The Library

The Surf, Skate and Rock Art of Jim Phillips

The Surf, Skate and Rock Art of Jim Phillips

Schiffer Publishing

There are many artists out there who have touched us personally with their view on life in general through art but there is only one person that has personally made me stop in my tracks and has affected the route of which I have led my life more than others over my 31 year existence.

Skateboard art and graphics are more important than the set up itself when you are young and I don’t think that there is another artist that has had the same impact on kidsover the last 40 years in skateboarding. Jim Phillips is that man. He started out with surfboard art in 1962 which became famous throughout the years. His motorcycle art inspired a generation of bikers and he even found time for local communities to use his unique art skills by supplying adverts for local health stores and more.

But it was his skateboard art that put skateboarding firmly on the map across the world in the early 1980’s. If you think about how huge skateboarding became back then, and then look at who was at the controls of designing its very lifestyle, it was down to Phillips. One man, working for one company, and that company was Santa Cruz Skateboards.

Jim became the art director for the company who were of course based in Santa Cruz from 1974 onwards. Jim started by designing art for Road Rider Wheels with their famous wings that let you know that when you rode them you would indeed fly, as these wheels came with built in bearings. Something very new to the scene back then. Jim then gave birth to the Independent Trucks logo and then all the Santa Cruz logo’s for their wheels, boards, rip grip…you name it, Phillips designed the image for it.

His most famous image in my eyes would be the Screaming Hand. A detached hand drenched in blood, blue in colour with a mouth that said everything gnarly about skateboard culture and it’s endearing roots. This particular design amongst many others can be found tattoed over people skin around the world, seen on walls spray painted and stickers produced into the 8 million mark. This is big stuff here, this art changed a generation, it inspired a generation and that generation are still passing on this beauty now as you are reading this review.

Jim Phillips art in the 1980’s WAS skateboarding, no doubt about it, but when Phillips asked for royalties from the $50 million sales that Santa Cruz were hucking in, he was flatly turned down and he left. After 16 years of creating the energy for Santa Cruz it came to an end and Phillips left the company with a handful of people of whom he had taught his wonderful skills.

I remember buying various Santa Cruz boards and wheels when I was young including Jeff Grosso, Jason Jesse, OJ 2’s, Bullets, Slime Balls, and all because of the quality of the products and the graphics, it was the perfect company. It’s image was fun, colourful, ever changing and always had an edge that would appeal to many.

Jim then designed rock posters for classic artists such as James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, and Jerry Garcia but also got involved with posters for newer punk bands at the time such as Canadian punksters NoMeansNo and D.O.A amongst many others. But Jim could always put pen to paper to anything, and did it ten times more uniquely than any other at that time. Even when the computer world decided to step into change the way graphic art was formed, he was always one step ahead and took the changes by the horn with great success.

This fantastic book is filled to the brim with all of this fantastic art mentioned in this review and loads more. The story of his life also sweeps you through every page with quotes from famous skaters, other artists and colleagues and family members along the way. His son Jimbo is now in the Phillips hot seat and has seemed to have matched his Father’s skills tenfold. You do not have to be a skateboarder to appreciate excellent art and everybody at least once in their lifetime should come face to face with a Jim Phillips creation. This book is amazing. Flick through one today!