Geoff McFetridge has always been a great inspiration for me and I just found this website he did while browsing skateboards decks a friend of mine wants to buy for her boyfriend. The usual ways of the interwebs :)
McFetridge wrote a very nice piece about how you look at a thing makes you change your attitude towards it. Drawing, skating, surfing, building tree houses, amongst others.
Contour drawing changed the way I drew. In college it was taught to me as a method developed, in part, by artist, Egon Schiele. It’s a way of drawing where you look at what’s in front of you and not what you’re drawing. You also draw the shapes you see without picking up your pencil or erasing. The goal was to represent the form in line and not in shading or any sort of interpretation of depth… just a line in the clearest most objective way possible.
The result of my first attempts were wonky drawings that looked like a pile of string. But inside each drawing, there were parts that were just right. An eyebrow or hand that ended-up like something I didn’t intend to draw initially. For me this was revelatory. A break from hashed-out lines, shading, hatching and erasing. It revealed the hollowness of what drawing had become to me. Doing a drawing that looked like it was done by someone who didn’t know how to draw was invigorating.
It was a paradigm shift.
Drawing was the first of a lifetime of solitary pursuits. Drawing was also an introduction to ideas of improvisation and chance. Because I wasn’t a naturally talented drawer, there were often challenges that would push me forward to improve and go deeper into an understanding of what I was doing. I found that in these solitary pursuits, changed-improvement came out of advancing and honing my perception of the world. Mental tenacity took president over technical perfection. In the beginning, I saw this in drawing and skiing.
Then, there was skateboarding.
I came to skating through the curb. The curb was everything. My world of skating was microcosmic. My attitude was; if I could walk to a ramp, rad, or bum a ride to a bank to skate, fine, but pick me up at my local curb spot because I’ll be busy doing nosepickers. Me and my friends spent time inventing, repeating and falling into new tricks. We could go a year without seeing a mag, or even other skaters.
That is the root of what skating meant to me… invention. Things changed over time, but skating was always there, in the trunk of the car with a pair of shoes and some Rectors. Unfortunately it was getting a little stale.
I was introduced to surfing once I moved to Southern California. I was never interested in surfing. I was not interested in getting wet and I had a hard time understanding it’s relationship to skateboarding. Skateboarding was about getting concussions in parking garages, surfing was neon, being handsome, jockish, sock-less and shirtless.
My attitude towards surfing changed due to a friend. He conspired and lied to me. He made me think surfing was done on longboards with single fins shaped by craftsmen. It was about drinking tea and history. The first surf movie I ever saw was, “Morning of the Earth.” I was happily in the dark to the reality of contemporary surfing. The boards we wanted were available and Australia was providing a steady stream of bootlegged vintage video inspirations.
All this made me look at skating completely differently. If I can enjoy the glide, why can’t I simply enjoy the roll? Damn-it if them Zboys (or is it Boyz?) weren’t right when they said “…this wave is going-off 24 hrs a day 7 days a week!” That curb WAS going-off all day.
Surfing reminded me that the joy of sport does not have to be about performance. I may want to do head dips, but it isn’t going to ruin my day If I don’t.
The Solitary Arts is about triggering the paradigm shift, about looking beyond the definitions of what skateboarding is, and what a skateboard is. Skateboarding is moments between tricks, its different boards for different skate spots. Sometimes it’s trick-less. Sometimes, it’s riding wheels that are not so hard and loud that you can’t hear yourself think. It can be silent no-tap ollies and carving in a way you can only do with soft wheels. It’s about a quiver.
We have no intention of creating boards for “getting beers” – these boards are for skating. These boards are aperitif’s, digestif’s and palette cleansers. They are in your carry-on bag, under your table at Cafe de Flore and shredding Bronson ditch (and Zones & Wallows! – yKc).
I jokingly call the things I build for my daughter “Improvisational Architecture”. For example; I wanted to build her a tree house in a cherry tree and I didn’t want to hammer any nails into the tree. If I had planned earlier, the measuring and complexity of cuts would have taken only a few days, instead I had to build and cut as I went. A tree house, built as the tree grows. It looks like it was built by a hobo, but it is plenty strong and looks rad.
We need to cobble together what skating means to us. The same goes for bicycling, skiing, surfing, paddling, climbing, painting, pottery, design, and cartooning. We have to separate what we know about the things we love and what we have been told. Puritan versions of culture are the product of marketeers and lowest common denominators. Have a good time doing the worst drawing you ever did and a day without ollies.
It can do you good.