This is Mark Rivard and those are his skateboards…
Mark Rivard, Skateboard Artist. Love the juxtaposition of skateboard art against crushed velvet gold couch. Genius.
A native of Breckenridge, Colorado, Rivard's art reflects his surroundings.
Let’s begin with a little education for all you non-skateboarders out there. Skateboarding is the act of riding and performing tricks using a skateboard. A person who skateboards is most often referred to as a skateboarder, or just skater. Skateboarding can be a recreational activity, an artform, a job, or a method of transportation (so says Wikipedia). A report by American Sports Data found that there were 18.5 million skateboarders in the world — 85 percent under the age of 18, and 74 percent male.
Alright. So now you know. But as the always curious Sharpie blog readers that you are, let’s take a look at the art side of this skateboarding thing, specifically at one of the artists out there creating skateboard art like the world was going to end tomorrow.
Meet Mark Rivard, a talented skateboard artist and one we love times inifinity because he has figured out how to manipulate Sharpie markers like a paintbrush to create some amazing skateboard art, complete with the kind of nuanced brush strokes and shading that makes a Sharpie blog editor proud. He describes his foray into the business side of skateboard art as a “life-size game of poker” – he wants to serve as proof that people can make their craft their career.
“The actual process of putting Sharpie ink down on skateboard with the intention of creating art changed my life forever,” says Mark. And I love this: “Moral of the story is follow your path, the one that’s going to make you happy. Risk is fun…” Yes! See Mark’s passion come to life in the images below, and read about how he discovered skateboard art and made it his life’s work.
How did you get started as a skateboard artist?
My path into the art world was formed at a very young age. I remember being a third grader setting up an isle on my deck in Minnesota painting pictures in celebration of Van Gogh’s birthday. Ironically it was a drawing course my senior year of high school that almost kept me from graduating. With a bad taste in my mouth for art education I skipped art school altogether and moved to Colorado to pursue a career in the ski world and basically lost touch with art. During this time I found skateboarding. Skateboarding changed who I was; I learned a more mature sense of aesthetic value from skateboarding. It was February of 2004 when art struck back and came into my life in a dramatic fashion. I was back home in Minnesota following a knee surgery and picked up my first skateboard. I painted it black and white and started sketching for the first time in years. What followed was a burst of creative energy I had never experienced, within the first five months between picking up a pen and my first show I drew 15 skateboards. In June 2004 I had a show with some friends at a night club in Minneapolis and from there art was a part of life in major way.
Life isn't always rosey when trying to make a living as a skateboard artist, but Mark Rivard follows his passion.
Tell us a little about your genre. Are there lots of artists who do what you do? Where are they concentrated? What makes your work stand out from the rest?
I guess I would be considered a skateboard artist. It’s certainly not all I’m into but my skateboard illustrating is definitely the cornerstone of what I do. It’s interesting how many people are doing skateboards, when I started I didn’t have a computer or any clue about what was going on in the art world, but as time went on and I began to investigate the internet I learned that skateboards are a very popular canvas. I think it’s a pretty obvious canvas choice for a lot of skaters. Skate graphics have an incredibly rich history. Now through outlets like MySpace I’ve learned of hundreds of skateboard artist located all over the world. Skateboarders and people in this particular corner of the art world know that there is really nothing too unique about using skateboards as canvas’, but in retrospect that community of artist is tiny so when I put up my boards on wall covered in art they tend to pop. I feel like skateboards allow an artist a true freedom of all the rules spoken or unspoken in the art world. That’s why people skate; it is an activity and lifestyle that has no rules. When you go to an art opening at a upscale gallery for contemporary art it can be a lot like a funeral, quite and dark clothed people discussing politely the art, but when you come to an opening of an artist that is skate oriented you’ll find a DJ and most likely several kegs. My opening for a show in Belgium ended up in a game of SKATE (like the HORSE version of basketball for skateboarding) in the rain on the street in front of the show. That’s what makes this kind of art stand out, what makes my particular art stand out I’m not sure. Very traditional artist has told me that it has a fresh feel, like any schooling hasn’t tainted it.
How would you describe your style?
Detailed Scribbling. Fast. Unforgiving. A clean mess. Abstract realism. I never sketch anything out ahead of time; it’s Sharpie straight to the board. When I’m doing a skyline or something that needs accuracy line for line it’s a stressful style. There is no planning, no grids, just do or die style. That’s probably why I’ve drawn six skateboards with the Minneapolis skyline; it’s taken me six attempts to get it right. The cool thing is in the process of getting it right I created five other pieces of art that all were worthy works. I would sum up my style as improv unrehearsed art.
How did you come to use Sharpie markers in your work?
I started my first board with ball point pens and that wasn’t working then I think I used some other type of marker that would smear, then I found and Ultra Fine Black Sharpie and it was the only thing that would not smear and stuck to the boards. Eventually I started to figure out that my Sharpies could be manipulated like a paintbrush. They could shade and created different consistencies in lines. Sharpies have become the only pens that I can use on anything, they draw on canvas, and wood, paint, plastic, glass, and you name it you can draw on it with a Sharpie.
