There’s really no easy way to address what I’m about to discuss but I’m going to discuss it anyway.
I’ve been working in the skateboard industry for almost 13 years doing graphics, t-shirts and helping to create visual identities for a handful of companies.
I’ve specifically stuck to certain companies because 1.) I didn’t want my artwork to be smeared randomly across skateboarding and 2.) I try to work for companies that I admire and respect.
Back in 2000 or so, after working for Alien Workshop for a few years and having my artwork becoming a regular part of their line, I noticed that some companies were taking a similar approach to layout and illustration. Back in those days, I did take it personally because of how closely tied I am to my artwork.
I’m not a sign painter or commercial artist who creates what he’s told to create. The graphics I’ve done over the past decade are little more than an extension of my thoughts, my ideas, my expression as it manifests through my sketchbook.
And I realize that not everyone has been paying close attention to my development as an artist over the years. I wouldn’t expect anyone to.
But if you line up my sketchbooks (over 50, starting around 1997) you can notice a very linear development into what I’m doing now.
It’s been natural, it’s been fun…it’s changed because it had to. Art has always been fun to me and when I’m doing the same thing over and over, it stops being as fun.
I know there are artists who have made careers doing one image over and over for their whole lives and that’s fine if keeps you interested.
The ongoing development of my style has been necessary for me to maintain the desire to move forward, for better or worse.
Art to me has been funneling ideas and my interpretation of what’s around me into lines and paintings and shapes, colors, etc. It’s about reprocessing what I see or what I think and generating lines and visuals out of that.
I guess I assumed that’s what all artists do, but I’m painfully aware that it’s not that way across the board.
I never thought art should just be about making pretty pictures and redrawing things that have already been created. There should be another word for it other than ‘art.’ It should be rightly referred to as ‘facsimile.’ Because that’s what it is in the end.
That’s not to say I haven’t been influenced by previous artists. Any artist who would claim that is a fool. I grew up studying Picasso and Chagall and Kandinsky. There’s no way that the work of those artists hasn’t creeped into mine and I’ve been very open about that.
But neither have I propped open a book and taken specific characteristics from their art and work.
Style develops naturally when you explore your own visions and ideas. And as I’ve found out, it takes a long time for those to surface but it’s worth the effort. And it’s actually pretty fun to see things change, mutate and develop over the years when it’s not even a conscious shift. It almost happens out of instinct…like how an insect or a plant might morph as it grows. That’s the best analogy I can make. It’s had to be unconscious for it to be natural and fun.
I’m not trying to claim that it’s some higher power of manifestation; simply that personal style becomes what it becomes when you let it.
So after dedicating most of my life to creating images for skateboarding, it takes a lot out of me when I see something that looks very similar to mine.
OK, not just similar, basically outright stolen.
You can love art, you can fall in love with the idea of creating something out of nothing…you can have a deep passion for what you do but when you see your work being copied, it doesn’t feel like flattery. It feels like you’ve been punched in the gut.
Find out that those images were created for the industry you’ve spent most of your life working in (skateboarding) and it feels less like a punch and more like a swift knife to the back.
There’s no other way to explain it.
I really do feel like my life is little more than the images and work I’ve produced. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid; I was lucky enough to be given opportunities based on that work and it’s opened doors and kept me solidly seated within skateboarding. I’ve been humbled to be a part of it and I still have those same feelings I had as a kid when I hop on my skateboard or when I’m starting a new graphic or painting.
But knocking off someone else’s work (especially someone who has been working in a specific industry for as long as I have) and passing it off as your own is cowardly. It reeks of desperation and smacks of incompetence. And it reveals that you’re producing work specifically to make money and to gain some kind of attention on the back of those whose work you’ve stolen.
Art should be about having a vision. It should be about creating your interpretation of life around you and trying to relate that to others. It’s about creating something from nothing; not creating something based on an image that already exists. Art born from that is little better than a hyped up facsimile machine.
And that’s all I’ll say for now.
Today it was brought to my attention that a guy is creating images that look like I’ve done them and selling them as his own within skateboarding. I’ve seen it outside of skateboarding but never within it and maybe that’s why it’s like a needle under my skin.
This guy knows my work; the companies who are using him know my work but that doesn’t seem to bother any of them (Circa, I’m looking at you specifically).
It’s pathetic and it’s kind of pathetic that I take it so seriously but as I was saying…the work I do and the style I’ve developed within skating is basically the sum of what I am. To have it stolen and disrespected within that industry speaks volumes about the parties involved.
Welcome to 2010 where nothing is sacred and people want watered down copies rather an a unique vision.
Stay tuned. I wrote an email to the guilty party and based on his response, I’ll either produce some evidence or shut the fuck up about it.
In this day and age, the topic does bear addressing. You’ve got too many people who want to become artists rather than being born artists. But that’s a dead horse that I’ll beat again another day.
And after being out of town for a week and getting back on my bearings, I’ll make more posts that aren’t just about me bitching or callingn people out.
To anyone who doesn’t believe that order actually comes out of chaos, try not cleaning your office for 4 years straight and then get back with me.
I’ve never lived in one place as long as I’ve lived in my current home. The result of working where you live means that there’s constantly some kind of controlled chaos around you, but ideally you keep it in check.
I haven’t done a great job of that, sadly. Not in my garage, not in my closets, not in my office. I mean, I keep it tidy but I don’t purge nearly as much as I should.
At some point, you just get fed up and start chucking things into the trash. Things that used to seem important suddenly don’t seem necessary.
This is a work still in progress but it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve hauled 2 huge truckloads of crap out my life in the past week.
Much was donated, much was recycled. It feels good but there’s still a long way to go. Every day that passes, I feel a little bit lighter. My soul feels a little bit lighter.
Magazines and books are always the hardest for some reason. I think I tossed 6 years of Paper Magazine into the recycling bin. I hate destroying information. I can’t help it. Even if it is destined to one day become another page in another magazine somewhere down the line.
Books went to the local book donation drop off, but I can’t say I was happy about it.
It was a necessary evil. And hopefully, those books will be appreciated by someone else in the years to come who will get out of them what I received.
And all I can say is that I hope I never become a famous artist because I just threw out about 3 pounds of random sketches into the paper recycling unit.
From pulp it comes and to pulp it shall return.
All I’m saying is too much shit will ruin your lives. There are lots of people who can use the things that you don’t. Do a clean sweep and donate your unneeded things to a local shelter where they’ll get some use.
Between recycling and donation, you can get pretty far without actually having to throw anything away.