Endless Creativity

John Van Hamersveld makes new waves with his art—this time, even closer to home.

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    Kelly Dawson

It’s been a lifetime since painter and graphic designer John Van Hamersveld was just a surfer kid growing up in the South Bay. 

He remembers his parents drawing in their home near the swells of Lunada Bay and seeing beatniks and Hells Angels off the Hermosa Pier. He recalls how two hours of art classes a day at El Segundo High School changed his life. 

And now, 50 years since his iconic poster for Endless Summer made him an international artist, he’s back in the neighborhood. Since the sorbet-hued image for the 1966 movie became synonymous with surf culture, John has made a legacy as layered as waves on the beach. 

He famously created album covers for legendary bands—such as The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. and The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. He recently crafted a psychedelic LED spectacle on Fremont Street in Las Vegas.

And a few months after opening an art gallery this year, his work will be featured in the nearby Topaz San Pedro office building, close to where it all began. 

“I continue moving forward, which is not what the typical gallery artist does,” he says.

The mural, which is scheduled to be unveiled this summer, will be on a massive, 10-foot-by-20-foot canvas in the new building’s lobby. Its look is akin to the bright aesthetic of his “Waterworks” series. While the specifics are being kept under wraps for now, Topaz’s developers hope that it will showcase the building as a place for like-minded, creative talent. 

“We’re trying to appeal to the local community,” says Tim Vaughan, senior vice president at CBRE—a commercial real estate firm—and one of the top-leasing brokers at Topaz. Located on Sixth Street, where surrounding galleries and restaurants have similarly been transforming the area into a stylish hub, Topaz has ultra-modern floor plans with views of the waterfront. Electric vehicle charging stations and custom-made bikes are also part of the trendy setting.

As a member of Palos Verdes’ artist community and a father to surfers, Tim knew of John’s history—and, of course, his signature dark hat and round glasses. Tim and his colleagues commissioned the artist after others submitted their ideas. He thinks that John’s contribution will be the start of Topaz’s budding reputation for work and play.

To John, this particular work is yet another instance of hard-earned experience. Future onlookers can admire the various concepts in the piece, which include Dutch and surreal influences, or they could form viewpoints based on their own histories. 

“You know more than what you can understand,” he says. “That’s the beauty of art. As someone who is turning 73, I’m in that stage.”