What about Sharpie markers makes them your medium of choice? Is it the variety of tip sizes, colors, other? Please describe how you use Sharpie as an art tool.
Sharpies have become my medium of choice because of consistency. They write on anything. I have learned to use my Sharpies like paintbrushes; they can change their ink distribution over time with use. I still have that first Sharpie pen I ever drew with. The tip is basically gone but I still use it to shade. Sharpie tips can be used as a tool long after the ink has run dry. I never throw a pen away; sometimes I’ll ever burn the tip a bit to reduce the ink flow for a dryer more of a grayish look out of a black pen. The other unique thing I’ve discovered with Sharpies is the only thing that can lift the ink once it’s been laid is another Sharpie. You can actually move the ink around with different pens as you draw, for instance if you were to open a fresh Sharpie and start to draw but wanted a little less ink and a lighter look you can take an older Sharpie or a burnt tip Sharpie and move that ink around even after it has dried. This creates a lighter look and enables black and white shadowing with only a black Sharpie!
Trees can't just run around naked.
Tell us about some of your own favorite work. What seems to get the most attention or is most coveted by others? Why do you think people are drawn to your work?
My favorite pieces change all the time. I have gained the most accolades from my Skyline pieces; those seem to be real attention grabbers. Location based pieces always sit well with the audience because they are directly relatable. It’s funny because even doing a show in Seattle some of my work that was best received was my Minneapolis skylines which really didn’t even belong in that show and I almost left those boards at home. What that tells me is that people are attracted to my architecture sketches because of the style they are drawn not necessarily because of what is drawn. I think people are into my work because it crosses a lot of boundaries, it’s not the same sketch done thirty different ways. My work crosses into all types of thought provoking subjects, one thing I’ve began to do in order to better explain what I’m doing is write explanations or stories that go along with each piece. I once had a person tell me at a show that they loved how I was able “connect the industrial with the natural”, after hearing this I thought I’ve got to do something to explain my art because that was not what I was going for. Now when I display art I have begun to show it with handwritten descriptions and those descriptions have become some of my favorite work, I love to write. I take old skateboards break them in half, paint them white and handwrite the literature that goes with each piece. I’m trying to create a font that is unique to my work and will often write it out once and then rewrite the whole narrative again and again overlapping the first giving the written descriptions an aesthetic all their own and this added a huge amount of depth to the shows.
Can you describe the process you go through to create your work? How many hours does it take? Is it a free-hand approach or do you create a template in advance?
I never really preplan anything, I’ll have an idea of what the end result will be but I never make practice sketches or templates. My abstract stuff is totally random; no idea when I start what the end result will be and it almost always changes throughout the drawing. With my skylines I just pick a centrally located building and make one line that is prominent and then base the rest of the city off of that line. I’ve done some boards that have only taken a couple of hours and others that have lasted for years. I think the board that took the longest was my Breckenridge panoramic mountain view, that board took around two years and actual drawing time over 30 hours of pen connecting with the board. If it’s a piece that requires a lot of attention like a skyline it can take a long time to finish.
What are your inspirations?
Inspiration comes in an endless amount of formats. I am always inspired with travel and new places. Europe makes me want to create and create and create. Something about being there and just the little things about the lifestyle over there makes me want to write and draw. I think I could live in Europe without a TV. The simple process of creating art and seeing what kinds of opportunities are presenting themselves in my life because of art inspires me. I know that this doesn’t sit well with a lot of people but I love the business side of this crazy idea of having a career in art, I love it, it’s life size game of poker. I love to think that I am doing something so many people told me wasn’t going to work because of lack of an education or experience. Having something to prove has always been the biggest source of inspiration for me. I’ve found no matter what you do or what your path someone out there is always going to drop marbles on your sidewalk. Critics are inspiration.
What statement are you trying to make, if any? What do you want people take from your art?
I don’t know if I’m really trying to make any sort of statement but I do want to send a message. I want my art to serve as proof that people can make their craft their career, that the path that seems the most logical doesn’t always make it the right path. I once had a great upper level job at what was then the fifth largest snowboard company in the world. I had a job that where I’m from would have been considered a dream job by most of my peers. Benefits, great office, salary, I loved the industry but I left that job to wait tables for $2.13 an hour and have more time to get back to focusing on my art. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Moral of the story is follow your path, the one that’s going to make you happy. Risk is fun…
Sharpie’s tagline is “Write Out Loud!” Does this apply to your work and if so, how?
Absolutely! That actual process of putting Sharpie ink down on skateboard with the intention of creating art changed my life forever. All the work I’ve done with Sharpies is prime example of “Write Out Loud!” it’s what I do!
Mustached Man in Mountains