INTERVIEW: Artist TY Williams on Life and Death and Art and Surfboard-Riding

When in the company of St. Augustine-based artist Ty Williams, it can be tough to get a word in edgewise. No matter, Williams — whose sharp wit, humor, and colorful personality is evident in his whimsical illustrations and quirky mixed media pieces — is endlessly entertaining as a conversationalist.

It was odd then when The Squealer reached out and asked him to answer a few questions, that Williams was uncharacteristically gun-shy. (Admittedly, even the most self-assured among us can be intimidated by the prestige that surrounds this hallowed publication.)

Williams has been away from Northeast Florida for most of the summer, spending time near his childhood home in Maine and making frequent trips to Los Angeles (where he also lived for a time) to create a mural for surf brand Banks Journal and participate in a photography exhibition. So we were stoked to track down Williams and force him to overcome his unreasonable self-consciousness. “You are great!” we said. “You are handsome!” we assured him. “Your artwork is terrific!” we declared. He finally relented, agreeing to respond to our queries and shed light on what inspires his distinct approach to making art. We are very happy he did.

SQUEALER: Ocean things — surfing, sea creatures, etc.– appear consistently as muses in your artwork. What’s up with that?
WILLIAMS: It’s just more appealing to me than drawing land things, motocross, and trailer park creatures. I spend a lot of time in the ocean and it makes me happy. The ocean is my escape.
Surfing is ridiculous and fun, but surfers often take it very seriously. Do you ever take surfing seriously? Should we ever?
I have been through different stages in my life when it comes to surfing. When I was younger I thought more seriously about it. Now that I am older I am taking it less serious because I have a better understanding of who I am.
Name someone you’d very much like to meet and tell us one question you would very much like to ask.
I would like to meet my unborn children and ask them if I was an OK father or if they liked me. Or maybe I would like to meet Barack Obama and ask if we could go bodysurfing.
You’ve lived in many neat places – the Virgin Islands, New England, NYC, L.A. Why have you decided that St. Augustine is the bestest of all?
I haven’t decided that it is the best, but it is very pleasant. My girlfriend is from [St. Augustine] and I had the opportunity to create a house there with my father. I feel like many people are starting to realize that living in a major city isn’t necessary for creative success. You have to have some level of discipline, but it’s nice to be able to fly wherever I want and come back to some level of mellow.
Upon your death in St. Augustine, will you be cremated and will we and various loved ones and admirers of your art ceremoniously sprinkle your ashes into the sea whilst standing atop the jetty at your beloved Vilano? What are our marching orders in the event of your untimely demise?
Upon my death, I think I would like my ashes spread out a little bit in multiple places. St. Augustine could get a dash. Maine would get a good sprinkle. Japan would get a pinch, the Virgin Islands a teaspoon. And maybe California would get a grain or two. I mostly just want my friends and family to have a good time and not mourn me too much — I’ve had a hell of a life.
To read more about Ty, check out this profile in SURFER MAGAZINE.

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