December 19, 2014

Denny Riordon: Bridging the 70's and 80's

Early on in my skateboarding life, I fell in love with the Denny Riordon "People in My Head" graphic as advertised in TWS in 1988. I still consider it one of the great bits of skate art, though -- regrettably -- I have no idea who actually did the graphic. Here was the ad in question:

Denny's original sponsor was Kryptonics and later Toxic. Whenever this deck comes up on collector forums, the response is always the same: there is a strong positive response to the deck art as a strong bit of skate art very indicative of the 1980's period. Riordon's deck came in both a full sized street model and a smaller freestyle model. Here are a few variants of the Riordon "People in my head" model, coming from both Kryptonics and Toxic:

Denny was an East Coast skater who skated freestyle, ditches, pools and pretty much whatever else he could find to skate. He saw action in both the 70's and 80's eras of skating, skating against and with the likes of both Stacy Peralta and Rodney Mullen.

I recently came across a great interview with Denny. Here is an excerpt:

So what other things were there to skate? You mentioned backyard pools. Were there any because I never had any when I was growing up?

Well there were a couple of things that happened. There was always two weeks in the spring time when the pools would get drained for cleaning. Like Town and Country pool on Cranbrook Road, we would go in there and dry it out and make sure it was good. We’d ride those pools for two weeks straight. We’d go from one community pool to the next. It got to the point where sometimes there would be 30 guys in there in the shallow end and cops would come and we’d all scatter. Twenty minutes later, we’d all be back. Another one of our not so smart ideas, that we did anyway, was we would look for newspapers piled up in front of houses and if they had a pool and we’d drain it.


We had a pump system and we would literally drain pools and skate them until the people came home. That was pretty much what was going on, it was the whole Dogtown thing. We were doing the same thing, just on the other coast.

To read the entire article, see: Going Home Again: A Journal of (Re)Skateboarding.

As a little bonus, here is Denny's second freestyle run at the 1989 Savannah Slamma:

December 13, 2014

A Future Skate Pilgrimage -- For Now a Virtual One

Some people dream of making a pilgrimage to some holy site or shrine that is particularly important to them, whereas others of us dream of a pilgrimage to the "shrines" of skateboarding. For some while now I've been thinking about what would be a fun and interesting "skate tour." You perhaps know the sort of thing I mean, perhaps you have even thought of it for yourself: visiting famous skate shops and spots that were seen in the skate magazines and skate videos in the 1970's, 80's and 90's, or places which have just generally woven themselves into the fabric of the skate culture. Like our religious pilgrim, what is likely the most practical solution is to pick some location which provides a number of different opportunities in short striking distance. For them, that might mean Jerusalem or Rome, for me it would be the L.A. area, and Venice/Santa Monica specifically.

I thought it might be fun to share some of what I've come up with, maybe see if any readers have any thoughts of their own and provide some Google Streetview links -- Google's Streetview has provided a fun way to have a virtual tour of these places today. I don't know about you, but I'm always interested to see the context of these places and what else is around them.

As I already mentioned, the central hub, for me at least, has to be Venice/Santa Monica -- though, given the skate history found here, I think this is a fair central hub for most anyone. First stop, the original site of the old Zephyr Shop of Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom, found at 2011 Main St., Santa Monica, Ca. (Google Streetview).

An image of the old Zephyr shop location a few years back. Then another surf shop, Horizons West.
(Image credit: Ian T. Edwards)

Even though the Zephyr shop is no longer here of course, it would be amazing to stand outside this site where so much Dogtown and skateboarding history was written. We can be thankful that the site was saved from demolition in 2007 and has since been designated a Santa Monica city landmark.

Continuing on with the tour, it seems to me it's necessary to get right into the heart of Venice where Pacific Ave. intersects with Woodward Ave. (Google Streetview):

Now there are two immediate points of interest to be found here, one to the right and one to the left. Let's first go right, onto Pacific Ave., where we will almost immediately run into the Venice Originals Skateboard Shop (Google Streetview):

Definitely need to make a stop in there. But if we turn just back from here, turning left onto Pacific Ave. instead of right, we'll very quickly find ourselves at what is perhaps the most famous fire hydrant in the world; namely, that which Natas Kaupas spinned upon in Santa Cruz's second skate video, Streets on Fire, at Pacific Ave. and 17th Ave. (Google Streetview):

You can see the fire hydrant just to the bottom left

Amazing little piece of history, and its so great to see the building to the right still looks the same as it did in the video!

