?
RH: I'm a southern Cali boy...Born here, lived about
45 minutes inland in Arcadia for about 17 years and
then moved to Newport Beach about 20 years ago...I always
had a connection with the ocean and knew I 'd have to
live close to be happy.
CG: How long have you been an artist?
RH: I've started to understand that I always had the
soul of an artist in that I think artists , whether
they are in a creative mode or not, look at the world
as a place to express themselves. Actually I've come
to believe everybody has this essence inside them, it
just takes the right life stimulus to awaken it. I say
that as a person who didn't fully discover that creative
voice until after college in my early and mid twenties.
I can definitely see signs of it throughout my life,
but didn't recognize it as anything special...I can
definitely look back now and see the evolution and smile,
but it snuck up on me and then kinda hit me over the
head around 25 or 26...That's when i became aware of
some innate ability or understanding inside me...kinda
blew me away...from there the path was so obvious to
me, even though some people close to me were like, "you
ever heard of the starving artist?" But I just
knew that it wasn't going to take a lifetime to make
it happen. Sometimes you just gotta have faith that
life puts us in the right place at the right time and
leaves it to us to just believe. Sorry for the long
answer...actually that's still a pretty short answer
considering the whole story, which I'm kinda in awe
of. It trips me out that I've done what I've done...I
had no idea that IT was in me and now I feel more like
a passenger and an observer of what I'm going to do
next or what's just around the corner. It's pretty exciting
right now...almost overwhelming at times, but such a
gift...I 'm still talking aren't I...fuck! Short answer,
I painted my first surfboard in 1989, starting shooting
photos when I was modeling and traveling the world in
the early 1990's and seriously painting since 1996/97
when I received a $20 art kit for my 26th birthday from
two close friends.
CG: How many painting do you think you have?
RH: I've got over 1000 sketches, drawings and paintings,
plus a few hundred photos that I think are pretty cool,
and a few dozen painted surfboards.
CG: Was it natural for you in the beginning
or did u kind of have to work on it to get better?
RH: In 96' when I received the art kit for my 26th
Bday, I was like, "art kit? Wow, thanks"...what
do I do with this?...funny that they gave it to me cause
I honestly didn't know what to do with it...It was at
a time in my life that I was starting to buy nice things
for myself, as money from modeling was pretty decent,
and art was one of those things. A few months prior
to getting the art kit, I actually bought a Serigraph
from Ken Auster, which was my first significant piece.
Ironically I've never framed or even unrolled as I started
really painting myself a few months later...to this
day it remains rolled up in the closet....I just don't
have any room for it...No disrespect to Ken, who is
amazing...someday maybe I'll frame it and hang it at
my house in Mexico. Sorry, no short answer apparently...So
back to the point...basically I learned pretty quickly
and recognized that I really understood a lot about
what I was doing, but at the same time knew that what
I was doing wasn't easy for most. I more or less figured
shit out that first year, and have just played since
with no limitations about media or style...when you
live as an artist it's all about freedom and then everything
you do is basically part of being creative...surfing,
golfing, sex, cooking, painting, playing music...whatever...
And in one of those things, maybe two, I'm good enough
to do it for a living.
CG: Did somebody help you along the way or
did you do it yourself all the way? Who was your mentor?
RH: I didn't really have any mentors, but had a couple
of friends who were amazing photographers and artists
that I definitely look at as an example of what being
an artist was all about...it was basically about just
being true to themselves and just doing it. So, I guess
I've just done it my own way and didn't listen to people
who told me that you can't do it that way or you have
to do it THIS way. It was always pretty clear to me
that I was meant to do it and that was enough for me
to commit to it, rich or poor. If anything, life was
my mentor as it gave me all the inspiration I could
ask for...all the places I went and people that I met
and beautiful things that I saw...best mentor on the
CG: Tell us little about your Art show that
you just did recently? How did it go? Who were some
the celebrities that showed up?
RH: Crazy, beautiful show!...Joni Mitchell almost made
it down, but got held up in LA….that would have
been cool to see her and show her my work. Don't know
when I'll ever do one like it again as it was huge and
really took a lot out of me. Hurley was kind enough
to offer me an amazing space at their headquarters.
It's a converted warehouse that acts as a huge gallery
and studio for them. I had planned that this exhibition
was going have close to 200 pieces so I knew that I
was going to need some big white walls and enough space
to house a big crowd. The show soon grew to over 300
hundred pieces which is probably the largest solo exhibition
by any artist in Orange County history, so I had my
work cut out for me to present this sucker. Somehow
I pulled it off and blew a lot of peoples minds, including
myself. It'll be a long time before anyone sees something
like that from one artist...I'm really proud of it...maybe
as proud as anything I have ever done. There were a
few hundred people in attendance from across the spectrum...There
was an amazing eclectic energy and some sick music as
I was honored to have Kent Doonan, Iodine 69, and a
couple guest Djs destroy it musically and kept everybody
moving and groovin all night. Only bummer was that two
photographs were stolen off the wall...really unbelievable!
