Artistic Freedom, An Inside Look At This Years Custom Snowboard Graphics.
The first two of years of production came with heavy printing problems. Besides the colors being off or the print mis-aligned, we had other hiccups with production. The first board I ever designed, "The Chedda Shredda," was, admittedly, designed at the wrong size causing a problem during enlargement. Well, I was notified of the problem and dedicated the next month of my life putting in over 200 hours fixing it. The hard work unfortunately didn't pay off when 13 of the 20 we ordered were sent to us with the original, distorted file. It was devastating. I remember calling the manufacturer on the phone and freaking out. Cursing and on the verge of tears, I had to make a choice, let it kill me or use it as fuel to grow.
When we switched to a new manufacturer just prior to the 2016/2017 season doors opened. Our product became a legitimate contender with the top brands in the industry, our choice in materials has proven stronger and lighter than ever, and the ability to capture the quality of our artwork is now seamless.
For me, the quality of printing has opened the door to endless possibilities. It has allowed me to look even further outside of the box while designing the graphics for the boards and really apply my knowledge of fine art to the fullest.
The design season started out strong with our two models for next season, "The Koalified" and "The Acrylic," coming to an early completion. With the two main line decks in the books it was time to move on to the customs.
At the end of last season, after designing three customs, and a board for Switchback Brewing Company, I told myself 5 designs other than our main boards was all I could handle. After a lot of demand, I chose to take on 6 custom boards and a board/beer can combo for the Drop-In Brewing Company. This was an ambitious decision
The process of designing the customs all began at the same pace. I did my thing, I printed out templates of snowboards and sketched for hours coming up with designs the customers and myself were stoked about. With the sketches done and the main line boards done, I was in the clear. I was going to have these boards done with time to spare and be able to kick my feet up in the backyard and relax. Well, I guess I jinxed it.
The first board I designed went really well. Susan and I decided to go with a transparent top-sheet displaying a digital, scientific illustration of a rose and one of her favorite quotes on the base. It took about two weeks of hard work until the first custom was done and again I thought, I'm in the clear.
Here comes the fun part. About 30 hours into designing "The Up North" for Jon my computer shut off. This was nothing out too far out of the ordinary, I worked the computer hard and its time was coming to an end. But why now? This time, it turned out to be a huge problem, running for about a half hour before shutting off, and shutting off quicker the next time if I powered it back on. It was infuriating. The head start I had on the designs quickly turned into an approaching deadline. I had to get a new computer. It took three weeks. This is a long time to work it all out, but by that time it was game on.
With no computer and a deadline approaching I had to make a plan. I started thinking and decided, “F*** it, I'm painting one of these.” I looked at the drawings and thought about which of the designs I had left I wanted to paint. I went out bought a 60x48 inch canvas and painted Adam Cahoon's design right there in acrylic paint. I had TJ come by my house with his camera and take a high quality image of it to turn into the graphic. The design was a blast. A snowman in the mountains wearing a pimp hat. It was genius. I was really excited on the idea and shared it with Adam who was more than willing to give me the artistic freedom I wanted to do the job. And, now I have an enormous painting of a snowman on the wall by our dinner table.
With bits and pieces of Jon's board completed, his was first. He wanted to combine an exotic animal, the northern lights, the beach, and an igloo for his board. That’s exactly what we gave him. At first the northern lights were a speed bump. I'd only ever done one image like that on the computer before, with no outlines, just light and shadows. The computer work I do usually has hard outlines, this had to have none. After messing around in Photoshop playing around with the different brushes and the opacity of different layers, I was able to get the effect and bring it forward over the mountains consuming the whole design. Near the bottom of the body of water, we'll call it a river, I did the same. I played around with different brushes and created a version of foam coming up on the sand.
The next board was a humbling one. I remember it like it was yesterday, A police officer at the Boston Snow Show came up to the booth and started talking to me. He'd been thinking of this board for years and finally he had the outlet to make it happen. It is a tribute board to the NYPD, The Port Authority Police, and the First Responders of 9/11. I felt honored when he said he wanted to go through with it. We talked back and forth for a while, I could tell he was really excited. He even went out and found those Union American Flag bindings to match. Anyway, his board was to include a patch for each of the organizations I listed above, the twin towers, the American Flag and the Blue Line flag supporting law enforcement. For some reason I thought I could get this one done quickly. It was a terrible mentality to go into a snowboard with and truly regret ever thinking it. Because of my attitude, the first draft was weak. It must have been insulting for Jorge to look at it. This was such a gigantic event in our country's history and here I was trying to get it finished. When I sent it to him he came back saying it doesn't really embody what that day was, it's too bright and happy, make it darker, make the flag look like it has been burnt. When I read his response I was ashamed honestly. I hadn't taken it seriously and to someone who was apart of it, it was extremely disrespectful. I took his advice and decided I'd never go into a board with that mentality again. After going back in and redesigning, his board quickly became one of my favorites.
In 2014, twelve of us road tripped out to Colorado to go visit my buddy Karsten and go ride some west coast mountains for a change. We took three cars and didn't stop driving for 38 hours until we got there. Anyway, someone we were with knew this guy Rob. Long story short, I met Rob and he talked about getting a board made. Well, this season I decided to sneak him into the lineup and bang out a board for him. Rob's board was the biggest surprise to me. When I went into the design I definitely did not see it looking like it does now. The Flat Irons, in Boulder, and palm tress is what Rob was looking for.
At first I wasn't sure how I wanted to go about it. In the end a mix of digital painting, a lot of line work, and a glowing 90's sunset took over. People who know me or know my work, will tell you, this is unlike anything I've made before and they are right. Rob contacted me two days after I finished his board and said he had a dream that I replaced all of the trees with eyeballs. It got me thinking, maybe something for next year?
One more to go…
The sketch I drew out for Brian's board was minimal, it wasn't even the right dog. I was so out of it from drawing the other 5 that night that I saw a picture of a dog he sent me and drew him. Little did I know I was drawing his current dog, he wanted a tribute to his old pal, Scute. The board would be called "The Legacy". A profile shot of his dog, and that is all I knew. After nailing the portrait of his dog directly in the center of the board it looked empty. I asked him, “Is there anything you'd want on the nose or tail to fill it in?” He gave a few suggestions and ultimately said, “Make it how you would make your own board.” I sat there for a second and thought, if this was my board it wouldn't have your dog on it (haha). It was time to think. I tried a million different things. I put a mandala behind the dog, I tried different colors and patterns as a background and nothing felt right. Again, I said, "F*** it". A full blown digital painting of my favorite, some mountains, trees and a river melting off a cliff, behind the dog’s head ending with a bone reading "Scute" lying in the grass. After some thought about the base I decided to keep it simple and advertise the brand a little bit and that was it. The custom snowboard season was over.
It has been less than twenty four hours since I finished the last custom and sitting still feels wrong. After three months of sitting at my desk taking the form of what my partners call, "the art monkey", the season was over. The mental rollercoaster that was the last three months was over. The project I dedicated every second of time to was over. It's tough really, adjusting back. I go from almost completely isolating myself to truly focus on boards, with endless work to do, to having time to relax and hang out with my friends. It always takes a day or two to get back into the groove, but, when I do, it's smooth sailing straight until November when the boards come in, then it’s expo season.
Custom Board Reservations for the 18/19 season will be available starting August 1st.