Snowboard graphics theme of future show

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— Ride Snowboards gets bombarded with the work of young artists hoping to get their designs on the company's snowboards.

"I see tons and tons and tons and tons of portfolios and e-mails every year," Ride creative director Mike Styskal said.

Most of them he has to turn down.

"It may be a great piece of art itself, but most don't fit the Ride profile," Styskal said.

The profile is a sophisticated strategy of identifying what consumers want and what works on the unique shape of a snowboard.

But Ride artists aren't slouches. The artistry of Syd Mead, for example, whose futuristic design appeared on J.J. Thomas' board when he won a bronze medal in the Salt Lake City Olympics, can be seen in the groundbreaking films "Bladerunner" and "Aliens."

But it's not easy saying "no" to all those potential artists, which is why when Steamboat Springs Arts Council member and artist Susan Schiesser contacted the company about helping with a snowboard art competition, Styskal, and Ride art director Mark Fankhauser, jumped on it.

"It's just a way we can give back to the community," he said.

Through the Small Works Gallery at the Art Depot, Schiesser is organizing an international design competition and exhibit that will run after the first of the year in Steamboat Springs.

With help from Steamboat Powder Cats and Toys in the Attic, there is enough wall space to hang 1,000 designs, all on 6.5-by-33.5-inch pieces on a foam core in a classic snowboard shape.

Artists can download the template at www.ridesnowboard.com and go to work.

Styskal and Fankhauser will judge the competition, and Ride Snowboards will help out with $1,000 worth of prizes for the competition. Powder Cats also is donating a day of backcountry skiing to the Arts Council to give as a prize.

"Every piece that is entered will hang," Schiesser said.

Originally, Schiesser was searching for an idea that would artistically reflect the culture of snowboarders and then present it in the Small Works Gallery.

"I was trying to look for art themes or art titles that would bring a new demographic into the Arts Council," she said. "No one really has addressed that culture as an art form, in the context of its art."

She contacted about 12 different companies in the snowboard industry for ideas and support. While talking with the Ride guys, the idea of having a snowboard graphic competition came up, and they went with it.

"Ride responded first and most enthusiastically," Schiesser said. "If you go to their Web site and look at the gallery, some of their stuff is amazing."

Though Ride has become known for some of the most unique graphics being put on snowboards, Styskal is hesitant to admit to a small oddity in its crew of professional artists.

"None of the professionals snowboard," he said. "They just hate it when I tell people that."

The top graphics at the competition most likely won't end up on a Ride snowboard, Styskal said. However, there may be a few contacts made with the artists, he said.

"They will get a chance to learn about what works and what doesn't work," he said.

As an art project, designing a snowboard does have some challenges.

Tim Southern, 25, who lives in Ontario, Canada, was the first person to enter the competition.

"It does create a design challenge," said Southern, who already is working on a few sketches. "You have to look at the images and how it's going to look on the board. Plus, you have to think about where the bindings are going to be and what it's going to look like when riding."

Though it is a challenge, as Schiesser explained, there aren't any limitations on the content of the design. Ride's new line of boards has graphics of nature photographs, detailed futuristic scenes, tattoo-inspired art and mixed-media-collage-like pieces.

Interested artists need to submit the $10 entry fee along with an intent-to-enter notification by Dec. 9. The exhibit will run from Jan. 20 to March 23.

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