Though I guess I should be flattered...after Hurley
sent out a company wide announcement regarding the theft,
one of the two pieces found it's way back on the wall
a week later when I was taking down the show. Other
than that, it was incredible and one that I will never
forget. Considering that it was my first real exhibition
of my photography along with the fact that it caught
everybody by surprise was really part of what made it
such a success for me. There were some incredible photographers
there like Tom Servais and Michael Vorhees, as well
as some amazing artists and art directors from various
industry companies that were really digging my photos
and were like, "Bro, you are gnarly!' Considering
how much respect I have for them, I was probably grinning
from ear to ear, and trying to keep my head from swelling.
Best show ever! I'm going to put up a little video of
the opening night on my website soon so people can check
it all out... www.havassyart.com As far as celebrities
go, all my friends are celebrities as far as I'm concerned.
How bout superstar Cody Graham, pipe charger!
CG: Will you ever open up your own Art gallery
or what’s your take on that?
RH: For sure! That's definitely the plan. More specifically
it'll be a gallery, boutique, cafe, and lounge. It'll
be a sick place to come hang out, have meetings, a bite
to eat or something to drink, and buy some clothes or
art for your life. Definitely a total lifestyle store...What
I'm doing with my art, brand and ultimately gallery/studio
a is like Stussy meets Urban Outfitters meets any bitchin
art museum and then add a lounge atmosphere...Total
sick vibe and aesthetic. Anyone who has been to my parties
or art shows knows the vibe and the digs it...To be
able to bring that to a retail space is going to be
really special...So, right now I'm just getting all
my ducks in a row. I've been discussing the possibilities
with prospective partners as I just don't have the time
to devote to making it happen in the near future. I
so busy with making art and licensing deals and lawsuits
and trying to balance it all with trying to stay fresh
and inspired. There are so many amazing things happening
with my art right now that I to the point that I need
help. I have been so close so many times to opening
a gallery, but I'm really into the timing being perfect
and of course, the place has to be right...From there
it's finding the right partner to manage it cause I
rather be surfing, painting or golfing than sitting
inside all day...I want it to be a place for me and
my friends to come and hang out. That's the way I've
always looked at what I do...I make art and clothes,
etc that I would want for my life and my friends...fortunately
for me, other people are into the same things. Just
like my art, my clothing line has been so fun. I make
stuff for my guy and girlfriends to wear...how fun is
that? I' m actually getting ready to take my own signature
apparel line, Havassy, to the next level as I've been
dealing with possible acquisition deals with several
companies in and out of the surf industry. It'll be
amazing because I'll be taking from all the products
that I've created from other companies like Reef, Sector
Nine, Howe jeans, etc., a pull them all under my own
label, Havassy...I've been doing some sick bikinis and
boardies, sandals, plus belts and T's and bags. I can't
wait to put it all together under one roof. Stay tuned..................
CG: I’ve seen you surf, you’re
a good surfer, how long have you been surfing and where
have you traveled to?
RH: I have fun, but I'm no Cody Graham.
I can get barreled and really that's what makes surfing
so unique from anything else on the planet. I didn't
really start surfing until I started driving and could
get to the beach on my own...So I guess I started stand-
up surfing when I was 16 or 17 years old( Though the
first time on a surfboard...8yrs old, Waikiki...Big
Red Longboard, you know...fell in love)...I was bodyboarding
and bodysurfing since I was a wee lad like most, so
I've always loved the ocean and waveriding. I've been
fortunate with my surf travels. Aside from a going to
Tavarua by myself when I was 20 after getting a big
check from a Calvin Klein campaign, boat trips to the
Mentawais with friends, annual trips to Costa Rica,
Mexico and Baja, I've always loved coming to the islands.
I've received more aloha than I probably deserved on
Hawaii, Kaui and Oahu. Epic days at Honolua Bay, Hanalei,
Sunset Beach and many spots on Kaui and the Big Island
that I can't mention without fear of reprisal, standout
as some of my most memorable sessions. Fortunately,
Newport has it's share a good days with plenty of opportunity
to pull in. I'm a lucky guy.
CG: Do you only do Surfing art?
RH: I paint and photograph things that move me. things
that amaze or inspire me. They don't have to be overwhelming,
especially because some of the most beautiful things
are subtle and fleeting. I paint things I'm passionate
about. Surfing is one of them. So are women, sunsets,
flowers, epic landscapes, animals, golf, children(probably
because being a father is the one things left on this
planet that I really to experience before I die), and
color. Color has so much effect on our perception of
the world and is probably an artists most powerful tool.
It has so much to do with how I communicate with my
painting. My surf art and ocean related images have
been most widely recognized, but my golf art is a close
second. I was super honored to have had one of my Pebble
Beach paintings selected as the official art for the
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in 2005. I got to go up
there and got the VIP treatment for the event. I hung
out and signed event posters and programs and then got
to play those amazing courses of almost nothing. It
was really unbelievable for being such a die hard golfer.
It will be hard one to top in my art career as it was
probably the most popular cover art in the events long
history. I'm going to have to come up with another goal
for my golf art, cause that was it.
