Skateboarding isn’t only a sport. It’s also a sport, but first and foremost it’s a way of life with its very own ethos. And this ethos hold that every aspect of skating presents an opportunity for expression. Thus fashion, language, music, and design are as important to skateboarding as gear and performance, which is why, for the last 30 years, skateboarding has been one of the dominant trendsetters in world culture. (Exhibit A: Justin Bieber.)
Ground zero for skateboarding culture are the boards themselves, and today we’re taking a look at some of the most awesome skateboard graphics out there today. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means. I just think it’s cool.
Now, this list contains the work of just 16 artists. Why?Because I didn’t want to just show you a bunch of awesome decks without recognizing the insanely talented people who created them. And it just so happens that 16 artists was about as many as I wrap my head around. So this is hardly a comprehensive list; it’s just a scratch on the surface.
But enough introduction. Let’s look at some kickass skateboard art, shall we?
Who is Neckface? Good question. He's actually an anonymous graffiti artist based out of California. But, really, someone has to know who he is, because he does work for skateboard companies Thrasher, Creature, and Baker, and I'm assuming it's not pro bono.
27. Neckface I
In what other sport can you be both a professional and and an artist? Well, I guess any sport. But skateboarding is probably the only one in which this double life is common. Obviously, what I'm getting at here is that Ed Templeton is both: he's a semi-retired pro-skater, but also a photographer and graphic artist. He mainly works with board company Toy Machine.
26. Ed Templeton I
Sieban co-owns the company Roger, and has also worked for Thrasher and, as we'll see later, Bueno. These decks here are pretty surreal. I especially like the mermaid holding the baby pirate octopus.
25. Michael Sieben I
Todd Francis has been around since the early 90s, when skateboard art really took off as a legit artform. He's worked with a number of companies over the years, including Anti Hero, Real, and, currently, Element.
24. Todd Francis I
Anthony Schultz is another skater-slash-artist. Or at least, I assume he's an artist. He's got his own line of boards with Slave, and one would have to think he had at least a hand in designing them. In any case these decks are kinda awesome.
23. Anthony Schultz
Jim Phillips built the Santa Cruz brand in the 1980s. Then his son, Jimbo, took it over. I thinks the designs on this list of by Jimbo, but I may very well be wrong. If that's the case, sorry. But the point is, these are twisted and awesome.
22. Jim/Jimbo Phillips I
This guy is officially sponsored by Sharpie, so I'm sure that makes him a corporate sell-out who's totally uncool. But I still like his stuff. We'll see one other board from him before we're done.
21. Mark Rivard I
Daniel Crosier isn't strictly a skateboard artist. He's a graphic artist who does comic books (I know you're supposed to call them "graphic novels," but he calls them comic books) and other things. And this awesome engraved deck is one of those other things.
20. Daniel Crosier
Here is some of Michael Sieben's work with Bueno. As you can see, it's kind of twisted and surreal and bordering on disturbing—but not quite.
19. Michael Sieben II
Our second set from Ed Templeton has it all—Satan on crutches, Indian chief alien, dracula alien, and even Jabba the Hutt. What's not to love?
18. Ed Templeton II
Jeremy Fish is a San Francisco-based illustrator and artist with a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, which I guess is good. These amazingly intricate decks aren't his sole entry into the world of skateboarding, however. He's also designed shoes for Nike Skateboarding.
17. Jeremy Fish
Todd Bratrud has his own brand called The High Five, which is pretty huge because their totally awesome. He's also designed shoes for Nike, including the skater version of their famous Dunk basketball shoe.
16. Todd Bratrud I
Here's some more Neckface, and as you can see they're getting weirder. (A giant dude biting into the Eiffel Tower and spurting blood everywhere is weird, right?)
15. Neckface II
When you google "Sam Bosma," the first thing that comes up is the listing for his website, which very clearly explains that "SAM BOSMA IS AN ILLUSTRATOR." This skateboard was designed as part of a fundraiser for arts education called Bordo Bello, in which highly respected graphic artists design skateboards which are then auctioned. off. This is one of those boards, and it's fantastic. Also, I highly recommend you do a google image search of this guy, because his other illustrations are pretty cool.
14. Sam Bosma
What a name, right? Hershel is an artist who works for Girl Skateboards and their sister company, Chocolate. Though I really like the Gaga board, my favorite here would have to be the one featuring Sloth from the Goonies.
13. Hershel Balrotsky I
I'm not sure if these images have some kind of subtle, subversive meaning, but they're pretty great. It's always good to see distinctive corporate brands re-purposed (because you know it pisses them off).
12. Hershel Baltrosky II
Here's another set of disturbingly kickass boards from Santa Cruz. Agains, I think it's Jimbo Phillips, but whatever. Half of Jimbo's DNA is from Jim, so the DNA is getting credit either way.
11. Jim/Jimbo Phillips II
Be careful, because Dennis McNett's decks for skateboard company Anti Hero will give you nightmares. And as you can see, they're probably the most detailed and ornate designs on the list.
10. Dennis McNett I
I couldn't do with just one set from McNett, so here is another. The funny thing is, I don't even know where to begin describing these things. "Pig man in a party hat crouching down and winding up an army of skeletons?" Yikes.
9. Dennis McNett II
Donny Miller of Skate Mental is apparently one of the most controversial skateboard graphics designers out there, constantly toeing the line between acceptable and unacceptable. And in the world of skateboarding, that's really saying something. I chose to show you just one of his decks because, frankly, it's so awesome that you don't need to see any others.
8. Donny Miller
Here is some of Todd Francis's work with Anti Hero. As they always say, you can't go wrong with guys decapitating pigeons and deep-frying rats.
7. Todd Francis II
Here's our other deck by Mark Rivard. The funny thing is, while the guy has a deal with Sharpie, which as I said before probably makes him a sellout, his designs actually have a more homemade, non-mass-produced feel. And I would think that's a good thing.
6. Mark Rivard II
With UK artist French, who does designs for board company Witchcraft (very appropriate), skateboarding meet death metal. These Satanic decks are definitely not for kids—either that, or kids these days have really permissive parents. (My mom would never have let me have a skateboard featuring a nun being burned at the stake. Hell, she still wouldn't let me, and I'm a grown man.)
As we mentioned earlier, Todd Bartrud has his own stellar company called The High Five. But he's also done work for Enjoi Skateboards, and that's what these are. I'd say we have a sharkmanasaur, an elktapus, a baboongo, a two-headed bunnyvulture, and a double-breasted cowster pegasus.
4. Todd Bratrud II
Here we have our final installment from Neckface—a 10 board set that he did for Baker boards. And trust me, these are real and not just some concept. It's just that I couldn't find a photo of all 10 boards together. (The most I found was 6.) Anyway, it's pretty epic, right?
3. Neckface III
Yeah, this one is just a masterpiece.
2. Jim/Jimbo Phillips III
Andrew Schoultz is another visual artist from the regular art world (as opposed to the skateboard art world, though there obviously is crossover) whose done some stuff with skateboards. Here's what one art gallery has to say about his work:
Sourcing inspiration from 15th Century German map making and Indian miniature paintings, Andrew Schoultz's frenetic imagery depicts an ephemeral history bound to repeat itself. In his mixed-media works, notions of war, spirituality and sociopolitical imperialism are reoccurring themes, which shrewdly parallel an equally repetitive contemporary pursuit of accumulation and power.
In other words, this is just plain awesome—though I guess you wouldn't want to actually use these badass decks, which is kind of a bummer.