While we are on the subject of spots in this area related to Natas, let's turn to the second most famous fire hydrant in the world, one which is seen even more frequently in Wheels of Fire and Streets on Fire, that found on the corner of Hill St. and Third St. in Santa Monica (Google streetview):

I'd also mention a spot where Natas was famously photographed in Thrasher Magazine doing a wallride, on the mural on Oceanside Park Blvd. just south of the 4th St. overpass in Santa Monica (Google Streetview):

Next in our little tour of Venice is Jay Adam's house from when he was a youngster and skating with the Z Boys. Now normally I wouldn't be for posting something like this since I wish to respect privacy, but I'll make an exception in this instance for two reasons: the first is that Jay's family no longer live here, so their privacy is retained; the second is that Jay himself did a video interview in front of his old childhood home, thereby showing he didn't mind this being known. The attraction to this site isn't some sort of "groupie" attraction to Jay, it's rather because of the skate history he mentions about he and some of the Z Boys that took place around this house. (Watch the video -- and here is the Google Streetview link.)

Continuing on, we already dropped by Venice Originals, time to head on over to Rip City Skates on Santa Monica Blvd. (Google Streetview):

Some other sites in the Santa Monica area that would be worth hitting are the old banked school yards, such as Paul Revere Middle School where we saw Natas and others ripping it up in so many videos:

Finally, what would a trip to the L.A. region be without a stop into the legendary Pink Motel on San Fernando Rd. where you can skate their pool to this day (thanks to Lance Mountain!) and which most of us saw in the pool skating session of the legendary skate film, The Search for Animal Chin. (Google Streetview):

And here it is from above so you can see the pool:

So there it is. My little skate 'pilgrimage'. Where would you go?

December 07, 2014

Basic "Six Million Dollar Man" Team Deck: Rare 1990's Skate Art

Speaking more on the subject of rare decks from the 1990's, here is a Six Million Dollar Man team deck from Basic skateboards.

Here are a couple of details from the deck:

1990's decks can be so very fun. They have a character that is quite distinct from the classic deck art of the 80's on the one hand, but retain a certain vintage pull through their linkages to pop culture more generally.

December 06, 2014

The Wonder Twins: Rare 1990's Skate Art

As skate art is concerned, I am admittedly primarily drawn to and focused upon decks from the 1980's as well as the original Dogtowns from the 1970's. This is in no small part due to the fact that I was born in the first half of the 1970's and so it was the 1980's when I was first drawn into the skate world and it is that era which I have the strongest connection to and familiarity with. (Though I don't want to understate the fact that, as skate artists go, people like Wes Humpston and Jim Phillips are legends and masters of the craft as well, making their work worthy of attention at any time and in any era.)

That said, I am not one who wants to mistake my personal familiarities (or nostalgia if you will) for some sort of objective, universal standard and I am perfectly open to admitting that there has been plenty of interesting stuff that has occurred since those decades. In particular, I have developed a very keen interest in the earlier half of the 1990's -- a time which saw legendary skate artists like Marc McKee and Sean Cliver putting out so much iconic and interesting work.

One of the things that I enjoy about skate art is that the volume of work out there seems so prodigious. It's rather like being an admirer of Picasso, no matter how much you look at his work, you're constantly amazed that new things frequently turn up which you've never seen before -- and with skate art, even if you've seen a particular piece of deck art before, you're always running into new colorways that can give a completely different spin to a graphic than you've seen a thousand times before.

Recently I came across a pair of decks from Santa Monica Airlines which were produced in 1993, the "Wonder Twins" decks of Tim Brauch and Jason Adams -- which, according to Art of Skateboarding, were done by artist Nate Carrico.

(Image credit: Memory Screened)

Memory Screened has a bit of the back-story around the graphic from Jason Adams:

"This wasn’t especially inspired by any existing superhero, it just came from me and Tim Brauch drinking together. We came up with the idea together, we were just always together. Lived together, skated every day, same sponsor, traveled, all that shit! It was the best time, salad days I tell ya…"

I really connect with these decks, particularly in these colorways. The graphics really pop and they represent a particular type of skate art from the 1990's that I particularly enjoy and connect with: those which, like American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, picked up on the classic illustrative tradition of comic book and comic strip art styles. When I think classic 1990's skate art, this is the kind of thing I think about.

November 05, 2014

Two Dogtown Originals

Wes Humpston's skate art is, of course, legendary and has a well deserved cult-like status. As skate art goes, I am not certain you can find any more precious relics than the hand-drawn Dogtown boards that were created in the 1970's. Those boards are not only of interest as icons of early skate art, they also have an important place in the history of skateboarding generally being connected with the entire Dogtown and Z-boys narrative. I fear no contradiction in saying that such boards are worthy of being museum pieces, so important are they to the history and narrative of skateboarding and skate culture.

I wanted to share two such Dogtown boards that have recently caught my eye. Both boards incorporate the D.T.S. monogram, the iconic Dogtown cross -- an image which was borrowed from Craig Stecyk apparently -- and the distinctive scripting which has come to characterize the Dogtown boards. They are truly beautiful specimens -- treasures.

If you'd like to read about and see more of Wes' work, both from the 70's and later, I would highly recommend you try to acquire a copy of Bulldog's Art.

