What if there was no such thing as a skateboard graphic? Would it matter to you if you and your squad all had the same plain, natural wood deck? If skateboards had no graphics, would they still have a soul? Would they tell the story of your favorite pro? Would they still celebrate your favorite video part, ad campaign, or Instagram account? What would a deck with no graphics say about you and your skateboarding? How would anyone know where you have aligned yourself within the skate industry? Would people be making jokes about how lame “Skater X” is over there with his obviously lame brand board?
Thankfully, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where art and skateboarding go hand in hand. We live in a world where skateboards tell stories, share in our culture’s rich history, and convey a brand’s message. For better or worse, we live in a world where skateboard graphics speak volumes of who you are, who your favorite skater is, what clique you belong to, and with whom you share common values and attitudes. And, if that’s what it takes to draw out all of these beautiful, funny, disgusting, and thought provoking graphics, I enthusiastically embrace every bit of it.
Ambush teamed up with RAW Artists to bring you a stunning collaborative series featuring graphics from some of RAW Artists most creative talent.
RAW Artists is an international independent artists organization that gives artists the resources and exposure to launch their respective art careers. RAW’s Senior Showcase Director, and former Ambush employee, Dayna Melton has long been one of the top talent evaluators for up-and-coming artists. Dayna curates art shows throughout the country that bring underground painters, printers, sculptors, performers, musicians, photographers, chefs, makeup artists, and jewelers to art enthusiasts in cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and, of course, Atlanta. When Dayna proposed the idea of Ambush and RAW collaborating on a series of skate decks, it was an obvious no brainer. The project was a go and Dayna went to work on what she does best: find talented artists.
Toby has been creating art since he was able to hold a pen. His passion for art is matched only by his obsession with skateboarding. For the past 15+ years, Toby has fused the two into a lifestyle balanced between the streets and the studio. Toby’s art career started to take off as a graffiti artist in the eclectic neighborhoods of San Francisco. He has since evolved into a commissioned muralist painting the walls of various storefronts throughout the city.
To Toby, skateboarding and art are intrinsically connected. He gets the same feeling of pride and stoke from landing a new trick as he does from creating a new piece. Toby aims to get a reaction, positive or negative, from both his skateboarding and his artwork. And, he thrives on how both cultures share the same virtues of creativity, rebelliousness, and progression.
“Art made me gravitate to skateboarding,” Toby recalls. “And, skateboarding opened up a new side of art that I didn’t know was there. My favorite thing about both art and skating is that they both have so many elements and so many possibilities.”
From chill mini-ramp sessions with friends to street art. And, from skating abnormal, crusto spots to painting the walls of posh boutiques, Toby’s attitude remains: anything goes as long as it flows.
Like most creatives, Kayla began to show interest in art at an early age. But, it wasn’t until she became a teenager that her artistic prowess really started to develop. Kayla used art as a coping mechanism during what she refers to as “the abusive years”. Problems at home, constant moving from town to town, and bearing the responsibility of being both child and parent gave her the right amount of angst to channel into creative energy. Her work during that period was rewarded with a scholarship to Columbus College of Art and Design from where she earned her degree in 2014.
Kayla draws inspiration from notably childish, yet dark sources: Dr. Suess, The Lion King, Tim Burton, and Alex Pardee. Which, likely stems from the time where all she wanted to be was a kid, but couldn’t. She is similarly influenced by conversations with people and incorporates story telling in her art.
You can see Kayla’s art on album covers, tattoos, and now, skateboards.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to do this project with Ambush,” Kayla opines. “I don’t skateboard, but I definitely embrace street culture. I have the same passion for pen and paper as skaters do for board and pavement.”
Where does Kayla plan on taking her art next?
“My ambition is to put my art on a street wear or boutique clothing line.” We can’t wait to see it.
Ansley is a nomad by every definition of the word. She grew up in Calhoun, Georgia but has since lived a wandering and wondering lifestyle migrating from Savannah to Santa Fe to Austin to Athens where she has settled in…for now. At each stop, Ansley has taken in the local culture and pushed to become a better version of herself and, in turn, a better artist.
“It takes a lot of hard work to develop your own style and get really good at making art,” Ansley reflects about her years on the lam. “To excel you need to be driven while still having a sense of adventure, excitement, and romantic, bohemian notions. I met a ton of free spirits and creatives of all kinds that were definitely not trying to live normal lifestyles.”
And, although she is back in her home state, Ansley is still drawn to that type of personal energy. She is currently holding down the dinning room at legendary chef Hugh Acheson’s 5&10. And, her longtime boyfriend is pro BMXer, Doug Morrison. Ansley may not skate, but she definitely shares the same sentiments that the “normal life” will never be for her.
Skateboarding and visual art have been simpatico since the first graphics started appearing on boards in the 1960s. Working with artists like Toby, Kalya, and Ansley show just how connected art and skateboarding are. And, who knows. Maybe these three artists’ work with soon become just as synonymous with skateboarding as Neckface, Michael Sieben, and Todd Francis. So, the question is, will you skate it or will you hang it?
Click here to view/purchase the Ambush x RAW Artists collab series decks.