Surf’s Up! Pageant of the Masters Revisits Gary Prettyman’s “Cutting Glass” in 2018 Production “Under the Sun”

The creative team at the Pageant of the Masters –  Laguna Beach’s world-famous theatrical celebration of art in tableaux vivants– have always loved challenges. And nothing inspires them more than approaching an artwork they hope to transform into a “living picture” than the declaration, “It can’t be done!” Their philosophy has always been: big risk, big reward.

In 1992, when Glen Eytchison, director of the Pageant at the time, first approached Festival exhibitor Gary Prettyman about his vibrant acrylic portrait of surfing icon Kelly Slater executing an athletic maneuver riding a local wave, Gary’s first thought was, “There’s no way they could do this on the Pageant stage.” That summer, Prettyman’s “Cutting Glass” became one of those “how did they do it?” moments in the Pageant, as his acrylic painting became a living picture that seemed to defy gravity in recreating Slater’s dramatic feat onstage.

At that time, 26 years ago, Prettyman, who still lives in San Clemente, was busy establishing himself as a prominent proponent of surf art, a genre that has proven as evergreen and popular as plein air scenes of Laguna’s shoreline. With his painting on display in his booth on the Festival grounds and also recreated on the Pageant stage, Prettyman was enjoying his own “endless summer.”

Using photographs as sources for his surfing-inspired paintings, Prettyman was also perfecting his own unique style, creating acrylic scenes that seem to glow from within, as if the painting were floating on the surface of the canvas. In the case of “Cutting Glass,” he’d purchased a photo from a local newspaper photographer covering a surfing competition in 1990 held at Lower Trestles beach. Prettyman was drawn to that particular dramatic shot of Kelly Slater (who went on to win the competition) “cutting glass,” riding a wave. The photographer had rejected the shot because the light and color weren’t ideal. This, of course, was no problem for Prettyman, who was already envisioning the kinetic “pop” he could achieve through his experimental painting technique using transparent colors floating over a clear-coat.

Since its earliest years, the Pageant has sought occasional opportunities to showcase local artists. In 1935, Julia Bracken Wendt’s sculpture, “The Spirit of History, Science and Art” was featured as the finale of Roy and Marie Ropp’s 1935 Pageant. This summer’s Under the Sun goes out of its way to feature artworks by painters and sculptors associated with the Southland. But, in revisiting Prettyman’s “Cutting Glass”, there are new reasons to appreciate the artwork and artist.

For one, its subject, Kelly Slater, who was already making a name for himself in the surfing world in 1990, has gone on to become one of the acknowledged legends of the sport. Still competing, he’s also spent the past several years creating his “Surf Ranch” in Lemoore, California, where he’s developed technology to manufacture nearly ideal man-made waves in his high-tech “pool” far from the ocean.

On a far more personal front, however, this summer’s Pageant also provides another opportunity to be grateful that Gary Prettyman is still with us, and still excited about getting back to painting. In the 1990s, Gary was the victim of a freakish and near-fatal health emergency where he was informed that his survival was nothing short of a miracle. A prolonged and arduous recovery added to the challenge, and he often wondered if he’d ever paint again. Happily, Gary managed a full recovery and is more determined than ever to get back to the art he has always loved. With retirement after 20 years from his day job, he’s excited that a whole new Pageant audience will be introduced to his work this summer.

“My goal now is to paint, paint, paint!” he exclaimed. His love of surfing is undiminished by time or circumstance. “I still love the beauty of surfing, the uniqueness, the camaraderie, the tribe, the lifestyle,” he said of his nearly lifelong muse.  Among his first projects is a portrait of an old friend who’s a famous surf board shaper soon to be inducted into Huntington Beach’s Surfing Walk of Fame. Prettyman would also love to believe he’ll one day have his art juried into the Festival of Arts again. In the meantime, he’s just excited to have “Cutting Glass” back on the Pageant stage, this time as a highlight of Under the Sun.

“Cutting Glass” will also be featured offstage in the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters gift shop. Prettyman’s image will be highlighted on the 2018 commemorative poster and program cover as well as additional merchandise including t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Presented by the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach

The Pageant of the Masters is arguably one of the most unique productions in the entire world. Audiences are amazed and enchanted by ninety minutes of tableaux vivants (“living pictures”), incredibly faithful re-creations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.


July 7 – September 1, 2018

Performances Nightly at 8:30 pm

Advance Tickets $15 – $260


The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters are sponsored in part by
Southern California Acura Dealers, Fidelity Investments, KOST Radio 103.5,

Pavilions and the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.


Irvine Bowl at the Festival of Arts
650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651


(800) 487-3378


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