Eureka- Finding California

October 22, 2014

Artist Matt Beard emerging from a makeshift log shelter on the Lost Coast of Northern California circa 1996

Stories of California: Memories, Recollections, Truth, Lies, and Points in Between

The following collection of short tales was an early attempt to establish a narrative to accompany my art in a book format. A handful were printed to test the waters, but it never went into actual production and publication. Later on, it was submitted to Surfer Magazine and was awarded runner-up mention in a writing contest they held. I thought that was pretty cool for a painter. Most of these stories are based on memories from my youth- junior high, high school, and college years.  Some of them are truer than others...

Part I: The Land


Deep in the anxious nowhere of Los Angeles,  an old home stands in solemn opposition to the thousands of fleeting glimpses of a rushed humanity that bombard the busy thoroughfare just beyond it’s front steps.  Out on that street there is no longer any memory of the past, it’s been rewritten as a vain attempt at remembering the future. What comes next is all there is, or more accurately, all there will be then, for there is no longer any now. There’s no time for that sort of luxury anymore.  Not out there, anyway. The old home is a different story though.  There’s plenty of now to be had here. There’s shade everywhere, as anything that grows out of the ground has been allowed to just keep on growing.  A huge tree stands in the yard next to the house.  Kids bikes lean against the tree, rusting into permanence at the end of the dirt driveway.  You can stand still here and see time pass.  The joy of now. Stand on the porch and wait for a pause in the traffic, so you don’t inhale the future’s fumes, and take a deep breath.  Oranges.  The past here smells like oranges.  Acres of them.  As far as you could see in any direction.  Grandparents of today were once children here who drank fresh squeezed orange juice because that’s all they had.  They laughed and screamed and rode their bikes in every direction as far as they wanted down the dirt roads between the neighboring orchards. On hot summer days, though, this would get old and they’d complain that they were bored. They would wish that something would happen here, and figuring that it never would, they imagined a different life beyond the orange trees.

Part I: The Road

Roads Worth Travelling.

Most roads worth traveling on started out as dirt roads.  The very best roads probably started out as nothing more than animal trails snaking through the brush.  Ever hike through a remote and untraveled backcountry, far off the trails where folks just don’t go?  Then you know what I’m g…


The Jewel V: Wednesday Afternoon


This was the first time I was given access to this deck on the end of this scientific research pier. I remember being so torn about which view to paint, north or south, that I think I just blew a fuse and split it down the middle with an easterly approach. I figured since it was so unusual to even be there at all, maybe this unusual perspective made the most sense.

Big thanks to my pal @misfitgallerylj for making this one possible as part of my first sold out La Jolla plein air tour.

There’s someone else to thank as well, but names should probably not be mentioned at this point. You know who you are. And you rock. Thank you.

Evolution of Icarus


So… sometimes this happens. When I paint at live events, half the fun is not knowing exactly what I’m going to paint. Even as I’m loading my palette with paint I’m usually still wondering what’s going to happen. At RampArt Skatepark last weekend, this is what happened. Not sure what’s going on here, but one thing led to another and another and another and I guess that’s just how it goes.

The story of Icarus is pretty cool, a warning against pride, but while we mostly seem to focus on that aspect of the tale, we often forget his father’s warning wasn’t just about flying too high, but also too low. Get up off the ground and quit slacking, yeah? Good call. The flying fish has it wired I reckon.

Anyway, I’m sure anyone could read all sorts of other stuff into this, and so could I, but art is more poetry than essay, so I won’t go into all that.

Anyway, hope you dig this little unexpected homage to the master of this genre, Rick Griffin himself. Enjoy!



It may look like a wave, but if you rotate this piece counter-clockwise it represents the real time wind conditions off the Pacific coast at the time the painting was being created. Check out if you want to see what I’m talking about.

Crab Haul

August 20, 2014

I painted this one years ago   
From a weathered photograph  
It was a Christmas gift  
From a daughter  
To her father  
She was a young child  
When the photo was taken  
From the Old Trinidad Pier 
Of her dad and his crew 
On his boat down below 
She said they ate good  
Really, really good that year  
I imagined them eating  
Juicy butter-dripping crab   
For every meal  
She just laughed  
After the lean years  
Of cornbread and beans  
This was the year  
Their ship finally came in  
They didn’t eat crab  
They ate whatever they wanted  
Wherever they wanted  
And you might be thinking  
Of a working-class family  
That just came into extra money  
And you might not be wrong  
But I’ll ask you right now  
To think of this young child  
Enjoying her family’s joy  
And remembering it  
After all these years  
After the photo is faded  
Torn around the edges  
Asking an artist  
To give that sweet memory  
Back to her father  
Tell me again  
When did their ship come in?  

