Interview and intro by: Dom Marley
AD is a proud citizen of the Croydon skate scene, which itself needs no introduction. His many influence’s along his interesting journeys might have been the spur for his creativity, but it seems Adam has a constant urge to be drawing, designing, or doing something creative. More than ever, Ad can now channel his art into both of his companies: Drawing boards and Coping Clothing, along with his team and friend Simon.
When he isn’t taking care of his companies he can be found looking after the local skate park and you can be sure setting a good example for the up and coming generation in Croydon. He’s a good friend and is definitely that guy everyone likes.
Hey Ad, so give us a bit about your company Drawing Boards?
Drawing Boards started about 3 years ago with the intent of making fresh looking graphics on high quality skateboards, supporting the scene and sponsoring open minded shredders.
When did you start getting into drawing?
Drawing has always been a massive part of my life. When I was growing up we didn’t have a TV and I was quite a fidgety kid. I would draw all over my school books and then at night when I was meant to be sleeping ha-ha…. That was my little escape from reality and still is. When I started skating around 1992 the graphics where definitely a big deal and I was always well hyped as a yoof when I saw new graphics come out. I rarely used to buy em though mind you, cause they were too expensive. I’d get second hand decks with no graphics left on and paint them up and pretend they where new. Sad but true ha ha!
How is it all going?
Mate, it’s all going really well! We just recently sponsored the Crossfire Gap Jam which was a nice bit of exposure. Jerry, James and Potter have been featured in the magazines which I’m stoked on. Tweaker covered our little tour this summer and have done several features on our team. The decks have been selling well with plenty of support from the independent skate shops. Board of the month in Kingpin can’t be a bad thing either. We have just started making decks in Australia too which is really exciting. Crossfire has been featuring our new products and updates the mass’s on what’s new with the company. All in all there is a lot happening and things are really looking up!
Why did you start making skateboards?
Well it was something I had always wanted to do since I was a puppy. I have been designing T-shirts for the past 8 years for Coping Threads and skateboarding is a massive part of my life so I guess it was a transition from that. A lot of the graphics I had been drawing where suited to skateboards. Ultimately the aim is to help promote the scene and try and stoke people out by sponsoring some sick skaters who up until now didn’t really get much coverage. Also it’s very important to make sure we got the best decks we could find, so we got lots of samples from different wood shops which were tested by the team until we found the right wood for the job.
You’ve also designed plenty of stickers over the years tell us about them.
I’m a proper sticker geek!! I love designing stickers, when you are an underground company they are the best form of advertising. Give them to the kids. Stick them just about anywhere, on buses, trains, signs, on people’s fridges when there not looking. Sometimes if the cleaner likes the sticker they won’t remove it for years (shout outs to the Oval Tavern in Croydon) ha ha! It’s funny because when we first started out we went on sticker frenzy and that’s how allot of people found out about us. Everybody loves stickers they can turn something bone into something interesting ha ha! I hoard my stickers. But the minute I have two of the same sticker one gets stuck, mainly on my fridge.
I’m also bang into making gimmicks to! Over the years we have made lighters, car stickers, bottle openers, badges and even mini basket ball hoops all good talking points ha ha!
What was your background? Did you study art at college?
Nah man I never went to art college, I was kind of ignorant to all that. My opinion at the time was “Nobody is going to teach me I want to have my own style “ which I think did work in the creative process. Sometimes though I wish I knew how to do certain stuff straight away. When we started Coping back in 2000 I had hardly used computers at all. I had a few lessons on Photoshop, Quark and Illustrator which got me started, but you kind of learn those programs the more you play with them. Also Si has been a big help setting up the website and various other things. Maybe I should’ve gone to Art College who knows ha ha! I don’t have the time right now though that’s for sure. I got bills to pay ha ha!
So what’s new product-wise with Drawing boards?
We just released our 10th graphic (not including limited editions) the Fairfield deck. The decks get real good feedback on their pop and shape which is what it’s all about.
Also we have bought out some tasty looking limited edition jumpers and hoodies to stop your nipples from getting too hard this winter.
How are the Drawing Boards team going?
The team is going well! Since the spawn of Drawing Boards the riders have been getting more coverage. Jerry got his shine on in Kingpin. Potter had a first light in Sidewalk and James has been busting out moves in Document and Sidewalk. Nat’s been keeping it pretty ghetto but watch out for him he’s our best kept secret ha-ha! Tweaker and Crossfire have been giving them props too. Also stoked to have Sylva, Darth, Chris Baldwin and Ivan ripping down under, those guys lay it down hard. It’s good because there are a variety of styles on the team so expect everything from tech manual behavior, ledge monkey trickery, handrail gnarl, out n out shredding and everything in-between.
Anyone who has been to your house can see you are completely immersed in your art, from the paint’s around on the floor, the canvasses on the wall’s and the way you have intricately painted your whole stair banister. You spend a lot of time making new designs and drawings, what is an average day?
Ha ha! The banisters isn’t really based on anything it’s just a result of having too much paint on my brush and needing somewhere to put it. I doubt that they will ever be finished. Ummm, an average day is wake up, coffee, then get down to it. I am obsessed with lists ha ha! There’s no way I could do anything without them. My memory isn’t good enough to get it all done on its own. I don’t just do the art/design. I wish ha ha! I also do the ordering of all the garms and decks, the pantones, distribution,blog, filming, promotion, phoning people, chasing up money, quality control, sort out the riders, organize stuff for Oz and lots of other bits n bobs too. Then I go to my day job at the skate park. Lots of talented local skaters down there too. Little Nick, Felix, Calvo, The Eds, Freddie, Casper and Conner to name a few. I work 3.30pm till 11 then drop little Nick home. Then back to working on the companies until the wee hours. Don’t get me wrong I do find time for other things in life too, but sometimes I wish there was about 5 more hours in an average day. On a non average day I do normal things that normal people do in a normal way ha ha!
