When you surf the waters of the North Sea most of the time, you’re surfing under rough conditions with strong wind and cold water while daydreaming about sunny days and warmer temperatures. Bringing this vision to reality, Donald van Os, a Dutch surfer, lifeguard, swimming teacher and artist, started creating scales of little exotic paradises any surfer dreams of.
“Water means freedom and joy to me”, Donald says. “I started building scales in a period of my life when I was surfing less because of an injury. I wasn’t really happy with myself, with the friends I had at that time and the work I was doing, so I started searching for the things I enjoyed besides surfing”.
Donald’s dioramas are like still shots of endless fun in paradise. But wait… are those pots made out of beads? And those waves? “I use everything I can get my hands on to build the scales, that’s what makes it so interesting”, he explains. “Old toys, abandoned objects, or a piece of used plastic. I’ve always had this thing since I was a kid where I can scope an object and see a building in it, or a bridge, or furniture for the house. I reuse things and materials, and my waves are sometimes made out of discarded plastic bottles”.
Is it like someone’s trash is another one’s treasure? “Well, we’re the most bad-mannered creatures on this planet. Once we’re done with something, we just leave it as trash. It’s weird to me and that’s why I don’t totally believe in recycling. I think recycling is a camouflage of the damage to the planet we’re causing and in which we are all guilty of”, Donald adds. “Reusing is a better solution. Reusing, but also making things more sustainable already from the start. It’s weird to me that things are programmed with some kind of expire date. What we buy today, it’s old tomorrow; that’s actually insane”.
The dioramas are full of vibrant colours and tiny elaborated details like the artwork on the surfboards. You can get lost staring at them and feel like going back to childhood when we used to spend hours playing with toys. “As a kid, I was really into the whole Marvel thing. Marvel and DC, but I liked comic books in general”, Donald continues. “When I was a bit older my dad got me this skateboard from the US with an incredible illustration. We also had skateboards here in Europe, but the most badass visuals were coming from the US with visuals made by Jim Phillips, also one of my heroes. When I later on started surfing, I also liked the artwork of Christian Riese Lassen, an airbrusher and surfer that makes beautiful works about paradise with transparent water, dolphins… a bit like a spiritual call.”
The landscapes created in the airbrushed paintings are quite the opposite of the paradises in the dioramas. There’s trash, factory pipes… “My local surf spot Wijk aan Zee (The Netherlands), is near blast furnaces and it’s probably one of the most air-polluted areas in the country”, Donald adds. “Industry with its cranes, pipes and smokes. It’s like a jungle. It’s reality, but it does have its romance as well”.