The Art of Surfing

Self-taught artist Abbi Custis is making some seriously beautiful waves with her abstract prints honoring local surf culture

Written by Alison Pappas

Salisbury-based artist, Abbi Custis, has been named the Coastal Style’s Best Artist in Wicomico County for six years in a row. She specializes in creating abstract prints that are recognized for their vibrancy and uniqueness. 

While growing up on the Shore, Abbi always found herself dabbling in art. She later left the area for college and then pursued a career as a professional event planner in Washington, DC. While she appreciated the excitement of event planning, Abbi’s father’s passing made her truly realize that life is short and that she should be doing what she really loved, which is art. 

“I always enjoyed creating art, but I was scared to make a career of it because I didn’t want to turn something that I loved into something that involves stress; however, I’ve found that as my career as an artist has evolved, it’s never been a stressful endeavor,” shared Abbi.

Because she is completely self-taught, Abbi has developed unique artistic techniques. She often uses non-traditional tools to enhance dimension, texture and shape. Also, she is a firm believer that there are no mistakes in the art world. 

Photo by Krista Valliant

“If something appears like a mistake, it often leads to a new idea. So, I’m always experimenting. And I like to keep an open mind while I learn and play with a material until I can really master it,” she said. 

Abbi likes to find inspiration from art in everyday places. Key themes that have emerged throughout her art portfolio are nature, colors and patterns. She also likes to experiment with applying paint to different objects, including surfboards. 

“I appreciate the idea of a surfboard being a three-dimensional art structure that is different from traditional canvas,” shared Abbi.

“I recently learned to surf because I wanted to understand the energy behind the surf vibe. This allowed me to grow more of a connection to the boards that I’m painting,” she continued.

While Abbi has frequently created new surfboard pieces, she has also repurposed worn boards that people were no longer using but were hesitant to discard because they held sentimental value.

Abbi accepts commissions and she has transformed her art into a line of accessories, wallpaper fabrics and other goods. If you’re interested in purchasing Abbi’s work, you may contact her through Instagram @abbicustisart or via her website, AbbiCustis.com. Her work is shown at Kuhn’s Jewelers in Salisbury, and her personal shop is available by appointment only. CS

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