The Colors Of Skateboard Art

With more and more artists being commissioned to create original work for some of the largest skateboarding companies in the market, the skateboard deck is becoming a highly sought after medium by both artists and collectors. We thought we would take a look at some of the more colorful decks currently influencing both skateboards and art collectors. The images from Chocolate and Alien Workshop are accompanied by the writing of Sean Cliver as he talks about his life as a skateboard designer and his inspiration behind Disposable: A history of Skateboard Art, his current book highlighting over 1,000 skate board graphics from the last 30 years.

Alien Workshop

Disposable: A history of Skateboard Art: The Making Of

In my late teens and early twenties, my attitude was all piss and vinegar,
and the only time worth living or acknowledging was the present—
the classic attributes of any skateboarder, I guess. Then, without
even realizing it, 15 years passed and I found myself going, “Whoa,
how the hell did that happen?!” With this spatial wedge of time driven
between my insolent years of youthful abandon and present state of
being (which now includes a wife, son, and slightly more long-term perspective
on life), I fell into a pronounced period of reflection—mostly just
wondering how I made it out alive. Leafing through my catalog of memories—
an increasingly difficult thing to do living in California, where seasons
are nonexistent and the endless sunshine bleaches all recollections
to an indiscernible haze of months and years—I established the
one constant in all my prominent life experiences: skateboard graphics.

Alien Workshop

To make a long story short—at least for now, that is—I was just an
average kid from Wisconsin who first staked his claim in life on art and
then years later skateboarding. The combination of these two elements
ignited an unbelievable journey that would first and foremost involve
winning an “art contest” advertised by Powell Peralta in 1988, whereupon
I moved straight from the sticks of the Midwest to the spasmodic
heart of the skateboard industry in California. There I somehow managed
to live, thrive, and survive as an artist throughout one of the most
amazing and tumultuous eras in the history of skateboarding, when
graphics transformed into formidable marketing tools and pushed all
possible boundaries from sex, drugs, violence, race, religion, politics,
and copyright laws.

This is, of course, an extremely abridged version of events. What’s
missing are all the individual stories that comprised this ridiculous timeframe
in my life, when I unwittingly became a firsthand witness to the
simultaneous rise and fall of two of the most influential companies ever:
Powell Peralta and World Industries, both of which are renowned for
their legendary contributions to the art of skateboarding.

Alien Workshop

Over the years, people have repeatedly questioned me on this time
period, so I’ve kept a fairly decent handle on all the assorted memories.
But in talking to others who have lived and breathed distinct chapters
of skateboard history, I’m seeing the memories start to falter and disappear
through the cracks altogether. So after years and years of hearing
elders preach on the importance of giving back to skateboarding, I
guess these words finally took root, as I conceptualized a book that
would preserve a number of artists’ histories in skateboarding, and
showcase a broad selection of graphics produced in the last
three decades.

By no means is this an original idea. A few other published works
with similar subject matter do exist, but I can honestly say that as both
an artist and skateboarder I felt they never hit the mark. Some attempted
the route of pop culture art theory and lumped the skateboards in
with surfboards and snowboards; others entirely omitted the pioneers
and talents responsible for establishing the whole medium in the first
place. Then there is the unbelievable case of one book that contains so
many inaccuracies and typographical errors—none so baffling as the
mislabeling of a Powell Peralta Steve Caballero pro model as a “Steve
Catalaro”—that it must have fallen off the short bus and bounced a few
times before skidding to a stop in bookstores. Hence, my fervent desire
to assemble a comprehensive and credible book dedicated to the haphazard
history of skateboard art from a hardcore skater’s point of view.

Alien Workshop

Without a doubt this is the most self-indulgent project I’ve ever
taken to task, and it has become my obsession for two full years now.

I first dove in by writing a detailed account of my own involvement in
skateboarding from a purely graphic-based perspective, during which
time I fired off a barrage of emails to track down assorted artists and
pros from the last 30 years. Fortunately, with my toeholds in the industry
and a solid network of friends and acquaintances, I was able to contact
most everyone I’d hoped.

Through this correspondence I was able to reconnect with people
whom I’d not spoken to in years; others, like Jim Phillips, Wes
Humpston, and Pushead, I’d never met before and only knew through
years of reverence for their work. So I have to admit there was a sublime
thrill in checking my email every day, as stories began to dribble in
from the likes of Steve Caballero, Rob Roskopp, Ed Templeton, GSD,
Mike McGill, Craig Stecyk, Andy Howell, Chris Miller, Mike Hill, Corey
O’Brien, Tod Swank, Lance Mountain, Andy Jenkins, Eric Dressen,
Marc McKee, Ron Cameron, Simon Woodstock, Jim Thiebaud, Natas
Kaupas, Thomas Campbell, Tony Hawk, Salba, Jeff Grosso, Steve
Rocco, John Grigley, Mike Vallely, Jason Lee and many others, all of
whom generously contributed recollections on their skateboard graphics
and significantly bolstered my confidence in creating a true historical


Since I was busy maintaining two full-time jobs while collecting all
this material for the book—one as an artist for Birdhouse/Hook-Ups, the
other as a Producer on the MTV show Wildboyz—I spent my weekends
traveling up and down the coast of California (along with two separate
trips to Wisconsin and Florida), shooting photos of vintage boards
owned by private collectors, artists, and pros. Aside from instances of
seeing boards that I’d either totally forgotten about or didn’t even know
existed, one of the my best experiences was an afternoon spent digging
through boxes and boxes of old decks with John Lucero and realizing
the full, and often not acknowledged extent of his impact on skateboard
graphics. Likewise, Lance Mountain and Natas turned me onto
numerous graphic-related stories that I had no prior knowledge of. The
only downside to gathering this monumental assortment of material
was in knowing there was only so much that could be squeezed into an
eye-pleasing 228 page format.


Backtracking in history a bit, I authored a book for MTV
Publishing/Pocketbooks in 2002 to accompany the release of the
“major motion picture” Jackass the Movie. Sure, it was a pop culture
crock of crap, but I figured having one published book under my belt
would surely aid in getting a second one produced. After talking to a few
publishers though, I fast realized that I would ultimately have no control
over the project and, most likely, have to submit before the all-powerful
marketing and sales departments, in which case the book would be
“fine tuned” to more adequately reflect how skateboarding is perceived
by the corporate mainstream. That’s when I became nervous and started
searching for a more suitable home in the skateboard industry.


Thanks to Michael Brooke’s visionary outlook on publishing and
author’s rights, and the support of Blitz Distribution, I will accomplish
the one thing I hoped to from the very outset of the project: publish a
book that is entirely created, designed, and produced by skateboarders,
for skateboarders. It’s not often one is able to maintain a firm grasp
on their idealistic goals in the world today, and this is one that I’m
incredibly stoked to finally realize in full.

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.