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A Day in the Life with artist Robb Havassy

April 1, 2015

Renowned surf artist Robb Havassy didn’t pick up a paintbrush until he was 26 years old, when he received a beginner’s art kit as a birthday gift from a friend. “I didn’t do much with it right off the bat,” recalls Havassy, then a fashion model. “Then I started buying art and thought it might be fun to dig in to the supplies and make something myself.”

His first piece was a watercolor painting of a surfer, which he gave to another friend for his birthday. “He was really impressed with it, and I was even impressed with what I was able to do,” Havassy says. The endeavor would be a catalyst for a career in the arts, spanning several disciplines. Havassy’s diverse oeuvre includes painting, sculpture, photography, and apparel and surfboard design. In 2008 he published “Surf Story,” a collection of stories from more than 200 iconic surfers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, shapers and other creative minds. A 550-page sequel that profiles a whole new set of characters is in the works.

Splitting his time between his native Newport Beach and Costa Rica, Havassy strives to find balance every day between his many projects and family life (a wife, Petrice; 6-year-old daughter, Marin; and two wolves, Oso and Kuna). Here, he takes us through his daily grind and what keeps him centered, and shares how the locals live. “My days have changed a lot since I became a father,” he says. “ They start with my family and I work my art schedule around that. My life is very organic and no day is the same.”

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Early morning: I am a night owl and a late riser. We’ll wake up around 9 a.m. and have coffee and breakfast as a family at Al Cappuccino Coffee House. It’s a little shop on Coast Highway and Balboa that’s owned by a couple, the Lees. We like to visit with them and the locals while we have mocha and a bagel and lox.

Mid-morning: From breakfast we walk down to the beach and look at the waves. I’ve been a 52nd Street local for 25 years, and it’s where I surf, mostly, when I am in California. If the waves are good, I’m surfing. If they are not, I am going home to work.

Late morning: My work is very social. I’m meeting with clients about commissioned paintings or talking with my printer about new editions or running errands around town or stopping by galleries.

Early afternoon: I love to cook, but do it a lot less when we’re here because there are so many places we love to go to eat. We like to ride our bikes and sit on the porch of Newport Beach Brewing Co.— we’ll order a bowl of ceviche and whatever brew they have that day and a great burger. Dory Deli is another lunch favorite, for its meaty sandwiches and craft beers. Bear Flag Fish Co. on 31st Street is also a frequent lunch stop. I had a popup art gallery there for a bit.

Mid-afternoon: If I’m in the mood, I’ll go home and paint — usually with Marin. She’ll say, ‘Daddy, I want to paint’ and I’ll say, ‘OK, grab this, let’s go.’ My daughter is usually my lead for whatever we’re doing. We’ll grab a piece of wood or paper and set up on the table or floor or outside on the patio. She has her own sketchbooks but we also have wood all over the place; when we are at the beach we’ll look for a flat piece of driftwood or something interesting to paint on. She’ll also help me paint on surfboards. She loves to paint horses and our wolves and our family and flowers and trees. My wife is always positive and says, ‘That’s beautiful, honey.’ I am a little more honest and try to push her to be better [laughs].
My art is inspired by moments in life — the beautiful things, like a child’s laugh or smile, a perfect wave, a sunset, a great golf shot — those moments of pure joy. My art is a collage of these. I am just a passenger along with this creative force that’s leading.

Late afternoon: If the waves are good, we’ll go to the beach and surf or play golf. Petrice doesn’t play but she enjoys the beauty outside and likes to ride around the course.

Evening: Since we’re only in Newport Beach part time now, meeting with friends and catching up is important to us — adult playtime, we call it. Our friends also have kids so we’ll drink homemade sangria and watch the kids play and catch up on life. Sometimes I’ll do a little art lesson for everyone. This is when I’ll cook dinner; my favorite dishes to make for friends are vegetarian enchiladas with Portobello mushrooms and spinach, and gourmet pizzas.

Occasionally we’ll have a date night — Petrice, Marin and me. We are like the Three Amigos and rarely have a night alone without our daughter. She’s so fun to be around and we never need a break. So, we have family date nights where we’ll go out to dinner. SOTA Sushi is one of our favorite “date” night places. My friend Sota is the owner and chef; he’s a true artist and has a lot of signature dishes so we have him make us something. He’s so creative and the food is amazing. We’ve become spoiled — now he knows what we like, so when we go, we always have something incredible.

To view Robb’s artwork visit

Written by Visit Newport Beach

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