Not many people in the world have seen as much of California’s majestic coastline as Eureka-based artist Matt Beard, and there may be no one who’s captured as much of it in acrylic on canvas.
“I’ve painted over 400 paintings along the 840 miles of California’s coastline,” Beard says in a video he made last year. That video, which you can watch below, was part of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for a published book of his California coastline paintings.
Recently, Beard’s coastal paintings came to the attention of a team of folks at the California Coastal Commission who were brainstorming, hoping to find a California-based artist whose work they could feature in promotional materials for this year’s California Coastal Cleanup Day.
“We narrowed it down and took a vote,” explained Leah Henry, a communications associate with the agency. “Matt Beard was by far the favorite of the bunch.”
When they called Beard to ask if he’d be willing to donate his art for the cause — part of an annual, international effort to collect beach trash — Beard didn’t quite understand.
“When they first called I thought I was busted,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I have a page on my website for commissions, and the title of the page was ‘California Coastal Commissions,’ I thought they were calling to say you can’t do that.”
Once they explained their real purpose for calling, Beard was honored. “What I took from it is [that] I must be on the right track,” he said. He was surprised he’d even come to their attention. “There’s the California Art Club; they have hundreds, maybe thousands of members. I’m just flying solo over here.”
While Beard calls Humboldt home, he spends two to three months a year on the road, living out of his van, “painting and roaming” up and down the coast. “My focus is trying to paint the whole state,” he said. And while he hasn’t quite painted every last inch of coastline, he’s covered a lot of it.
As Beard explained in his Kickstarter video, his hundreds of coastline paintings include scenery from every coastal county, from Del Norte down to San Diego. “The average distance between each painting is barely more than two miles at this point, and I’m filling in gaps all the time,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Humboldt is the best represented of the counties, and Beard said the scenery here is just more fun to paint than other spots in the state. “When I look down and see that I’ve only done a dozen pieces on the L.A. coast I think, ‘I need to get on it,’” he said.
But the beaches near Santa Monica and Palos Verdes are mostly long expanses of sand. “No hills, no bluffs, just sand. That’s my kryptonite. I can’t paint it,” Beard said. “Well, I can, but I hate it.”
When you add in the difficulty of parking and the stressful crowds, it’s no wonder Beard prefers more remote locales.
With his Kickstarter campaign, Beard set a fundraising goal of $7,500, and he was “super nervous” about asking people for money, he said. The campaign wound up raising more than $41,000, racking up somewhere between 400 and 500 pre-orders for his upcoming published book, a hardcover collection of more than 100 of his paintings, accompanied by some lightly edited versions of things he wrote on social media after finishing each piece.
He’s still finishing up the project. “I didn’t quite anticipate how hard it would be to polish it off,” he said.
Meanwhile, his art is now spread across the California Coastal Commission’s website and has been printed on posters and other promotional materials for California Coastal Cleanup Day, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Last year’s event saw more than 66,000 volunteers assemble on more than 1,000 sites up and down the coast, and they removed more than 800,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from state beaches.
”We are hoping Matt Beard’s unique artwork will inspire even more people to support California Coastal Cleanup Day and to come out to a site near them to do something positive for the environment,” Henry said.
To see more of Beard’s artwork — or to order his book — visit his website, mattbeardart.com.