Is the drawing as much therapeutic and enjoyable as it is work, or do you draw a line between them?
Ye man. It does chill me out for sure .Drawing is chilled; I have definitely used it as a replacement to a therapist ha ha! Over the last 6 years I have had 4 surgeries on my legs. The first one I couldn’t skate for nearly 2 years!!! The last one I couldn’t walk without a stick for 10 months so working on Drawing Boards, Coping and drawing in general has been a massive release for me. Just putting all my left over energy into something positive rather than thinking about what I couldn’t do. Sitting in front of a screen bums me out sometimes when it’s a nice day but if you want to make something happen there is always a certain amount of work to it.
You have a unique and easily recognizable style tell us about that and who have been your influences?
It’s always good when people can look at a certain piece and know who did it. Not to say that all the stuff has to be the same. I like to do a variety of stuff. Drawing the same stuff to often becomes stagnant and nobody wants to see the same stuff regurgitated over and over. I am very conscious that there are a lot of similar styles out there and it’s very important to me that I keep all our graphics as original as possible.
Over the years many people have influenced me artistically, Old cartoons like Popeye, story books like Dr Seuss and What-a-mess. Comic strips like The Beano and the Freak Brothers ha ha! Other Artists who I think are really talented such as Hokusai, Esher, Jim Philips, Andy Howell, and Rolf Harris, my friends Beansnax and Marley. Traveling has also had a big impact on my artwork because when I’m seeing and experiencing new things my mind goes mad with new ideas and concepts about my surroundings.
Have you had any exhibitions?
Yeah I had a couple a few years back now. They were called AD another skate related artist. One in Birmingham’s Epic Skate Park in the bar before it got smashed up. I managed to cover every wall in the bar so it was pretty full on. The paintings were up for about a month and I got really positive feedback from it. The other one was in Crystal Palace above Dojy skate shop. A good turnout for that one, I’m not sure if it was for my artwork or the premier of Keep the Streets Clean though ha ha! It was cool cause a lot of heads that know me but hadn’t seen any of my paintings before showed up. So that was nice for a bit of local support. Also do a bit of live art at a local hip hop night called Bangers. I have been keeping a lot of my paintings from the last few years under wraps because I’d like to do another one soon and it’s good if peeps see paintings for the first time at the exhibitions. Also I’m a bit paranoid because a few people have nicked my ideas. No names mentioned. You know who you are, hah!
You have been quite active in the situation over at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, you have met with the council, what is going on there?
Fairfield has been a big part of my life over the years. In my younger years (ha ha) I was inspired by all the rad people I used to see skate down there. Shier, Billy, Lee, Skinner and Dan Callow all used to blow my mind when I watched them skate. It’s countless the amount of amazing heads I have seen take on the planters over the years (Cairo Foster, Penny, Baines, Rattray, Jenson, ect ect. ). Drawing Boards also sponsors Jerry “the tre” Wilson who has been skating there since he was the size of a nits left bollock. However over the past few years the place has really gone down hill. The paving slabs are cracked, the big planters became unskateable and there was a fair few pricks who thought it’d be a good idea to rob the kids. Myself and my friend Peter Sageman thought it was about time that people became aware about what’s been going down there so we have started an online petition please take the time to sign it. We have also held meetings with planners and the CEO of Croydon Council along with the kids to ensure that there is a future for street skating in the area.
Do you think it will be better in the long run?
Well, Jon Rouse the CEO was impressed with our commitment and said that the final designs for the redevelopment of the space were not yet confirmed. He has agreed to open up discussions with the skaters and the developers to work on the final design of the area. He sees no reason why continued use of the space for skateboarding can’t be built into the design as a duel used space. So basically we need to try to keep this issue in the public eye to keep the pressure on the council.
So what’s next for Ad’s and Drawing boards?
Next thing up is a cup of tea! After that I want to keep dropping graphics and being creative. Plugging away at all the odds n ends. Cracking the whip getting this video done ha ha! Sponsoring events and learning new things. Keep plugging away at the council. I also want to get back into skating as I’ve just started again and I’m remembering how lucky I am to have my limbs in working order ha ha!
What advice would you give to up and coming artists?
Draw, draw, draw… Computers are good but unless you have the key drawing skills your art will be stifled. It’s a bit like skating you got to practice ha ha, unless your some wonder kid. Also try and be unique. Don’t just do what others are doing around you, experiment, have ideas and go with them. Passion and dedication always helps too.
Any shout out’s?
Massive thanks to all the heads that have supported over the years so many to name. Love to the team thanks for reppin’ hard. Also big thanks to Si and Donny “fuggin”, Fraser for their inputs into the companies. Mad love to my mum, twin and famz. HB pencils, Props to Tweaker, Kingpin, Sidewalk and Crossfire for the coverage. Thanks to Toe n Nick for helping film, Lanyard, Smay, Gorm, Lec, Marley, Vost and Austino for the photos. FM and all Fairfield skaters ever. Thanks to Skaterham and shouts to all the kids there. Jakes Alley, Chadwick, Coatmonster, Gilo, Callow, Worthless, Teaguey and Dojy Dylan for the support. The independent skate shops that stock us. As well a big old’ “cheers mate” to you Mr. Marley for your questions. Nice one Zac thanks for having faith in what we are doing here. Basically I don’t care if that sounded like a Grammy award speech I couldn’t do this shizzle without you lot ha ha!
See the Drawing Boards team at this year’s Crossfire Xmas Jam on Saturday 13th December.