November 01, 2014

"Ah, Venice!" Part II (Or: "How Much Skate History Can You Find at One Venice Intersection?")

Check out this great shot from Jim "Red Dog" Muir and Dogtown Skateboards, showing their classic Dogtown style deck ("OG Rider custom fades with a small spoon nose mid eighties style concave") right in the heart of Venice, California. (Take note of the iconic "Venice" hanging that is found over the intersection of Pacific Ave. and Windward.) If you want the deck (and who wouldn't!) head on over to their site.

And if you want a bit more skate history from that intersection, if you were to just look a little to the right of where this photo is taken, you'd see Venice Originals, and if you were to walk just one block to the left, down Pacific Ave. to 17th. Ave, you'd see the site of the famed Natas Kaupas fire hydrant spin.

Here's a snap of it (and feel free to check it out for yourselves):

The fire hydrant in question is visible on the left, and if you look to the right, you might recognize the wall mural of the building which is seen in the background of that spin, as seen in Santa Cruz' Streets on Fire video.

October 25, 2014

Sean Cliver's Disposable 1 Now Ready for Order

For those of you who don't already own a copy, the 10th Anniversary reprint of Sean Cliver's book, Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, is now in stock and available for order from the publishers, Gingko Press. You can purchase the book either in a softcover or hardcover edition. ($29.95 USD nad $39.95 USD respectively.)

For those who are not familiar with this book (which is not to be confused with Cliver's second "Disposable" skateboard bible book), it is considered the standard on the subject of skateboard art. It was first published in 2004 and then reprinted in 2007. Having been unavailable for many years now, second hand copies have been fetching well over $100 USD.

Get yourself a copy before they sell out yet again!

October 20, 2014

Rarely Seen Red SMA Natas Kaupas Deck

Recently, this rarely seen red Santa Monica Airlines Natas Kaupas deck (from the pre-Santa Cruz era) came up via the good folks at the Skateboard Museum in Switzerland.

One more commonly sees this particular deck in either a black or white dip and, as such, I couldn't resist sharing this image here for your enjoyment as well.

Do head on over to the Skateboard Museum to check out their site.

October 15, 2014

"Ah, Venice!" (Or: Venice O.G.)

"Ah, Venice!" Most of the time, when people talk about the sights and wonders of Venice, their thoughts will most likely turn to gondolas and water-filled canals walled in by gothic and Italianate architecture. I think of that too, of course, but I also think of another Venice filled with different kinds of sights and wonders; namely, Venice, California -- Dogtown.

Here is a great historical grouping of Venice skate legends posted recently on the Facebook page of another place of legend in the skate world, the Venice Originals Skateboard Shop.

As the caption on the photo notes, it shows a grouping of four Venice legends; Jesse Martinze, Natas Kaupas, Cesario "Block" Montano, and Jay Adams. "Ah, Venice" indeed!

October 13, 2014

Claus Grabke's Custom Topside

While most of the attention for skateboard art is focused on what is on the bottom of the deck, occasionally you are really "wow-ed" by what some skaters personally did on their topsides.

I am not referring here to the silk-screened art that is often on the top of the board (though that can indeed be interesting in its own right), instead I am thinking of the way some have customized their decks with paint markers, stickers and the like. One of the skaters who is perhaps best known for doing this is, of course, street skating legend Natas Kaupas -- however this particular post is not about him.

Instead, our attention today turns to Claus Grabke and the topside art of one of his personal riders (the board is now, I believe, found in the Skateboard Museum in Stuttgart, Germany). The combination of the colours with the text, alongisde the way the whole is integrated with the screaming hand stickers is most impressive.

September 06, 2014

More Jay Adams

Just a couple of more Jay Adams items I wanted to share. The first is a home video, recorded in 1989, which shows Jay Adams skating at one of the area skate spots. I find this particular video particularly fun to watch, precisely because it is so authentic, so "raw" (in the best sense of the word) -- perhaps "unplugged" is another way to put it. When you think of Jay Adams involvement on the Zephyr team in the 1970's, his circle and his influence, and then you fast forward to 1989, it's truly inspiring to see him just being "one of the boys" out there skating. It speaks volumes about what so many have already said of him and his pure love of skateboarding.

A second video I also wanted to share is the Jay Adams memorial tribute that took place at the Venice skatepark on August 30th.

August 15, 2014

Your Legacy Lives On Jay

The skate community and skate culture took yet another blow today with the loss of another pioneer, Jay Adams. Your legend and your legacy lives on Jay.

August 06, 2014

Sean Cliver's "Disposable" to be Reprinted this Autumn

Good news is afoot for those who are tired by the prospect of having to pick this volume up at around $100 secondhand, as well as for those interested in skateboards and skate art generally. Sean Cliver's Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art (also informally known as "Disposable I" by comparison with the second "Bible" version he also wrote) is due to be re-issued in a 10th anniversary edition this autumn by Gingko Press.

