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Letty Nowak's "The Faces Of Surfing" Collection Live At Surf Expo

Meet the artist Friday, September 7, at 3:00 p.m. at the gallery on the mezzanine, make suggestions on her next subjects, and you could win a Surf Expo show T-shirt if she picks your suggestion.

Posted 9/2/2012

Surf Expo is excited to exhibit Letty Nowak's "The Faces Of Surfing" Collection at the September Show, September 6-8 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Florida.

The Faces of Surfing is a collection of Nowak’s oil on canvas paintings of people from the surf industry. Her plans for the paintings are to show them in groups of the next 20 to 30 pieces as they are finished from California to Australia.

Even in the beginning stages of the project, the surf industry has embraced the concept and Nowak’s work. “Many of my subjects have taken the time to sit with me to brainstorm other characters, industry leaders, philanthropic leaders, from different countries and ages alike,” says Nowak. “They have also been instrumental in helping come up ways to help grow this project and to be able to give back financially through the Faces of Surfing paintings.”


While the paintings hold a life like resemblance, Nowak’s marks and color bring them to a different dimension. Large and small blocks of color intertwine to make up each feature, plane, curve, shadow and highlight. “I see each section of the faces as a sort of topographical map and break it down almost abstractly. When it all comes back together- a new image of my subject is formed. My goal has always been to have my painting itself speak just as loud as the person I have portrayed,” adds Nowak.

Meet The Artist

Meet Nowak on Friday at 3:00 p.m. on the mezzanine outside registration. Hear about how "The Faces Of Surfing" project go started and recommend new subjects for this always expanding collection. If your suggestion is chosen by Nowak, you'll receive a Surf Expo T-shirt. Also check out Surf Expo's Facebook page for your chance to make suggestions.

About The Artist
Nowak was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on June 9th, 1977 to Walter John and Linda Nowak. Walter John, a screen printer and sign painter by trade, introduced Letty to the basics of line, form, composition and color at an early age.

She spent the predominant part of her childhood on the shores of Gull Lake in Richland, MI but in the summers she would head out to the western coast of Michigan where her father ran several surf shops. She went on to receive a Bachelors degree in Fine Art from Michigan State University and upon graduation chose Key West, FLA as the place she would nurture and grow her career in painting.

Nowak became a fixture in the local Key West art scene and eventually owned her own gallery, which allowed her to make the connections necessary to get her work proliferated throughout other galleries in the U.S. Pivotal to her success outside of Key West was her series entitled, “Faces of Key West” which was comprised of 100 different portraits. While the portraits captured the likenesses of a wide variety of local people, they began to define the uniqueness in approach, style and composition that would become unmistakably Nowak’s.

Her interest in portraits stemmed from a chance assignment she was given her senior year at MSU from her art teacher. Tasked with completing 25 portraits in a single weekend, Nowak took on the project with excited fervor and never looked back.

Nowak is known for unusually large portraits ( 5’ x 6’) which are always frontal, and always colorful. At times her style seems to verge on realism. Her images are both bold and striking, and the eyes of her subjects are unique in the way they seem behold the onlooker with a certain acceptance and benevolence.

Ask Nowak about what she is trying to accomplish with her portraits and a representation of the person is not what she is after. She is not out to capture their spirit, essence or character. Instead, her portraits are vehicles for abstract painting.

“I want my paintings to speak as loud as the people I paint. I see my paintings as abstract pieces, blocks of color, which come together to create the recognizable image of a face. I work to make each piece more and more about the actual painting, through my marks and color, even more than the subject I am portraying.”

“The Faces of Surfing” is Nowak’s current project, which will eventually represent 100 portraits of the likenesses of some of the more influential, innovative, and unique people in the surfing community. From surfing legends like Skip Frye, Rob Machado and Peter Townend to industry tycoons such as Bob Hurley of Hurley Industries and Bob McKnight of Quiksilver, Nowak’s “Faces of Surfing” seeks to represent “all” of the faces of surfing, not just the ones on the covers of the magazines.

The surfing community has embraced Nowak’s “Faces of Surfing” project with open arms. Hurley has already sponsored two exhibitions showcasing some of the pieces from the project. Several other companies have approached Nowak about doing projects with her art as well.

Most importantly, many of her subjects that she has painted have not only appreciated the artistic portrayals she has done of them but they have taken a keen interest in helping Nowak identify other characters, industry and philanthropic leaders from all over the world. Musician/ surfers Jack Johnson and Donovan Frankenreiter, Hawaiian surf legend Rabbit Kekai, Jay Moriarty of the Surfrider Foundation and many more are all going to be coming across Nowak’s canvas in the coming months.

“Faces of Surfing” is an amalgam of Nowak’s passions and has recently spurred a move to La Jolla, Ca where she paints from her ocean view studio. “With the West Coast move and the response and support from both the fine art world and the surf industry, this body of work seems to be on a path of endless possibilities.”

Nowak has exhibited all over the country, most notably a solo exhibition at Hal Bromm in New York City. Her latest exhibit entitled “Faces of Surfing” opens April 23rd and runs through May 6th at the La Jolla Art Association Gallery. Gallery is open daily from 11am – 5pm. For appointments please email:

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