Monday, March 20, 2006

Suit Up

When I was in art school, my painting teacher and mentor--a guy who recreated bowls of fruit with three-haired brushes--gave the class some unexpected advice. He seemed grumpy as he looked at a studio filled with bleary-eyed undergrads. "You guys are artists," he growled, staring down a frat boy who had invited two of his "brothers" to our lifedrawing class a few days before to check out the nude model. "You should be living and breathing art. You should look like artists. Wear a fucking beret around campus if you have to. Be proud and express yourself whenever you can."

I'll never forget that speech. It came completely out of left field, between how to create depth with line weight and the importance of negative space, but it's something that I draw from more often in my daily life than most of his other lessons (as you can probably tell from my drawings).

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a guy who has devoted most his life to the outdoor apparel industry. Both being surfers, we started talking about surfwear. I said that I don't even want to look like a surfer if it means wearing baggy, pseudo-punk printed trunks, logo plastered t-shirts and pink trucker hats. We both agreed that defining yourself by what brands consider "lifestyle" is completely ridiculous.

Later that day, I was thinking about how surfers have always embodied a bohemian lifestyle that clothing brands have worked hard to capitalize on, but have never really gotten right. How could they? Thinking about Mickey Dora showing up to play tennis against Mike Doyle in Beverly Hills wearing a Nazi trenchcoat, Da Bull in his unlaced jailbird-striped trunks, skaters with massive armpit holes cut out of their shirts, graffiti artists with bandana/masks around their necks, John Peck's natty beard ("shaving is inhumane!"), Mickey Munoz's half-beard, Brad Gerlach going cowboy in the '80s, even Donavan Frankenreiter's bell-bottoms, it became obvious that there was something surf brands could never package. It goes without saying, but it's mojo, attitude, individual style, or whatever you want to call it.

And if you want to see real freaks, combine surfers and artists. Then put them in Portland, the land of the weird, far from the strip malls of SoCal.

Joggers "We've Been Talked Down"


foul pete said...

You should check out the new Dora bio. They included a great essay Dora wrote about the commodification of surfing (of course he was partly responsible for that).

Patch said...

I can't believe your art teacher said that, what a kook.

P.S. You dissin' the mini malls? Come on where else can you get a haircut, buy a donut and get your taxes done. :)

Chum said...

I just realized that the surfer in this drawing looks like Doug Martsch. Anyway, I think my art teacher's point was not to stop being an artist when you left the studio. Live your life artistically. Or maybe he was just having a bad day and he took it out on the first guy wearing Dockers and greek letters he saw.

Diane said...

Can a real artist really stop being an artist when he leaves the studio? I don't believe so. That behavior would be for the pseudo artists.

Patch said...

I thought your instructor meant "dress like an artist, then you are an artist", which we know is bunk. Kind of like the "dress like a surfer, makes you a surfer" mentality.

Keep up the good work.

Music—Buju Banton—Who Dem a Chat