There will be a $39.99 USD hardcover edition, or a $29.99 softcover.

August 04, 2014

An Interview with Spidey De Montrond on Skateboard Collecting

Skate Culture is a site interested in, amongst other things, the history of skateboarding and skateboard art and so naturally I am also interested in the collecting of these pieces for artistic as well as historical and nostalgic reasons. Now some might see skateboards only as tools meant to be skated, not items to be collected, though I see no reason whatsoever that this needs to be an either/or situation. It is true that the function of a skateboard is first and foremost to skate. Lose sight of this and one has lost sight of the essence of it all of course. That said, arguably the moment that decks began to have art put upon them saw a tangible acknowledgement that mere utilitarian considerations were not the sole purview of the skateboard; instead, skateboarding was to become attached to other things like a skate art, skate music and so on. The collecting of these items then is not to bastardize something solely meant for a functional purpose but rather is a kind of acknowledgement of the existence of something deeper and more complex: namely the existence of a skate culture with its own history, art, stories and personas, represented by these decks as well as by other things -- things that are eminently collectible in nature. In any single pro skateboard deck we have various elements of interest. First there is the board itself of course, then there is the particular shape of the board (which can relate to the particular period in which it was created or to the particular way it was skated), then there is also the skate company and the skater to whom it is attached, and there is also the skate art and the skate artist who designed the deck art. That vintage skateboard decks should be collected should hardly come as any surprise then -- and none of this even factors in more rudimentary considerations such as the desire to own a nostalgic relic from one's skateboarding past.

The reality is there are various good reasons to collect. It occurred to me, however, that skaters, skate artists and others closely attached to the skateboarding industry might have their own particular and unique reasons for doing so, given their own particular proximity to it all. So it was that I decided to make an attempt to approach some of these folks to ask them, what, if anything, have they collected -- and why?

Our first participant in this little enterprise is Spidey de Montrond.

* * *

SC: So tell us Spidey, when did you first start to consciously collect your decks? Did you have a sense early on of the importance of keeping these things?

I don't collect decks consciously or unconsciously. The only decks I have are those relevant to my life in skating, otherwise I am not the least interested in collecting and never have been except for vintage guitars and amps to play.

Left: The prototype of Spidey's first Santa Cruz model from 1985. It was never released. For more on this, see page 340 of Sean Cliver's Disposable Skateboard Bible. Right: The first prototype of Spidey's iconic Santa Cruz "Swindle" deck from 1987.

Q. Sometimes collectors of skateboarding memorabilia can be a bit maligned. There is an idea that collecting somehow goes contrary to the spirit of skateboarding somehow. ("Just skate the board.") Others take a view that there is a culture and a history here that is worth preserving and they wish to maintain contact with. What's your take?

It's very subjective, much like collecting plastic dolls in a box. It's a phenomenon on its own trajectory with its own market forces for those that engage in such things. History, sure, it's there I guess. For me, I lived it, so access to it is visceral and I am not compelled to collect, but it's nice to more recently see some much needed scholarship and reverence which is usually reserved for, say, something like baseball.

Q. Do you collect any other skateboard memorabilia other than what you've shown us? Skate stickers, magazines, or the decks of other skaters?

No I don't collect anything except memories.

Q. What would you say is the favourite piece of your collection?

If I had to choose it would the Daddy & Daughter decks as I am proud and happy daddy also the my latest PPS deck.

Left: The first Daddy & Daughter model. Only eleven were made. Right: The second Daddy & Daughter model. Thirty were made.

Spidey's current "New Ransom" PPS deck.

Q. Sometimes some express the idea that the art on the bottom (or top for that matter) of a deck doesn't really matter. Others that skateboarding and art have an important, symbiotic relationship. What is your view about this? Is skate art incidental and accidental, or is it essential?

For me it's relevant as I am brainwashed by marketing! (Ha ha!) I like to put a personal touch in what I do. It has a connection, a context and an emotion and maybe that is why over the years people have resonated with some of the decks I associated with myself as it was thought out and somehow beyond just, "oh, let's put a graphic on the deck." I can see currently why this would not matter as it's not precious and you're just going thrash the dickens out of the deck -- not that I didn't do that either, but I came at it from a different perspective, much like album cover art work was a big deal in the late 60's and throughout the 70s.

Left: Spidey's first PPS deck, prior to his PPS graphic. Right: A Neil Blender Vans Promo deck. Approximately one hundred made.

Q. As you mention, you have been quite involved in your own marketing and design through your skate career. Could you tell us a little bit about that? Where you always interested in art and design or did that develop through your love of skateboarding?

I am a holistic person. I grew up in a business / fine arts / media publishing environment, so it was natural for me to do all that I did. I conceptualized all the art, did the art direction, chose photographers for their various skill sets, created marketing ideas, and implemented them and so forth. I was steeped in art, music, film, dance and theater since day one so it was easy for me to play on all areas in terms of media and art.