On the Rocks


Painted on site with the rising tide sending large amounts of saltwater all over my back and palette as I worked. There may not be blood, sweat, or tears in this one, but there is certainly a good dose of Pacific Ocean saltwater, and that’s almost the same thing from a salinity perspective…

Insinuation VI: Earth’s Shadow Not Yet Reaping

June 1, 2014

The lunar eclipse breathes its deepest shade of red
As the waters of earth rise up to meet the dying
A global procession
Where every drop offers
An honest confession
Of unending love
And weeps for the loss of their beloved’s white-blue light
These fluid mourning masses
Gather at the funeral parlor door
Awaiting a turn to glimpse
Her pale face once more
Gathered round in silence
Then a wondrous pause
Then thunderous applause
And there’s been no greater joy since
Her shadow only just sleeping
Earth’s shadow not yet reaping

Insinuation: Prologue

June 1, 2014

Rising and falling, the transfer of energy,
the simple wave is itself in nature prominent.
To look too close is to see only the thing
and miss the implications of its movement.
From here on no further mention made
of the object of our salted minds.
Just an attempt with light and with shade
to find it between the lines.

It will be what it will be

Insinuation VIII: Hope of Expectancy Surrendered

June 1, 2014

As joy turns to sorrow
And victory defeat
The batteries drained
The battering remains
A constant beat
Each pulse an increase of primordial pain
The hope of expectancy surrendered
Like broken water from a cloudburst in a heavy rain
Something gone wrong
The absence of light
This can’t be the way
That all is set right
The giver of life drained of the gift
The spark itself turned inside
The fire within is within another
A universe within this imploding star
Wrought in the worst of collapsing rhapsody
Written in verse of relapsing tragedy

Insinuation VII: The Spin of the Sphere

June 1, 2014

The spin of the sphere
Is the beginning of fear
And where it leads none can follow
It’s tilted gait
Refuses to wait
As yesterday wars with tomorrow
And the lengthening days
The upper hand gains
And the bluebirds await the arrival
Of the victor’s scorn
Trampling the snowmelt
Of their opponent
Who retreats to the high mountains
Blocking lifeblood supply routes
And starving the proud of
Any further harvest celebration
Until the conquerors meakly succomb
To the darkest deprivation
But their season of starvation is also soon to pass
And the reason of the star’s ovation will not last

Insinuation IV: Riding Shotgun in the Cardiac

June 1, 2014

As the plot thickens
The pulse quickens
Signals the release of adrenaline
The fight or flight
The might makes right
At heart it’s all just light
Emanating through nervous roots
Planted deep in the sinews
It’s neither sin nor is it news
Riding shotgun in the cardiac
Pumping beats to keep the blood moving
Regulating the pace of exchange
The old for new
The tired air for the thought of life
Some peace of mind for another
With roots of another kind

Insinuation V: No Escape Until Exhalation

June 1, 2014

Inhalation of numbers
A suspended matrix of love and tears
Sweat and pain
No solution for this equation
Just a problem of oxygen suspended in blood
Arriving from beyond the sea
To bring life however brief it may be
But with it arises
The conflict inside us
Carried by wind
Born of dust
Made of earth
Fragile and flammable
Unquenched and unbirthed
Ubiquitous by nature
The post-war riot an ethereal vibration
With no escape just escalation
No escape until exhalation

Insinuation III: Sheet Music of Endless Revolutions

June 1, 2014

Pulsating depths collide with rock in steady rhythm
Rocksteady rhythms
Seafoam drifts that move in procession
Driven by the upwelling of time
Etching on the surface a crooked white line
A visible record of the upheaval
The sheet music of endless revolutions
Each blast is a rebellion
In search of freedom like water
Moving to this inexplicable beat
Dancing with the reckless abandon of oceans unknown
It’s the song we we fought and died for
We were bought and paid for
We were wrought and made for

