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Catch of the Day: Josh Barnes and Brandon Nonaka at Pacific Coast Gallery

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A collaborative work by artists Josh Barnes and Brandon Nonaka

Out to sea with Pacific Coast Gallery
“Into the Deep” highlights artists Josh Barnes and Brandon Nonaka
by Bondo Wyszpolski
Is something fishy going on at Pacific Coast Gallery? You bet. “Into the Deep” is a two-man show opening Saturday in Hermosa Beach and featuring artists Josh Barnes and Brandon Nonaka.
Last week at this time Josh was working late and Brandon was with family in Hawaii. But Monica Welch, who owns Pacific Coast Gallery with her husband, photographer Matthew Welch, was happy to spill the beans.

“Pacific Happy Hour,” by Josh Barnes

Monica says she encountered Josh’s paintings at Resin, the galley on Cypress Avenue that’s run by Rafael McMaster. “I was just fascinated by his waves,” she says.”They just kind of spoke to me.”
That was about two years ago, and actually right before Pacific Coast Gallery opened to the public. She has, subsequently, displayed some of Josh’s work, as well as big, bright paintings by Drica Loba whom she also met at Resin (where, at the time, her husband was showing his photographs).
One day, while Josh was in the gallery, Brandon walked in with his portfolio. “It was just by coincidence that Josh was here,” Monica says. The two young artists sized-up one another’s work and apparently were impressed by what they saw. “It’s kind of funny how things just happen,” Monica adds, “and all of a sudden I heard they were collaborating. So I said, ‘How about having a show for you guys?’”
They jumped at the idea, not surprisingly, but perhaps Brandon didn’t jump quite as high: he hadn’t been back to see his family in over a year. How could he do that, and have a show at the same time?
“And I was like, ‘I understand. So when will you be back?’” Monica said. “‘We’ll work around you.’ And that’s why we picked December 8.”
“Into the Deep” promises to be a visual seafood restaurant. “They both do a lot of fish and waves and water,” Monica says. Well, what could be more appropriate for what is essentially a seaside gallery?

Fish print by Brandon Nonaka

Stepping into the water
Josh Barnes was born in San Luis Obispo, studied at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, and now lives in Hermosa. Much of his work, he says, as we can easily see this for ourselves, pays homage to the city and to the California beach lifestyle. His subjects, therefore, are often “crashing waves, surfboards, and palm trees.” And naturally there’s an implied message to go along with all this, which is, quite simply, “Good Vibes Only.”

Fish print by Brandon Nonaka

Josh cut his chops by spray-painting skateboards. Now he works as a muralist, custom framer, screen printer, and graphic designer. His artistic style? In his own words, “detailed line work and intricate layering, bold colors, and a sense of dark, dreamy whimsy.”
Brandon Nonaka’s art, on the other hand, is a little more unusual in that it’s known as “gyotaku” (the art of fish printing) and dates back to 18th century Japan. Born and raised in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, Brandon wasn’t far from the ocean and the fish that swam in it, or which were caught by avid fishermen, his father among them.
And so what Brandon does is select one of the ocean’s denizens, which could be a parrotfish, seabass, mahi-mahi, moana kali, omilu, menpachi, yellowtail or yellowfin tuna, as well as shrimp, squid or octopus. He lays them on a clean slab, slathers them with a non-toxic, water-based acrylic ink that washes off, wipes away the excessive ink, and then presses a sheet of paper over them in order to get a good impression.
It’s not just any paper, of course. What Brandon prefers is 40 GSM Thai Unryu paper, which is a lightweight mulberry paper with strands of fiber running through it which adds a texture that’s both visual and tactile.
Not wanting the print to resemble roadkill, Brandon then touches up the print using only brushes and paint, adding eyes, spots, stripes, etc., with colors that make the fish or cephalopod appear somewhat alive. Not that you’d expect it to jump up and make for the door. He then adds his hanko, his stamp of authenticity.
One can learn more about Brandon Nonaka and his company, Makai Impressions (makai means ‘by the sea’) by visiting his website,

Monica Welch of Pacific Coast Gallery. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

Art, music, and sweaters
Pacific Coast Gallery’s most recent show, “Ride the Wild Wheels,” featured some 75 photographs by Spot, which received coverage in these pages by ace reporter Ryan McDonald. Monica says the show was a big hit, and as of a few days ago some of Spot’s iconic images of life in Hermosa, during the 1970s and early ‘80s, were still on view.
As for this Saturday, Josh and Brandon will both be on hand, and they’ll do a live collaborative piece on opening night: Just don’t jostle their elbows while they’re doing it or you could end up alongside one of Brandon’s fish prints. A band from Mira Costa High School called Business Casual will provide aural entertainment (or maybe wardrobe choices, going by their name).
Not to be sidelined in his own gallery, Matthew Welch will also display some of his recent photographs. In his younger days, Matthew photographed bands for Spin magazine and other publications, and that ongoing passion for the printed image remains strong to this day.

“Party Streetshark,” by Josh Barnes

Monica also points out that people can come to the opening in their holiday sweaters, and that prizes will be given in such categories as ugliest or funniest. I’m not sure what those prizes may be, but don’t get your hopes up for a surfboard or a new Camry.
The artwork can be seen through the end of the month, Monica says, adding, “Or until they’re all sold.” Ah, that’s the spirit!
Into the Deep, featuring paintings by Josh Barnes and fish prints by Brandon Nonaka, opens with a reception on Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Pacific Coast Gallery, 205 Pier Ave., downtown Hermosa Beach. For the holidays, street parking is free. (310) 853-3564 or visit ER

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