Q. The idea is put out there that skate art has declined in recent years. What's your opinion?

I have no idea.

Thanks for your time today, Spidey, and thanks for showing us your collection.

Two tribute-style decks done for Spidey. Left: Mark Caroll's "Legends of Skateboarding." A hand painted deck gifted to Spidey by Carroll. Right: A fan's tribute deck that was gifted to Spidey.

July 17, 2014

Skate Culture Conference, Drew University

Drew University has kindly sent us information on a forthcoming conference on skateboard culture that they are hosting in Ireland in January 2015 and presently making a call for papers for:

Drew University Transatlantic Connections Conference invite proposals for papers which consider the cultural, social, spatial and political dynamics of skateboarding. Submissions from diverse fields of study, including cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, geography, architecture, urban studies, and history, are encouraged.

We will also be screening the Irish Skate Movie “Hill Street” with thanks to Wildcard Distributors.

Interested contributors should send abstracts of 200 words to Final date for submissions is November 1 2014.

Here is the link to the aforementioned Hill Street Documentary, which "looks at the evolution of skateboarding culture in Dublin since the late 1980s up until today."

Back to the conference, this looks like a rather interesting opportunity for those who wish to either contribute to the conversation around skate culture, or who wish to simply listen in to the conversation around it. Presumably the conference organizers may publish the proceedings of this conference and, if so, Skate Culture will certainly keep you apprised of that.

July 15, 2014

Iconic Jimmy'z Skateboarder Ads

Skate related ads have always been a source of immense interest to me. I remember when I picked up my first skate magazines back in the 1980's; the creativity of the various advertisements in those magazines particularly caught my attention and imagination. Aside from showing interesting, innovative (and just plain fun) art and design concepts, they also often featured some of the big names of skating -- and while skate parks and empty concrete swimming pools did not feature in my own locale at that time, I was able to feel a connection to the southern, West Coast skate culture through these things, taken though they were from my north-eastern vantage point, defined more by colorful maples and the spires of universities than the towering palm trees of Venice beach.

While skateboarding had a wider history and expression for sure, for me it was something distinctly "Californian" -- and justly so, I think. Perhaps that is why some of my favourite skate related ads came from Jimmy'z which often featured big name skaters in sunny, outdoor, Californian settings, often employing striking skate photography. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Skateboarding legend Natas Kaupas beautifully framed by San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, riding the grail of grails for many a skateboard collector, his uber-rare, yellow SMA panther, designed by fellow Dogtowner, Kevin Ancell. If all those ingredients weren't enough, this spectacular photograph was taken by one of the legends in skate photography, MoFo (Mörizen Föche).

More Natas

Dave Duncan photographed in an empty backyard pool

Eric Dressen on a half-pipe

Christian Hosoi in classic 80's pink canvas hightops -- look like Converse to me.

July 12, 2014

Jimbo Phillips Stickers

Jimbo Phillips carries on the Phillips family tradition of surf and skate art with these stickers that he offers on his official webstore. I particularly like the Barf Brain and Surf Freak and the latter in particular I'd love to have both in my skate sticker collection, as well as on my own board to honour not only the Phillips family style and its contribution to skate art, but to also honour the surfing roots of skateboarding.

This kind of art is not only not a thing of the past, it's very much a part of the present, so make sure to lend it your support.

July 07, 2014

Interview with Jim Phillips, Legendary Santa Cruz Artist

Designboom has published an interview with legendary skate and surf artist, Jim Phillips, who is responsible for some of the most iconic skate graphics in all of skate history.

Here's a short excerpt from the interview:

DB: what do you know now that you wish you knew when you were 21?

JP: when I turned 21 I was attending art school and naively studying fine art. in later years I had wished that I studied commercial art so that I could actually make a living. it was very difficult to learn advertising and commercial art on my own. after art school I went back to working at the surfboard manufacturing trade that I learned as a teenager, and was applying my art to surfboards. from that work I was offered a job in an in-house art studio for a motorcycle company, and I received advertising training on the job from the art director there and the demands of the work. after that company abruptly went belly-up I started my freelance art service doing the art for which I am known such as the skateboard work. but in hindsight my fine art training was invaluable and became a key to my success in commercial art.

July 03, 2014

Skate Stickers from Santa Cruz

Stickers have a for a very long while now been a significant part of the skate scene. While vintage stickers are of course an item of interest unto themselves as collectibles, there is still a place for these items today and in that regard newly printed stickers are the best option (unless, of course, you don't mind using relatively rare 1980's stickers on your board).

To that end, Skate Culture is pleased to announce this new offering from NHS/Santa Cruz whereby you can easily order a pack of their stickers for only a few dollars. You could always get stickers from them, but I wrote in a suggestion to them that it would be useful if people were able to simply add stickers to their shopping cart like everything else on their site. I was pleased that they took my suggestion to heart.

