Sean Bernhardt started his foray into surfing on the New Jersey coast, learning to ride waves by standing on a boogie board at ten years old. Today he has a full quiver to choose from and has spent many a holiday catching waves throughout the U.S. and Central America.
Surfing is his passion, but it’s a shared passion. Sean’s art has always been intrinsically connected with his love for the ocean.
“Both are wrapped so well together, when I’m not making art I’m trying to get some waves. It’s like a tangled knot you can’t get yourself out of at times. Surfing and creation are beautiful.”
What started out drawing surf logos on his school binders has built a career from his illustrations.
“I never really saw myself making money as an illustrator, but around 2012 people started asking me for shop logos, shirt designs, commission drawings. I even did some work for a shop in Japan, and then I got my artwork going with Vissla. That was huge.”
And so began Evil Paradise. Sean and his brand partner Dave Sincox create limited run clothing prints and handmade board-bags. Sean heads up the art direction, while Dave leads production, sewing the bags and screen printing all the tees and tanks. Think familiar beach vibes with a dark, whimsical twist.
“We are a super small, hands-on, DIY brand. Everything you see runs limited, about 25-30 shirts of each design is hand-picked, dyed, and cut. No two pieces are the same,” says Bernhardt.
Their designs are not for everyone, and certainly not for the masses. Evil Paradise is for those that want raw originality. The brand’s bold, flowing designs are simple and darkly intriguing, which is how they got the attention of Billabong.
Sean is one of three artists who were chosen to be a part of the Billabong Gallery, a global initiative to find and promote the most unique artists in the surf world. Sean created a whole collection under the name Space Bat Killer x Billabong that includes beanies, tees, long-sleeve shirts, and board shorts.
Surfing Magazine took interested and teamed up with Sean to create their own “Evil Especial” tee.
“I think the artwork really captures the mysteries of the deep and its creepiness. I think we have all had those hair-raising moments out in the ocean, whether you’re at your home break or traveling in unknown waters.”
Despite all the success of 2016, and having a dream opportunity become a reality, Sean stays grounded. He advises other young artists to not believe everything they see or hear, to always keep experimenting and to not get sucked into their cell phone.
“The ocean and surfing is always challenging, changing. It inspires my artwork, and makes me realize how great we have it. When I feel low I go surf, it always helps. I can shut my mind off. Who knows what’s beneath, but who cares? Without the ocean I would honestly find myself lost.”
It has been a big year for Sean and Evil Paradise, with more design collaborations on the horizon. But for right now, he’s just looking forward to the next swell and all that comes with it.
Editor’s Note: You can find more of Sean’s artwork and latest collections on Instagram @EvilParadise.