Van Hamersveld, John


Illustrator and graphic designer from Los Angeles, California, best known to surfers as the creator of the Day-Glo poster for Bruce Brown's 1966 crossover hit movie The Endless Summer. Van Hamersveld was born (1941) in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved with his family to Palos Verdes, in southwest Los Angeles County, when he was nine, and began surfing during middle school.

While a student at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1962, Van Hamersveld worked briefly as art director for Surfing Illustrated magazine, and became friends with surfer-artist Rick Griffin, who, while still in high school, had become famous as the creator of Murphy, the Surfer-published cartoon character. After graduation, Van Hamersveld moved on to Surfer as well, where he stayed for just over a year. During this time he also did design for John Severson's movie Angry Sea. For six months, beginning in late '64, Van Hamersveld was art director for Surf Guide magazine.

Van Hamersveld met Endless Summer filmmaker Bruce Brown while still at Surfer. The poster's basic premise—three surfers on the beach, in silhouette—was Brown's. Working at his kitchen table, Van Hamersveld sketched out how the three would be standing (Brown himself, along with Endless Summer's two stars, Mike Hynson and Robert August), and the black-and-white images were shot by photographer Bob Bagley, at Salt Creek. Van Hamersveld created the final black-on-Day-Glo image in silk screen, and did "The Endless Summer" lettering by hand. It was, to say the least, an eye-grabber. It was also, as one critic later noted, a precursor to the counterculture. "The colors the image was rendered in, the pinks and oranges and yellows out of a Crayola box, out of a Life Savers roll, out of an acid trip, anticipated Timothy Leary’s 'Turn on, tune in, drop out' by a good three years."

Brown paid Van Hamersveld $150 for the poster. Two years later, after the film had played the surf circuit and been primed and blown-up to 35-mm for general audience release, Van Hamersveld was shocked to see his poster in the New York Times movie section. (Bruce Brown Films, then and now, owns the rights to the Endless Summer poster.)

Van Hamersveld's poster has been licensed to the Gap, Macy's, Nordstrom, Kohl's, and Old Navy, among other retailers. It has been printed on pins, frisbees, decals, phone cases, and tote bags. "New York's MOMA peddles the image," as Vanity Fair noted in 2014. "Walmart does, too. It’s a college-dorm-room staple, as much of a cliché as Starry Night. The image is so pervasive, in fact, as to be almost invisible, a taken-for-granted entity, part of the cultural landscape."

In the mid-'60s Van Hamersveld made handbills for rock acts like the Velvet Underground and the Who, then went on to design album covers for the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and Kiss, among others.

In 2000, copies of a limited-edition 35th-anniversary run of his Endless Summer poster, signed by Brown and Van Hamersveld, sold for $750 each. A lithographed copy of the original orange-pink-and-yellow poster is in the New York Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. Van Hammersveld produced the poster art for the 2009 Pipeline Masters.

John Van Hamersveld: Fifty Years of  Graphic Design, a 300-page coffee table book, was published in 2013. The following year, Van Hamersveld was inducted to the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.