June 24, 2014

Ride It Sculpture Park, Detroit

Photo: Joe Gall Photography
Relatively speaking, I am not too far from Detroit. It is only a couple of hours away. Whenever I have gone to Detroit, I've always been quite amazed by the sight of the abandoned homes, commercial buildings, even multi-story buildings that have no windows. I have a friend who is from there -- born and raised -- and so he's taken me through some of these areas more than once. It's quite a surreal thing admittedly, and yet at the same time, you can also witness some absolutely glorious pieces of architecture peeking out from behind some of that -- the classic example perhaps being Michigan Central Station. When you see that, you both get an echo of what Detroit was, and also a sense of what it can once again become.

I mention all of this in relation to an initiative that has recently come to my attention by way of the @TonyHawkFoundation and the @RideChannel. It details a skatepark success story in Detroit, one which the Tony Hawk Foundation has been a part of, and which Tony Hawk himself has visited. Take a watch. Be inspired.

June 23, 2014

John Moyaert's Work "Goes Pro" (Via Jeff Grosso)

John Moyaert's work has already been shared here only recently but I wanted to just share a bit more. There has been a great response to John's woodburning works both here and elsewhere online, but what may not be as publicly known is that John's work has not only attracted the attention of the skateboard collecting community, it has also caught the attention of certain pro skaters themselves.

One such pro skater is Jeff Grosso who saw John's work somewhere online and commented upon it. John then in turn contacted Jeff and what resulted was a collaboration with Grosso sending John two blank decks so that John could do up a couple of Jeff's boards. Here was the result, with Jeff Gross himself showing off the boards.

June 20, 2014

Rodney Mullen: Skater, Thinker, Creator, Teacher

Rodney Mullen has always struck me not only as an immensely talented skater (obviously) but also as extraordinarily talented individual generally. His brilliance in skateboarding comes across through his skating of course, while his obvious intellectual gifts come across through his speech and through his ideas.

I remember seeing a video shot of him (I'm not certain where, it may have been the Bones Brigade documentary) when he was in his later teenage years (or possibly early 20's) and there he was in the video, shown working on his studies, holding a copy of René Descartes Meditations -- Descartes was one of the primary philosophers of the Enlightenment and his Meditations was one of his core writings. As one who loves both skateboarding and philosophy, I took great pleasure in seeing this -- but it also didn't surprise me one bit, particularly in Rodney's regard.

So what's the point in all this you might ask? In the first instance, I find it personally interesting and, in the second instance, I believe skaters are often wrongly perceived by outsiders in a very stereotypical, one-dimensional way. Ask your typical person on the street about their view of the kind of person who is a skateboarder (or even just interested in skateboarding) and my own sense is that they'll likely come up with all sorts of images, but I am betting that very few of them will relate to skaters as innovators, creators, or thinkers. Well this is not the skate scene that I know. Skate culture is by its very nature extraordinarily creative, packed with creative thought and creative impulses. People need to think more deeply about skating, skate culture and skateboarders.

Rodney Mullen has certainly been an excellent ambassador in this regard, speaking at least twice at the famous TED Talks. For those who are unfamiliar, TED is a non-profit organization which is focused on the spread of ideas; it is focused upon thought, culture and the life of the intellect. Here are Rodney's TED talks.

June 19, 2014

Two Great Skateboarding Photo Sets

There are some pretty great Flickr groups out there and I wanted to share a couple with you today that I've found particularly edifying to go through.

First, there is the Santa Cruz Skateboards group.

This particular group is, as the name suggests, dedicated to the skateboards of one of the great company names in skateboarding. It includes everything from Santa Cruz decks, stickers and apparel to skaters who have skated with Santa Cruz.

The second Flickr set I wished to share is not a group, but rather the Flickr set of a particular user "sreptone" who has amassed quite a collection of decks, including some that you do not see particularly often.

Check them out -- but be prepared to spend a little time!

June 18, 2014

Jay Adams: Dogtown Legend

While these aren't newly released videos, some skaters are such legends that it really doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned. Their stuff is worth seeing and seeing again, and worth sharing and re-sharing in case anyone missed it the first time or if they are only now just coming back onto the skateboarding scene.

Jay Adams is a legend in the skateboarding community; one of the original Dogtowner's. As I said recently to a friend, he's one of the guys that puts the "O" in "OG". Jay was born February 3, 1961 in Venice, California and was one of the original Z-Boys. Of him, Tony Alva said that while "some kids are born and raised on graham crackers and milk, he was born and raised on surfing and skateboarding."