Insinuation X: Green Explosions

June 1, 2014

The fragile seed
Takes root and shoots
Green explosions of sunshine
Burst forth from the scattered ashes
Of those laid to rest
From the day when the mad disease
Took aim and shot
Their passing became
The passion behind
The protest of laughing children
Bellies full
The harvest abundant
Ringing from the bell tower
Over field and foe alike
The vanquished appetite
Of the now rusted machine
But a distant memory
Clouded by satisfied times
Grounded by gratified rhymes

Insinuation II: Hunting Reverb for Survival

June 1, 2014

Molten harmonics signal the release of tension
The groaning of tectonic riffs
Played with the volume cranked to eleven
The subterranean chords of metal and rock circle their prey
Descending through chasms
Black air dripping with the sweat of earth
Waiting to shake its foundations
And strike
Hunting reverb for survival
And it hides by the deepest frequencies
Amplified by the frequently deepest seas

Insinuation XI: Like Polished Brass

June 1, 2014

Lengthening shadows signal the cycle
Is nearing its end
Soon to repeat again
And as the fading light races the horizon
The dust is what we’ve laid eyes on
The circuit complete
The awakening of earth’s mind
In a thousand incandescent lights
Streaming forth
To welcome all and then some
To receive the failed and winsome
Her final thought to hold a mass
For that which is hers to keep
The rest of which like polished brass
Not hers will be released
And tomorrows births
Will be described
In terms of shining metal
And tomorrow’s worth
Will be inscribed
On every flower’s petal

Insinuation I: Lost in a Sea of Synapses

June 1, 2014

Dancing at will upon the innumerous grains
The finite brains of particulate philosophers
Who cannot through their centrifuges
Do anything other than remain on it’s surface
Grasping at photons
Missing the point
Marching lockstep in lines around the corner
Adrift in a city of relapses
Lost in a sea of synapses
Mentally sequencing the circuitry required
To awaken the silicon mined of earth
The silicon mind of earth

Insinuation IX: Where Once there was Only Sky

June 1, 2014

Rising up to heights intolerable
Between moments of relief
All too brief
Just when the final surge washes through
Rearranging the ground floor
Soaking the upholstery
With salt driven from the earth’s rotation
Glass breaking
Walls shaking
The record collection scattered like shells on the shore
Just when it’s too much to bear
As violently as it moved
Just as quickly it is over
And there is no sound to be heard
Above the chirping of birds
Except the voice of a helpless infants cry
Where once there was nothing but endless sky



Recent Live Art piece from the Save the Waves fundraiser in SF a few weeks back. I’m really stoked how this one turned out. I went with a simple image of a wave about to break into a breakwall, an enigmatic comment on our role in shaping the shoreline, creating and destroying surf breaks along the way. I figured it would be relevant to the cause. Not sure if any of that came across at all, but still I was stoked to be a part of their event and raise a few dollars for them along the way.


May 22, 2014

Load upon load
and weight to bear weight
these beams bear witness to our memories lost in the fire
on the night we crossed the bridge
to the hobo camp
passing driverless cars
and the rising tide
forced us to climb over the rocks in order to round the headland
where lovers loved
and dreamers dreamed
and thieves did their best work
stealing all that we had
and leaving us with nothing
but ashes.

Hand Jive


Painted live at the San Diego Surf Film Festival, 2014. Throughout the 4 day event, contributing filmmakers were asked to trace a print of their hands on this 36″ x 36″ canvas. On the final day, I incorporated their hands into this finished piece.

