A naked look at surfing through the art of DrewToonz
Surf art is a weird beast. Like a minotaur, half-bull and half-human, it’s often two very separate things that don’t really belong together. The genre of surf art is dominated by two different animals. One is the airbrush flowy Wyland daydream species seen in tropical vacation galleries across the Pacific. And the other is the cartoonish splendor of Andy Davis, Phil Roberts and company.
The artwork of Hawaii’s Andrew Miller, known as Drew Toonz fits into neither of the above categories. Yet, somehow you can find his work in outer-Island galleries just like you do with Wyland art, and festooned on major brand boardshorts, like with Andy Davis.
Volcom saw promise in his clunky, low-fi creations and signed him on to do the Volcom Pipe Pro art, cartoons and posters a decade ago. The surfwear brand also sponsored his film “The Dawn of the Stoneage,” a series of trippy, creative shorts loosely based around Volcom team riders like Gavin Beschen and Shawn ‘Barney’ Barron.
“Drew’s been part of the Volcom family for almost two decades now,” said Richie Olivares of Volcom. “Drew is a staple at the Volcom Pipe Houses and he meshes so well with our entire team.”
Drew’s cartoons have become legendary. Characterized by poor audio recordings from some of surfing’s most famous players including Kelly Slater, his catchy animated shorts have earned a cult following. A few of these feature John Philbin, the actor who played Turtle in “North Shore.”
“He is fantastic to work with,” says Drew. “I met John Philbin when I was working at the surf school at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore years before I even hit with Volcom. I said ‘Turtle!’ And he gave me a death stare and he said ‘my name is John.’”
Drew says that back then the actor wasn’t too thrilled at being called out as Turtle everywhere he went. Later Philbin embraced his cult role in North Shore and agreed to appear in some of Drew’s cartoons.
“I gave him some free surfboard rentals that in return made us buddies,” says Drew. “Then I ran into him at Foodland and asked if he was interested in recording audios for cartoons and he obliged. He freestyled some great ‘lifeguard guy’ voice-overs that were so fantastic for this series I was making called ‘Surf Skool.’”
Drew’s work with Philbin is as close as he’s come to a wave pool experience, although he reached out to Kelly to try to get into the Surf Ranch one time.
“I texted Slater and offered an art trade in exchange to ride and he left me unread. I’m kinda obsessed with wave pools, yet I’ve never surfed one. I want to have access to a perfect wave so bad.”