CG: I see your stuff everywhere. How are branding
your art and your name?
RH: Art4 Life! That's it. It goes with everything that
I'm doing and plan to do. I'm creating art inspired
things for peoples lives. The Havassy Studio Gallery
Cafe (or something to that extent) will be a hub for
this eventually. For now, I'm just doing my thing, painting
and showing my art and a lot of companies are just like,
"Robb, we dig what you do and want you to do something
with us"...It's really about the collaboration
for me...It's the most fun and the most rewarding for
everybody concerned. I get to share my art with a larger
audience, get paid, and ultimately have cool products
with my art on them. Right now I'm collaborating with
Surftech and Sector Nine independently for a Havassy,
artist's model of surfboard and skateboard. It's awesome
because now me or anybody else who likes my art can
have it on their personal skate or surfboard. I've also
got projects ongoing with Reef, which has been awesome.
We've been doing sandals, bikinis, bags, etc... and
selling them all over the world for the past couple
years. As a result I get emails all the time from Europe,
South American, Asia, Australia...you name it...People
have been amazingly supportive of what I do. I was just
featured in Russia's main Surf/Skate/Urban mag...That's
crazy to me, but so cool. So much else...In addition
to my own signature apparel line, I'm doing sick shit
with Robert August's line, Factor 54, past projects
with Howe Jeans, and future projects that I can't talk
about yet. I get to work with everyone as I'm adamant
about no exclusivity...I 'm close with so many companies
that I don't want to play favorites...they are all my
friends... Fun Stuff!
CG: Are you trying to start a surf team?
RH: It's just kinda happening, but it isn't just a
surf team...It's more an an eclectic mix of artists,
surfers and exceptional beings. But it's growing and
changing quickly and as my brand grows, so will the
"team"...actually, I prefer "family".
the Havassy family has never been so big.
CG: What are your Goals and the next level?
RH: World domination!
CG: What’s the deal with the whole Abercrombie
& Fitch/ Hollister story/lawsuit? From what I've
heard it's pretty crazy!
RH: Crazy! Basically they ripped off one of my old
painted surfboards and replicated hundreds of them with
my signature on them for the front of every one of their
300 stores. They've made a lot of enemies in the surf
industry and surf culture for stealing and/or borrowing(you
decide) from the legitimate surf culture in order to
brand their name and have made billions of dollars from
it. Unfortunately my surfboard was a key component in
their marketing campaign. Basically I found out about
it and have begun a hefty lawsuit against them for Copyright
Infringement and Right to Publicity as they used my
signature trademark next to their own brand name Hollister.
Years ago they used the names and likenesses of some
of the great surf legends, including Mike Doyle, Peter
Cole, George Downing, Paul Strauch, Buffalo and several
others that I should recall, but can't right now. It
took fours years of litigation for them to finally received
a mid six figure settlement. Obviously it didn't phase
the company and they continued on their path of leaching
off our culture. My case against them has the potential
to really hold them accountable for who they really
are. Although I do hope for a significant settlement
that might help change the way they operate, my main
goal is to expose them as the poseurs they are to anybody
who would ever consider buying from them as well as
calling them out on behalf of the legitimate Surfing
community. The legal process is slow especially when
you seek a large settlement...the larger the settlement
the longer it's going to take, so I'm in no hurry. Full
David and Goliath...I'm little but I got balls and a
great case against them, but who knows. I'm in a unique
position to affect them, so in some way I'm representing
the surf community and feel an obligation to do what
needs to be done...Wish me luck, cause they are huge,
scary and ready to lie...gnarly corporate shit!
CG: Who is that cute girl making watermelons
with lime juice in the Kitchen?
RH: My darlin wife, Petrice...Tricie is famous for
her Mango margarita and massages, but prepares a mean
bowl of fruit too…lime juice is the key...thanks
to Costa Rica and Hawaii for that.
CG: Ok, last question, dead or alive, who is
your dream foursome for Golf?
RH: Good question...let's see............ My dad(who
passed away last year), RH(yours truly), Tiger, and
Jack Nicklaus at 40(cause I'd love to see he and Tiger
go head to head in their prime...five-somes are fun
too...maybe Kelly Slater or Jack Johnson would be a
CG: Cool Robb, thanks for your time. Any last
RH:Appreciate the little things...Life is short.
*** You can also check Robb’s Havassy
Website: http://havassyart.com *** *********************In
the hand full of years since becoming an artist, Havassy
has become increasingly socially active, using his position
to help create awareness and raise money for social
and environmental causes that he believe's in. In addition
to having written several environmentally conscious
pieces for publications including the Orange County
Register and LA Times, his art donations to organizations
such as Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, SIMA as
well as fundraisers for Breast Cancer and MS research
have raised over $50,000 as of 2005. "I feel incredibly
fortunate to have been blessed with this gift that has
allowed me to be in a position where I am able to help
make this world that I live in and that my children
will grow up in, a better place. I'm truly very lucky
to be able to do something that I love so much for a
living. I wake up every day excited to see what will