For more information on Jay Adams, see his Wikipedia article. Now, the videos:

Jay talking about growing up in Dogtown:

Jay on the history of Venice:

Jay skating now:

Jay skating then:

(Photo source: Tracker Trucks)

June 17, 2014

A Sneak Peek at "Agents Provocateurs"

"Agents Provocateurs" from Gingko Press is a forthcoming publication which I only recently mentioned. It is a book whose focus is upon controversial skateboard graphics that pushed the boundaries of skate art as they stood by the time the 80's has passed. Skate art has often had something of a street or rock edge to it, be it the original Dogtown boards with their local street/graffiti type of art, or the various skulls and bones of Powell Peralta and the reaper or iconic screaming hand of Santa Cruz. Somewhere around the early 1990's, associated with the advent of companies like World Industries, skate graphics took yet another turn, this time one which was more cartoonish in style on the one hand, but one which also pushed the limits of skate graphics further than they had been up to that point.

Now that said, a little caveat before I go any further: while rightly recognizing the fact that the limits were indeed pushed, as well as acknowledging the contributions of those artists and companies who helped to push them, I do want to be careful to not over-emphasize this point too much -- as though I were suggesting that the skate art prior to this time was somehow lacking in these general qualities of edginess, etc. I would instead propose that we should understand it as a case of an evolution in skate art which built upon what had already come before, which, in its own right, was itself more shocking at the time it was first produced. This has, in fact, been a typical pattern within the world of art more generally -- at least in modern times. What was once considered edgy, breaking new boundaries, suddenly becomes normal and routine by way of familiarity; newer forms are then adopted to restore that edgy, shock value. Picasso's cubist pursuits were, for example, rather shocking in their time when the edgiest matter to that time had been the weighty strokes of Cezanne's still lives and landscapes, or the light experiments of the Impressionists -- each edgy and ground breaking themselves in their own time and in their own way.

Left: Picasso's "Aficionado." Right: Cezanne's "Mont Sainte-Victoire." The Cezanne was ground-breaking at its time but, compared to Picasso's analytical cubist work on the left, is tame. Picasso's work was, however, influenced by and built upon Cezanne's own work.

The dadaists then took this further -- making Picasso himself look rather tame in many regards -- with their anti-art movement, producing the likes of the Marcel Duchamp's urinal as art. On the story goes. Similarly, when street style graphic art began appearing on the Dogtown boards, this was a big deal compared to boards where only company names and logos were all that were seen on them. Many of us can likewise remember a time when the skulls and bones of the 80's scene were considered quite edgy and rebellious -- never mind even the name "Natas" as (mis)interpreted by the over-eager, devil-seeking crowds of that time who looked for demonic subliminal messages in records played backwards or for whom D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) was a satanic corrupter of youth.

As I have already said, none of this is to deny any of the edginess or value of the 90's skate art of course (nor is it, incidentally, a commentary on the book in question as I haven't yet read it!), it is merely a caveat intended to not to lose sight of the edginess and "punch" of earlier skate art in its own way and in its own time. Art is often a progression which builds upon what came before and I think it fair to say that skate art is no different. So while the skulls and reapers of the 80's had perhaps become familiar to many by the time the 90's rolled around, a 101 Natas Boom -- a deck whose art was a clear and recognizable reference to an iconic photo of the NASA Challenger disaster of 1986 -- certainly had not.

Media photo of the Challenger disaster (original source unknown). Inset of 101 Natas Boom deck.

It is within that context that we approach Agents Provocateurs, a book which is focused on another "boom" in skate art, a kind of Cambrian explosion of new skate art and skate artists who were prepared to push the limits yet further and in new and different directions.

Skate Culture is pleased to be able to provide to you, courtesy of Gingko Press, with a preview of a few of the pages from within this book. (Click on the images to make them larger.)

Seb Carayol
Agents Provocateurs: 100 Subversive Skateboard Graphics
224 pages, Hardcover
8" x 10" (254 x 203 mm)
130 color illustrations, English
ISBN: 978-1-58423-527-9

June 16, 2014

The Dogtown Big Boy

Dogtown needs no introduction (and if it does, well...). I saw today that Dogtown Skateboards have announced that they have now gotten in their Big Boy Pool boards. The Big Boys measure 9.375" x 33", have a 16" wheelbase, a 6" nose and a 7" tail.

I'm loving the design of these, especially the lighter one on the right:

It's not clear to me yet, but it looks like it might sell for $69.00 USD. Keep a watch on the Dogtown website if you're interested in one. (I know I will be.)

Whether you're skating pools or not, imagine cruising around on one of these. For a long while I debated whether to go "pop" or old school for a rider, then I realized it didn't need to be an either/or but could instead be a both/and. In view of that, while I have a newer shaped board to ride, I'm also on the lookout for something more old school; something like what I had back in the '80's. The Dogtown issues always capture my attention in this regard and this particular issue is is no exception.

Of course, Dogtown Skateboards have other really interesting old school type offerings:

While you're at it, make certain to head on over to their Facebook page and give them a like.

