Skye’s Psychedelic Surf and Skate Art

By Trina Calderón

At the intersection of ocean and sunshine, Southern California reflects its culture definitively through its visual art. The beach, oak trees, streets, and multicultural community frame an iconic identity. For painter Skye Cochran, it’s a catalyst. “The surfing lifestyle, the skateboarding, hot rods, the Latino culture, these are big influences on me for sure. I feel blessed growing up here. People like Ed Roth, Jimbo Phillips—there are just so many good artists. I love the graffiti art and the Mexican culture that influences this area. I’m lucky to have all this around me,” said Skye, Huntington Beach native, surfer, father, brother, skater, tattoo nutcase, and Deadhead.

He remembered, “I already knew about the Grateful Dead growing up. My parents were hippies. But I got kicked out of my house in 1988. I jumped on tour when JGB played the Wiltern that year. I did tour till Jerry died. I jumped off a couple times to go to Hawaii. I’m a Jerry’s kid. A lot of the kids were from broken homes that found a home on tour. I’m a Haight Street kid.” 

Self-taught, Skye is a natural painter. Once he imagines something, it’s on. “The process for me is really if I can see it in my head, I have to paint it,” he told me, and likens it to a crackhead with paint. “It calls me. I see it in my head. Think about the execution and do it. I don’t have really any formal training for art.”

With his distinct way of seeing, and experience connecting in the world, Skye has an artful vibe that matches his personality. He makes it easy to see a good time on all the surfaces he paints. His compositions are funny and fun, with a variety in sharp lines and always cool color array. It’s an extension of his lifestyle in art, painted on hats, skate decks, surfboards, or wood panels.  

His grandmother was an artist, and he watched her work in ceramics and oil paint, but it was comic books that gave him the desire to express himself. “I like doing the characters from skateboarding art and comic books. It’s just something I grew up with. I draw cartoon characters. I still love comics and cartoons; I watch them with my son. I’ve always been influenced by these iconic images. I’m just a big kid at heart,” Skye shared. Developing that graphic psychedelia in his painting style, choices, and palette, he is inspired by epic artists like Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, and Jack Kirby. Scenes of surfing waves, Grateful Dead album cover art, and his own flying eyeball incarnations collaborate with emblematic hues for artful good vibes.  

“I like to say I paint psychedelic stoner surf art. Throw on a show from the 70’s or 80’s and flow,” he said with a smile.