Painter Todd Goodman lets his love of local beaches shine through in colorful paintings featured in the upcoming Venice Art Crawl
By Michael Aushenker
As an artist, Todd Goodman puts color into local color and the local into his color canvases.
Goodman’s paintings may capture recognizable landmarks — Santa Monica Pier, Windward Circle, the Venice Sign — but not in a typical way. His stylized acrylic paintings recreate Santa Monica and Venice landmarks in a kaleidoscopic, quasi-psychedelic tapestry of bright, fragmented dashes.
Among dozens of local artists participating in next Thursday’s Venice Art Crawl, Goodman will be on hand to sign prints at Hama Sushi, where more than a dozen of his paintings are currently on display.
“I’m a soul surfer. The water does something to me,” Goodman, fresh from surfing on a picture-perfect day on Venice Beach, said over a bento box lunch at Hama Sushi, his painting of a wave-riding Batman hanging above him.
Some of Goodman’s other works have included Superman, Catwoman and Spider-Man riding giants, but Goodman is no comics fan boy.
“The primary emotion behind it is the feeling of being stoked. Energy, positive energy. Feeling stoked, about life, about yourself,” he said of why he often employs empowering superhero imagery.
A mellow 37-year-old with a shaved head and a bright blue T-shirt featuring an 8-bit video game alien, Goodman said his love for surfing and painting have become intertwined within a deep spiritual satisfaction he derives from his beach surroundings of the past seven years.
Sunsets also figure prominently.
“You can say the sunset at Santa Monica Beach could be anywhere, but I’ve never seen sunsets like I have out here,” Goodman said. “I’ve seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets in the deserts of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, but there’s something very unique to the sky in Santa Monica and Venice. I love it.”
What’s surprising about Goodman’s fine arts career is how haphazardly it fell into place.
A native of Schenectady, New York, Goodman studied environmental science before getting a master’s in international relations with a concentration on Middle Eastern affairs. He interned for President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center, tackling issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian divide and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. It was late in 2000, after Goodman moved to Colorado, that he decided to drop by an art store and buy painting supplies.
“The last art class I took was in elementary school. I really didn’t follow artists, not on an academic level,” he said.
If anything, Goodman had a closer affinity for music, growing up playing piano, violin and saxophone before settling on the drums. At 13 he had a KISS-themed bar mitzvah reception, but eventually gravitated toward more improvisational music such as psychedelic rock and jazz.
Goodman and his wife Marcella, an Argentine Spanish teacher he met in Colorado while she was on an exchange program, moved to Los Angeles in late 2006.
“We drove straight from Denver right out to the hostel on Windward,” he recalled.
The couple eventually landed an apartment in Santa Monica, which allowed Goodman to take up surfing. He also landed a job building a nonprofit educational website, but was laid off in August 2008, prompting a professional crossroads.
After helping a friend man a jewelry table on Ocean Front Walk, Goodman soon set up his own table selling jewelry he made and, inspired by the boardwalk artists that surrounded him, started painting.
Come last year, a string of local art shows followed in quick succession — first a dozen paintings at Santa Monica’s Street Craft L.A. in April, followed by an exhibit at Grill 20 on Washington Boulevard in June and another at Venice’s Canal Club in September. He sold a painting featuring a surfing Wonder Woman during the Abbot Kinney Festival, and other sales followed earlier this year at Le Cellier Winebar in Marina del Rey.
“It’s been so great to see Todd Goodman’s work progress the last few years,” said Venice photographer Sunny Bak, an Art Crawl organizer. “His images always bring a smile to my face, and I am in awe of his progression.”
Sales at Goodman’s current Hama Sushi show got off to a bang when the restaurant notified him that a musician had bought his Catwoman painting — and not just any musician, but Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell, also a visual artist (he created the band’s album cover art) and founder of Lollapalooza.
“What I appreciate most about that buy is that he is an artist, he’s a trendsetter, he’s an entrepreneur,” said Goodman, who would play Jane’s Addiction songs in his high school bands. “It’s humbling and empowering and it’s encouraging. It validates me as an artist.”
Over one of Hama’s signature strawberry sushi rolls, Goodman talked about the last big painting he created for the current show: a skateboard-toting bulldog on Windward Circle. A pair of diners underneath the large canvas asks him whether he plans to put the image on a T-shirt.
“We’ve struggled and we still struggle to make ends meet, but I’m not one to get discouraged,” Goodman said. “Even if nobody’s buying it, I just love to paint.”
Goodman’s work hangs through July 15 at Hama Sushi, 213 Windward Ave., Venice. The Venice Art Crawl begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 19, at multiple venues to be announced at veniceartcrawl.com.