First off, realize that what you are about to read is not going to discuss the art of ‘SKATEBOARDING’. Instead, what you are about to read will discuss the ‘ART’ of skateboarding. Does this make sense? If not, let me briefly illustrate. Picture yourself skating down a hill or trying to master a trick on your dope new deck. This involves balance, coordination, distribution of weight, the ability to use different parts of your body, blah, blah, blah. In short, I’m not going to talk about this. This is because—to me—the aforesaid would be the art of knowing how to ride a skateboard and do tricks. Hence, the art of ‘skateboarding’. Alternatively, I’d like discuss some of the actual artwork seen on the back and/or bottom of skateboards. This would be the ‘art’ of skateboarding (excluding stickers, accessories, and apparel of course). Mike Sieben’s artwork. I am not a professional skateboard artist. Yet, I do produce skateboard art. Simply put, it is a hardcore hobby of mine. With this being the case, I would like to discuss (1) how I got into this craft, (2) a certain experience every artistic skater remembers, (3) some of the intensions skateboard companies have with their brand of art, and (4) where to find documented collections of bad-ass skate art. Now, let’s get started. The Epiphany (How I got into Designing Boards)Growing up—and in my early adulthood—I was always an ‘on-and-off’ skateboarder. And, because of being ‘on-and-off’ during my skate endeavors—I was never very good. Plain and simple, the friends and associates I hung out with were always a bit better than me. Thus, I’d always be the worst in the group when it came to skating. Yet, on the flipside to being the worst in the group at skateboarding, I was the best in the group at being an artist. Now…. I’m not claiming that I am Picasso here. Nor am I claiming that my artwork is dreadful to look at. In my head—and what seems real in my world—is that I’m decent at doodling. Therefore, my epiphany was to combine skateboards with my art. And voilà; I have been doing it since.Tupac by Kevin Carmody Art swung into the skate industry hard in the early 90’s. In my opinion, this surge of skate art is best described as ‘the blissful days of skateboard graphics’. But even before the 90’s, skateboards had stunning artwork on them. I’m guessing that at some point companies decided they didn’t want just words, phrases, or logos on their decks. They wanted art. Speaking of this, I can recall my dad taking me to our local sporting goods store to ‘make the skateboard switch.’ What I mean is that my father allowed me to shift from a cheesy board (i.e. a Nash) to a real board. To this day, I can clearly remember all the unbelievable artwork on the wall. This blew my mind. I gazed, gawked, admired, stared, and observed for quite some time. Then I made my decision.A Powell Peralta Mike McGill was my first ‘real skateboard’. Just think about it. How could a 10-year-old boy deny a bad-ass skull with a snake wrapped through it? I couldn’t refuse this skateboard and it was because of the artwork. Accordingly, this is one reason why skate companies use art that is distinct. Artwork by Kevin Carmody Let’s face it folks, most young skaters are not scholarly individuals. Sure, I’m 36 now and have three college degrees. However, there was a time I was nothing more than a regular skate rat. What I am trying to justify is that skate businesses know their buyers. Therefore, they will adopt a definitive art style that fits their brand. To clarify—think about a couple of simple questions: (1) What ten-year-old kid walks into a skate shop and asks if a certain deck is made with 7 ply Canadian Maple? And (2), do they ever inquire if one deck has more pop than the other? Most kids don’t ask this. I know this because I once worked in a skate shop. Simply put, youngsters want a board with sick artwork. We should also recognize that to a child, teen, or young adult—sick artwork doesn’t have to have deep meaning. With this mentioned, some of what you see on the bottom/back of a skateboard is created just for the hell of it. However, this isn’t always the case. Hence, some of what is seen on the back/bottom of a deck is ‘not’ created just for the hell it. And, a lot of this has been chronicled. Where & How to Find Good Skateboard ArtIt is safe to say that skateboard art travels in its own direction. Presumably, this is the reason why the ‘art’ of skateboarding has been noticed and documented. As a matter of fact, there are clear-cut manuals that cover vast oceans of this type of art. I believe that Sean Cliver’s Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art is the best destination for someone interested in the world of skate art. Within this bible, there isn’t just harebrained designs. There is much more to be looked at. Some of these decks have master pieces on them. In short, this book holds a different breed of art. Not only…buy also—some of this art may even be considered controversial and unapologetic. Yet still, somehow these works fly just below the radar and never hit the mainstream. Biggie Smalls by Kevin Carmody In closing—I don’t want to name every ‘go to’ for the best sources of collected skate art. After all, doing your own research might help surface a new undiscovered assemblage of great artwork. There is plenty out there. It is just hard to find. Like I said, these works are deep-seated in the wild. Again, they aren’t recognized in the mainstream. The ‘art’ of skateboarding is underground, low-brow, rampant and feral—and I love it. In fact, I firmly believe you should love it too. So, go treasure trove for some skate art and let your eyes have some fun. I promise—there is a beautiful piece of artwork on the bottom of a skateboard just for you. Thanks for reading.