AJ Dungo is an artist, skater, and master of drawing lines both in and out of the water. In 2019 he published a graphic novel titled ‘In Waves.’ With his passion for surfing at the forefront, the novel explores the beauty and complexity of his relationship with his partner as they face her prolonged battle with cancer.
Lasso spent time with AJ in Long Beach where he calls home to learn from him and his journey while he curb stomped the local spot.
‘In Waves’ is a beautiful graphic novel about love, loss, and the role surfing played between those two at a specific time in your life. What role does surfing now play in your life?
It still serves the same purpose. It’s a super joyous thing I share with my friends that lets me meet new people and gives me an opportunity to destress and connect with nature.
It’s weird, all the things that it was before it still is, and has only given me more after the fact. Because I shared that story it’s only expanded my circle of friends and understanding of what the ocean can do for people.
As an artist, what do you want people to take away from time spent with your work?
The way I move about the world and the way I try to treat people, I hope that reflects in my work somehow. Empathy and understanding and kindness, we all have a finite amount of time on this earth and we should use it wisely with the ones we love and the way we want to do it.
That’s how I see the world, just be good to people, but I don’t know, people don’t have to care about the work I’m making… whether they enjoy it, love it, hate it I’m just happy they had an experience with it.
You have an amazing ability to animate the world you see around you, are you naturally viewing the world this way or what is the process of animation for you?
I don’t walk around seeing people drawn [laughs]. It’s all an amalgamation of my influence and what I’m interested in looking at, I usually don’t draw unless I’m moved to make something.
For example, I was surfing yesterday with a friend that’s one of the dopest longboarders I know, and I wanted to make a comic of him to share his personality with other people and the fun that we had. When I make something that comes from an authentic experience, it resonates with people in a way.
How do you overcome any fears of truly expressing yourself?
The way to resolve it for me is to just do it, regardless of the outcome. You’re going to be scared doing it, I don’t think you can overcome the fear, the fear might drive you, but you shouldn’t let it hinder you from even starting. I’m still scared, but just do it.
Lasso’s Acid Western universe is a sacred place of radical acceptance where unity is found in ecstasy. How do you practice radical acceptance?
Don’t let anger be your first reaction to something, it’s easier said than done but I think that’s something I’ve come to. I can be a hot head, but why add negativity to negativity?
But radical acceptance, man. I love that idea, but it’s a hard idea. Ideally, I’d like to try and be accepting of everyone of how they come and save judgment till after I get to know them.
Where do you find ecstasy outside of surfing and how do you pursue it?
This may be counterintuitive to everything we’re talking about, but realizing that my work isn’t everything. Spending time with family and friends while living my life the way I want to, and spending the time I have to do things that really make me happy, that is another area where Ecstasy Awaits and I can find that.
What excites you about the journey you’re on?
I guess how unpredictable it is [laughs]. This may not be good advice for someone that’s trying to be an artist, but I try to live with no expectations. If anything good happens, that’s awesome, but realizing that everything will come in its own time.
There’s a kind of beauty in letting go of some things. Asking for more may lead to great things possibly, but maybe you’ll be less happy about it.