California Spring

December 23, 2013

20 things I’m thankful for in the middle of this storm…⠀

A life spent exploring this coast. ⠀
A brother that showed me the way to enjoy the ocean. ⠀
A mother with the patience of a saint to bundle into the VW and wait while we surfed the afternoon into evening. ⠀
A father that loved to drive… for hours… wherever we wanted to hunt for a wave. ⠀
A bike path through the park that led to a path that followed a river that flows into the sea at Seal Beach where a kid without a driver’s license could taste freedom and ice cream and square slices of pepperoni pizza. ⠀
An arrangement between working parents that saw us spending summer days – M-F from 9-5:30 – on the beach at the Surfside jetty. ⠀
Little shacks built for shade and locals that busted them up. ⠀
Eventually a license to drive and the keys to the VW opening up the coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego. ⠀
A retirement home in Atascadero where my grandparents moved and gave us a taste of the central coast and it’s marked difference from the regions below Point Conception. ⠀
A college education of sorts (major: art / minor: philosophy) at Humboldt State that opened up California’s deep northern coast to my wide eyes. ⠀
A community that embraced my art and everyone else’s too. ⠀
A great place to put some roots down. ⠀
Dozens if not hundreds of trips up and down the state’s coast over the years- at first to visit family, and then a gradual transition to my life’s work. ⠀
The California Impressionists of the 1920’s that made me realize that what I already loved was worth pursuing.⠀
A slow but steady chance to make a livelihood on this edge of the earth.⠀
All of you who’ve supported and encouraged this at-times questionable life path. ⠀
A van like a covered wagon to make a home wherever I go and provide a dry (if not always warm) shelter from California’s storms. ⠀
Books to read while waiting out the worst of storms.⠀
California’s beauty in the middle of a raging storm on the Big Sur coast back in 2010 that saw me hopping out at every break in the rain to soak it all in and make notes for this and many other paintings.⠀
Oh, and poppies, also the poppies.

Traveling Light

October 22, 2013

Now let me get this straight, I’m supposed to want what you’ve got?  Ain’t no wagon big enough to hold all the worldly possessions you offer, the shine and pop glittering off your leadbolten chains sunk and anchored deep in the molten core of the earth. No offense, friend, but I’m aiming to travel a little lighter than that.

Everything I own is packed up here, ready to go wherever life is still fragile and not yet covered with concrete and steel.  Boxes of unsettled memories, most of them mine, some of them borrowed, but that’s just fine.  I trade them on the roadside to strangers and friends alike just to feed my family. I got kids that call me Pa and a wife that loves me true and a newborn baby with eyes so blue they make the ocean cry even when the sun is shining, so it don’t bother me none that my tarp’s been leaking and my lung’s been rattling.  You call me poor, but I am rich. Richer than you anyway.  Your mountain of worthless money can’t buy what life has given me freely.

And you still say I’m supposed to want what you’ve got?  You step out from behind your polished black veneer of tinted glass to hurl spit and fire at me, threatening with scorn that I should dream your dreams for you?  You wonder why I stand unmoved as you command me to sign the dotted line and exchange what I’ve got for your drunken dream?  A cup of clean water for your barrel of poisoned wine?

Your dreams are nothing to me. I am the undreamed, my friend, and your stillborn dream will be left on the road unmourned where it will be trampled by the masses you dreamt of trampling.  And as for me, when all the words have been spoke and all the dreams undreamt, I’ll ignore my leaking tarps and my own rattling lung just long enough to smile on my kids and hold my wife close and jump in to the cleansing ocean of my baby’s eyes one more time before I have to travel even more lightly on.

Death is Unoriginal

October 22, 2013

There is nothing creative about death.  Destruction and decay follow the course that’s been laid from the foundation of the world.  Turning life into death is the natural order of things and always has been.  Tune into the program nightly and witness the procession of fast-food destruction served up on microwave-safe trays for public consumption on a global scale.  Pass the ketchup.  The armchair graveyard is never satisfied.

The crushing weight of seven LA freeways cannot compare to the tragedy of the needless speeding of Death’s Process.  Recklessly darting from lane to lane while shrieking a mournful howl across all 8 lanes, Death’s Process hangs one hand out the window flipping a wretched bird to every hopeless soul who by birth, design, or foolery lacks the horsepower to keep up with the flow of traffic.  Confined to the right lane, where they await a forced exit, cut off forever, these legions of hopeless are unmourned by the onslaught of a constantly accelerating culture.

Standing on the side of the highway, breathing in the concrete vapor of exhausted lives it’s a terrible and tragic fleeting moment when you connect the dots and see the wreckage spelled out in slow motion.  Parents weeping for children ripped from their arms by needless disease.  Children stranded, orphaned, and worse because we all had important things to do the day we saw them on the side of the road.  In this moment, delicate as the fluttering wings of a butterfly, the rush slows to a walking speed, the city evaporates and there is nothing but barren fields of earth.  Welcome home.

The TV is dead and gone now.  A new vision has sprouted from it’s earthen grave. Why live another spoon-fed day when we can go to the kitchen ourselves and cook up a thunderstorm with the fruit of the suddenly fertile earth? Feed the children, comfort the parents, take them all in to your own broken heart and listen for the sound of the wind and rain beating against that thin veil separating you from death itself. Life is not what you ever expected.