A Quickie with John Vitale
Interview and portrait by Isaac Randozzi
The artistic brain never sleeps, a brief respite here and there yes but the inner eye is always looking for inspiration. It finds what is in the subconscious and makes it a whisper, a feeling that at some point either gathers enough traction to become a reality or fades away into the eithers, possibly to resurface years later in another form. Having mutated and changed as newer influences enter the mind. Recently something solidified in the mind of a past subject of the Artists of Theory series, Mr. John Vitale. Something worth exploring although in brief but as you will read, in depth.
What gave you the idea to do a series of hand made one-offs?
First off, I want to note that Nick at Scumco actually did a run of similar boards a few years back in one of his lines, I actually distributed them through my distro I operated at the time, Love Child Inc. So I was lucky enough to see a handful of those in person. It got my head spinning with possibilities I think. Manipulating heat transfers is something I hadn't seen before. You take the transfer, print the board, done deal. Didn't ever really occur to me to attempt to make art out of that art. Really, it's "collage" in its basic form. Re-appropriating and manipulating images to create a new one. His process was different than mine and I decided to add in a couple extra elements, like hand painting the backgrounds, which just made the whole thing more difficult to pull off.
Are these a Killing Floor project, or a Vegan John production?
Still with the Vegan John thing huh? I'll get my opportunity to punch Steve one of these days. It was done through the brand. I tried to have most of the boards have a logo from the existing transfers wherever it was possible. I think the lines between TKF projects and my personal creative projects is a little blurred, which is fun. It keeps me excited about my brand and the possibilities with it. I like the idea that the brand could be seen as more than just a standard board brand doing everything the usual way. There’s no real rules and I'm always trying to remember that with my ideas.
Are they part of an art project and each is an individual piece intended for the wall? If you saw someone at your local spot skating one of them would it bum you out?
Yeah, This was definitely one big project. I painted all the boards together to give them a cohesive feel. Kind of like what I've done with the hand screened and painted runs I do sometimes. I don't think I really thought that far in terms of whether or not people would keep them or skate them. I sold the first batch direct through IG DM's (which was interesting) and once in a while someone would really want to know what size the board was, and that got me hyped because I knew they were going to skate it.
Are they priced to skate or priced to hang?
I sold them for like 70 bucks plus shipping, which I initially thought might seem expensive, but with the amount of work that went into them, I couldn't justify selling them for any less. Most people that bought them seemed really happy with that price... I even had a few people that paid me more out of their own free will because they thought $70 was too cheap. So that felt really good. Plus with the way the board industry is moving, I think soon $70 will be what a regular board will eventually cost anyways. At least it should. Shops need more margin, and so do brands!
What was your process with these?
I have a ton of old overstock heat transfers, just odds and ends of all kinds of old archived graphics, There’s a lot of abstract negative space and patterns etc in a lot of my graphics and it made so much sense to try to use all that to create new images.
How long does it typically take you to make one?
Well its a multi step process so it's hard to say. First, hand painting them, which takes a while and needs to be done pretty carefully so the paint job is smooth and will take transfers clean. I'd let those cure for a day or two then do a pretty thick clear coat, which also had to be done carefully. Then make the collages, then transfer the collages to the boards. It was a good amount of work. I'd like to say thanks to Connor, Roddy and the guys that have been helping me with running the transfers. Those guys are awesome.
Have you ever botched one so badly you had to strip it and start from scratch?
Oh yeah. several of them. I tried this a couple times before, like a year or two ago, trying to figure out how to make it work, and I fucked up numerous boards.. I think the first time I tried I ruined like 20 something out of 30... Some can be fixed, some I just gave to the boys to skate.
Any personal favorites?
Yeah I definitely had some that I really loved. A few of them were really hard to sell actually.
Did you make extra materials for this series or were you using what was already on hand?
I used entirely what was on hand. It was kind of a sporadic decision, in terms of when I chose to do it. I tend to operate that way more than not haha, for better or worse. It just sounded rad, we did a test board that had a really clean paint job and it came out awesome so it was on after that. So I started unwrapping the shrink on some boards and just went at it painting them
How many more are left in the series and once you are done with these, what’s next?
I still have a batch to collage, so as soon as I collage those its done for a sec. I'm sure I'll do this again. It was a great creative exercise and was a lot of fun. It made me think about how much is possible with skateboards. Got my brain spinning. Next is the Spring drop. That’s coming soon so my focus is now shifting into navigating that because its a pretty big mental and physical workload every season to release a new drop. We also have a few video projects in the works for this year.