Ali Kurzeja Artist for Akela Surf

1- Tell us about yourself: Where are you from? Where do you currently live? Tell us about some of your hobbies and passions.

I grew up in the beautiful beach town of Sarasota, Florida where I became interested in art and surfing at a young age. My memories of turquoise waters and vivid green surroundings serve as great inspiration in my art. I enjoy painting nature and using colorful palettes that echo the feel of my coastal home. I studied illustration at Ringling College of Art & Design. Upon graduation I received the opportunity to work as a professional illustrator at a large studio in the Midwest. Having never seen snow, I was hesitant about the relocation. However, I decided to embrace the adventure and made the move to Cleveland, Ohio. I soon found myself amongst a small, but welcoming surf community on Lake Erie. I invested in a thick wetsuit and a snowboard for the off-season. I now spend my days creating colorful artwork, riding snowy hills, and catching chilly lake waves with wonderful newfound friends. I visit Florida often to recharge and soak up sunny days, and when I can't catch a flight home a hot yoga session will sometimes do the trick!

2 - Tell us how you found out about Akela Surf and what impact it has had on you thus far?
I found out about Akela Surf through Instagram. I stumbled upon Victoria Jones' beautiful textile design, which then led me to the brand's homepage.

Akela Surf has made a huge impact on my life! I worked at a beach shop selling swimwear when I was a teenager. I always admired the textile designs I saw in the store and dreamed of one day creating my own. Akela Surf has made that dream a reality!

3 - What does art mean to you?

I believe art is an expression of one's self. Whether I'm creating art for myself or a client, my personality becomes interwoven with the project. In some ways, making commercial art is quite similar to making a sandwich. There are expected ingredients defining the structure, but the chef chooses particular spices, colors, and textures to add. In the same manner an artist interprets directions to create a design. My background and personal preferences have the opportunity to come into play and create something uniquely specific to me.

4 Can you describe the feeling of drawing to us?

Beginning a drawing and staring at a blank page can often be the most intimidating part of the design process for me. I tend to create multiple sketches on tracing paper, then cut and reposition layouts several times. Once I establish a composition and begin adding color I start to flow into the blissful state of creating.

5 - What are your future plans and goals?

I plan to continue creating artwork, with a focus on fashion/textile design, as well as fine art. I would also like to travel! I have seen so little of the world and would love to broaden my horizons, particularly to warm surfy locations!

6- Who and what inspire you?

I've always been inspired by my environment. My mother was an interior designer and filled our home with fresh orchids, tropical botanical prints, and my father's watercolor paintings. All of these components have subconsciously snuck their way into my work. I am also influenced by an eclectic group of artists, including Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Bernie Fuchs, David Downton, Helen Dealtry, Annie Everingham, Luli Sanchez, Luki O'Keefe, and all of my talented studio mates in Cleveland! I would be remiss if I didn't mention Pinterest also!

7 - What do you like the most about being an artist and surfer?

As for me, art and surfing go hand in hand. Sitting on my board, seeing the horizon blend into the sky makes me want to paint, and dipping my paintbrush into a palette of vibrant colors make me want to surf. I feel incredibly lucky to do both.

8- Anything you will like to share with us?
Yes! Please check out more of my art at: (and on my instagram account: ali.kurzeja).


Photos by Audrey Tyler Jones.