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"INTERVIEW / CONVERSATION BETWEEN CODY GRAHAM AND ROBB HAVASSY"

 

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.
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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 planet, Life!

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 good fifth.

CG: Cool Robb, thanks for your time. Any last words?

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 happen next."*************************************

 


 
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