Introducing the official artwork for the 2024 Catalina Classic, commissioned by FLORENCE & created by paddler & Classic competitor, Emily Bark.

As paddlers from across the globe prepare for the trip to Southern Cailfornia, we sat down with Emily to hear how she dreamt up the art, and what the Catalina Classic meant to her growing up in the Bark family.

When & how did you get your start as an artist?

I grew up doing a lot of art but started creating more while studying Studio Art in college. Since, I’ve been really enjoying exploring different mediums while working for my dad at Bark Boards- I get to shape, paint some boards, and design apparel, which has been a neat way to combine my art practice with work, paddling, and surfing. The work I do there definitely influences the art I make outside of work (a lot of drawing and printmaking) so it’s a fun mesh of things.

Emily Bark - Florence Test Pilot and Artist

What has the Catalina Classic meant to you and your family?

The Catalina Classic has always been something that I wanted to do growing up. All of us Bark kids have been at pretty much every finish line since we were born, and getting to finally be on the other side of it for the first time in 2021 felt like something that I had been waiting for my whole life. Growing up, I was often on my dad’s escort boats, so having him on my escort boat now is a really cool full-circle moment for me. My dad raced it for 38 years- I can’t imagine doing that but I also understand why he did. Once you finish one, it’s hard to imagine not doing it. It’s like a yearly reset- something to train for, look forward to, suffer through, and push your mental limits a little. And then doing it alongside my family, seeing friends in the channel and at the finish- that’s what really makes it so special.

Catalina Classic 32 Mile Paddleboard Race Tee 2024

The art feels classic, and really captures the essence of the event. What was your creative approach for this 2024 event art?

Since this event is so historical I wanted to create something that nodded back to the past a little and didn’t look too modern. I looked at a lot of old Catalina Classic photos from my dad’s archives and a lot of LeRoy Grannis photos for inspiration as well because those really put you back in time. When I was sketching out a few ideas, I kept thinking about the finish line scene, because that’s when it really all comes together- you’ve gotten through the race and everything that was so difficult a few minutes ago doesn’t matter anymore. Looking back through old photos from the Classic, my favorites are always the ones of people holding their boards while posing against the pier, lugging boards, and walking up the beach exhausted. I wanted to put a little of that in here.

Inspiration art for the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race 2024

Are there any symbolism or significance in elements of the work that you'd like the viewer to take away?

For reference for this piece I dug into some old photos we have at the shop- the figure in the foreground was drawn looking at an old photo of a paddler from the 80s. The board is definitely more of an 80s shape, the shorts are a little shorter- it’s what you’d see in those old Catalina Classic finish line photos. I wanted the paddlers to look like they’ve just come in from the water- because that’s a great feeling to put the channel behind you and step foot on the sand. I also wanted to have more than just one figure in the image since the race is so community oriented. I didn’t want too much going on in the image- just the essentials: the people, the boards, the natural elements.

Emily creating art in the Bark Shop

Is this your first time creating art for the Catalina Classic?

It is! I’ve always wanted to create something for this race, so this was pretty cool to be given the opportunity to do so. Creating art for something that is so close to my heart and so meshed in my life was really special and I’m grateful for it.

When you're painting for a historical event like this, does your creative process differ from your usual approach to your art?

In my creative process, I find myself drawing from the same themes over and over in different ways- most of it is water related so this felt like a natural extension of that. I usually start a piece by shooting photos or looking at visuals related to whatever I am making- so for this piece I found myself looking at a lot of old paddle archives and watching some old race footage which was pretty cool to do.

Emily and Jack Bark of Bark Boards Paddleboards

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