Phil Roberts may be best known for being a master painter, but his strongest talents lie in his inventions, figure drawing, and sculpting. But none of Roberts’ greatest works of art would have happened if it weren’t for surfing.
The story begins with Bob Carson, who found a young Roberts airbrushing t-shirts and bikinis at the Indialantic (Florida) Sidewalk Art show. Carson took Roberts to Mike Tabeling’s factory, Creative Shaping, where Tabeling offered Roberts a job as an artist. “I’m forever grateful to those two men for believing in me and giving me a shot,” says Roberts.
The following decades are a blur of success, as Phil’s surf art caught fire, fueled in large part by a 1982 cover for Surfer Magazine. His beautifully scientific illustrations of wave dynamics have been printed in the Book of Waves, Grolier Encyclopedia of New Sciences, and National Geographic Explorer Series, and have been reprinted in seven different languages in magazines and museums around the world. Today, Roberts is one of Hollywood’s top illustrators of movie posters.
In the surfing world, one of Roberts’ most memorable pieces is the perpetual trophy for the Pipeline Masters, which features a bronze bust of Gerry Lopez surfing the Pipeline. “Surfing has just exploded, as well as all of the careers along with it,” says Roberts. “Today, I’m shipping artwork to countries that I might not have been able to in the 80s. Surf art may actually be legit after I’m done! It’s so exciting to be in the progression.”
Roberts was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2016.