June 14, 2014

"SK8FACE" Documentary on History and Evolution of Skate Art

Given that this site is itself focused on skate art and culture, the following documentary really caught my attention. Many of you have likely already heard of it, but for the sake of those who perhaps haven't, it's a documentary that is currently in production under the direction of Matt Bass, coming out of (where else) Venice, CA. called SK8FACE and it deals with the history and evolution of skate art. The makers of @SK8FACE note that they have interviewed over 60 skaters and skate artists, including the likes of Sean Cliver, Mark Gonzales and Neil Blender, have travelled to numerous art shows around the world and collected together a significant amount of archival footage and photos.

Here is a summary of the documentary:

SK8FACE is a documentary feature film about the History and Evolution of skateboard art. The documentary spans 5 decades and features over 60 iconic artists.

Where did skateboards come from? How did they evolve? Meet the masters who changed the face of Art History and Skateboard Evolution. If you like grip tape, paint markers, pens, pencils, curbs, ledges, concrete, plywood, power tools, sawdust, grinding, art, design, photography, music, film, video, xeroxes, silk screening, spray paint, urethane, sealed bearings, going fast, old school, new school, making stuff or skating stuff, you have arrived.

There are two videos which you really need to watch if you want to get a sense of things.

If you want a bit more of a taste, they have created a number of micro-movies all around 30-40 seconds in length which you can watch. Here are just a few of them.

While the filming is essentially done for this film, it would appear that they are still in need of backers to help fund the final completion of it. If you're in a position to help them, please do. This is about the history of skating, skate art and skate culture. It's worth it.

Make sure to check out their Facebook page and give them a like as well and spread the word.

June 13, 2014

Happy Birthday Mr. Mountain

Who can forget the very first Bones Brigade Video Show where recent Skateboarding Hall of Fame inductee, Lance Mountain, pops out of the chimney, skates off the roof and down onto the street? It is an iconic scene in skateboarding history, tied to the words "Good Morning Mr. Mountain." Well today we wish Mr. Mountain a very happy 50th birthday!

To celebrate Lance's 50th, Thrasher Magazine has put together this fantastic video. Once again, happy 50th birthday @LanceMountain and thank you for your humour and for all you've done as an ambassador for skateboarding over the years. Many more years to come.

June 12, 2014

Slave Skateboards, Ben Horton and the Tradition of Skate Art

The symbiotic relationship between skateboards and art has been such a quintessential part of the skateboard scene for so long now that it may be difficult for many of us to imagine any situation otherwise. Still, at one time, boards were such that their design was often limited to the logo and branding of the particular skateboard maker, with little else in the way of art to be found on them. Moving into the 1970's things changed and the 1980's and 1990's saw a great flourishing of skate art with some of the most iconic examples of skateboard art coming from those eras -- names like Wes Humpston, Jim Phillips, Sean Cliver, Marc McKee along with others will quickly come to mind here.

But what of the contemporary era? I quite often hear the lament made that skateboard art has taken a downward turn in present times. Whether that is the case I really have no position -- and personally, I would prefer to avoid generalizations. Besides, to even form such an opinion I would need to take some time to consciously sit down and look at the different contemporary offerings and for the most part I find my attention primarily focused on the aforementioned eras instead. That being said, there have been some contemporary boards which have indeed caught my attention art-wise and in a very positive way; that I can say. I wanted to share one such example today coming from $LAVE Skateboards.

$LAVE Skateboards is under the art direction of Ben Horton. Ben, speaking in an interview on Memory Screened in early 2012 on the subject of skateboard art commented that while skate art can carry a message, "...I don’t think it’s necessary. Every graphic doesn’t need to be profound. Some ideas are just silly and meaningless, which is great. Skateboarding should always stay free. It’s an environment/Industry that has few restrictions on graphics and a great place to voice your opinion if you have one." This commentary struck a chord with me, for as one who has been involved in the art world more broadly with paint and brush, I can speak from experience that while some art does indeed carry an in depth message and meaning, at other times it is much simpler than that, more "merely aesthetic." To some extent I believe meaning and message in relation to art is as much a matter of private interpretation as anything. We bring our own experiences to the table and from that derive some sort of personal meaning. In other instances we may simply determine we "like" something with little understanding beyond that. But I digress.

The particular series which I wished to share from $LAVE is their "Wasted" series of boards:

Whether there was any particular message intended here in the art I know not. What I do know is that the deck art here strikes me and is of the sort which, I think, is firmly rooted in and an extension of that great tradition of skateboard art I have already mentioned. In part it is the use of color, in part the use of the entire board, but also just the overall design and composition, as well as the nature of the contents which have a certain edge to them. Here is a closer view of the Allie Oil Spill deck:

$LAVE Skateboards actually has a number of other offerings from different series which are well worth taking the time to take a look at. As just one example, here is the Anthony Schultz Howlin' Wolf Deck:

Do head on over to their site for a browse. They have some great stuff going on there from what I can see and what I've shown you here is merely the tip of the iceberg.