Ancell, Kevin


Burly California artist best known for his rich, layered, allegorical, and often satirical surfing-themed oil paintings, produced in the style of Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Ancell was born (1963) and raised in Santa Monica, and began surfing at age nine. He moved to China in 1985 and briefly taught at the Beijing Institute of Science and Technology; two years later, after the Chinese government expelled him as a "cultural pollutant," he moved to San Francisco and began drinking heavily. "When I cleaned up," he told Longboarder magazine in 1998, "the taverns in San Francisco flew their flags at half mast."

Better Living Through Medication (1996) is typical of Ancell's work, showing a nude surfer floating between a skeleton and a tiny Prozac-bearing angel. For Surf Trip, a 2000 surf-art exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Ancell grouped together 25 full-size polyurethane hula dancer automatons, some of them wielding assault rifles and hand grenades. "Here's the dashboard hula doll," Ancell told the San Francisco Chronicle, gesturing to the slowly gyrating assemblage, "except now she's got guns and she's been drinking and she's pissed off."

As a scenery painter in Hollywood, Ancell worked on Sphere (1997), What Dreams May Come (1998), and The Phantom Menace (1999), among other movies. His work has been featured in a number of gallery shows including the 2002 Laguna Art Museum show, The Art History of Surfing, and the 2009 show, Collecting California.

In the mid '00s, Ancell began working with boardmaker Reynolds Yater on collectible balsa surfboards, with Ancell designing intricate abalone mother of pearl inlays. He also paired with clothing designer RVCA, painting surfboards for their team riders, and participating in gallery shows with RVCA-sponsored pro surfer-artist Danny Fuller. In 2015, Ancell painted "the Pod," a setĀ of boards for 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, designed to call attention to what Slater viewed as the abusive treatment of captive orca whales.