Brain Floss: Shepard Fairey

Briefly describe your times as a mid-80s East Coast skate rat.

I grew up in a small skate scene in South Carolina. So if I saw someone in a skate or punk tee or with ollie wear on their shoes, I introduced myself and asked them if they knew about any spots or ramps. The SC scene was very DIY, so I stole plywood and built ramps and made a lot of homemade stencils for tee shirts and boards. There was a friendly competition in our skate crew, but we had an “us versus the world” mentality.

Which skateboard graphics had a powerful or lasting impression on you?

In the ’80s I loved the Bones Ripper, the Vision Gator, The Vision Gonz, the Vision Old Ghosts series that John Grigley designed, and the Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp. There are really too many good ones to name since pros kept their graphics for a year or longer and artists could spend a lot of time on their graphics. My favorite artists doing great illustration and design then were Vernon Court Johnson for Powell-Peralta and Jim Phillips for Santa Cruz. I liked the punk/new wave style graphics for Sims and Vision too.

What are the similarities between skateboarding and creating art?

Skateboarding and art both find a balance between creativity, practice to develop style and technique, and natural ability. I think the best artists and skateboarders are free spirits and risk takers who are passionate about honing their skills. I was surprised in the ’80s that the creative connection between art and skateboarding was not recognized. Even though skaters like Gonz, Chris Miller, Natas, Andy Howell, and Lance Mountain were doing art, it did not become cool to be “artsy” in skateboarding until the mid-90s.