One step into the Forever Stoked art gallery and you are transported into a world where realist and abstract interpretations of nature live in colorful harmony. Paintings rest on the walls, surfboards hang from the ceiling, and other works of art sit around the vicinity, waiting to be devoured by the appreciative eye.
Forever Stoked’s Spring Art Show was held May 19 at the art collective’s Morro Bay gallery. Visitors viewed the work that was sparked by two individuals’ shared passions for nature and surfing.
Charlie Clingman and Chris Pedersen met at the age of 15 on a surf trip to an island off of Baja California, Mexico.
“We stayed in these little shacks and there were some drawings on the wall that other people had done,” Pedersen said. “We took that to next level and just drew all over the entire walls. By the time we left, the walls were just covered in art.”
The two kept in touch and continued to connect over their passions for surfing and art, eventually reuniting to create and sell hand-crafted goods that reflect the beauty of nature.
A business is born
Forever Stoked’s first items were handmade holiday greeting cards Pedersen made and sent to family and friends. Clingman loved the cards and suggested Pedersen sell them. Pedersen asked Clingman to join him in the endeavor and they founded the business together in 1998.
At first, Clingman was too busy to work on establishing the business, so Pedersen took the task head-on. Pedersen thought the phrase “Forever Stoked” was a fun, positive message to put on the back of a card.
“I put [$5,000] on my credit card and made these Christmas cards,” Pedersen said. “When I got them, I started walking into all these surf shops and gift stores from San Diego to Santa Cruz. Within maybe a month, we had made maybe [$10,000] and we had 60 accounts where we were selling our products.”
Pedersen and Clingman did not anticipate transforming their art into a company, but people liked the name, the art and visuals, so the duo “just kept making the stuff.” The Forever Stoked gallery, located at 1164 Quintana Rd., was formed about six years ago as a result of a need for more commercial space.
Forever Stoked today
Now, Forever Stoked goods consist of limited-edition paintings, paper art prints, cuffs, accessories and of course, greeting cards. The limited-edition paintings are prints on canvases. Only a set number of each painting is made, and pigment-based ink and pH-neutral canvases are used to maximize each piece’s longevity.
Forever Stoked is composed of five artists and long-time friends: Clingman, Pedersen, Peter Pierce, Jordan Haughey and Dave O’Brien. All of the artists create work that reflect their love for nature, honoring San Luis Obispo’s coastline, trails and hills.
“We all have an extreme love for nature — surfing keeps you very tied into that. [Nature’s] our inspiration,” Clingman said.
Pedersen and Clingman both agree that their ongoing passion and accumulating experience support Forever Stoked’s success. However, they still struggle with finding a balance between work and recreation.
“The most challenging thing is making money — making a living off of being an artist in general is not an easy thing — but also running a business,” Pederson said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m painting in my free time. I have to do a lot more than just create the artwork.”
Typically, Forever Stoked has a winter and a spring art show each year. Works from the five main artists are featured along with the work of local artists. Each show aims to showcase new paintings and to attract new gallery visitors.
“[Forever Stoked] is unique and different. I love the fact that it’s just a group of guys that came together and opened up their own studio, and I think they’re all hugely talented,” Spring Art Show attendee Chico Lusby said. “We drove up from Lompoc [California] just for the art show today.”
Over the years, Forever Stoked has increased its involvement with the community. Artists can often be spotted live-painting at events and showing work and painted surfboards at various businesses in the county. Additionally, “paint parties” are offered at the gallery, taught by either Clingman or Pedersen. They guide guests step-by-step through a full painting and provide all the necessary materials.
“We like to just break down the apprehension of doing a painting. It’s not about the painting, it’s about the experience of the evening,” Clingman said.
During the summer, Forever Stoked will travel to various California festivals to sell their art. Clingman has recently been focused on designing a mobile gallery, which he says will be “a game changer” for upcoming events. In the long term, the Forever Stoked team would like to expand the company’s merchandise outreach in other stores and establish a Forever Stoked gallery store, ideally in Hawai’i or California.
“Forever Stoked means keeping things that make your heart soar a priority in your day to day journey,” Clingman said.